Musings: Where Have All the Hippies Gone?
I coulda' woulda' shoulda' been a hippie, but I was born too late...or maybe it was right on time, depending upon how you look at it.
There’s no doubt in my mind that if I had been born before 1950 I would have been camping out at Woodstock with my beads and bellbottoms on -- oh yeah! Instead I’m one of the generation that came after the hippies and brought new meaning to the words “identity crisis”: the Me Generation of the 70’s. Perhaps in response to the disillusionment with the peace, love and freedom revolution of the 60’s which ended with the assassinations of its charismatic leaders and a full scale war in Vietnam, mostly we were just thinking about ourselves. “What am I doing here? Who am I? What’s going on?”
The self-centered exploration of the 70’s could have led us deep within ourselves to discover that truth, happiness and security can only be found by affirming our source and original identity: we are children born of Spirit and by nature we seek to love and be loved. Instead, we steered our inward journey towards exploring new realms of selfishness and self-centered behavior. This set the stage for developing a culture of greed and excess for the next several generations to come. And it has brought us to the precarious place we find ourselves now -- poised between peaks of annihilation and ascension.
Many Westerners do not see such dire world consequences about to unfold around us because we are insulated with material comforts and plenty of advertising to assure us that the good life is happening all around us. To most, it is “business as usual” and predictions of sweeping world change are nothing but the ramblings of doomsayers, crackpots -- prophets maybe -- that have colored every era throughout history. But as the numbers of poverty-stricken, oppressed and disenfranchised people around the world grow and the reality of their suffering becomes harder for the privileged minority of the planet to ignore, long-frozen flickers of light have begun to glow in our awareness once again. The evidence is mounting that our comfortable (but greedy) lifestyle is not only the cause of many peoples’ suffering but is killing the planet as well. Mother Earth is sick and needs the tender care of our awareness, not more assault. Much like the hippie voices protesting “the Establishment” during the turbulent 60’s, a voice which speaks out for peace, sharing, and respect for the resources of the planet can be heard coming from people, one by one, growing stronger everyday. It takes courage and sacrifice for this voice to speak up and be heard, because it must throw off the comfortable blanket of heavy materialism first.
It is common sense that tells us that one third of the world’s population cannot squander the resources of the planet for themselves while the other two thirds starves and dies of war, disease and poverty. Not only is it morally misguided and unbefitting for creatures of spiritual heritage to act so carelessly, but common sense tells us that our world has no real borders and eventually the stench and suffering of those overwhelming conditions will reach our own shores like the cancers that they are. The elder from Maniwaki noted that a gallon of clean water can cost more than a gallon of gas these days. Common sense tells us that if we plunder and use up the resources of Mother Earth and deposit our waste in exchange, She will have nothing left to sustain us with. And common sense tells us that when the most powerful country in the world becomes a bully, too, and decides that war and violence are the answers to our global problems, what hope can we possibly have of peace?
Yet hope is all we have and our strongest ally on the path to creating a better world. Hope is the beacon which unfailingly sends out its signal to show us the way home. Hope is the blueprint seared upon our hearts which never lets us forget that the master plan for humanity is peace, love and freedom on Earth. The flower children who blossomed with the 60’s were full of hope and bursting forth with exactly those ideals, yet they were viewed with suspicion and scorn by the Establishment. Dropouts. In truth, many hippies were young, came from privileged or middle class backgrounds and their protests and counterculture behaviors may well have been sparked by adolescent rebellion. However, in light of the social environment of the time -- segregation, oppression of women, foreign wars fought for dubious reasons -- and the wide open world of opportunity afforded to people coming of age in a country carving out its status as a world superpower, it is not surprising that a movement for social transformation as visible and radical as the flower children of the 60’s also sprang forth. Searching for answers to the social injustices of the time, they chose colorful, mind-altering and culturally explosive avenues of expression to bring awareness to issues that otherwise would have been swept under the rug. All they were saying was “Give peace a chance,” but nobody listened to them because they had long hair and wore beads.
Thirty-five years later, we find ourselves again in a similar atmosphere of social and political unrest worldwide. However, this time the stakes have been raised because weapons of mass destruction are scattered all over the world and nuclear holocaust is only minutes away at any given moment. Corporate, governmental and moral corruption have risen to absurd levels of brazenness and outright abuse because too few people have spoken out against the madness, being pacified into indifference with conveniences, comforts and toys. Deep down I think we all wish another crop of noisy, outrageous flower children would burst forth again to awaken our senses and question this reality. The New World Order coming into view is a corporate nightmare and worse than any psychedelic “bad trip” ever could be. As author Thom Hartmann notes this issue: “...corporations can live forever, don’t need fresh air to breathe, fresh water to drink or pure food to eat.”
Today we call it corporate America, and it’s the economic indicators -- not the spirit of the people -- that dictate whether our country is healthy and strong or heading into decline. Unfortunately, we can trace the roots of this myopic, short-sighted and self-centered belief right back to the founding spirit of what should have been the greatest country and cultural experiment in modern history. Those who came to this country seeking a new world with freedom and justice “for all” excluded the indigenous people of this land and the Africans they enslaved and brought here to serve them from those rights and truths. The Civil Rights movement of the 60’s acknowledged this debt owed to African Americans and initiated the steps towards reconciliation. American Indians, however, still live on tracts of reservation land and are subject to supervision by the United States government. They are not the autonomous people they once were. They have lost their freedom. Gnostic astrologer Francis Grabau call this our “national karmic wound” and writes, “Americans [will be] haunted by the spirits of the Indians slaughtered on their land base year after year and acre after acre as they pillaged their way across the continent from sea to shining sea.” This is our real “national debt.”
At this time of great change around us, Americans are given the opportunity now to make the right choice: God Bless America and make us strong so we can help supply the rest of world with food, water, medicine and good technology. God Bless America so we can help ourselves redistribute wealth in this country fairly and with common sense for the common good. God Bless America so the people can find the true pioneering, innovative and cooperative spirit which was originally entrusted to them to create this remarkable country and make it great -- not just mighty -- again. This is our beacon of hope and saving grace.
I was profoundly moved by the simple words and compelling thought of Lakota wisdomkeeper and elder Matthew King in Noble Red Man (Beyond Words Publishing, 2002):
“No people on Earth ever enjoyed a freedom like we Indians enjoyed before the White Man came to this country. Everything was free. We were free and so were the animals and the birds and the rivers and the whole wonderful land from end to end. All free. All pure. All happy. This was the freest and purest and happiest place in the whole Universe. Our Instructions didn’t tell us what to do about the White Man. We welcomed him when he came here. We fed him. We took care of him. We believed God had sent him here to help us.
God gave the White Man powers we never saw before -- material powers. He was supposed to share those powers to make life better for all of us. He was supposed to use the material power in the service of the spiritual power. He was supposed to connect them. He didn’t. Instead, he used his material powers to steal our land and our freedom.”
The hippies ideals of peace, love and freedom are not far removed from what the elder mentions had flourished successfully on this land for many hundreds or thousands of years before. Relative to that history, our convenient, space age lives are but a flash in the pan.
“Imagine all the people sharing all the world.” -- John Lennon.
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine .