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3. The Vietnam War, the Hippie Countercultural Movement and the Mass Challenging of Taboos
I found the following poem when I did a search on Yahoo for the keywords "Hippie" and "Taboo."
Flowers by Mick Davis
Forth we came in innocent youth With butterfly wings unfurled We spoke of peace We lived in love Bestowing it over the world Over shattered ruins of joy and truth Our beautiful flowers appeared We cast off war We threw aside hate And all of mankind we revered We opened our eyes We opened our minds We offered to open theirs too We took joy in living And honestly giving And freeing our souls of taboo Come join us in love! Come with us in joy! Unto the whole world we'd exclaim Our music rang forth As our rainbow sublime Illumined idealism's flame Some heard us not Some didn't care Some sneered and called us insane We handed them flowers We offered them peace They rewarded our efforts with pain But still to this day Although we now know This world is not ready for love We circle together Yes we'll work forever To manifest joy from above We know we are strong We'll still sing our song Should Babylon crumble and fall With strength of Spirit We never will quit Until we've enlightened them all So come take my hand Become part of the band And sing that our love will not die Sing loud and sing long Our euphoric love song For love is the ultimate high And thus joined as one we can rise to the sun Knowing at last we are free Above pain and strife Beyond this last life Eternal in bliss we shall be
I found the following article when I did a search on Yahoo for the keywords "Hippie" and "Counterculture." It was written by a homeless man named Ace Backwords. The entire article can be found at:
"I haven't driven a car in 25 years. I haven't been to a doctor or a dentist in twenty years. I haven't had a bank account in fifteen years. I haven't watched a TV show in ten years. I haven't lived in anything that would remotely be considered a "home" in six years. (Which reminds me of the old street person joke: "What does the street person do when he gets sick? He dies." Ha. Ha.)"
"In a radio interview, cartoonist R. Crumb talked about coming to the Haight-Ashbury in '67 right before the so called Summer of Love. He mentioned what a beautiful city San Francisco was then: the streets were clean and safe, the people were friendly, housing was cheap and plentiful, living was easy, etc. And he mentioned an idea that was very much in vogue then amongst the countercultural set: How much more wonderful the city (and the world) would be when the Age of Aquarius set in and all the old farts died off and all the groovy hippies took over."
"Well, I'm here to tell you, all the old farts did in fact die off, and all the hippies (including me) did in fact come tramping through the city. And it was hardly improved by our presence. But here's the funny part. These "'60s icons" seem to think it's still 1967 and that they should be judged on all the groovy, idealistic things they intended to do, as opposed to the actual effect they've had. I think it's getting a little late in the game for that."
"In the '50s, Oakland was averaging about twelve murders a year. After the '60s it started averaging about 150 murders a year. What would we have done without all the "love" the hippies invented in the '60s?"
"I think we all could benefit from an honest appraisal of what actually went down in the '60s. Lord knows we still haven't sorted it out. Lord knows this society is schizo in its attempts to assimilate the counterculture into the mainstream."
"My opinion? LSD is garbage, Jerry Garcia was an idiot, and the '60s was b***s***. The '60s was basically a dead-end we went staggering down. The '60s impacted on the modern street scene in several devastating ways:"
"1. Drugs (need I say more?)"
"2. The sloppy sexual unions that came out of the so-called "sexual liberation" movements - and the shattered family structures and the generation of orphans (especially in the black community) that resulted from that."
"3. The romanticized notion of being against the mainstream society. Number three is probably the most devastating, because usually the street person starts out feeling alienated enough from society to begin with. Then the counterculture ethos feeds him this romanticized notion of the Hip Rebel Outsider, which locks him permanently into this state of alienation. Why try and integrate yourself into society when your alienation is your badge of honor, the very source of your identity."
From 1960 to 1975, America fought the Vietnam war. During this war, depending on the report you read, somewhere between 50,000 to over 100,000 Americans died. Another three hundred thousand Americans were injured. There were 1,800,000 total deaths. This war was fought against "the communists", people that we could not see, and for the protection of the Vietnam people, more people that we could not see and, in fact, had probably been people that most Americans had never even heard of before.
