Confession time: I never was a Flower Child, or Hippie; I never wore my hair long and still haven't really tuned in to rock 'n roll. Yes, I can now watch a movie of Jimi Hendrix making his electric guitar scream and dance and stand on its head inside out with awed admiration instead of shock and horror, but still prefer Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to the resulting sound, any day of the week.
But that's just a matter of taste. The 60's Generation has grown on me a great deal, since the 60's. I now begin to see what it was all about.
My favorite counter-cultural image is that of girls with painted faces reaching over and inserting flowers, stem first, into the barrels of rifles with which they are being menaced by uniformed government agents. This gesture was often made, and is immensely revealing.
First, it says they were peaceful - perhaps, pacifist. Those kids were not there to start a fight, and in most cases would not even hit back - they would suffer being dragged off to jail but would not retaliate. Admirable and brave!
Second, it says they saw through the uniform to the person, and wanted the person to stop playing his silly macho games and put down his offensive weapon. They were reminding him with something as pretty as a flower that life is about gentleness and beauty and not force and killing and imposing Authority.
Peace, Love and Music
Those things express peace and love, the first two advertised components of the original Woodstock - the third being the music to much of which, as admitted, I do not relate too well. However I did enjoy some of it, while watching the movie of Woodstock recently: especially the bit where the crowd was led in the anti-war song that starts "One two three what are we fighting for / Don't ask me I don't know..." With it, that half-million strong crowd of happy young people showed they really understood the utter folly of warfare in a way that their elders, parents and betters would never grasp.
That movie reveals other characteristics of the Flower Children; they felt free to relax with whatever drugs they wanted, and passed them round with a fine spirit of sharing; they felt no obligation to wear clothes all the time, and if they wanted to make love with someone, they didn't wait for the approval of some third party. In all those things they were expressing a healthy disrespect for Authority and in none of them were they initiating force. These are traits that would greatly enrich a free society.
True, the film also reveals some of the weaknesses of the counter-culture. The promoters of the "3 days of Peace, Love and Music" did such a terrible job of management that they couldn't even control their own entrance gates, and so lost a bundle of money; they so grossly underestimated demand and mis-planned logistics that all half-million protesters against the established culture became dependent for food and drink on the generosity of its members and even, for medical help, on chopper-borne doctors from the US Army! That opens the whole movement up to the charge that while they might have been fine idealists, they had no practical sense or skills whatever.
That may well be excused, however, for the original Woodstock was remarkable primarily for its spontaneity, and who can plan for a spontaneous Happening? The promoters were overwhelmed, and then they did their best.
I do see a much more serious shortfall, though, in the 60's counter-culture: they got their protest targets badly confused.
In particular and very tragically, they were misled to confuse established Authority with Capitalism. That is so ludicrous as to be oxymoronic!
Time and again, the Socialists who so often led the Flower Children told them that the corrupt and violent order against which they were so rightly protesting was a Capitalist order. What nonsense!
Capitalism is that system in which individuals make their living by voluntary exchange - a system very close indeed to what the Flower Kids were expressing as their ideal. True capitalists don't wage war, for killing your customers is highly counterproductive. True capitalists can't sustain giant monopolies, for their smaller competitors are too nimble. The society the counter-culture was protesting was riddled with giant companies actively conspiring with government to exclude competitors and wage non-defensive wars at our expense, and every single aspect of that is diametrically opposed to true Capitalism.
Yet because so many of the leaders of the "anti-authority" counter-culture taught the kids the opposite, they tragically became opponents of Capitalism. The very forces that had produced what they so rightly despised - government control of their lives and futures - were not being demolished, they were being reinforced and redirected; being taken over, in fact, by the Pied Pipers who were so wickedly misleading the Flower Children. One of those Pipers is now President, and another is his wife.
As a result the vast indoctrination machine the Kids were trying to escape has now mis-taught their own children every bit as badly as it did them; their ideal of legalizing pot has been replaced by a War on Drugs prosecuted more viciously than ever; their ideal of free love has been replaced by the invasive tyranny of sexual harrassment laws; their ideal of respecting the environment has been exploited by Fascists whose aim is to control humans, not save trees; and their hope of ending warfare has found one of their own (though no, he never inhaled) as Commander in Chief of the most powerful offensive force of destruction the world has ever seen.
Where did all the Flower Kids go? - alas, right back where they started from.
|© Copyright Jim Davies 1999|
Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.
The above is Edition # 65
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