Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Hippie Movement: Can We Bring It Back?

We Never Left

Tea party members, bigots, military-industrial complex profiteers, professional politicians and any variation on the species that thrives in a cool, humorless environment wishes the hippie movement had dried up and blown away.

But it didn't.

Just as the mass media raised a warped profile of the hippie movement in the 1960s to help draw readers to advertisers, it moved on when tall tales about the nonconformist, free-spirited consciousness movement no longer put as many cheeks in seats.

The media giants also worried about how established power structures were being unsettled.


In a dark period that set the stage for the counterculture and the flowing of the hippie movement, a young man tries to find his place in the world after the collapse of the American Dream:


What Became Of The Hippie Movement?

Folk and rock music played a soundtrack for the hippie movement, voices growing louder as conviction increased. There was a loop for every taste.

When I think back, the song that seems to have touches me most is America, from Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends. America carries the codes that made the hippie movement possible: alienation, feeling lost in your own country, yearning for something you can't quite define, and those that made it so attractive: intimacy, brotherhood in nonconformity and love for the country we'd been taught about but couldn't find.

See: Traveling Without A Passport

'"Kathy, I'm lost,' I said, though I knew she was sleeping. 'I'm empty and aching, and I don't know why.'"

A campaign continues to denigrate what we did to expand awareness, promote peace and love, and demolish institutional structures that protected endemic racism, sexism and class antagonism.

"If you remember the 1960s, you weren't there" is a viral phrase meant to make the hippie movement seem like a gaggle of drug addled weirdos who passed the decade in a haze of incoherence. They wish.

A while back, I posted this response.

1968: The Hippie Movement Summer of Revolution

The famous Summer of Love was 1967, but as the wave swept out of San Francisco, the Vietnam War claimed more lives and assassinations radically altered the political world. The alternatives hippie styles promoted gathered followers.

In Won't Get Fooled Again, from Who's Next, the group sang,
"We'll be marching in the streets, with our children at our feet," 
as militance gathered momentum.

In the Summer of '68, staggered by the killings of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, insiders who took chances, we took to the streets too, especially at the Republican Convention in Miami and the Democratic in Chicago.

But the reality of hippie life was different than that. That was marketing.

At the core,  hippies in the movement were apolitical. We were into peace, yes, but not in confrontations or according to party affiliations.

We were into love, freedom, mind expansion and alternative lifestyles. We were trying to reinvent or redefine all of them. But I never knew a single hippie who wanted to scream about it. We went about our business in a quiet and mellow way.

Guess what? We changed the world, and you never knew it.

Do an image search for a typical crowd scene in 1958. A baseball game is always a good place to see ordinary people collected in large numbers. Now, look for one in 1968.

Get it?

Where did all the suits in the bleachers go?

Here's a fun twist on an old tradition, pumping ethyl:

We aren't there yet, of course, and a strident conservative force is trying to roll back all it can, but American racial and gender chemistry underwent changes more radical than any in history. Career choices and opportunities for minorities and women exploded. There is still too much inequality, but things are so much better.What The Hippie Movement Changed

While the military-industrial complex has managed to reinstate the dream of a perpetual state of war they hope will stimulate a robust economy, the massive brutalities of another Vietnam have been denied them.

The numb to the rest of the world American public still cares little about the suffering inflicted on civilians in other countries, but at least, the mass media shows some restraint now from promoting war as entertainment.

The uptight morals that saturated culture before the 1960s have been pushed back to minority status. Anti-abortionists, who really are more concerned about what women do with their bodies before they get pregnant than with the fetuses, continue to fight an unpopular battle. Couples living together "without benefit of matrimony" is commonplace as are interracial and same sex couples.

The social freedoms taken for granted today were won by the hippie movement and other initiatives we supported. If you think we lost or gave up, you haven't been looking around much. The fact is, we won. With persistence. And we won quietly.

The Hippie Movement Today

It doesn't really matter, does it, what we call it?

It's easier to stay under the radar when you work anonymously on a better society. But we're here.

Some of it is subtle, a peace symbol here, an institutional win for human rights (like the recently passed same sex marriage laws) there. We're pushing. Quietly.

In 2006, as George W. Bush came to New York City to be renominated, tens of thousands of us marched up Seventh Avenue to Madison Square Garden in protest. So many of us came out of hiding, we had to wait over an hour on the back end to begin walking.

True to form, the New York Times missed most of the story by getting it wrong, and the tactics of the Bloomberg's police were trotted out to illegally blunt the protests. But there was power in brotherhood. It was nice to feel that old camaraderie.

We were there. We still are.

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Further Reading: The Hippie Movement: Counterculture Today

And finally, some flower power:

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