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Was I A Hippie?

Someone posted on a Couchsurfing 50+ discussion site this question:

Were You A Hippie? It got me to thinking. Long and deep.

Educated in a Catholic college prep school, my first doubts about the oppressive aspects of both religion and popular culture were given expression by reading, in high school as a teenager, Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. And “Siddhartha”-Hermann Hesse (1922) and “Razor’s Edge”-Somerset Maugham.

In my view, all hippies were counterculture but often for various reasons. Much of it was not ideological but was just adolescent rebellion against authority. So young people grew their hair long and dressed sloppy and purposely often dirty and freely engaged in sex.

The worldview of hippies and political activists alike included a make the world better mindset based on a combination of Eastern philosophy and secular Humanism. For some this meant nebulous peace and antiwar and all-you-need-is-love. For others this meant an active attempt to do something practical. They didn’t think the Hippies had a program.

I did some browsing on the internet and found this on Wikipedia.

European Roots Of The Counter-Culture Movement

Between 1896 and 1908, a German youth movement arose as a countercultural reaction to the organized social and cultural clubs that centered around German folk music. Known as Der Wandervogel (“migratory bird”), the hippie movement opposed the formality of traditional German clubs, instead emphasizing amateur music and singing, creative dress, and communal outings involving hiking and camping.[16] Inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Goethe, Hermann Hesse, and Eduard Baltzer, Wandervogel attracted thousands of young Germans who rejected the rapid trend toward urbanization and yearned for the pagan, back-to-nature spiritual life of their ancestors.[17] During the first several decades of the 20th century, Germans settled around the United States, bringing the values of the Wandervogel with them. Some opened the first health food stores, and many moved to southern California where they could practice an alternative lifestyle in a warm climate.

About the same time Henry David Thoreau, a Transcendentalist, wrote “Walden,” a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience,” originally published as “Resistance to Civil Government,” in the mid 19th Century was an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Over time, young Americans adopted the beliefs and practices of the new immigrants. One group, called the “Nature Boys,” took to the California desert and raised organic food, espousing a back-to-nature lifestyle like the Wandervogel.[18] Songwriter Eden Ahbez wrote a hit song called Nature Boy inspired by Robert Bootzin (Gypsy Boots), who helped popularize health-consciousness, yoga, and organic food in the United States.”


The song has been recorded by David Bowie and others and was part of the Moulin Rouge movie soundtrack.

Historical Roots in the U.S.

“Birth of the Cool”

The World Wars and Great Depression spawned a ‘beat generation’ refusing to conform to mainstream American values which lead to the emergence of the Hippies and the counterculture.

The “Beat” writers had picked up the lingo of Black musicians in the 40’s who were using the terms “hip” and “hep” and “hep cat.” This was the birth of “cool” and they were called “Beatniks.”

In 1962-64 in college we were having beat parties where we wore black turtleneck sweaters and leotards, drank cheap red wine and listened to Miles Davis and beat poetry like “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg (written in 1955 BTW) with candles burning in old wine bottles. And reading Kerouac and Alan Watts.

So the proliferation of the counterculture movement actually started in the late 50’s way before you saw any “hippies.” Right after the end of WWII the GI bill enabled returning men to get an education and become successful businessmen and their wives could enjoy leisure time with newly acquired wash machines and nice kitchens. The social environment was excessively restrictive after the chaos of the war when adults wanted predictability and order. The middle class rose like a sphynx. Families were headed by “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,”  a play of the same name, and dutiful wives played highly defined roles. To not be thought weird, dresses on women had to hit at exactly the right spot on the calf.

But their children rebelled against absentee fathers working long hours and restrictive roles for women and moral rules. They left home for freedom and the sexual revolution. The Beatles sang “She’s Leaving Home.”

Women began rebelling too. The Feminist Movement grew and women started meeting in “Consciousness Raising” groups. Women started wearing “granny” dresses and Mini skirts. The hell with that “right” spot on the calf. Guys grew their hair long in defiance of societal expectations of the male.


