Mark Morford: The Hippies Were Right!


Richard Moore

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The Hippies Were Right!

Green homes? Organic food? Nature is good? Time to give the ol' tie-dyers some 

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Go ahead, name your movement. Name something good and positive and 
pro-environment and eco-friendly that's happening right now in the newly 
"greening" America and don't say more guns in Texas or fewer reproductive 
choices for women or endless vile unwinnable BushCo wars in the Middle East 
lasting until roughly 2075 because that would defeat the whole point of this 
perky little column and destroy its naive tone of happy rose-colored sardonic 
optimism. OK?

I'm talking about, say, energy-efficient light bulbs. I'm looking at organic 
foods going mainstream. I mean chemical-free cleaning products widely available 
at Target and I'm talking saving the whales and protecting the dolphins and I 
mean yoga studios flourishing in every small town, giant boxes of organic cereal
at Costco and non-phthalates dildos at Good Vibes and the Toyota Prius becoming 
the nation's oddest status symbol. You know, good things.

Look around: we have entire industries devoted to recycled paper, a new 
generation of cheap solar-power technology and an Oscar for "An Inconvenient 
Truth" and even the soulless corporate monsters over at famously heartless 
joints like Wal-Mart are now claiming that they really, really care about saving
the environment because, well, "it's the right thing to do" (read: It's purely 
economic and all about their bottom line because if they don't start caring 
they'll soon be totally screwed on manufacturing and shipping costs at/from all 
their brutal Chinese sweatshops).

There is but one conclusion you can draw from the astonishing (albeit fitful, 
bittersweet) pro-environment sea change now happening in the culture and 
(reluctantly, nervously) in the halls of power in D.C., one thing we must all 
acknowledge in our wary, jaded, globally warmed universe: The hippies had it 
right all along. Oh yes they did.

You know it's true. All this hot enthusiasm for healing the planet and eating 
whole foods and avoiding chemicals and working with nature and developing the 
self? Came from the hippies. Alternative health? Hippies. Green cotton? Hippies.
Reclaimed wood? Recycling? Humane treatment of animals? Medical pot? Alternative
energy? Natural childbirth? Non-GMO seeds? It came from the granola types (who, 
of course, absorbed much of it from ancient cultures), from the alternative 
worldviews, from the underground and the sidelines and from far off the goddamn 
grid and it's about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole sent
out a big, wet, hemp-covered apology.

Here's a suggestion, from one of my more astute ex-hippie readers: Instead of 
issuing carbon credits so industrial polluters can clear their collective 
corporate conscience, maybe, to help offset all the savage damage they've done 
to the soul of the planet all these years, these commercial cretins should 
instead buy some karma credits from the former hippies themselves. You know, 
from those who've been working for the health of the planet, quite thanklessly, 
for the past 50 years and who have, as a result, built up quite a storehouse of 
good karma. You think?

Of course, you can easily argue that much of the "authentic" hippie ethos -- the
anti-corporate ideology, the sexual liberation, the anarchy, the push for civil 
rights, the experimentation -- has been totally leeched out of all these new 
movements, that corporations have forcibly co-opted and diluted every single 
technology and humble pro-environment idea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream cone and 
Odwalla smoothie to make them both palatable and profitable. But does this 
somehow make the organic oils in that body lotion any more harmful? Verily, it 
does not.

You might also just as easily claim that much of the nation's reluctant turn 
toward environmental health has little to do with the hippies per se, that it's 
taking the threat of global meltdown combined with the notion of really, really 
expensive ski tickets to slap the nation's incredibly obese ass into gear and 
force consumers to begin to wake up to the savage gluttony and wastefulness of 
American culture as everyone starts wondering, oh my God, what's going to happen
to swimming pools and NASCAR and free shipping from Amazon? Of course, without 
the '60s groundwork, without all the radical ideas and seeds of change planted 
nearly five decades ago, what we'd be turning to in our time of need would be a 
great deal more hopeless indeed.

But if you're really bitter and shortsighted, you could say the entire hippie 
movement overall was just incredibly overrated, gets far too much cultural 
credit for far too little actual impact, was pretty much a giant excuse to slack
off and enjoy dirty lazy responsibility-free sex romps and do a ton of drugs and
avoid Vietnam and not bathe for a month and name your child Sunflower or Shiva 
Moon or Chakra Lennon Sapphire Bumblebee. This is what's called the reactionary 
simpleton's view. It blithely ignores history, perspective, the evolution of 
culture as a whole. You know, just like America.

But, you know, whatever. The proofs are easy enough to trace. The core values 
and environmental groundwork laid by the '60s counterculture are still so intact
and potent even the stiffest neocon Republican has to acknowledge their extant 
power. It's all right there: is the new '60s underground hippy 
zine. Ecstasy is the new LSD. Visible tattoos are the new longhairs. And bands 
as diverse as Pearl Jam to Bright Eyes to NIN to the Dixie Chicks are writing 
savage anti-Bush, anti-war songs for a new, ultra-jaded generation.

And oh yes, speaking of good ol' MDMA (Ecstasy), even drug culture is getting 
some new respect. Staid old Time mag just ran a rather snide little story about 
the new studies being conducted by Harvard and the National Institute of Mental 
Health into the astonishing psychospiritual benefits of goodly entheogens such 
as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA. Unfortunately, the piece basically backhands 
Timothy Leary and the entire "excessive," "naive" drug culture of yore in favor 
of much more "sane" and "careful" scientific analysis happening now, as if the 
only valid methods for attaining knowledge and an understanding of spirit were 
through control groups and clinical, mysticism-free examination. Please.

Still, the fact that serious scientific research into entheogens is being 
conducted even in the face of the most anti-science, pro-pharmaceutical, 
ultra-conservative presidential regime in recent history is proof enough that 
all the hoary old hippie mantras about expanding the mind and touching God 
through drugs were onto something after all (yes, duh). Tim Leary is probably 
smiling wildly right now -- though that might be due to all the mushrooms he's 
been sharing with Kerouac and Einstein and Mary Magdalene. Mmm, heaven.

Of course, true hippie values mean you're not really supposed to care about or 
attach to any of this, you don't give a damn for the hollow ego stroke of being 
right all along, for slapping the culture upside the head and saying, See? Do 
you see? It was never about the long hair and the folk music and Woodstock and 
taking so much acid you see Jesus and Shiva and Buddha tongue kissing in a 
hammock on the Dog Star, nimrods.

It was, always and forever, about connectedness. It was about how we are all in 
this together. It was about resisting the status quo and fighting tyrannical 
corporate/political power and it was about opening your consciousness and seeing
new possibilities of how we can all live with something resembling actual 
respect for the planet, for alternative cultures, for each other. You know, all 
that typical hippie crap no one believes in anymore. Right?

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him: •••@••.•••

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on 
SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle. To get on the
e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of 

Mark's column also has an RSS feed and an archive of past columns, which 
includes another tiny photo of Mark probably insufficient for you to recognize 
him in the street and give him gifts.

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