The 1960s Cultural Revolution

By John C. McWilliams | Go to book overview

4
Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out: The Counterculture

Cultural revolution in the 1960s was evident in civil rights demonstrations, student radicalism, race riots, feminist demands, antiwar protests, and a general rejection of authority and mainstream values. Many Americans were convinced that the established social order was crumbling or already shattered. The appearance of hippies in the mid-1960s and the emergence of a counterculture reinforced the perception that the cultural revolution was more threatening to the post-World War II consensus than political unrest and violence in the streets.1

Hippies and their unorthodox creed confounded and alarmed middle America. Hippies were a direct outgrowth of the disillusioned beats in the 1950s, critics of the stifling conformity of the Eisenhower era, and heirs of a long tradition of rebellion, but unlike their forebears, hippies were apolitical and embraced no ideology. The New Left and other ideological groups of the 1960s agitated for tangible social changes; hippies had no aspirations to repeal laws or replace policies. They believed society had placed too much emphasis on conformity, and they were convinced that America had become too materialistic, competitive, and anxiety ridden. Shunning Christianity, nationalism, and private property, hippies preached love and sought bliss. Rather than try to improve a system they saw as irreparably flawed, they rejected it.

Some hippies were "peaceniks" who supported the antiwar movement. About six hundred of them tried to levitate the Pentagon through group meditation during the October 1967 demonstration, but most hippies were otherwise nondoctrinaire and indifferent to political issues. While the Free

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