Archive

Hippie

My sweetie for Christmas gave me a book: Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat. She got it for me because it hit right in the intersections of several of my interests, so she thought I would like it.

She was right. It’s a splendid book, covering the alternative food trends of the Sixties: macrobiotics, organic food, co-ops. Kaufmann puts them in historical context, shows how they arose out of an American tradition of alterna-food, how how took that tradition to new places.

Then serendipitously (hippies loved serendipity) I found in a used-book store the memoirs of Stephen Gaskin, freak guru and one of the founders of the Farm, a figure profiled in the book. Most of his memories are devoted to details of acid trips, of supernatural experience of human connection mediated through the holy sacrament of LSD.

I have a longstanding interest in the 1960s. I wrote a whole blog about it once. Reading Hippie Food reminded me of the hope of the era, the feeling of being on the brink of a cosmic leap.

Lately the Baby Boomer generation has been getting it from all sides. The alt-right are gloating about the fall of the Boomers, which they identify with creeping progressiveism. Then the phrase “OK Boomer” erupted from the left, dismissing the disgruntled old folks supposedly to blame for Donald Trump.

I’m sorry: I have to say I like Baby Boomers. They had flaws. They have flaws. But they had a moment, a golden moment, and they left legends.

Now this is all bullshit, from a certain point of view. No generation is a monolith. A minority of Boomers were ever hippies or progressives or even particularly liberal. The rest were the quiet ones who continued on through the Sixties much as was expected of them. On the other hand there were the radical Boomers who never became respectable, who let their freak flag fly even now. It’s that mixture that allows the current Left and Right likewise to attack them. Both segments are equally nominal for the whole.

The end result is everybody pissing on the Boomers. On what they lived through.

This bugs me because I think we could use some of the Boomer hope right now.
We need some hippies. All over the world, in every land, we could use folks dedicated to the ideals of peace, love, color and spontaneity. We could benefit from a drug that made things like that make sense. Yet not naive. No movement that included Ken Kesey and Jerry Garcia could have ranked high for naivete. The Sixties countercultures were the opposite of naive—they saw their innovations as the only possible course for a world that had endured horrors untold and seemed headed for more.

There’s a song, a song from 1967, and it goes like this:

In this generation (in this generation)
In this lovin’ time (in this lovin’ time)
In this generation (in this generation)
We will make the world shine

We were born to love one another
This is something we all need
We were born to love one another
We must be what we’re goin’ to be
And what we have to be is free

That song is “For Pete’s Sake,” and it’s from the Monkees. Which immediately negates it. The Monkees were an industrial media creation from Word One. Anything they made is Product, and anything they made which calls for any higher ideal is horseshit wrapped in clingfoil, septicemia on a grocery story shelf.

Yet American society, in its hurry to point out that hypocrisy and make it clear that those who practiced it were bad people, managed to deflate the entire idea of hope. The hope we need. The vision which might carry us to a new place.

I wish we could rediscover the moment the Boomers had.