Life’s Exit Ramp
Let’s be clear about one thing. A boomer does not a hippie make. In the ramp up to the midterm elections, I find the media paying more and more attention to the baby-boom generation and they are using the terms ‘boomers’ and ‘hippies’ interchangeably. I want to assure you there is a distinction.
The incentive to do so comes from an article I read in this month’s Atlantic magazine, The Least We Can Do, by Michael Kinsley. He begins by referencing Students for a Democratic Society and continues by saying the baby-boomers “made alienation fashionable and turned self-indulgence into a religion” with their “sex, drugs, rock and roll, cappuccino makers, real estate, and so on.”
Well, I say, “ahem” to that! Hippies only accounted for a fraction of the boomers, and just because there may be a chronological overlap does not mean they are the same. Hippies will gladly take credit for the sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but please do not credit us with self-indulgence, cappuccino makers (though we do love our coffee,) or real estate. Those are part of the domain of the boomers, not hippies.
As far as the little catch phrase, “and so on” in Mr. Kinsley’s sentence, what does that mean? Exactly what is it he is trying to say? If it means the natural progression of the greed from flipping homes, to banks selling sub-prime mortgages, to Wall Street scams, then you are talking about boomers not hippies! Please be so kind as to leave us out of it, although it does bring to the forefront the incredible impact hippies had on the culture, and the incredible impact hippies can still have today. Of the baby-boom generation, it is the hippies who stand out as the agents of change!
A baby-boomer refers to a generation, a range of years, during which one happens to be born. A generation is usually measured by the average procreation cycle. We give different “generations” a name only for our convenience, and so only out of convenience will I admit to being a ‘boomer.’ A baby-boomer usually refers to people born between 1946 and 1965, give or take a bunch of years. I am always loathe to cut a slice out of a continuum pie, so I like to be generous on either end.
I believe to be a ‘hippie’ is to have a set of cultural attributes and values that include love, peace, a strong belief in social, economic and political justice for all, and a profound respect for the earth. By that definition, to be a hippie is to be unconstrained by a specific span of time.
I am a hippie who just happens to fall within the time span of the boomer generation. I dis-established myself shortly before graduating college. I tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. Dropping out did not mean being lazy or idle. Dropping out merely meant rejecting the status quo. It meant refusing to conform to the cookie-cutter roles our parents, the ‘Great Generation,’ expected us to play.
What’s very interesting is that from my graduating class in 1965, probably only a handful went the way of the hippie. The vast majority went on to climb corporate ladders, establish law firms or medical practices, become diplomats and politicians, CEO’s and military officers, and in general follow the path that had been laid out for them by their parents. I give you personal, anecdotal evidence that most ‘boomers’ were not ‘hippies’ and not all ‘hippies’ fit neatly into the time period allotted.
If it weren’t for a strange fork in my personal road, I would have missed out on the hippie era entirely just as most of my peers did. But I lucked out. Many of those that were born a few years after me, I can imagine to have been pretty much swept up into the hippie movement en masse. But other than that relatively discrete group, the others were all simply baby-boomers.
I believe that hippies were and are the conscience of the boomers. It was the hippie who put his or her life down on the line to protest a war by facing men in riot gear. The hippies were out in front in two ways. They were more quickly attuned to the truth of what was happening (or maybe they just had a knack for seeing through the bullshit) and they were willing to hit the streets to make their opinions known. They were willing to be activists.
Hippies made a convenient distraction while the boomers made up their minds which side they were on. It was hippies who convinced a majority of them the Vietnam War was a mistake. It was a delayed reaction, but eventually they came around. Together we ended a war.
It was the hippie who first joined ranks with African-Americans to help fight and eventually win their civil rights. While hippie skulls were being cracked, the majority of boomers felt that twang of conscience. It was a hippie that plucked the string. Boomers couldn’t be silent much longer, and many quickly joined our hands in solidarity.
It was the hippie who first brought ‘environmentalism,’ ‘feminism,’ and ‘gay rights’ to the attention of the establishment. We persuaded the majority of boomers to see the logic of our stances. Together we made great progress on all three fronts. The very terms are part of today’s mainstream vocabulary, and what once were issues are, with few exceptions, non-issues.
A hippie put him or herself out on the frontlines of alternative lifestyles, breaking the molds for everyone, and unleashing a flurry of creativity in all areas of life, from art, to the art of living. Hippies were planting the seeds for new ways to live; boomers reaped what the hippies sowed.
Hippies were always at the forefront of the fight for what is good and fair, and I believe deep down in their hearts, boomers still look to dyed-in-the-wool hippies to lead them, guide them, and inspire them. Hippies have always been the conscience of the boomers, probably because inside everyone is a hippie trying to break free into the light.
In our struggle for a peaceful world, we have always taken two steps forward, one step back. Progress has been slow, but it has been progress. I agree that we need a complete overhaul of our system and there are times when I am at odds with both parties. But we must at least give ourselves a window of opportunity to bring about change. We need to create some breathing room for progressives or we will suffocate ourselves with repressive conservative policies for a long, long time. We will not be taking one step backwards; we will be slip, slidin’ away!
