The Hippies Were Right!
Green homes? Organic food?
Nature is good? Time To Give The Ol' Tie-Dyers Some Respect
Go ahead, name your movement. Name something good and
positive and pro-environment and eco-friendly that's happening right now in the
newly "greening" America and don't say more guns in Texas or fewer reproductive
choices for women or endless vile unwinnable BushCo wars in the Middle East
lasting until roughly 2075 because that would defeat the whole point of this
perky little column and destroy its naive tone of happy rose-colored sardonic
I'm talking about,
say, energy-efficient light bulbs. . I'm looking at organic foods going
mainstream. I mean chemical-free cleaning products widely available at Target
and I'm talking saving the whales and
protecting the dolphins and I mean yoga studios flourishing in every small
town, giant boxes of organic cereal at Costco and non-phthalates dildos Ben &
Jerry's ice cream at Good Vibes and the Toyota Prius becoming the nation's
oddest status symbol. You know, good things.
around: we have entire industries devoted to recycled paper, a new generation of
cheap solar-power technology and an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and even
the soulless corporate monsters over at famously heartless joints like Wal-Mart
are now claiming that they really, really care about saving the environment
because, well, "it's the right thing to do" (read: It's purely economic and all
their bottom line because if they don't start caring they'll soon be totally
screwed on manufacturing and shipping costs at/from all their brutal Chinese
There is but one
conclusion you can draw from the astonishing (albeit fitful, bittersweet)
pro-environment sea change now happening in the culture and (reluctantly,
nervously) in the halls of power in D.C., one thing we must all acknowledge in
our wary, jaded, globally warmed universe: The hippies had it right all along.
Oh yes they did.
You know it's true. All this hot enthusiasm for healing the planet and eating
whole foods and avoiding chemicals and working
with nature and developing the self? Came from the hippies. Alternative health?
Hippies. Green cotton? Hippies. Reclaimed wood? Recycling? Humane treatment of
animals? Medical pot? Alternative energy? Natural childbirth? Non-GMA seeds? It
came from the granola types (who, of course, absorbed much of it from ancient
cultures), from the alternative worldviews, from the underground and the
sidelines and from far off the goddamn grid and it's about time the media, the
politicians, the culture as a whole sent out a big, wet, hemp-covered
Here's a suggestion, from
one of my more astute ex-hippie readers: Instead of issuing carbon credits so
industrial polluters can clear their collective corporate conscience, maybe, to
help offset all the savage damage they've done to the soul of the planet all
these years, these commercial cretins should instead buy some karma credits from
the former hippies themselves.
You know, from those who've been working for the health of the planet, quite
thanklessly, for the past 50 years and who have, as a result, built up quite a
storehouse of good karma.
Of course, you can easily argue that much of the "authentic" hippie ethos —
the anti-corporate ideology, the sexual liberation, the anarchy, the push for
civil rights, the experimentation — has been totally leeched out of all these
new movements, that corporations have forcibly co-opted and diluted every single
technology and humble pro-environment idea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream cone and
Odwalla smoothie to make them both palatable and profitable. But does this
the organic oils in that body lotion any more harmful? Verily, it does not.
You might also just as easily claim
that much of the nation's reluctant turn toward environmental health has little
to do with the hippies per se, that it's taking the threat of global meltdown
combined with the notion of really, really expensive ski tickets to slap the
nation's incredibly obese ass into gear and force consumers to begin to wake up
to the savage gluttony and wastefulness of American culture as everyone starts
wondering, oh my God, what's going to happen to swimming pools and NASCAR and
free shipping from Amazon? Of course, without the '60s groundwork, without all
the radical ideas and seeds of change planted nearly five decades ago, what we'd
be turning to in our time of need would be a great deal more hopeless indeed.
But if you're really bitter and shortsighted, you could say the entire hippie
movement overall was just incredibly overrated, gets far too much cultural
credit for far too little actual impact, was pretty much a giant excuse to slack
off and enjoy dirty lazy responsibility-free sex romps and do a ton of drugs and
avoid Vietnam and not bathe for a month and name your child Sunflower or Shiva
Moon or Chakra Lennon Sapphire Bumblebee. This is what's called the reactionary
simpleton's view. It blithely ignores history, perspective, the evolution of
culture as a whole. You know, just like America.
But, you know, whatever. The proofs are easy enough to trace. The
and environmental groundwork laid by the '60s counterculture are still so
intact and potent even the stiffest neocon Republican has to acknowledge their
It's all right there: Treehugger.
com is the new '60s underground hippy zine. Ecstasy is the new LSD. Visible
tattoos are the new longhairs. And bands as diverse as Pearl Jam to Bright Eyes
to NIN to the Dixie Chicks are writing savage anti-Bush, anti-war songs for a
new, ultra-jaded generation.
yes, speaking of good ol' MDMA (Ecstasy), even drug culture is getting some new
respect. Staid old Time mag just
ran a rather snide little story about the new studies being conducted by
Harvard and the National Institute of Mental Health into the astonishing
psychospiritual benefits of goodly entheogens such as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA.
Unfortunately, the piece basically backhands Timothy Leary and the entire
"excessive," "naive" drug culture of yore in favor of much more "sane" and
"careful" scientific analysis happening now, as if the only valid methods for
attaining knowledge and an understanding of spirit were through control groups
and clinical, mysticism-free examination. Please.
Still, the fact that serious scientific research into
entheogens is being conducted even in the face of the most anti-science,
pro-pharmaceutical, ultra-conservative presidential regime in recent history is
proof enough that all the hoary old hippie mantras about expanding the mind and
touching God through drugs were onto something after
all (yes, duh). Tim Leary is probably smiling wildly right now — though that
might be due to all the mushrooms he's been sharing with Kerouac and Einstein
and Mary Magdalene. Mmm, heaven.
Of course, true hippie values mean you're not
really supposed to care about or attach to any of this, you don't give a damn
for the hollow ego stroke of being right all along, for slapping the culture
upside the head and saying, See? Do you see? It was never about the long hair
and the folk music and Woodstock and taking so much acid you see Jesus and Shiva
and Buddha tongue kissing in a hammock on the Dog Star, nimrods.
It was, always and forever, about connectedness. It was about how
we are all in this together. It was about resisting the status quo and fighting
tyrannical corporate/political power and it was about opening your consciousness
and seeing new possibilities of how we can all live with something resembling
actual respect for the planet, for alternative cultures, for each other. You
know, all that typical hippie crap no one believes in anymore.
Thoughts for the author?
E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and
Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
© The San Francisco Chronicle
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