In 1964, Timothy Leary, a Harvard University professor who was studying psychedelics went to Mexico and tried mushrooms. He came back and told everyone to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” The Beatles went to Oaxaca, Mexico and popularized magic mushrooms. First thing my couchsurfers want to do is go to Hautla and try mushrooms!

Taking LSD and other psychedelics consisted of various stages of ego-release and an often startling alteration of perceptions. “I experienced oneness with the universe” was often reported. A few people jumped out of buildings thinking they could fly. What it did though, was to make users realize their ordinary perceptions were limited and that anything was possible. However, I never took psychedelics figuring with my luck I’d have a “bad trip.” But psychedelics led many to meditation.

Meditation and Unity Consciousness

…all matter is energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively…” Bill Hicks, Comedian

All these ideas became blended with ideas from eastern religion and science like (“String Theory” which asks where is the seat of consciousness)articulated in a western vernacular by Jack Kerouac-“On The Road” and Alan Watts “The Dao Of Physics” and meditation enthusiasts like Ram Dass (formerly Harvard professor Richard Alpert) whose first book was “Be Here Now” and the proliferation of the New Age movement. Everybody read Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” You saw posters Make Love Not War and rEVOLVEution.

I read Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who died while in Thailand at an ecumenical meeting of East/West religions including the Dali Lama. Merton bridged my childhood Catholicism from organized religion to eastern practices and Transcendental Meditation as taught by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Marishi, who was trained as a physicist, separated the Indian Vedic religion out and just taught a simple stress relieving and natural, effortless technique, with the use of a “mantra” or sound.

Others like my best friend and old roommate. moved with her husband and kids all over the country following an Indian guru.

So the “hippies” generally were/are interested in personal growth and expansion of consciousness as the New Age movement produced “gurus” books and workshops. But Ram Dass told us the Guru is within. I took every course and workshop there was available from an Encounter Group to Democratic Parenting. I had friends who followed Yogi Bhajan and opened an ashram where we would meet and do kundalini yoga although my main choice of meditation was Transcendental Meditation…the choice for householders who could meditate without scaring the bejesus out of their kids.

Cross Pollinisation of Ideas

It was the political activists and university students that did all the work for political change, while, what I call the lifestyle hippies, were having a sexual revolution in San Francisco. Others banded together to form communes in northern California and Oregon. By 1968, by appearance, you couldn’t visually tell the difference between the various groups. Not all of them were long-haired. Mario Savio looked like he was still out of the 50’s. But there was a cross-over and blending of ideas and they influenced each other.

At the same time, there were fierce differences of opinion as they accused each other of elitism and argued about who was selling out to The Man (government authority led by the nose by the oligarchs) and who wasn’t. What should we be doing? And how to put their world view of collaboration and cooperation and equality into practice. (Praxis) Many ended up splitting off from communal groups to become more activist. Conformity within and between groups was largely limited to freedom of lifestyle and dress.

These ideas resonated with people who had read books that had inched revolutionary and utopian thinking along. “Siddhartha”-Hermann Hesse 1922, “Razor’s Edge”-Somerset Maugham, Camus and the Existentialists. Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac-“On The Road.” Huxley “Doors Of Perception.” George Orwell “1984” and “Animal Farm”, all the outsiders, iconoclasts and the Beats. “The True Believer” Eric Hoffer, was prophetic having been written in the early 50’s. “Rules For Radicals” by Saul Alinsky didn’t come along until the early 70’s.

Liberation Theology
In the mid 60’s my Jesuit theology professors had introduced their students to Liberation Theology. Praxis, the synergy between theory and practice, knowledge and relevance, ideas, images, and the real appealed to those who were looking to find meaning by putting their belief in love into practice. Although liberation theology has grown into an international and interdenominational movement, it began as a movement within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1950s–1960s. It was an attempt to return to the gospel of the early church where Christianity is politically and culturally decentralized. Liberation theology arose principally as a moral reaction to the poverty seen as having been caused by social injustice.

The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutiérrez, in his book  “A Theology of Liberation.” Gutierrez emphasized practice (or, more technically, “praxis”) over doctrine. According to Gutiérrez true “liberation” has three main dimensions: First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice. Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those things that limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity.”  Third, liberation theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin, a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people. Gutierrez clarified his position by advocating a circular relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxis seeing the two as having a symbiotic relationship. Black Liberation Theology and Feminist Liberation Theology piggybacked on this as well.

