- Politics and Social Issues
Being a Hippie in 1968, the Real Greatest Generation
Putting Things in the Right Order
On Down the Road, Still Hippie in 1976
Hippies never went away. Here's Peter McCarthy's story of what it was like to stay in tune, ten years down the road and longer. The hippie sense of humor stays.
Hippies In The 1960s
You don't really think Tom Brokaw's generation, the one that tolerated perpetual war, racism and conformity like it was Miracle Whip, was the greatest, do you?
Last time I saw Brokaw's crowd, they were the Silent Majority, marching along to Nixon's tune, making a hero of the notorious war criminal, Henry Kissinger.
My generation, hippies in 1968, was the real Greatest Generation. No question.
We had to do all the work to clear out the mess Brokaw's heroes made.
No matter what propaganda the mass media spills, hippies in the 1960s were closest to original American values, ready to stand up against the power structure to demand freedom, equal opportunity for all races and genders and for peace.
At War with Nixon's Silent Majority
All those values were neglected by the conformists marching in lockstep ahead of us.
Our tattoo was nothing less than equality and freedom, having been stuck with shoving aside what Tom Brokaw dubbed "The Greatest Generation," really the most obedient and gullible generation, before they let World War III get started and incinerated the planet.
It's one of those inconvenient facts that wreck commonly accepted untruths.
The mass media doesn't like it because, well, because the generation we kicked out the way owns most of it. Propaganda isn't only about marketing nations, but also about values and crowd control.
You can toss in the trash Brokaw's myopic claims where he lionizes a generation committed to suffocating conformity and hardcore militarism.
They never asked the hard questions, eventually setting themselves up as Nixon's silent majority and the greatest threat to American democracy in a century full of calamity.
If you were lucky enough to drop out and drop in to the hippie movement, happy to be alive, stretching freedom, awareness and equality, you'd know the stiffs who gave us the 1950s and the most miserable conformity in American history were far from the greatest.
Apart from the generations that sustained slavery, they may have been the cruelest.
Tom Brokaw's generation was the most harnessed, productive, obedient and least aware. They gave America the boundless promise of unchecked consumerism and the lethal mindlessness of the Silent Majority.
They unintentionally gave us a counterculture that spawned hippies, their own disillusioned children who hated their values.
Never again will the powers that be let children grow to adulthood with the freedoms we had. We are the last to threaten the status quo of soulless consumerism.
We saw a bigger, brighter world because we were swimming and dancing in a revolution, singing our way through the 60s.
Forty years later, in a time of "play dates," TV addiction, persistent war, economic calamity and corporately manufactured artists, maybe a few reminders of what we hippies in the 1960s really were and what our generation gave us can start a little meltdown.
Hippies Hit the Road
Whatever Became Of The Hippies In the 1960s?
In Your Closet
I wrote another article about how the hippie movement went invisible along with the counterculture from the 1960s.
But we stayed alive in the closets, invisible to the disparaging eyes of mainstream media.
I also covered an interview with a surviving hippie that is acerbic and reflects what I think such a hippie's might think about today's social climate.
The hippie movement never went away.
We simply learned to live with the inevitable facts of our situation.
Survival requires compromise, but I wonder if recent shenanigans, three endless desert wars at one time while elected officials pretend we have no money for healthcare, education or nutrition, might empty some closets.
Why Did We Have Hippies?
In a bittersweet coming of age story from 1965, a young man tries to find his way in the shadow of a fallen American Dream.
And So, The Hippie Movement Made It Happen
Hippie Counterculture in the 60s
Because it was a real social revolution, the hippie movement faced real opposition.
All that's disregarded now as the public has been encouraged to remember the hippie movement as either a band of drug-addled, lazy dropouts or an entertainment that helped free love proliferate and scrubbed off much of the conformity that then rigidified the middle classes.
But that's not what we're here to talk about. We can always do history later.
Let's talk about what being a hippie in 1968 was all about, the best time in the years I've known, the time with so much potential.
Let's talk about walking through a brazen summer with hopes high and inspired starting points.
At the beginning of the New Year, 1968, I was working full time, engaged to a very Catholic Irish girl and planning for our future between fights and sexual confrontations. We had love, and we had John Lennon's "You say, 'Yes.' I say, 'No'" thing cold.
But it was normal.
Guys wanted to live now, and girls held out for marriage. Fortunately not all of them.
