Reflecting on the hippie movement and even trying to define just who was and wasn’t included has also had me thinking of the earlier bohemian movement known as the beats.
While I’m not about to get into a detailed description of beatnik identity, I will admit to being a big fan of many of the writers who fall under its label as well as a lot of the jazz and folk musicians and, especially, painters. Where I grew up, the word beatnik also conjured up the village of Yellow Springs and its Antioch College.
A few years ago – OK, a little longer than that – I sat down with great anticipation to delve into Ed Sanders’ fat volume titled Beatnik Glory. To my surprise, it was a depressing experience. I was left with the impression of one self-centered male artist after another expecting his girlfriend/mistress/wife to take care of him, earn an income, and raise their kids in her spare time so he could tend to his higher muse, which somehow often seemed to include drugs of one sort or another, at least until some of the women wised up to the reality they were being used or could do better. Then, of course, we were left with the males’ lament of being abandoned. That was hardly my idea of glory.
I suppose that also fits much of the stereotype of “hippie,” even though I saw some much different action. Many could be considered enterprising and/or hardworking, for one thing. Nor was it all a white-male thing, not by a long shot. For starters, the Pill and Feminism changed that equation, and there’s no turning back.