The hippies were right

Country Joe

From The Left Coaster

The hippies were right

One of Duncan Black’s favorite minted expressions, rightly so, is dirty fucking hippie, the instant dismissive moniker chucked at any liberal idea to crush its legitimacy.

Those environmentalist hippies were and are right, in other words, to survive American has to become radically different with vastly different leadership, but it’s hard to remain optimistic when current political leadership yaps about nothing on purpose to prop up the status quo.

I’m proud to say it, I was a DFH. More of a yippie actually, those being the politicized hippies, usually as a result of getting arrested. Yes, much of what we did and proclaimed, stoned and naive as we were, proved true. Environmentalism and feminism came directly out of Hippie. So did a mistrust of government. Back then, to say “our government lies to us” was to invite hostility and incredulity. Today everyone, conservatives included, just assumes it. Sure, many of those ideas were already present, but it was the cultural explosion of the 60’s that pushed them into national consciousness.

The Greens were right too. They were talking global warming and the need for change back when to do so put you in the fringe of the fringe. Now it’s a mainstream belief.

So, for all you DFHs out there, do what the European eco-Left did when the Right tried to slime them by calling them watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) – they turned it around and used it as a compliment.

The hippies were and are right, it turned out in the end, completely and totally. Until our political leadership unabashedly trumpets that fact with an agenda of real change I’ll continue to be pessimistic for long term political American existence, radical change in how we live is absolutely necessary, starting with abandonment as a species of internal combustion.

I’m actually optimistic. Signs of change are everywhere. Most governments and businesses now get it about global warming and renewable energy, a sea change from just a few years ago. The coming regime change in D.C. will speed the process here too.

(The photo is Country Joe, a true DFH, just before going on stage at Woodstock. I was there too.)


  1. The hippies were right about some things, not about others. Few today would support “free love” or drugs for all. Hippyism also embodied a form of self-centeredness that, though I am subject to it by virtue of my 1970s adolescence, I see as destructive to the fabric of society– and which now permeates both “Left” and “Right” wings of the political spectrum. Elimination of discipline from family and society remains controversial, but is one of the reasons our society appears to be crumbling. (How else does rampant greed become unbridled and the wellbeing of others become so irrelevant?)

  2. I think I understand…

    … why the good doctor (Thompson) did, if he indeed, what he did.

    We dropped the ball, my generation did… we stopped The War!

    Our War.

    Viet Nam.

    But we didn’t stop War.

    We forced Nixon to accountability. Whoopee! Nixon quit, The War is Over! Let’s finish our law degrees, cut our hair, and buy beemers and half-million dollar houses on the high desert!

    We stopped The War. Our War. Viet Nam. But we didn’t stop War. We finished our law degrees and bought overpriced McMansions, and left the machinations* in place, notably Bush/Carlyle, Cheney/Haliburton and Rumsfield/etal, that led to the Authoritarian State – Fascist State – we are about to, if not have, become.

    We dropped the ball.

    I am a dirty fucking hippie, and a biker, logger ‘nam vet, and no, DJ, it wasn’t just about sex, drugs and rock&roll.

    * “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

  3. I never thought it was just about sex, drugs, and rock&roll (that was the 70s– my era). But it was about throwing off the yoke of discipline; the only problem is, not all discipline is bad. It was about personal empowerment– forgetting that the individual functions within the framework of a community.

    When I see evangelicals reviling community values because it’s all about the family (read: MY family not yours), I see an extension of the values of the 60s. I see elected leaders racking up debt like there’s no tomorrow, devoid of any sense of responsibility– and calling it conservativism! I see individualism raised to a level that precludes caring about other people. These values didn’t originate in the 60s, any more than the idea of peace or the use of drugs did. But it was the 60s that brought them to the fore. (Hell, the 60s made possible the selfish 70s and the greedy 80s.)

    And yes, your generation DID end the war in Vietnam, and that’s a feat worthy of recognition. But the war ABOUT Vietnam continues to be fought here at home. Andrew Sullivan makes a cogent argument that it’s time for that generation of leaders (and that fight) to step out of the spotlight and give someone else a shot.

    I’ll never claim nothing good came of the 60s– much did. But I also believe that many of today’s problems originate in cultural changes that began 40-odd years ago. Like so many other influences, hippyism brought both good and bad.

  4. How were hippies undisciplined? Because they didn’t want to work boring day jobs and instead organized mass demonstrations, started bands that practiced and toured constantly, moved to the country and began organic gardening – all of which takes huge work and discipline.

  5. The hippies who organized mass demonstrations or toured constantly were not the majority. There are people who got very creative on marijuana, LSD, and heroin, too– but most of us sat on the couch and plotted to save the world.

    However, when I refer to throwing off the yoke of discipline, I mean something different: the idea that freedom means you can do anything or say anything without consequences– the idea that responsibility is for squares. There can be no freedom without responsibility, and in that sense, the 1960s version of freedom is one of the most corrosive ideas our culture has yet encountered– and the neocons have perhaps embraced it most.

  6. I disagree. When you choose to live outside the system, you know more than most that your actions have consequences. Because you live with those consequences every day. Hippies knew that well.

  7. I guess I never nmet them, then. The ones I knew believed they could do what they wanted without answering to society.

  8. I was a little late coming to the Hippie generation – my wife and I never made it, really. As the line in Field of Dreams goes, “I missed the Sixties”. But the Yellow Brick Road and Rocky Mountain High notions of the Seventies certainly made an impact on us … for me, coming out of a military career, it was a matter of ‘throwing off discipline’ … somebody else’s sense of discipline, responsibility, accountability. More than a hippy, I suppose I became an anarchist … that idea that government, no matter what its policies, is a hinderance/oppressor serving greed and power. The REAL personal responsibility lies in self determination, self-actualization, acceptance of the results of our efforts. That hodgepodge of philosophies sounds aynrandian, dropoutish and elitist has made for an exciting three decades, some of it, early on, violently dangerous. Never drug users, we often were at odds with other drop-outs, and not end-of-the-worlders, we didn’t bury our arms caches and form militias in the desert … on the other hand we began using solar power 30 years ago and fought expansion of water privatizers and housing projects. We did grow our own food and let our talents for art take us where they could. On the other hand, I believe in caring for our neighbors, in fair treatment in health care, voting and civil rights … who doesn’t when they are not terrified of the future … Carole (and probably others) says, “When fear is overcome, compassion returns.” So where do I come down on the question of whether or not the Hippies were right? They were right about the need for change, a change which is still evolving … they were not right about drugs, but they were about localized farming. All too often their groups turned into patriarchal tyrannies, but they did redefine love … they made music powerful and I wish it were so again. They put people back on their front porches and I wish it were so again. They put people to work for themselves … you get the idea.

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