Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Where are all the hippies?



With the recent remembrances of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I was set to wondering: Where have all the hippies gone? As an old hippie myself, I then concluded that they must now be Republicans.

Take a moment to mop up the soy latte that you just squirted through your nose upon reading this, and allow me to explain.

The ethos of the hippie was actually more "libertarian," but that doesn't mean they lacked pragmatism and didn't want their votes to count. It just means that of the two major parties that are likely to actually run the country, the laissez-faire approach of the Republican party most closely matches their own thinking. But, there are also additional reasons why they would gravitate toward the Republicans.

First, what were the defining themes of the hippie era? Rebellion against the establishment! Freedom! Nonconformity! All with a laid-back attitude.

So, if you are a rebel today, who and what do you rebel against? Today's "establishment" is a combination of a smothering, instinctively intrusive government and a business world that has cynically incorporated hippie causes to sell their "stuff." The governmental "establishment" is a liberal, paternalistic, and expansive force that constantly gnaws its way deeper and deeper into our lives in an effort to protect us from ourselves for "our own good," and seeks to regulate, define, plan, and quantify everything it comes in contact with. It works in a symbiotic relationship with a corporate "establishment," which has shamelessly co-opted the causes, concerns, and lifestyle elements of the hippies in their cynical marketing of their wares. And they are both cheered on by an omnipresent media instructing us as to just how we should think if we want to be considered "free thinkers" and hectoring us as to the sort of thinking that is permitted.

There is plenty to rebel against in the political world. We have gone from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," to focus groups and consultants constructing political personas, who will put a wetted finger to the political winds to determine the interest groups they will pander to. They rule over a vast bureaucracy continually generating more and more rules and regulations.

And what hippie could be happy with a business establishment that shamelessly appropriates their cares and lifestyle? Modern business has completely incorporated the environmental and diversity causes into their relentless hucksterism. Few businesses don't try to cast themselves as "green" and "environmentally sensitive."

So, while a hippie will still find these objectives admirable, they are likely to be offended by seeing them cynically deployed as marketing tools and used with the slogans and imagery of the '60s in selling utterly unconnected products. Consider the ads featuring images of beautiful people meditating or practicing yoga being used to sell prosaic items like granola bars, foot powder, or insurance. Or, they may find herbal tea or 800-thread-count bed sheets conflated with inner peace and enlightenment, certainly an easier route than years of rigorous study and meditation.

The love of freedom also defined the hippies, who can fondly recall some of the great joys that we had 50 years ago, which are now often banned. Campfires and beer drinking on the beach, riding in the back of a pickup truck, or motorcycling without a helmet all come to mind. Or, the number of things you now need a permit to do, like backpacking and most of the work done on your home. And, don't get me started on air travel and the ubiquitous security checks in many of our public venues. The list goes on and on.

Who are today's successors to the iconic "laid-back" hippie? Certainly not the angry activists of today, with their fists clenched in fury, their faces twisted in incontinent rage, sputtering the mandatory jargon newly contrived for their latest cause. Any group that would reactively run off a member of their college faculty for having the wrong-headedness to suggest that they develop a sense of humor over Halloween costumes, as occurred at Yale a few years back, can hardly be called "laid back." With the original hippies, you could put out pretty much any sort of idea you wanted, and just get, "Wow, man, cool. Want another toke?" What's groovy about rage and hate?

Nonconformity? Try and find that in today's Democratic party, a group whose members will viciously turn on each other for any variation from approved dogma and doctrine, real or perceived. You can say what you will about the Tea Party activists, but seeing a bunch of old guys in goofy tricorne hats makes it pretty clear that they really don't care very much about conforming to anyone's standards of fashionable dress.

As an old hippie who just wants to be left alone to "do his own thing," who is sick of rage and bitter division, exhausted by the government's continuous intervention in his life, and tired of the slick banality and relentless commercialism of the business world, where do you go politically? It is an easy choice. You go to the Republican party of small government, less regulation, and laissez-faire policies. Δ

John Donegan is a retired attorney, who after 50 years of keeping his love beads, sandals, and Nehru jacket in mothballs, is again eyeing them as possible attire. Send comments through the editor at [email protected] or write a letter in response and email it to [email protected].

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