Where have all the hippies gone?

Where have all the hippies gone?  Long time ago. Where have all the hippies gone? Long time passing.  Gone to corporate lawyers.  Gone to Wall Street bankers. Gone to the suburbs.  Long time ago.  Long time ago. When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?
No doubt many of you will remember with some nostalgia, the Vietnam War Protests, the Free Love, Free Speech, Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements of the sixties.  The goals (even if they were never articulated as such) of the hippies and protesters of the sixties was to create a just society that was more clearly aligned with the principles and values of the founding fathers.  In 1776, the pragmatism as well as the culture dictated that not all “Americans” would share in the dream of the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Not all members of America were included in this founding father’s dream and by the early sixties; this smoldering situation was ready to burst into flames. America was rife with injustice and inconsistencies and a generation brought up on the ideas and values of American freedom and justice for all were ready to fight and march and protest to change things.
Looking back nearly fifty years, I remember my first wife Julie had been attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the sixties when it came to several students’ attention that the local Eagles club was excluding Black people from membership.  My wife joined a protest with several other students who picketed the Eagles Aerie.  Some years later, we both joined a group called PACE, which stood for People Acting through Community Effort.  We researched banks and organizations that had instituted Redlining in our community and we helped to organize boycotts and protests of these organizations.  So where have all the hippies gone? 
I often wonder when I look at the past few decades of greed, incredible debt, huge deficits, 10,000 square foot homes and increased intolerance towards the poor and immigrants where the hippies have all gone.  Who was it said, “I have met the enemy and he is us.”  Did we simply run out of energy or was the seduction of power and wealth too strong to overcome? Did all the hippies morph into bank officers and corporate CEO’s or were they brainwashed into moving to the suburbs and watching NFL football every weekend? 
If I go onto Amazon.com and look up the subject of “sixties” under books here are the first few titles of over 17,000 books on the subject that you will find:
The images and titles of these books no doubt bring back memories to many of you. Hippies, protest marches, psychedelics, peace signs, changing times, pot and hope are only a few of the icons we raised.  These are now the stuff of “once upon a time” and old faded memories.  I wonder where all the hippies went?  Are they sitting around reading books on the sixties and wondering how pot bellies replaced beach bodies?  Or are they all applying for social security benefits and hoping to find that foursome on the golf course in the sun? 
For me, the dream of the sixties became the exigencies of the seventies.  I went back to school in 1971 after serving in the military during the Vietnam War from 1964-1968. I got married, had a baby and became focused on supporting my family and “getting ahead.”  I became the “me” generation and wanted to be rich and successful.  The only true metric of any value seemed to be to make more money.  I wanted to be known for something and to be SOMEBODY. I also wanted to be secure from debt and poverty. 
To this day, I can’t say with any honesty that I have escaped these desires.  I vacillate between Gates and Buffett and OHSO and Tolle.  It is like being torn between two competing dreams both offering the path to happiness.  What is the real secret of life?  Does it lie in material fulfillment or spiritual fulfillment? The world is a large labyrinth with paths leading in both directions.  I find myself often lost in this maze of admonitions, directions and proverbs. Did the other hippies get lost in here as well? 
Were you ever a hippie or protestor?  Where did your hippie go?  Why is being a hippie now considered wrong by some people?  What values did hippies have that we should admire?  Should we all be part hippie? What is wrong with protesting against injustice? Why are so many people against the Occupy movement?  Would we rather the young generation simply tolerate injustice and get along with business as usual?  
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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bruce Galbreath
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 21:25:50

