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Wednesday, May 2, 2007 (SF Gate)
The Hippies Were Right!/ Green homes? Organic food?
Nature is good ? Time to give the ol' tie-dyers some respect
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Go ahead, name your movement. Name something good and
positive and pro-environment and eco-friendly that's happening
right now in the newly "greening" America and don't say more guns
in Texas or fewer reproductive choices for women or endless vile
unwinnable BushCo wars in the Middle East lasting until roughly 2075
because that would defeat the whole point of this perky little column
and destroy its naive tone of happy rose-colored sardonic optimism.
I'm talking about, say, energy-efficient light bulbs. I'm looking at
organic foods going mainstream. I mean chemical-free cleaning
products widely available at Target and I'm talking saving the whales and
protecting the dolphins and I mean yoga studios flourishing in every small
town, giant boxes of organic cereal at Costco and non-phthalates dildos
at Good Vibes and the Toyota Prius becoming the nation's oddest status
symbol. You know, good things.
Look around: we have entire industries devoted to recycled paper, a new
generation of cheap solar-power technology and an Oscar for "An
Inconvenient Truth" and even the soulless corporate monsters over at
famously heartless joints like Wal-Mart are now claiming that they really,
really care about saving the environment because, well, "it's the right
thing to do" (read: It's purely economic and all about their bottom line
because if they don't start caring they'll soon be totally screwed on
manufacturing and shipping costs at/from all their brutal Chinese
There is but one conclusion you can draw from the astonishing (albeit
fitful, bittersweet) pro-environment sea change now happening in the
culture and (reluctantly, nervously) in the halls of power in D.C., one
thing we must all acknowledge in our wary, jaded, globally warmed
universe: The hippies had it right all along. Oh yes they did.
You know it's true. All this hot enthusiasm for healing the planet and
eating whole foods and avoiding chemicals and working with nature and
developing the self? Came from the hippies. Alternative health? Hippies.
Green cotton? Hippies. Reclaimed wood? Recycling? Humane treatment of
animals? Medical pot? Alternative energy? Natural childbirth? Non-GMO
seeds? It came from the granola types (who, of course, absorbed much of it
from ancient cultures), from the alternative worldviews, from the
underground and the sidelines and from far off the goddamn grid and it's
about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole sent out a
big, wet, hemp-covered apology.
Here's a suggestion, from one of my more astute ex-hippie readers: Instead
of issuing carbon credits so industrial polluters can clear their
collective corporate conscience, maybe, to help offset all the savage
damage they've done to the soul of the planet all these years, these
commercial cretins should instead buy some karma credits from the former
hippies themselves. You know, from those who've been working for the
health of the planet, quite thanklessly, for the past 50 years and who
have, as a result, built up quite a storehouse of good karma. You think?
Of course, you can easily argue that much of the "authentic" hippie ethos
-- the anti-corporate ideology, the sexual liberation, the anarchy, the
push for civil rights, the experimentation -- has been totally leeched out
of all these new movements, that corporations have forcibly co-opted and
diluted every single technology and humble pro-environment idea and Ben
& Jerry's ice cream cone and Odwalla smoothie to make them both palatable
and profitable. But does this somehow make the organic oils in that body
lotion any more harmful? Verily, it does not.
You might also just as easily claim that much of the nation's reluctant
turn toward environmental health has little to do with the hippies per se,
that it's taking the threat of global meltdown combined with the notion of
really, really expensive ski tickets to slap the nation's incredibly obese
ass into gear and force consumers to begin to wake up to the savage
gluttony and wastefulness of American culture as everyone starts
wondering, oh my God, what's going to happen to swimming pools and
NASCAR and free shipping from Amazon? Of course, without the '60s
groundwork, without all the radical ideas and seeds of change planted
nearly five decades ago, what we'd be turning to in our time of need
would be a great deal more hopeless indeed.
But if you're really bitter and shortsighted, you could say the entire
hippie movement overall was just incredibly overrated, gets far too much
cultural credit for far too little actual impact, was pretty much a giant
excuse to slack off and enjoy dirty lazy responsibility-free sex romps and
do a ton of drugs and avoid Vietnam and not bathe for a month and name
your child Sunflower or Shiva Moon or Chakra Lennon Sapphire Bumblebee.
This is what's called the reactionary simpleton's view. It blithely ignores
history, perspective, the evolution of culture as a whole. You know,
just like America.
But, you know, whatever. The proofs are easy enough to trace. The core
values and environmental groundwork laid by the '60s counterculture are
still so intact and potent even the stiffest neocon Republican has to
acknowledge their extant power. It's all right there: Treehugger.com is
the new '60s underground hippy zine. Ecstasy is the new LSD. Visible
tattoos are the new longhairs. And bands as diverse as Pearl Jam to Bright
Eyes to NIN to the Dixie Chicks are writing savage anti-Bush, anti-war
songs for a new, ultra-jaded generation.
And oh yes, speaking of good ol' MDMA (Ecstasy), even drug culture is
getting some new respect. Staid old Time mag just ran a rather snide
little story about the new studies being conducted by Harvard and the
National Institute of Mental Health into the astonishing psychospiritual
benefits of goodly entheogens such as LSD, psilocybin and MDMA.
Unfortunately, the piece basically backhands Timothy Leary and the entire
"excessive," "naive" drug culture of yore in favor of much more "sane" and
"careful" scientific analysis happening now, as if the only valid methods
for attaining knowledge and an understanding of spirit were through
control groups and clinical, mysticism-free examination. Please.
Still, the fact that serious scientific research into entheogens is being
conducted even in the face of the most anti-science, pro-pharmaceutical,
ultra-conservative presidential regime in recent history is proof enough
that all the hoary old hippie mantras about expanding the mind and
touching God through drugs were onto something after all (yes, duh). Tim
Leary is probably smiling wildly right now -- though that might be due to
all the mushrooms he's been sharing with Kerouac and Einstein and Mary
Magdalene. Mmm, heaven.
Of course, true hippie values mean you're not really supposed to care
about or attach to any of this, you don't give a damn for the hollow ego
stroke of being right all along, for slapping the culture upside the head
and saying, See? Do you see? It was never about the long hair and the folk
music and Woodstock and taking so much acid you see Jesus and Shiva and
Buddha tongue kissing in a hammock on the Dog Star, nimrods.
It was, always and forever, about connectedness. It was about how we are
all in this together. It was about resisting the status quo and fighting
tyrannical corporate/political power and it was about opening your
consciousness and seeing new possibilities of how we can all live with
something resembling actual respect for the planet, for alternative
cultures, for each other. You know, all that typical hippie crap no one
believes in anymore. Right?
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.
Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on
SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.