ADMITTING THE DARKER SIDES OF HIPPIE

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering the hippie movement. The nation has stubbornly maintained a state of denial regarding those years – and the consequences for public policy have been toxic. The hippie side, especially, has been portrayed as an unrealistic stereotype. Nobody, but nobody, really looked or acted like that.

My wife – who came along after the flowering of the movement and grew up in the Deep South, far from its vitality – contends that the hippie label itself now means “loser.” I’d like to disagree, but when I look around at those who outwardly fit the image, I usually have to agree. Even trying to come up with a suitable synonym can be elusive. Bikers most look the role but hardly embody the light-hearted essence or its underlying desperation.

In revising my novels set in the period, I’ve finally more fully acknowledged the darker facets of the era. Some hippies were violent, contrary to peace. There was anger, contrary to love. There were freeloaders and bums and betrayals. As for bad drug trips or destructive addiction? In the end, so much feels like a string of broken promise. We had so much potential and came much closer to achieving the dream than we might have imagined, only to see it slip from our hands.

An America of Walmart and Fox is nothing like the healthy alternative of community and equality we anticipated. Politics and the power of global conglomerates has been responsible for much of the loss – I’ll save those rants for later.

The dream, though, doesn’t need to die. In fact, its essence may be more essential now than ever before. Having my character Cassia look at it from today feels quite relevant. I hope so.

That said, I’ve changed the name of the series of novels from Hippie Trails to Freakin’ Free Spirits, which I feel is more accurate regarding the individuals inhabiting the stories.

Let me know what you think.

Daffodil Uprising

My new novel reflects much of my revised thinking, as related a generation later.

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6 thoughts on “ADMITTING THE DARKER SIDES OF HIPPIE

  1. It’s rather naïve to believe a movement could be so pure. Not referring to Hippie movement solely. It usually starts out for a good cause but not having a darker side would not fit in an imperfect world like ours.

  2. So much of what was happening then was plain old bad faith, the usual hucksters and conmen hijacking what seemed to be a utopian ideal, and much of the rest was just self-indulgence. It’s not so much that no one was being honest as it was that they (we) were all pursuing something that was invented, and never really had an organic existence. At least that’s my take.

    • Mikels, you hit on several major strands at once! And some of them continue, in many parts of American society, not just the bohemian contingent.
      Your “organic existence” insight is one that reflects my view of the necessity of deep roots, which our rejection of over-30s elders impeded.
      The self-indulgence charge stings, but remains, alas, too often true. My path took a different turn, with a discipline of humility and community.
      Now, to separate the wheat from the chaff. I still believe much of the experience has value to develop and pass on.

      • I agree that there was much of value, I emphasizes the negative aspects mostly due to the context of your post. As a sidebar, I grew up idolizing Kerouac and others of the “beat generation,” but it was long after most of them peaked, and was certainly after their lives and works had been myth-ified. While I didn’t see Maynard G. Krebs as a real beatnik, my vision of it wasn’t that far off. I was in between beats and hippies, age-wise. I always thought that the major difference between the two movements, if one can really make such a distinction while arguing they were much more diffuse and less well defined, was the reverence for literature and art among beats, that seemed to be largely missing among hippies, Kesey and Zappa notwithstanding.

      • You’re right about the literature. Tom Wolfe wondered why no big hippie novel ever appeared, a criticism that was off the mark, as I’ve argued elsewhere. But hippies did grow up with TV and rock ‘n’ roll, two influences that inevitably shaped our thinking. Or should I say, warped it?

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