Monday, May 14, 2007


When I finally started talking today, I mentioned that I'd seen part of a program on hippies, on the History Channel. The word I used to characterize my reaction was "hostility." I felt hostility. Someone said, "The question is, is that because of what you really think, or because of how you were raised." It would have been a good question, except that, after a certain age, it is presumed that a man would have examined his childhood prejudices, and arrived at authentic attitudes, whatever they might be.

I expanded on the theme, citing my contempt for the irresponsible and self-indulgent hippie lifestyle. Someone else said, "Well, at least the hippies only hurt themselves." "Not true," I rejoined. "They had kids." "At least it's only a few kids then, and not millions, like Vietnam." I didn't think to point out that this was a non sequitur -- a fallacy of category. I did think to say, "No -- if you screw up someone's life, well, what do screwed up people do? They harm other people. It's not like a poison, it's like a virus. Epidemic."

On the way home I figured out that the hippies weren't about Vietnam at all. The war protesters were about Vietnam. Hippies were about LSD. They didn't go to college. They dropped out. Turn on, tune in, drop out. I'm not exactly sure what the "tuning in" part would have been. To what? Ultimately, it must have been "to yourself." Me me me.

I just turned the TV off at a certain point. Maybe it was some skinny naked hairy punk sucking on his mary jane. Maybe it was some big bushy bearded kid smiling joyfully as he walked to and by the camera. I just felt hostility. A forty-year-old image -- one of happiness -- and I can't stand it. I suppose Nazis smiled broadly too. A fallacy of category? Could be. Hippies were about love, man. But so were Nazis. Love of Hitler, and Aryans, and the purity of the race. You know: love. Love of self.

My former wife was a hippie. Really, a 1968 hippie. In Australia, of course. When I was there in the eighties, we went through some of her old boxes, and they were full of all kinds of groovy psychedelic art. She is an artist. I looked at her and said with the wonderment of discovery, "You were a hippie." She paused a moment, then admitted, "Yes, I suppose I was." It was quaint. Like finding out she had been a Wobbly, or a Luddite. No hostility. She still has certain hippie behaviors. In his early teens, it was my son who informed me that she used a certain controlled substance, out on her balcony. The fact that he trusted himself enough to tell me that was gratifying. I'm pleased to say that he takes after me. We have to tolerate foolishness from the people we care about -- as we would hope our own foolishness is tolerated.

As for the movement, I can't see anything good that came of it. Diseases that had disappeared before anyone thought to give them Latin names started to show up at the free clinics. Diseases that hadn't been around since soap came in boxes. The thrush, the scroff, the mange, the grunge, the twitch. So much for Mr Natural. Mr Crotchrot is more like it. Mr Socialdisease. The Diggers set up free food banks in the park -- Panhandle Park, appropriately enough. Of course they stole the food. Who needs a conscience, when you're after higher consciousness? Social contract? That's for Establishment squares.

Their crime was only against themselves, as they sat on streetcorners stoned into oblivion. You don't remember this, but they begged. No crime in that. No crime in using drugs. No crime in abandoning your family, or betraying its values. No crime in taking without contributing. No crime in spreading disease, or in theft. No crime in grief. No crime at all. Well, property is theft. But no crime, no war -- just love, love, love.

It's like young Wonderboy said. Better to hurt only yourself, than millions. And if the theory is utterly incongruent with the reality of human nature, well, reality has its drawbacks. War is hardwired into our species. It would be really nice if it weren't so. But it is. We know this because as long as there has been a written record, that record reports on war. The earliest cuneiform of Mesopotamia tells us so. Nimrud and Gilgamesh. The earliest writings of Egypt -- Narmar. The early chapters of Genesis. No lesser dignitary than Jesus tells us that up to the end times, there will be wars and rumors of war.

Well, it's only Jesus. Maybe he's wrong. Maybe the universal observation of every society that has had contact with any other society is wrong, too. Just because there always have been wars doesn't mean there must be. Doesn't Evolution tell us that natures change? We'll just forget about the fact that, if so, natures change through struggle, and species survive by being the fittest. So this theory gives us hope, if we ignore that inconvenient, that Gorey truth. Just like the theory about making love not war gave hope. Just like the theory about the Power of Flowers gave hope. Just like the theory of imagining gave the hope of no war or religion or countries. It's all so easy, if you try.

It's not that the hippies were wrong, that evoked my hostility. I've gone a while myself without bathing, in my youth. I've believed in things I now find ridiculous. It's the drugs. Do they open the doors of perception? About as much as rape opens vaginas. Hey, babe -- just lay back and enjoy it. A fallacy of category? The violence we do to ourselves matters. The ability to do harm does not equal the right to do it.

The movement went sour. The need for soap became self-evident. The altruism and idealism of wish-fulfillment fantasies evolved into environmentalism and disarmamentism and any number of other religious ruminations. I don't really know what to make of it. The harm is clear -- the mainstreaming of the drug-culture -- the destruction of sexual mores that has given us such blessings as AIDS, abortion and an illegitimacy rate rivaling that of some jungle tribe that hasn't figured out yet what causes pregnancy.

But it's one of the steps that got us here. Here isn't such a bad place to be. Sure it could be better. If only there'd been no WW II. That would've been great -- that is, if there'd also been no Hitler. And if that, then there'd have been no Great War. So we'd still have a bunch of empires, like the Romanovs and the Ottomans and the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs. Perhaps the world would be much better off with a still-existing Caliphate. What possible harm could come of that?

Things happen. They seem bad at the time. Indeed, they are bad. But just as there will always be wars, there will always be rebuilding. As much as to complain that there is a cycle of death and of life. That's the reality. Shall we complain about reality? Shall we make-believe? Just imagine? What are we? Hippies?


1 comment:

brent said...

I think the jungle tribes have the edge on us. For an accurate comparison you need to look into the animal kingdom.

Just yesterday a 8 year old was telling me how his step-f smoked "blunt". Not in front of him anymore but he new he did it. The epidemic continues.

But really I'm greatful for the hippie movement. It's a job security thing.

I was watching TR right before the hippie show and didn't have an inkling of interest to view, not even in a voyeristic/research since.