The hippies started small:
That guy who invented Earth Day killing his girlfriend, hiding her body in a wall and taking off for France.
(Remember: More people died in Ira Einhorn’s apartment than at Three Mile Island.)
The stupid Weathermen succeeded mostly in blowing themselves up.
Then it eventually dawned on hippies (probably during some pot-fueled rap session):
They needed to think big, like their totalitarian heroes — Mao, Che, Castro.
Forget this penny-ante nihilism and creative destruction.
Sure, the Bible might be mostly b.s., but that stuff about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was trippy:
Pestilence, War, Famine and Death.
In 1968, in San Francisco, I came across a curious footnote to the hippie movement. At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, there were doctors treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot. And how was it that they now returned? It had to do with the fact that thousands of young men and women had migrated to San Francisco to live communally in what I think history will record as one of the most extraordinary religious fevers of all time. The hippies sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start from zero. At one point, the novelist Ken Kesey, leader of a commune called the Merry Pranksters, organized a pilgrimage to Stonehenge with the idea of returning to Anglo-Saxon’s point zero, which he figured was Stonehenge, and heading out all over again to do it better. Among the codes and restraints that people in the communes swept aside–quite purposely–were those that said you shouldn’t use other people’s toothbrushes or sleep on other people’s mattresses without changing the sheets, or as was more likely, without using any sheets at all, or that you and five other people shouldn’t drink from the same bottle of Shasta or take tokes from the same cigarette. And now, in 1968, they were relearning…the laws of hygiene…by getting the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.
This process, namely the relearning–following a Promethean and unprecedented start from zero–seems to me to be the leitmotif of the twenty-first century in America.
Of course, that was just the beginning.
The hippies’ “free love” ethos spread old-fashioned venereal diseases and then a new one called AIDS.
And then there’s Roe v. Wade.
(And tell you. And tell you.)
“Make Love, Not War!” and all that.
What they leave out or don’t even realize is that, when the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, the communists took over and killed millions of people.
Those poor Vietnamese were the people the hippies insisted they wanted to save and help and so forth.
But they let them die and then pretend that never happened — just ask Noam Chomsky, their guru! — because otherwise, their “hero’s journey” narrative and the groovy soundtrack they made for it would all turn to ashes in their mouths.
And that would be a bummer, man.
If only The Byrds (sorry, I mean The Wrecking Crew…) had put out a song called “The Law of Unintended Consequences,” huh?
Today, baby boomers still shout, “Peace, peace!” but besides showing up for the occasional rally, or sticking a “COEXIST” bumper-sticker on their Prius, they don’t do much to bring it about.
They insist that “war never solved anything” even though World War II has kept the Japanese and Germans pretty quiet, and even productive, for 60 years.
The health food craze didn’t start with the hippies.
In 1955’s The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell’s character, temporarily separated from his vacationing family, looks for novel ways to pass his time alone:
After work, Sherman resists giving in to any form of temptation, and goes to a vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Avenue for dinner: “Health, that’s the stuff. The human body is a very delicate machine, a precision instrument. You can’t run it on martinis and Hungarian goulash especially in this hot weather.” The restaurant displays its typical offerings, Spinach Loaf, Yogurt, and Dandelion Salad, but Richard has ordered the #7 Special: Soybean Hamburger with french-fried soybeans, soybean sherbert, peppermint tea, and a drink to start — a sauerkraut juice on the rocks. All the other diners in the restaurant are elderly. The waitress (Doro Merande) is plain and middle-aged, and although she doesn’t accept tips, she does solicit contributions for a fund established for a nudist camp, explaining:
“Nudism is such a worthy cause. We must bring the message to the people. We must teach them to unmask their poor suffocating bodies and let them breathe again. Clothes are the enemy. Without clothes, there’d be no sickness, there’d be no war. I ask you, sir, can you imagine two great armies on the battlefield, no uniforms, completely nude? No way of telling friend from foe. All brothers, together.”