But Liberation Theology was dealt a blow when Archbishop Romero was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980. A close friend, a nun, was working in a refugee camp just across the border during Reagan’s Central American proxy wars against Communism. It was with some satisfaction when I read he was declared a martyr by Pope Francis on 3 February 2015, paving the way for his beatification, which took place on 23 May 2015.

In the field of education, going back to the late 19th Century, American Philosopher John Dewey’s ideas of democracy, social reform and related pedagogy had been the accepted philosophy of education. He believed the purpose of education should not revolve around the acquisition of a pre-determined set of skills, but rather the realization of one’s full potential and the ability to use those skills for the greater good. He notes that “to prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities.” (My pedagogic creed, Dewey, 1897).

But education meant for democratization and an enlightened citizenry, became teacher oriented and largely a matter of classroom management. And it’s worse today than ever.

Paolo Freire published “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in 1970. He proposed a pedagogy with a new relationship between teacher, student, and society. The book is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy. Dedicated to what is called “the oppressed” and based on his own experience helping Brazilian adults to read and write, Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between what he calls “the colonizer” and “the colonized.” In the book Freire calls traditional pedagogy the “banking model” because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge, like a piggy bank. However, he argues for pedagogy to treat the learner as a co-creator of knowledge.

Ivan Illych published his seminal work in 1971, “Deschooling Society” further breaking with Dewey and Freire, believing that ideas for de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point for a de-institutionalized society.

The contemporary Oaxacan, Gustavo Estevez, would later became a compatriot of Illych and expand his ideas of education to include the analysis of colonialist do-goodism and the empowerment of the disempowered. Several years ago, Gustavo took about 30 U.S. students to 4 countries to study local sustainable methods…Thailand, New Zealand, India and lastly Oaxaca. Gustavo’s trajectory…from the grandson of a Zapotec grandmother, to Harvard, to Coca Cola, to a high policy position in the Mexican government and back to his grandmother to observe Zapotec farming and their sustainable methods was a long strange trip. The Zapotecs knew what they were doing…better than any US Aid agency. I hosted several of these students while they were in Oaxaca…I listened for hours while one debriefed her near breakdown on the program because it turned her American patronizing do-gooder world view upside down.

On The Road

Political activists and hippies alike went On The Road, inspired by Karouac, which influenced their attitudes about social culture. When I was hitchhiking Europe in 1965 scores of them were heading on the Hippie Trail from Europe to India and Katmandu who wanted to “be here now” or taste eastern religion first hand. Or just cavort, soaking up foreign cultures.

Ken Kesey who grew up in Springfield, Oregon and his “Merry Pranksters” painted a VW Bus in psychedelic colors and went on the road across America which was documented in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Other writers like D.H. Lawrence went to Mexico including Oaxaca.

It doesn’t take much money to travel if you are young, hardy, hitchhike and willing to sleep outdoors and dumpster dive for food. They did it the same way they do it now. Work and earn a little money and take off. I have an Indian friend who gave a TED talk called “The Colorful Hitchhiker.” For the Americans that meant just getting enough money for the plane ticket.

When I was visiting the Miao minority group in the mountains in southern China I thought I was the only foreigner there until I came upon a young nicely dressed French couple. They had been traveling for 2 years by walking up to houses in the countryside and gesturing for food and a place to sleep in exchange for money. And getting to know other cultures.

Hawaii has had a tradition of hippies back-to-the-earth culture that I’ve thought was harmonic with Aloha that calls people there. Years ago when my son was living on Kauai my husband and I hiked the Napoli Trail. Hanging onto grass and weeds for 10 miles to keep from slipping 2000 feet into the ocean, I thanked the spirits we made it out alive! That was enough for me! 🙂 We never made it to the Hippie Beach at the end of the trail.

Zipolite, a nudist beach on the Oaxaca Pacific coast is another draw for old and new hippies alike. Many of my Couchsurfers come up to Oaxaca City from Zipolite and the yoga communities in Muzunte.


