Hippies. What are they? Did they ever exist and can they still exist today in the lungs, minds and fingers of anyone who wasn’t a teenager in 1967?
It slightly saddens me that anytime I find an article online about a “hippie community” or people talk about these folks in general they lead straight into “Man, Whereversville is such a cool hippie spot. There are just mad drugs everywhere.” I don’t have anything particularly against drugs, though I think the term is an obscurely broad one–how can you place heroin and marijuana and alcohol all under the same label as aspirin?–which can’t easily be turned into a list with “good” and “bad” marked by each item, either. I would hope, given the absolute necessity of making a choice, my children decided to smoke pot long before they decided it was okay to pop prescription pills every day of their life for the next 80 years just because some doctor told them it was essential to normal living. In fact, I would prefer my offspring smoke pot to eat at McDonalds. But I digress.
While I was not there and am no expert, I suspect the whole hippie movement thing was only partially about acid trips and unlikely much at all about being strung out on meth. I believe it was more about rejecting commercialism, about making your own clothes and food, about sharing, about looking out for your fellow man. I believe it was more about sitting in drum circles than passing around joints and I believe that it was something that changed this country for the better, even if it wasn’t the only thing that changed this country during that time and even if it wasn’t the only direction this country changed toward. I believe it influenced punk rockers in 1979 and my own generation of “alternative music” type kids (do we even have a name?) in the 90’s, because both of those movements were about coming together and rejecting the facade that is overindulgence in consumer goods.
I feel that this constant stereotyping of hippies as tripped out Cheech & Chong types is dangerous because, as the Beats before them, these are a meaningful group of people who affected our country for the better and if we diminish them to red-eyed pot smoking voices then we risk forgetting the lesson that it all taught us. If they weren’t the only reason for it, they were definitely a giant contribution to the tearing down of much prejudice, opening the world of freedom of music and expression up to a country that was largely afraid of anything of the sort at the time, and paving the way for mine and my children’s generations to not have to work so hard at being themselves.