If you listen to only mainstream news, you will be disheartened. They will tell you that Republicans will likely take over Congress.
If you listen to only mainstream news, you might think the Tea Party is bigger than it is and you may depressingly think the Democrats have had it.
If you listen to only mainstream news, they will say polls show the youth are voting Republican by large margins. But I know of many young people who embrace hippie values. Most of them are proud to call themselves hippies. And I can promise you they will vote, and it will be for a Democrat.
But here are some other statistics you should know. The democratic/progressive base is far larger than the conservative base, though the conservatives do seem to be louder. Eighty percent of Americans, 50 years old and up are planning to vote. Of that 80% the majority are Baby-Boomers. How will they vote? Will Congress continue to be run by corporations? Will Social Security and Medicare be at risk? Will the Health Care Reform Law be rescinded? Will we make Afghanistan an endless war? Will we erase the middle class? Once again, the boomers are looking to hippies to take the lead. They know we are their conscience because deep down they want to embrace the same values.
Joe Klein, who I hereby proclaim “that hippie guy from Time Magazine” wrote, “I’ve been harboring a fantasy, a last political crusade for the baby-boom generation. We, who started on the path of righteousness, marching for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, need to find an appropriately high-minded approach to life’s exit ramp.”
Where will the boomers find that high-minded approach as they begin to contemplate their mortality? Where will they find the inspiration and energy to make things right before they leave this planet? Where will they find a noble legacy to leave behind? They will find the answers lie with the hippies who have had them all along.
Now we are being told, there is not so much of a substantive gap between progressives and conservatives in this upcoming election as there is an “enthusiasm” gap. Apathy among democrats and progressives abounds. Progressives are disappointed that promises made during Obama’s campaign have been too slow in being realized or may never be realized without some major upheaval. But for the time being, we dare not slip backwards an inch!
The recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United has allowed corporations to flood the campaign funds of reactionary and far right Republican candidates. The ads have never been slicker, the propaganda never slimier. The Tea Party is going to bring out a lot of conservative voters. How to counter this?
How to energize the base? How to fill the “enthusiasm” gap? How not just to fill it, but overflow it with progressive enthusiasm? Well, there are two guys out there who are going to be a big help. You probably already know about Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity, and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Fear Alive, happening at the same time and same place, the National Mall, Washington, D.C., October 10th noon-3P, EST.
They can’t fool me. I know that they are just hippies in disguise! They both know how important this midterm election is. I’m so proud of them for showing their true colors in helping to bring together like-minded brothers and sisters. Let’s show Glenn Beck, his ilk, and what they represent, that we are on the rise once more. Make no mistake about it. We are a force to be reckoned with, maybe the only sane and rational force left. Hippies to the frontline!
All we need to do is get out the vote the way we did in 2008 and then some. Do not be apathetic. Not now. Now we really need to display our hippie activism. Who else will the boomers, their parents, and their children look to for the energy, both physical and psychic, that will be needed to put this country back on a path not based on greed, but on fairness? The hippies, of course. We are their conscience!
Who will they count on to inspire them, lead them, and make them laugh, dance, rock out, and have fun all at the same time? The hippies, of course! Deep down, they love us. They may not know that yet, but they will.
Conservatives may not admit it, but they know we have no other agenda other than the one for a planet guided by peace and love. We have no corporate sponsors. No lobbyist is working Congress for us. None of us is going to make money by following our hearts when we vote in these elections.
Vote and get your friends to vote. It is easier than ever to do and I will accept no excuses. Make it a party. Make it an event. But you must get as many people to vote as you can. Let us be a rising tide of people who want to keep moving forward. How lovely it would be to hear Fox News reporting on election night, that the Democrats have kept control of both houses in Congress. It can happen, despite the naysayers. I predict a surge from the left that will knock the socks off the conservative right.
I say listen you your conscience, baby-boomers. Find your inner hippie. It’s been there all along and it’s time for us to get back to the garden.
Eleven years in the writing and a lifetime in the living, Hunga Dunga is the text book of hippiedom. Real, raw and rebellious, this epic book recounts all the days and years of an “unapologetic hippie” navigating through life as a true free sprit. If you were alive and a part of the hippie movement or ever wondered about the golden years of the counter culture from the late 60’s on, read this book. It’s a trip! Joe McEvoy WWH
Previously the series “Hippies may be the only sane and rational force left.”
One Nation Rally: In Photos
2010 OCTOBER 4
The Overlords – SCOTUS
2010 SEPTEMBER 29
Hippies and Gutter-Politics
2010 SEPTEMBER 27
Addicted To War
2010 SEPTEMBER 22
2010 SEPTEMBER 20
Come out! Come out, wherever you are!
2010 SEPTEMBER 15
Activism, “Hippies may be the only sane and rational force left.”
2010 SEPTEMBER 14