By this time the social elements…long hair and scraggly dress, indicating a refusal to be co-opted by big business and consumerism, were common to hippies and political activists alike. Song lyrics reflected the political and social milieu. Pete Seeger was a folk singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture, and environmental causes. His best-known songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “If I Had a Hammer and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (lyrics adapted from Ecclesiastes), which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are sung throughout the world. “Flowers” was a hit recording for the Kingston Trio (1962); Marlene Dietrich, who recorded it in English, German and French (1962); and Johnny Rivers (1965). “If I Had a Hammer” was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963) while the Byrds had a number one hit with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965.

Seeger was one of the folk singers responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” (also recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists) that became the acknowledged anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, Rock concerts like Woodstock flourished. Having been rejected by society at large and yearning for connection, young people found solace and community with others of the same world view. Bobby Dylan wrote The Times Are Changin: and political lyrics like:

With God On Our Side
Oh my name it ain’t nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I was taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side

Oh, the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh, the country was young
With God on its side

The Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War, too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I was made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side

The First World War, boys
It came and it went
The reason for fighting
I never did get
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don’t count the dead
When God’s on your side

The Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now, too
Have God on their side

I’ve learned to hate the Russians
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

But now we got weapons
Of chemical dust
If fire them, we’re forced to
Then fire, them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side

Through many a dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ was
Betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side

So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
That if God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war

The Viet Nam War and Political Action

The activists wanted to create change on an ideological public/political level. They rode the freedom trail in the south until The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 under Johnson. The Black Panthers set up soup kitchens in LA for their forgotten community members. Then the anti VietNam War or Peace Movement burned up the country precipitated by the compulsery draft.

The political revolution on campuses were ramping up. Students were trying to shut down campuses like Columbia and Berkeley that were restricting speech against the Viet Nam War. Riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention ended with the jailing of protesters. There was the rise of the Panthers, the Brown Power movement, the opposition to the Viet Nam War, the feminist movement and the rise of the New Left which still thought they could work through the system. People became split apart.

In 1968 Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Wash D.C. Many people are not aware of this because the mainstream media didn’t cover it, but the family of MLK won a civil suit accusing the FBI of having him assassinated. Robert Kennedy was shot and killed in LA in 1968 at a time when we were living there. I still remember watching it on TV like it was yesterday. It elicited memories of his brother, JFK being killed with all the subsequent conspiracy theories. Then four students were shot by Ohio National Guardsmen in the 1970 Kent State Massacre.

The Peace movement was largely non-violent but the FBI was infiltrating and instigating violence within and between groups too. Ramsey Clark, retired Attorney General under President Johnson, has admitted that the FBI was dumping drugs into Black communities to disrupt the Black Power movement. Controversy was rampant.

Between and among these people a fierce debate and accusations raged. What should we be doing? Who was selling out? How do we do what we are doing without selling out? Students for Democratic Society (SDS) – founded in 1960 and was seen as one of the most active college campus groups of the New Left and the antiwar movement. Conformity within and between groups was largely limited to lifestyle and dress.

Many in the peace movement within the U.S. were students, mothers, or anti-establishment hippies. Opposition grew with participation by the African-American civil rights, women’s liberation, and Chicano movements, and sectors of organized labor. Additional involvement came from many other groups, including educators, clergy, academics, journalists, lawyers, physicians (such as Benjamin Spock), and military veterans. Their actions consisted mainly of peaceful, nonviolent events; few events were deliberately provocative and violent. In some cases, police used violent tactics against peaceful demonstrators. By 1967, according to Gallup Polls, an increasing majority of Americans considered US military involvement in Vietnam to be a mistake, echoed decades later by the then head of American war planning, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

What was common among all these groups was the world view that the country was fucked and the Viet Nam War needed to be stopped. The hippies did it on a personal level by attempting to start with their own lives. All politics are local they said. The Anti Vietnam war organizers in LA in the 60’s wore long skirts and had bare feet as I and many young women did.

The Drug War

The FBI and CIA was importing drugs into the Black communities to destabilize them and they thought, in their paranoia, to head off a Black Revolution.

