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Controversy of the Hippie Movement and Modern Youth Activism

Updated on October 3, 2013

Like the beatniks before them, and the hipsters that followed (not to be confused with their modern counterparts), hippies took the United States by surprise and produced mixed feelings in the populace. From fascination to ridicule, the 60s era of American history is veiled in controversy, largely due to the emergence of this once highly popular youth movement.

Originally, the hippie culture was built upon the new age of music, sexual revolution and simply having a great time. A lot of it carried strong anti-war sentiments and a pursuit of peace, so pacifism could be added to the list as well.

The 60s Hippies

Due to their disrespect of authority, unorthodox lifestyle and frequent drug use, hippies were often scathed by the government and people with conservative values. It also gained a massive backlash following its initial increase in popularity, becoming a caricature of itself due to a shift from political youth activism and standing for ideals to blatant slacking and detachment from the world as it is.


Because of that, people who still stood for ideas of peace, love, unity and freedom often chose to separate themselves from the hippie image. The movement may have lost its traction in the beginning of the 70s, but some of its culture is still present today in certain people and communities.

Legacy of the Hippie Culture

The occupy movement, hipster culture and other well-known modern phenomena owe a lot to the original hippies. They often share the same sentiments and ideas, as well as a unique approach of non-violent protest as means of achieving their goals.

However, the new movements and modern hippie subculture also share a lot of the same shortcomings that their predecessors had. Namely, a person who calls themselves a hippie may not necessarily represent the true nature of that name, instead mimicking their unique fashion and certain lifestyle choices.

Hippies in Name Only

In the day and age when nothing seems to be set in stone, young people struggle to establish their identity, as well as understand what that process entails. As a result, they may feel compelled to have labels like “civil rights activist”, “hipster” or even “hippie” attached to them without a thorough understanding of what the term actually means.

Hippie-inspired photoshoot.
Hippie-inspired photoshoot. | Source

To them, hippies are nothing more than a certain type of clothing, fascination with flowers, smoking weed and scathing authority. Sometimes, the visual image is the only thing that they represent, while still managing to refer to themselves as “hippies” or members of another closely related modern youth activism movement.

This has spawned a huge amount of controversy over the hypocrisy of hippie movement and their actions. Thanks to the Internet, the examples of people calling themselves hippies, social youth activists or other terms embarrassing themselves spread quickly and are passed down by everyone, harming the reputation of the respective movements in the entire world.

Hippie Lifestyle

Real hippies are characterized by their lifestyle that aims to achieve freedom and be disconnected from the system that imposes too many rules and conditions on a person’s free will. They value the freedom of body and mind, which is one of the main reasons why drugs are so prevalent in this culture.

Hippie van.
Hippie van. | Source

They try to remove anger from their lives by introducing love and peace. Hippies also disregard hierarchical norms of the society and ideals of unity and equality are usually very dear to them. This may sound familiar to members of similar movements that have emerged recently and are still very active today.

Sentiments and Ideas of Modern Hippies

The hippie movement is broader than it often appears, both today and back in its heyday. Those who live with more rigid ideals aimed at the outside world may not be the most vocal anymore, but they stand by what they believe in and persist in the face of opposition.

Hippie busker.
Hippie busker. | Source

All modern hippies share a common sense of déjà vu, the nagging feeling that we as a country are entering a very unpleasant era that we once proudly walked out of. At a time of large-scale armed conflicts and uncertain economic situation, there are people who don’t believe that the government and people in power do right by their citizens.

Hippies and Youth Activism

Youth activists unite under one goal to attract attention to these problems and do their part in resolving them. Historically, the hippie movement has also rallied around various environmental causes.

Hippie concert in a park.
Hippie concert in a park. | Source

It includes green energy initiatives, opposing mass pollution and other goals to preserve the nature in its current state. All of these issues have gained a new wave of supporters in the recent years due to the inevitable shortage of fossil fuels and new discoveries regarding global warming.

Criticisms of the Hippie Movement

In the modern day and age, most of the criticism of the hippie subculture arises from the fact that they no longer represent an active movement for promoting peace, love, unity and freedom. They may not necessarily call themselves hippies anymore, but their ideas are aligned with the former hippie movement with surprising precision, and manage to be just as ineffective when it comes to global action.

It can be best showcased by the recently rising trend of “slacktivism”, which involves people who raise awareness of global causes through social media and other online means. They do that by sharing content with their friends, whereas their actual actions accomplish nothing to further that actual cause.

That is perhaps the most glaring reason for the widespread criticism, and the people behind it are not entirely wrong. However, it should be noted that there are still many people who are true hippies at heart, even though they may not refer to themselves as such, or follow the typical “hippie fashion”.

Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what kind of reputation the term has, as long as there are people who live up to its ideals and continue to promote a lifestyle of peace and understanding everywhere they go.


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    • NBYomi profile image

      N B Yomi 

      5 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Ms. Bakula, given that I did a college assignment regarding how graphic design and art was utilized in the 60s, dimissing the hippie movement as "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll," is something I can't do. Especially since in doing research for that assignment, I learned the origins of America's hippie movement and the cultures that influenced its inception, which I'm surprised Andrea didn't get into.

      But I do commend Andrea on what she wrote thus far, as she seems to understand the problem. And it's a problem I've noticed as a geek, as a lot of these kids taking up these labels like "Hippie," "Goth," "Geek," don't care about the cultures that come wih the labels. They just wanna fit in somewhere so they can feel like they're special. And that is a whole can of worms I don't have time to get into.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Nice to revisit the hippies. I always think of James Michener's book, The Drifters when the hippies are brought to mind.

    • Andera profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you for pointing that out, hawaiianodysseus. I'd rather let readers just share their own thoughts. These are comments, not conversation starters, or at least that's what I've always believed.

      Thanks to everyone who read my hubs and left their comments. I've read them all and appreciate your time, I'm just not a big fan of online small talk when there's nothing to add to your opinions and personal experiences. Have a nice day!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      7 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      It's a nice courtesy to respond to each person who takes the time to read and comment on your hub.

    • srsddn profile image

      Sukhdev Shukla 

      7 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      andera, I had an American friend in mid-60's who told me about hippie movement. It looked quite interesting but may be I could not appreciate it as I was quite young at that time. This culture had its impact in India also. In 1971, late Dev Anand made a feature film 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna' which had a focus on the hippie culture and its adverse impact on Indian youth. The major part of it was filmed in Nepal. I could then understand it better and the film was liked in India as it sent anti-drug message and highlighted some problems associated with Westernization such as divorce at that time. Thanks for sharing this topic in detail. Interesting and voted up. Have a nice day!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Andera, this is so interesting. I was around in the 60s, had a lot of friends who were "hippies" I think some are still lost in that time frame.

      Very well written hub. Voted up, interesting and shared.

      Thank you for following me.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      I read that The Beatles had trouble when they tried to write protest songs, because at the time there was no war like Vietnam drafting their young people. John, of course, spoke out against the war in his adopted home, NYC.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Very interesting well written article. Voted up. Thanks for posting this. I enjoyed it.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago from New Jersey


      At age 14 I was too young to go to Woodstock, but recall the hippie era well. There was such a feeling of optimism and hope in the air, the feeling that everyone could make a difference, and in a non violent way. I hope that people will not dismiss the Hippies as being about only "Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll" because it was so much more (though those elements were there). The Hippies are now in their late 50's through their 70's. Interestingly, many retire and engage in several volunteer activities and try to change their little part of the world right away. I live near 2 Active Senior complexes as they are called in my state of NJ, and they are constantly working on literacy projects, food drives, you name it. And many of the singers give generously to charity. Neil Young has two handicapped sons, and invents things to make their lives and those with their limitations easier. Stephen King was shocked by the library and ball fields in his hometown, and had new ones built once he had money. He has already written an e-book about the 1%, and says any sane person who makes more than 1 million dollars a year should be picking up the tab for the others, not taking their money to offshore accounts as they pretend to be patriots. Bono travels the world to help. Many of the Occupy Wall Street events in my area NJ/NY were begun by ex-hippies! Right On as they would have said then!

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Hello Andera,

      I was just having this very conversation with someone the other day. I was 14 at the time of Woodstock, and too young to attend. But I recall the times. There was such a sense of optimism and hope about all the positive changes that could be made in the world if only people would pay attention and get off the couch! There was no violence, and hippies and all of us at that age felt that every person COULD make a difference. I hope that people will not dismiss that era by thinking it was only about "Sex and drugs and Rock n Roll," because it was so much more than that (though those elements were there). The hippies are now in their 60's and 70's, believe it or not. But they have a heavy schedule of volunteerism, and retire to do something to give back to their communities. Like everyone else, they have matured, and the famous ones give millions of dollars to charity. Neil Young has two handicapped sons and makes inventions to help make their lives and those with MS easier. Stephen King gives millions of dollars to libraries and when his sons were young, built a new ball field for their school. The "older" people who Occupied Wall Street--seriously ex-hippie. Or not Ex. We may change our minds, but we never change our hearts.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      I loved the hippie era. I was a little too young to participate (born in 1957) but I dressed in low cut bell bottoms, wore pouches with fringe nearly reaching the ground and headbands. I became a little more hippy-fied in the 70s when by rebellion and exercising my beliefs and attitudes set in. I'm wondering why we don't see the movement alive and well today, given what's going on with our country. Your article says hippies are still alive and well, but I don't see them or hear them. That's what I miss - the voice!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      7 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      The hippie movement made its mark on my home island of Kaua'i in the late sixties. Being a cop's son, my conservative and biased perception was that these were the sons and daughters of wealthy Caucasians who had the luxury of masquerading as poor, social misfits amidst islanders who were struggling on a daily basis to make a living while being economically dependent on tourism. It didn't help matters when the namesake of the large hippie camp in Hanalei (Taylor Camp) on the north side of the island was one of Elizabeth Taylor's sons. In retrospect, the hippie movement (and its progressive remnant today) enhanced the sociopolitical ambiance of the islands and, ironically, emphasized the simpler ways of the indigenous Hawaiian culture. The universe has a way of accommodating and harmonizing man's stumbling into his destiny. Aloha!


    • jeffreymaskel profile image

      Jeffrey Maskel 

      7 years ago from Boulder, CO

      This hub really grabbed my attention. I live in Boulder, CO where the student population seems to be saturated with a modern hippie movement. We like to call most of them "Trust-afarians" As a portion, probably made out to be bigger than it is, are rich children going to school to be allowed access to their money. Generalization, I know, but it's just joking around by the less fortunate. I simply laugh at the fact that many of them like to play the role of a poor young person yet I witness the waste by many of the students every day. Just my two cents.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      An interesting slant on hippies. British hippies were never referred to as 'hipsters'; they wore hipster trousers though! All my students used to assume that I was a hippie and smoked dope when they found out I was around in the 60s; I wasn't but many were of course. I did adopt the fashion though and still have some of the clothes! It's often regarded as a great time and mostly because of the peace and love element, along with the 'ban the bomb' movement (& the symbol of it above). Well written hub.


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