Hippie culture was something different then anyone had ever seen before. Tie-dye, rock and roll, sex, and drugs were the new fascination with the youth. The new counterculture had their own ideas and thoughts about social values and had their own reasons why what they were doing was better for America. With the hippies living communally, their ideals were forming into one and they would participate in “be-ins”. Be-ins were usually located in parks or other public places where hippies would congregate to talk and sing songs, and this caught a lot of attention by the media and interested many.
An Interview with a Hippie
Lewis Yablonsky was a sociologist who in the 1960s was very interested on learning about the hippie movement. Yablonsky went out into the streets to try to understand who the hippies were, what their intentions were, and why this youth movement was developing different American values. Lewis went into the East Village of New York City and met Sonny who was a twenty two year old hippie. The whole interview was Yablonsky asking Sonny questions about hippies and their values.
Sonny came from a prominent wealthy family whose parents expected a lot from him. Sonny was very troubled by his parents thoughts on life and was torn between their ideas for him and his own ideas which caused him a lot of issues, and was the main reason he became a hippie.
The following are some of Yablonsky’s questions and Sonny’s thoughts:
Question 1: “What kind of hangups did you have? What things bugged you?”
Sonny replied by explaining he had all the typical hangups any young person has in America like religion, politics, and family. He said he had many frustrations and that rebellion side, but at some point you get tired of it and just want to give up.
Question 2: Did you ever get tangled up in any psychiatry?
Sonny replied by saying he had an “out-of-sight-psychiatrist!” Sonny dropped out of college twice and said his psychiatrist was the most neurotic man he had ever met in his life and saw him as very sick. Sonny said his psychiatrist convinced him that there was something wrong with him and he became very depressed. He said, “I still had emotional ties to that world view that had been drummed into me ever since I could begin to understand and comprehend. There was a very real conflict going on between, you know, my mind, my conscious mind and my subconscious mind…” He just became confused and very angry and said he slashed his arms and wrists.
Question 3: How many times did you try suicide?
He said he had no idea, that he had the huge hassle of trying to live the life his parents chose for him. He said the problem was that parents aren’t doing what they want for themselves, and so they put it on their children but don’t know how to handle the truth when their children want no part of it. He said the whole society is built off of egocentric games. He said life has been made out to be about image and said this is what dominates expression and feelings that need to be listened to.
Next Yablonsky asked Sonny about using LSD and his opinion of the hippie movement.
When Sonny talked about doing LSD he said that you have to know how to use it properly. He said the first thing it should be used for is to look inside your mind. Then when you are able to do that that is when you can try to understand what is truly wrong with yourself. He said after using LSD he couldn’t believe how blind he was about what is beautiful. He said that society he completely surrounded by evil and that’s all people consume their selves with. He said he was able to see beauty and understand what love was all about.
Sonny then goes on to talk about his thoughts on the hippie movement, although he rarely liked to call it that. He said the hippies were an extension of the 50s beatnik movement, but psychedelic drugs like acid needed to come into the picture. He said people are just flat out unhappy and try to find problems with the world. He said hippies and a lot of the youth culture are trying to find their humanness and just be happy. He said hippies are just people who have dropped every day hangups and just want to be happy but the “squares” aren’t happy with this. He said regular people get jealous because they say they just can’t drop everything to be care free like the hippies have.
Sonny then went on to talk about how being a hippie and living in the communes are great because friendships are key and the hippies have become family. He talked about the concept of sharing and how this is what was so beautiful. The idea that if you need food, you just ask for it, if you need money someone would just give it to you. He said there is no anxiety or competition, and said America would be a better place if everyone got in on this concept. He called it a humanistic idea, that really works for the hippies and has already seen change among the youth culture around the city.
The interview ended with Sonny talking about how beautiful and free life is as a hippie. He said he sees the hippies realizing that the cities are not a place to be because they are not natural and one with nature and that most will start moving into the country.
In the end, the out come of the interview was that Sonny argued that “the hippies are rejecting the repressive mainstream values of a “square” American society and in doing so are creating a new way of life based on sharing, love and openness”.
To read the full interview it is in the book The 1960s: Opposing Viewpoints