They did this to the antiwar movement too. Journalist Dan Baum wrote in the April cover story of Harper’s about how he interviewed Ehrlichman in 1994 while working on a book about drug prohibition. John Ehrlichman, who served 18 months in prison for his central role in the Watergate scandal, was Nixon’s chief domestic advisor when the president announced the “war on drugs” in 1971. The administration cited a high death toll and the negative social impacts of drugs to justify expanding federal drug control agencies. Doing so set the scene for decades of socially and economically disastrous policies.

Ehrlichman provided some shockingly honest insight into the motives behind the drug war:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Baum’s article is called “Legalize it!”

Then the 1979 Sandinista revolution that overthrew Anastasio Somoza, one of our favorite Latin Dictators, was not looked upon fondly by Reagon and his friends. He called the counter revolutionary Contras “freedom fighters,” and compared them to America’s founding fathers. In his attempt to get Congress to approve aid for the Contras, Reagan accused the Sandinista government of drug trafficking. After his administration tried to mine the Nicaraguan harbors and got a hand-slap from Congress, it turned to secretly selling missiles to Iran and using the payments–along with profits from running drugs–to keep right on funding the Contras. 50,000 lost lives later, the World Court would order the U.S. to “cease and to refrain” from unlawful use of force against Nicaragua and pay reparations. (We refused to comply.) The fact is, with most of the cocaine that flooded the country in the Eighties, almost every major drug network was using the Contras operations in some fashion.

I had a friend who was a nun who worked in the Honduras side of the border in a refugee center helping those who had fled. I have to laugh and, in the immortal words of Nancy Reagan, “just say no” to drugs. The hypocrisy of the double standard is ludicrous. All you can do is laugh, or cry. I guess it’s okay to deal drugs if it’s for the cause of war.

The New Left

The Peace And Freedom Party around the time of the 1968 elections in LA was active.  Old Leftists (Marxists) would crash their meetings and even started fist fights. Our next door neighbor was elected to go to their convention in Michigan to nominate Eldridge Cleaver, who was Black and wrote “Soul On Ice”to run for president on the Peace and Freedom party ticket.

The New Left couldn’t work together with the black and Brown movements because the Blacks and Browns regarded the leftists as primarily middle class intellectual elitists who didn’t understand their problems. They didn’t quite get that the New Left was fighting for economic equality for them as well just as is happening now. They wanted to speak for themselves. Blacks and Browns couldn’t work together either so the Browns had their own Brown Power Movement. The New Left didn’t appeal to the working class or the Unions either. I’ve always thought this was tragic as far as the social and political “revolution” went. We are seeing the results of this failure today where the vacuum is being filled and the white under-employed working class is being pitted against minorities and others.

“Wall Street Occupy Movement”
The bottom line is the emphasis on personal evolution, relationships and cooperation over Wall Street hedge funds that don’t contribute to wealth, the lobbyists like Citizens United and the military industrial war machine. If we are going to survive as a species this is the way we will do it in the end anyway.

The “Wall Street Occupy Movement” conducted workshops, interviewed people to inform and urged people to go home and work “from the bottom up.” They are still out there whether they wear the dress or not. They are still resisting the oligarchy that has co-opted the government and turned it into a military industrial complex that Republican President Eisenhower warned us against. So The movement predictably threatened the powers that be and Homeland Security ordered cities to crack down on demonstrators which they brutally did. Winter eventually defeated the campers.

Divided We Fall

George Carlin said it best:

Volunteerism And Community Building

All Politics is local. There was community building by volunteering. A group of women formed a group under the auspices of the YWCA called “Women Committed To Action.” The first activity we took on was penal reform. The first thing we did was get the warden fired in the women’s prison We transported women to the YWCA in Y vans for physical exercise on Sundays.

The Newgate Program was a 4 year college degree program for lifers. (many of the sentences would be commuted.) We met with the prison superintendent to get permission to escort women to the men’s prison to attend these classes and then escort them back. So I would wait in the prison library. I scared most of the inmates (I was only about 25) but one sat down with me and talked. It was mandatory for any lifer in the program to attend a Therapy Group led by a psychiatrist. He got permission for me to attend these therapy groups…ostensibly as a community backboard. It was his idea.