"In the United States, sentiment against U.S. participation in the war mounted steadily from 1967 on and expressed itself in peace marches, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience. Growing numbers of politicians and ordinary citizens began to question whether the U.S. war effort could succeed and even whether it was morally justifiable in a conflict that some interpreted as a Vietnamese civil war."
Britannica CD 98 Standard Edition ©1994-1998 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
And it's one, two, three, What are we fightin' for? I don't give a d*** Next stop is Vietnam; And it's five, six, seven, Open up those pearly gates, Well there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! we're all gonna die. "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die" › Country Joe and the Fish: 1965
Where did the hippie countercultural movement of the sixties come from? What made so many stand up and challenge every single aspect of our society? Was the perceived corruption of the government so bad that people felt that the society that brought us the war must also be corrupt? What was it that created the mass challenging of societal taboos?
"The Vietnam war divided the country into hawks and doves. Thousands of young men fled to Canada rather than allow themselves to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Back home, those remaining took to the streets to protest. Using non-violent tactics to get their message across, teach-ins helped explain [w]hat was going on in Vietnam. Marches - drawing as many as 500,000 people at one time - were held. Draft card burning indicated non-cooperation with the war machine. Protests at induction centers attempted to stop people from signing up for the war. A massive protest once surrounded the Pentagon. The bloodshed continued."
"Leaving Vietnam was the happiest day of many soldiers lives. That happiness changed returning home. Soldiers were jeered at. Some were called baby killers. Friends, family and even strangers to these soldiers made the message clear: Vietnam was a taboo subject. Those soldiers who took part in this dirty little war were considered embarrassments to America."
"This war has already stretched the generation gap so wide that it threatens to pull the country apart."
Sen. Frank Church, May 1970
How strong was the effect of the Vietnam War on American culture? Below is an incomplete list of the positive and negative factors kids of the sixties would have had to measure and consider when choosing whether or not (or how much) to abandon US culture.
Adhering to the Abandoning the Dominant Taboo Dominant Taboo Structure Structure ----------------------------------------------------------- Positives Acceptance of Life Parents Sex Food and Shelter Drugs "Honor" Acceptance of Peers "Freedom" Fun New Beautiful Music "Intellectual Superiority" Love Friendship Food and Shelter ----------------------------------------------------------- Negatives Possible Death Disapproval of Terror Parents Possible Physical Possible Homelessness Handicap "Shame" Shame Doubt
The words "Honor," "Freedom," "Shame," and "Intellectual Superiority" are all quoted, because all were perceived at the time in ways that might not adhere to current definitions.
The "honor" that a person who had not yet entered the Vietnam war might have received was very different than the "honor" that a veteran from WWII had received. WWII was widely accepted as an honorable war; a war in which a person could be proud to have served. The Vietnam war though was not widely accepted thus making the perceived value of the honor of serving in it much less.
The "freedom" that a person would have received from being a member of the countercultural movement would have felt like true freedom from the beginning for a short time, until the consequences of unwise decisions began to build up thereby reducing said freedom. The important aspect of it though, is that it "felt" like true freedom to begin with and was much more enticing than the lukewarm "honor" that was available even though the end result of this "freedom" was much less than actual freedom.
The "shame" that a preson would have felt by not entering into the war would have not felt much like shame due to the overwhelming numbers of individuals who were arguing that the war itself was wrong.
The "Intellectual Superiority" that was felt (lines 11-13 and 39-40 of the above poem "Flowers") was based on a new social structure that many today consider faulty due to its lack of attention and responsibility in the areas of sex, drugs and financial responsibility. At the time though, the new social structure "seemed" better due to its lack of immediate hurtful consequences and its mass of pleasureable "new freedoms." At the time, to youths, the lifestyle seemed superior and those who participated in it therefore felt pride.
The Vietnam War appears to have been the main source of movement away from the Judeo/Christian social/taboo structure of America in the 1960s. Youths simply were unwilling to die for a cause that they felt was unjustified, and the abandonment of the social structure itself was a byproduct of that.
http://thebird.org/poetry/md072198.html http://www.sfherald.com/columnists/backwards/ace05.html http://www.vietnamwar.net/quotations/quotations.htm http://www.ridgewater.net/mmdt1021/samples/fl02site12/page3.html Britannica CD 98 Standard Edition ©1994-1998 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
-- Jonathan Scott -- [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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