What hippies did was monetize and mainstream health food (all the while denying they were practicing evil capitalism, naturally).
Just check out the hugely successful The Whole Earth Catalog and its countless imitators.
The baby boomer-led “consumerist” movement seemed like a faultless idea, except that lots of people discovered they could get rich telling people what to eat, and the facts didn’t matter.
So every few months from the 1970s onward, we’ve been treated to “shocking” new reports about some allegedly dangerous substance, then told about some new “superfood” we should all eat instead.
Upon closer inspection, however, that chemical villain called DDT turned out to have been perfectly safe all along; in fact, if it hadn’t been banned by hippie do-gooders, millions of Africans would still be alive today.
(The dead ones are no doubt commiserating with the dead Vietnamese the Left was supposedly “helping” at the same time…)
As for the “good-for-you” foods, too many of these have a rarely publicized “dark side”:
Superfoods include boring stuff like kale and blueberries, but the label is also applied to newly popular exotic foods like quinoa and acai berry. If nothing else, these superfoods provide a handy shibboleth that allows health-food fanatics to distinguish themselves from posers: if you’re ordering a meal at a hippie deli and actually know how to pronounce “acai” or “quinoa,” the hippies will realize you’re one of them and invite you back to their awesome ball-pit filled with tofu. (…)
The issue here is that the sudden popularity of superfoods is f***ing over the people who once relied on these foods as a staple crop.
Take quinoa. Back in the day, this high-protein grain was consumed heartily in Peru and Bolivia and unheard of pretty much anywhere else. Then the world figured out that quinoa is awesome (it’s high in protein, doesn’t cause allergies, has the most nutrients per 100 calories of any grain, and can calculate Pi to 368 digits), and now it’s on the shelf of every Whole Foods in America. Over the last 10 years, quinoa demand has risen 18-fold, a sharp increase in popularity rarely seen among food that hasn’t recently had bacon added to it.
The sudden demand means that in Bolivia, a kilo of quinoa costs 10 times more than it did a decade ago, which is good for farmers who are growing the stuff. It’s less good, however, for the people who used to buy it from those farmers and eat it…
The ones that are left are, I believe, reverting to their old tricks of picking us off a few at a time.
Their new weapon of choice? The heart attack, stroke or suicide they can induce in non-hippies with their witless ranting.
I almost called 911 after reading the eulogistic comments about the shuttering of the “brave,” “alternative” San Francisco paper, the Guardian.
(Note the smug, self-important name it chose for itself back in 1966.)
The paper had never made money, of course; money is evil, and you rubes are missing the point!
You know, the San Francisco Bay Guardian had a zillion flaws. Bruce Brugmann’s temper was a nasty thing. The paper exploited interns and paid as little as it could get away with. Brugmann busted several attempts at unionizing the work force — an almost fatal irony for a progressive publication. And quite often, his obsessions made it hard to take the entire paper seriously. When I quit, I was glad to get out.
But thinking about its closure today, I remember a T-shirt I got for my birthday there, must have been 1992 or 1993. It just said San Francisco Bay Guardian with the word Guardian in really large type.
I wore that T-shirt until it had so many holes it couldn’t even be used as a rag…
And so forth.
I couldn’t resist commenting:
Yeah, but still, right?
Let’s “change the world” — but God forbid we change ourselves.
Change is for the other, “bad” guy. We’re the “good” guys. You can tell by our cool t-shirts!
And old lefty hippies wonder why so many of us hate them. Good riddance.
The author and the rest of the commenters have so far ignored me.
They’re too busy congratulating themselves on their own wonderfulness, embracing failure and hypocrisy as — somehow — evidence of their rectitude and success.
Nothing — not even millions of corpses — can be permitted to puncture the hippies’ self-image as selfless, courageous crusaders for justice and enlightenment.
They seem intent on having the last lying word, even if by default — by, cockroach-like, simply outliving the rest of us.