    There may be no secret to life. A secret implies a hidden truth, but our modern post-modernists have put into question the whole idea that there is a truth to be discovered. The post-modernists have been around for over 40 years now. I wonder what we’ll call them after they become passé? I find the religious answer very optimistic, but I still largely believe it true, that there is a secret to life and that we can find out what it is, and that it is good. We each have a purpose and everything that happens fits into a whole, a story that makes sense rather than some random gibberish thrown up by an insensate material process.
    So, given that, what might the secret be? I think spiritual fulfillment, if it can be obtained is superior to material fulfillment. But that may just be sour grapes talking. I feel perfectly comfortable with my financial condition. I am materially fulfilled in that way and also with good health (so far). I have been around wealth enough to be surprised by how little difference it seems to make (but since I am still an outside observer, that may be sour grapes). But health and wealth seem to me to lack the “wow” factor that comes with religious beliefs in that encompassing wholeness or with religious experiences. The answers that religion gives are “bigger” in a satisfying way, but that does not prove that either riches or spirituality leads to genuine satisfaction. Maybe genuine lasting satisfaction is impossible for beings like us that can get used to the most varied circumstances, and hence rather quickly take things for granted. Why assume that fulfillment is obtainable, or that the material and spiritual exhaust the available paths?

    (continued)

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  2. Bruce Galbreath
    Apr 30, 2012 @ 21:28:04

    I was on the fringes of the hippie and protest movements. I went to a few demonstrations and concerts, tried to set up a shared living arrangement with another couple that didn’t last too long. My hippiedom, such as it was, evolved into what I have now. I think many hippies were adventurous, willing to break the mold, and I hope I retain some of that. I think the hippie attitude is considered “wrong” by some people today because they view it as too simplistic, that peace and love and non-violence and sharing could solve all problems and create a heaven on earth. “War is over if you want it” John Lennon sang. Maybe war could end if everybody wants it, but I’m not even very sure of that. Other people think the 60’s were “wrong” in that they tore down so much of our previous social structure too fast. Things needed to change, but now we have a society in what used to be the family structure of 80-90% (married with kids) now is a minority phenomenon. I read tomes in the early 1970’s on the “Death of the Family” and agreed with their arguments about the oppressiveness that family members often visit on one another. As hippies, we hated all restrictions. Every restriction will result in some injustice, some cases where it just doesn’t serve people well. But we only find out what good the restriction produced after we take it away, and then we have to measure the plusses against the minuses. Critics of the hippie attitude of “If it feels good do it” see the damage as outweighing the benefits.

    What’s wrong with protesting against injustice? It gets back to the issue of truth. If there is the one true fact about what makes for a good life, the secret, and if you know it, why shouldn’t you share it? Yet we are uncomfortable with prostelytizers, especially those who would force the truth on others. Maybe that’s just because we doubt that they have the “real” truth. Similarly, if I know someone is being unjustly treated and if I know the source of that treatment, I am completely right in doing what I can to help change the situation. But once I hit upon a particular injustice, I must have the facts straight, or else I am being myself unjust by attacking someone without those facts. The dispassionate search for truth about justice and injustice takes a back seat because what is just gets mixed up with what is in our interests. Hippies who started out laid-back and who had “not being judgmental” as their highest value somehow at the same time could be quite judgmental about “the Man” and all his ways. Some Occupy protesters have made ill-informed statements against “the 1%” whom they demonize as the source of all the problems. Others seem to me to have legitimate grievances. If there is a truth, let it shine, let it come out by whatever process it will, but there is no guarantee that it is there, or that we will recognize it if we stumble across it.

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  3. John Persico
    May 01, 2012 @ 01:49:34

    Thanks Bruce for so articulately sharing your ideas and past. As always, you raise many good points about truth and justice. Life is more complex and as you note one good can be someone elses evil depending on the circumstances. I am also reminded of the “law of unintended consequences.” How often we think we have the truth only to find out that it leads to less desirable consequences. I am not sure if the nuclear family was a great model but it often seems better than the present single provider model when it comes to raising children. Of course, maybe the model was not as well scrutinized and perhaps more child and spouse abuse was tolerated under the nuclear model. I love debates and one on this subject would be very interesting. I often find I agree with both sides.

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