Recidivism in the prisons was 80+% in those days which meant they were just coming back out to reoffend. A lot of adjustments prisons made in those days have been reversed.But among the many other things we did, was to form a support group of wives of male inmates who often served a “sentence” along with their husband. No one wanted to be associated with them. In their isolation they often became abusive to their children. So we talked some counselors into donating time for a Parent’s Anonymous group and taught them how to form a babysitting co-op. Unfortunately after a few years we had to abandon the support group because their spouses had them watched…they could only go certain places and do certain things or an inmate’s “friend” would beat them. Control over the spouse was the only control they had left.

With the Oregon State Legal Aid office we took 13 reform bills through the legislature. One of the pieces of legislation that passed the legislature unanimously was the Conjugal Visit bill…to try to keep families together until release. After a few years, with a change in prison administration they let a serial killer out on this program that we are certain was intentional. He offended again and that was the end of that program.

A well-known lifer had a spiritual conversion of sorts while he was in the “hole” and was eventually pardoned by the Governor of Oregon (McCall) at the time after which he wrote an autobiology. He was later appointed prison ombudsman and then head of the Dept of Community Services. He married the Black subsequent prison ombudsman who is now and has been a Senator for many years. Anyway he worked on establishing some work programs for released inmates as they were generally unemployable.

This was only one of many other volunteer activities I participated in in the 70’s and I am really grateful for those opportunities which were growing experiences for me also served as examples for my growing 3 sons. I was a volunteer coordinator for the American Field Service, a high school student exchange program and hosted several students myself to expose my kids to other cultures.  There were many people in those days who worked on similar projects. And many of them still are whether wearing the “dress” or not. One of my friends spearheaded and shepherded the first “Bottle Bill” in the country to recycle pop and beer bottles, through the legislature.

Self Sufficiency and Cooperation

By the 70’s, for the folks with families at home, the Whole Earth Catalogue by Stewart Brand was the bible. The focus was on self-sufficiency, ecology, alternative education, “do it yourself” (DIY) and wholism, and featured the slogan “access to tools.” And we were all reading Buckminster Fuller. Earth Day drew thousands in local communities.  My friends and I formed a food co-op where we ordered in bulk from a distributor and split the food up among us. We gleaned fruit and vegetables that were left in the fields after harvest. I canned hundreds of jars.

I was an “earth mother.” We formed babysitting co-ops. And car pools to take kids to activities. And using Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook which told us that serving and cooking food for loved ones was a holy thing. And going to New Age retreats. And learning to meditate.

The feminist movement was accelerating. Many of my friends joined “Consciousness Raising” groups. After a few times going to one I dropped out. Even though, of course, I espouse equality of opportunity. I didn’t like the tone. I didn’t want to be an enemy of men. I wanted to be friends with them.

When we moved into our first house in a small conservative town in Oregon I was definitely considered “strange” and an “outsider.”  by the neighbors. I still consider myself an outsider. I painted in purple across the laundry room wall FUCK HOUSEWORK. My motto was “just dirty enough to be happy and clean enough to be healthy.” I let my 3 kids get dirty because I figured that way they would develop more immunity.

I take solace in what this hippie says about “Weirdness.”

I never told anyone what my husband did for a living for years and it wasn’t pc at the time for anyone to ask. I wore old holey t-shirts and jeans because I didn’t want anyone to put me in the “medical wife” box. When my oldest started school he begged me not to wear long skirts and put on some shoes.

Even today I mostly wear t-shirts. It takes more than long skirts, sex, drugs and rock and roll to be a “hippie.” But yes, in LA weed was only $20 for a “lid” the way they measured it referring to a big coffee can lid.

It’s the counterculture cooperative humanist values that make a hippie. They “dropped out” of conventional consumerist society. Some dropped out entirely and formed communes. I am not an ideologue and don’t follow any dogma. No, hippie is not just sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Travel reveals the human heart and what we have become in this world. Look beneath the surface of things to the heart of each day. 

