Friday, 13 August 2010

Rekindling the hippy spirit ...

The hippy spirit of the late sixties and early seventies had many positive features. It was concerned with the pursuit of meaning, of love and peace and caring for each other. The Woodstock festival of 1969 embodied that spirit in three days of peace, music and love. Half a million young people got together in peace and cared for each other. 
Rekindling the hippy spirit in modern society would mean recreating the conditions that were prevalent in those days. Hippies belonged to a particular era. It was the late sixties with the United States was embroiled in an unpopular war in Vietnam. Pop music had broken away from simple three chord songs to complex music where the band members wanted recognition as musicians, and folk music and protest music had broken into mainstream musical culture.
The hippy spirit encompassed the ideals of peace and love with plenty of marijuana and other psychedelic drugs. The sixties was a time of relative prosperity in the Western world, and materialism had been gaining importance in social culture. The world had become more secular and religions were struggling to maintain their congregations.
Perhaps the hippy spirit was an attempt to break out of the culture of dullness and meaninglessness. Young people undertook journeys to the East exploring India, Nepal and Afghanistan. The search was on for meaning. Hippies sought out religious experiences without necessarily belonging to an established religion. Some joined Hare Krishna or became Buddhists.
The music of the hippies included bands like Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Bob Dylan ruled the musical waves.
The hippy era meant a return to conscience. Hippies had a strong sense of right and wrong. They opposed a big brother society advocating instead freedom and self-expression. Uniformity and conformism were out.
"Turn on, tune in, drop out" was a key phrase coined by LSD guru Timothy Leary. This was a key phrase of the generation. Ken Kesey led a group of Merry Pranksters around the United States, listening to the Grateful Dead while tripping on LSD.
Dropping out was fine for the children of the wealthy. Simply not participating in the mainstream world could only work when there was some money available for food, drugs and clothing.
The era was a very creative era. Alternative or 'Underground' newspapers and magazines made their way into the world. The UK saw the birth of It (international times), Oz and Time Out while Rolling Stone magazine took its place in the United States. These publications explored new ways of writing giving birth to the New Journalism.
The Hippies were amongst the first to highlight ecological issues and animal rights. Health foods began to make an appearance on supermarket shelves.
The next few decades saw a strong move away from the hippy philosophy and lifestyle. Many hippies turned 'straight' taking on respectable jobs and tying themselves down to the mortgage. Subsequent generations have bought into the material dream focussing their energies on acquiring more and leading lives devoid of meaning.
The hippy spirit is not dead. It lives on in people that are concerned with establishing peace in the world. It lives on in the spirit of musicians that devote time and money to fighting poverty and AIDS.
But the hippy spirit as it presented itself in the era of the late sixties is gone forever.

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