Why I keep returning to counterculture particulars

I wish there were a better label than “hippie” to apply to the counterculture explosion that swept the world in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Contrary to popular assumptions, there was no standard-issue hippie, male or female. Not everyone did pot or ventured into acid and beyond, nor did everyone participate in a protest march or have long hair or have sex every night or at least on the weekend. We all came in various degrees of separation from general society yet, somehow, we also recognized a kinship with each other.

The paperback cover …

“Are you sure you were a hippie,” my wife sometimes asks. So what if I didn’t like rock? Many of my friends had been at Woodstock just down the highway from the milieu I describe in Pit-a-Pat High Jinks. No, we didn’t recite a credo, you dig what I mean?

The only other flash in history I can see similar to this was the mid-1600s in England, with its World Turned Upside Down before the restoration of the monarchy – stresses that would fester until the American Revolution a century later. What we shared was a vision of a more just, equal, and caring society. We didn’t have standard-issue, card-carrying members. Alas, we didn’t have elders or cohesive discipline, either. And the breakdown that followed can’t be blamed entirely on a youth movement crossing over into the dreaded age 30. (Oh, how I’d love to be back there, if only I wouldn’t have to figure out how to survive in the current economy.)

Tom Wolfe, author of “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” pointedly asked why there wasn’t the big hippie novel, overlooking a few notable entries like Gurney Norman’s “Divine Right’s Trip.” The problem, as I see it, is that the scope of the events was too big and too fuzzy to be encapsulated in a single volume. You had the activist side, from civil rights and draft resistance to pacifism, feminism, and the environment, for starters. Add to that sexual revolution. And then drug use, abuse, and visions, as well as new spiritual teachings and practices. All before we even get to the music and its scene. How could you possibly wrap all of that, plus more, into a single volume?

… and the back cover.

Believe me, I’ve tried with my own Daffodil Uprising and its companion “Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.” Hate to admit there’s so much more that could be added to the, uh, pot. Make that “pan.”

By the way, I think there are worthy nominations in each of the subcategories I’ve just mentioned. I’d love to hear more.

Frankly, I think we, as a nation, have been in a state of denial about the era, with its tension between the war in ‘Nam and the Establishment supporting it, on one side, and the opposition on multiple grounds, on the other. Those rifts in the soul of the nation have never been adequately examined and addressed from either side, much less healed. We could start with the MIA-POW myth, for one, or the ways we might have failed to answer our kids’ questions about pot use, for another. They are definitely exploding in our face now.

Meanwhile, Cassia, in What’s Left, has come along to try to make her own way out of the debris.

And so I humbly or brashly offer my own novels for discussion.

3 thoughts on “Why I keep returning to counterculture particulars

  1. My dad went to ‘Nam. He and my stepmother spoke of “hippies” as if they were all in a cult with Charles Manson as the leader. You’re right to find parallels with that time period in the ’70s when the worst of both sides was exposed — Post-McCarthy’ism on the right coupled with a war we effectively lost — naive optimism on the left that love and beauty could open people’s minds. We still seem as split today between authoritarians on the right and embracing diversity with love on the left. More people from the left need to start successful businesses that show how we can live in harmony, successfully, and that businesses don’t need authoritarianism to flourish. Maybe then we can win back Small Town America, which still seems frightened of the Left, only now they call us Socialists instead of Communists, but it still harkens back to McCarthy for me.

    1. You nail it. The economic element is definitely huge, one I’ve been looking at on my Chicken Farmer blog. Some small towns, and I’ll include Dover, may actually be facing a boost from the Covid restrictions as more people can work anywhere from home.

      1. That will be more important as more wealth is concentrated in big companies like Amazon and FB. But it drives down salaries in urban areas where cost of living it high, so the middle class is even more squeezed. It’s like a dam under pressure — you fix one leak and three more spring open. But still there are good people all around us.

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