Counter-culture

The "counter-culture" was a protest movement against society's norms in the 1960s

Today's story: VW Bug
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Hippies & the counterculture

We’re going to break with the regular program format today. Usually around now I review a phrasal verb or English expression, but today I’ve decided I need to tell you what a hippie is and what the counterculture was. And that is in honor of Volkswagen because the VW Bus and the VW Beetle were both popular with hippies.

The counterculture was a youth movement in the United States in the 1960s. This was a time of tremendous social change. Among the changes include the Civil Rights movement to give African-Americans equal civil rights, sexual liberation that came from widespread availability of birth control, women’s rights and women’s participation in the workplace, and opposition to US participation in the Vietnam War. A movement of mostly younger people in London, New York, and San Francisco were at the forefront of embracing these social changes and advocating for greater individual liberty. They didn’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps, getting a steady corporate job, marrying early, moving into a traditional house in the suburbs, and starting a family. Instead, they experimented with drugs, embraced music, joined cults sometimes, and were outspoken in their political advocacy.

Hippies were people who most embraced the counterculture during this time. If you do a Google images search of a hippie, you’ll see people dressed like John Lennon of the Beatles—long hair, funky glasses, loose clothing, maybe strumming a guitar. The Beatles—the band, now, not the car—the Beatles were hippies, as were many other creative artists, authors, and college professors.

In a way, the world was changing already between the 1950s and 1960s, but the hippies embraced the change more vigorously than others. The Volkswagen Beetle and the Bus were symbols of the counterculture. They were small, cheap cars that a bunch of friends could share. They were easy to fix, so they had remarkable staying power.

I don’t think I would be a hippie, if I were alive in the 1960s—I’ve always had short hair—but they made a real mark on our country’s culture and history. So now when you hear the word hippie, I hope you know a little more about what that means.


That’s all for today. Don’t forget that you can try a free audiobook in English by going to PlainEnglish.com/book and signing up for a free trial with Audible. Remember, you have to sign up for a membership to get your free book, but if you don’t want to pay, you can cancel within the trial period and still keep your audiobook. Not a bad deal. PlainEnglish.com/book and it will take you to the page with all the details.

Thanks for joining us on Plain English this Thursday afternoon. We’ll be back on Monday with another episode. The topic on Monday will be Facebook’s uncomfortable role determining what kind of speech should be allowed on its platform.

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Story: VW Bug