My job required national security clearance as I was dealing with classified information about aircraft designs, and I worked with a pretty ordinary crowd, playing Pinochle and telling stories during extended lunches on the eventing shift. My fiancé worked full time days, which made getting together tough, but we had a plan, as most couples did. We were getting married in the summer.
Being a hippie was not far from my thoughts.
The trigger, I think, was the Time Magazine "Man of The Year" cover, which transmogrified to "Persons of The Year" as they honored my generation for our independence, our willingness to open up and explore and our Beatnik-influenced lifestyles.
Time never credited the Beats, of course, but what they intended was obvious. We had ranking, middle class backing.
No doubt, the poorly explained assassination of JFK in 1963 knocked a lot the mythical American Dream out of us, helping to birth the hippie movement. Add to that the cruel discrimination made so obvious when Blacks tried to actually claim the equality they'd been promised.
Especially in the morally corrupt South, this was not the country we'd been taught to admire as we were growing up. Toss in the Vietnam War the dinosaurs demanded we fight in, and the demoralization was complete.
Dropping out and in to the hippie counterculture felt natural. There was little remorse for most of us.
Restlessness grew, and in February, I blew everything I'd stabilized on and headed for California on the spur of the moment with my buddy, Jon.
We drove all the way, and were greeted in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury with the offer to buy "a lid" at our first traffic light.
We were back East after a month, but the chain reaction had started.
Before summer was over, I'd dropped completely out, had moved in with a brand new girlfriend, and, for work, counseled draft dodgers, organized other groups of activists and helped lead protest rallies.
John Philips' lyric, "At first, so strange to feel so friendly, to say, 'Good morning,' and really mean it" accurately summed up what it was like to be in the hippie community.
Being a hippie in 1968 meant we all had our freak flags of long hair, blue jeans at all times and a tolerance for everything but intolerance.
We were so obvious, we acknowledged even strangers with smiles and peace signs.
An interesting thing I learned that summer, having eschewed footwear, was that dark pavements on sidewalks and streets were much hotter than light spots. Who knew?
I had my live-in girlfriend, my sunny soul mate with whom I was not in love, and I had one or two other girlfriends at the same time.
Free love meant being honest about it, and I assume she had others too.
Society was then less tolerant of freedom for women, the future loaded for repercussions.
A Movement Bifurcates
The hippie movement seemed to split two ways, between those for whom dropping out meant liberation through chemical substances and those, like me, for whom it meant social action.
Those of us who were more political were leery of the druggies because we thought they were being characterized as crazies to discredit all of us, and I suppose they thought we were phony dropouts who were too concerned about middle class acceptance.
What we all had in common was a hatred for the mindless military machine that, Eisenhower's warnings notwithstanding, was devouring everything about our country and flushing it away.
And we hated the crippling conformity that made it all possible.
When a member of my draft board at my hearing told me that my position would be considered unpatriotic by his generation, I explained that unthinking acceptance when your country was doing something very wrong was not patriotism.
It was surrender, as Tom Paxton pointed out in "Mr. Blue.""Good morning, Mr. Blue. We'll take good care of you. Just think of it as sense and not surrender..."
When the White Album came out, I split the stereo speakers on opposite sides of our studio apartment and played it straight through, got the first inkling that the Beatles were leaving us.
One more time, in a year that included the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, I was reminded that a world I'd known was ending.
The Face of the Enemy of Freedom and Peace
What We Learned at the Revolution
I learned a lot more about Zen in those days.
Mostly, I learned to like the music, my instant hippie friends, the freer than ever girls, the multiple social movements with independence as their fuel.
It was a counterculture revolution, and I enjoyed swimming and dancing in it. The mix of politics and personal freedom was dazzling.
That we could simply refuse to live as our parents expected, be absorbed into the hippie counterculture and get away with it was exhilarating.
Then, Nixon, Richard Daly and the nut cases running the show in the Mosquito Republics started beating us up and killing some of us and the minorities we befriended.
Decades later, I heard the inspirational writer and speaker, Marianne Williamson, talk about how the killings had chilled her.
Emboldened by their ability to send thugs in to beat up civil rights protestors and get away with most it, they started beating up peace protesters too.
After a few years, not content with driving hippies into the background, infuriated by Antiwar Protests, they killed off a few unarmed students to get the message across.
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Hippies, Yippies and The Sixties Counterculture - Good or Bad
Was the influence of the hippies, the yippies and the whole counterculture thing good or bad.
Not perfect, more good than bad.
© 2010 David Stone