Where Now? Life as a Hippie

The Hippie movement during the late 60s and early 70s impacted my way of thinking and who I have become. Unfortunately, however, Hippies have always been labeled as “dirty, long-haired, sexually deviant, druggies,” to the dismay of many people like myself who saw the better side of Hippie culture as one of peace, tolerance, anti-materialism, and free-spirited harmonious living.

During those Hippie days of my youth, I never had any drug or alcohol problems, and I had to work as hard as the next guy trying to figure out how to live on one’s own. I worked as a pizza delivery guy, painted houses when I could, tended bar once I turned 18, and even managed the local pool room on several brief occasions. Now, if this sounds tough, especially the pool room gig (in those days they were not family oriented like today), let me say I was the furthest thing from a tough guy you ever met. I acquired those jobs because I got along with everybody and was trusted. I was Joe gregarious, loved everyone, did not judge anyone. I was, in short, a Hippie, and I’m very proud to say that.

Hip Hippies
The word Hippie is really a misnomer for describing a relatively small population demographic during an interesting time in our history, as it has a pejorative connotation in and of itself. Its origins are said to have come from the word “hip,” which weirdly does not have any known etymological origin. Hip eventually became a defining verb for the Beat Generation during the 1940s and 50s, signifying “cool” or “in the know.” Sixties youth copied Beat Generation lifestyles and sensibilities, but they were considered inauthentic and not worthy of the name “hip.” Hard working, honorable, conservative “squares”, in particular, called these 60s youth such as myself “Hippies,” with an air of scorn, seeing them as irresponsible slackers with overly leftist political views.

A More Honest POV
Theodore Roszak referred to the 60s Hippie movement as a segment of the “Counter Culture.” He provides an astute analysis of the late 60s in two of his books: The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society & Its Youthful Opposition, published in 1969, and then 40 years later in a reexamination of the baby boom generation’s Hippie, grown-up offshoot in The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation.

In Counter Culture, Roszak explained that “however lacking older radicals (Beat Geners) may find the Hippies in authenticity or revolutionary potential, they have clearly succeeded in embodying radical disaffiliation – what Herbert Marcuse has called the Great Refusal – in the form that captures the need of the young for unrestricted joy.”  Marcuse was a German-born American philosopher who was a professor at Columbia, Harvard, Brandeis, and UC San Diego.  His most popular work was published in 1964, titled One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. He argued that aristocrats cultivated the growth of a meaningless consumer-oriented society that was both intellectually and spiritually poor. Such notions attracted student radicals of the 60s and their left-leaning activism, including the antiwar movement.

“Radical disaffiliation” in protest of a status-quo population of Hippie-hating, conservative “squares” who promoted soulless hard work and over-consumerism fit logically and safely within my way of thinking as a young teenager and still does today.

The Anti Hippies
Squares, by the way, was another population identifier that grew in prominence during the 60s and 70s. Bill Thomas wrote about it in Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, published in 2014. In the 60s and 70s, Squares were everything Hippies were not. “While others (i.e. Hippies) tested the outer limits of art, music, and fashion, Squares were content to stay well inside established norms,” Thomas wrote. He added that squares “were the people who knew how to make the world work. Clarity of purpose and responsibility were more than just ideals. These young men and women did their jobs, they went to war, they went to school, largely without complaint.”

Hippies, on the other hand, were what Timothy Leary defined as “persons whose lives are tuned in to their inner vision, who are dropping out of the TV comedy of American Life,” Thomas explained, adding that Hippies embodied a rejection of the “responsible, capable adulthood,” so “immutable” to the Squares.

Where We Ended Up
In Elder Culture, Roszak gave us a picture of what had happened to us Hippies. He wrote how we were “restless and footloose” and “impatient.” We were “forever moving with too little interest in putting down roots and working out the inevitable problems.” I can relate, as I too moved around quite a bit during those years, never quite settling anywhere totally permanent until I got married and started a family much later in life.

“Not many went on to become high-earning entrepreneurs; rather they became socially committed teachers, organic farmers, social workers, or artists,” Roszak continued.  “Ultimately too many wanted a steady job and a family and the amenities of the modern world. Living hand-to-mouth, roughing it through the rest of their lives, was asking too much of themselves.”

So here we are my Hippie brothers and sisters – older and wiser. Maybe it is time, however, to revive the old Hippie spirit? What do you think?

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