Travel gives one perspective…forces one to leave behind one’s “baggage,” to forget the known (which is worthless while traveling). And forces one to leave behind judgment. On a deeper level, as Pico Iyer says,

my favorite travel writer:

“what really draws me to travel is the prospect of stepping out of the daylight of everything I know, stepping into the shadows of what I don’t know and may never will with people I encounter along the way. We travel, some of us, to slip through the curtain of the ordinary, and into the presence of whatever lies just outside our apprehension. I fall through the gratings of the conscious mind and into a place that observes a different kind of logic.”


Young people are traveling by the thousands or more every day even now and I met many of them on the road in the 5 years I traveled after retirement and since then. And most of my couchsurfers do also.  Many do it by the exchange model…offering services and work.  But now, I wouldn’t be willing to dig up someone’s garden in exchange for a meal! Not with MY back! Ha!

If more Americans travelled maybe they would have a little more understanding of geopolitical issues we are grappling with today.

But it disturbs me, when I’m traveling and see grungy backpackers in other countries, when I hear people call them “hippies.” Couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I do wish these people would clean up a bit though because it’s considered disrespectful especially in some Asian cultures like Thailand that does value cleanliness. Those backpackers are not at home. Now you can even find “BegPackers!”

Later I encouraged my sons to travel…one of the most educational experiences you can have to learn there are many valid ways to live and get along with other cultures and values. Now one lives in Hong Kong and is married to a Cantonese woman, another married to a Thai and I live in Oaxaca Mexico often hosting travellers from all over the world through hospitality web sites like Couchsurfing (Travellers) TrustRoots (hitchhikers) and Warm Showers (bicycling) bringing the world to me.

So Was I A Hippie?

I find value in questioning “authority.” I try to question my thoughts. Critical thinking is a hard job. The book “Letters From Thailand” is about a Chinese man trying to integrate his family into Thailand. The principal character learns that the strongest survival instinct is self deception. After a long sorrowful road to self-discovery he is astounded to learn that what we believe about ourselves does not necessarily reflect who we really are in our actions. Hypocrisy is the devil.

Personally I see great value in humor…and laughing. You can laugh at me too and I will laugh with you. Indeed my moniker is Laughingnomad.

“Hippies” were a phenomenon at a particular time in history and the word has become pejorative and distorted and can mean anything depending on a person’s biases and perceptions. And experiences I might add. In fact I use the word counter-culture and so do my friends. And is more inclusive of alternative life-styles and ideas.

A Black friend posted this on Facebook:

“I pick up hitchhikers, I stay with people around the world I don’t know, I slept under the Brooklyn bridge 2 months ago, I put up signs in my front yard ‘free fruit and veggies’ from my garden, I speak to strangers passing by and invite them onto my porch for tea or other beverages and food, I take in stray dogs, I donate to people down and out, I’m open minded about most things. I’m a ‘giving minority’ 100% and then a hippie 100%.”

About as fair a description of the hippie culture as I’ve ever heard.

If I am “hippie at heart” that is right in-as-far as I participated in a historical period in time and continue to share in the values of empowerment, community building and resistance to political bullshit however I perceive it to be at any given moment.

I’m still hanging on to my T-shirts. Even if with a wry smile.

A Reminder: Truth To Power and Free Speech

The Free Speech Movement had been percolating since the late 50’s in opposition to campus authorities who were disallowing political activity and free speech on campuses. Especially later in the 60’s during the Viet Nam War. Finally on December 2, 1964 Mario Savio gave his famous “Rage Against The Machine” speech atop a police car in front of the steps of Sproul Hall on the Berkeley campus precipitated by a campus control issue. Our next door neighbors in LA had been there.

They won.

I am bewildered by the political polemics today. Some of my friends firmly believe the 60’s-70’s ruined the country even though it helped stop the Viet Nam War. I try to read everything from the left to the right to try to understand. Labeling and putting people into “groups” seems besides the point and so divisive. Conservative Evangelical Christians consider themselves as having absolute truth. How can this possibly provide a democratic people’s mandate to government? I wish there was a Mario Savio today who could again caution us to be aware of the responsibilities that come with the right of “free speech.”

What about the common good of the country!!! But isn’t that what we said years ago? Divide And Rule in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people.

Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

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