Confessions of a Bad Hippie by Billee Sharp

Confessions of a Bad Hippie

I am a bad hippie that I freely admit. I’m under no duress as there’s virtually no chance of my being busted by Oprah a la James Frey, for the embellished hippy lifestyle that I wrote about in my book Fix It, Bake It, Smoke It: The DIY Guide to the Good Life.  For example, my breezily written  ‘Easy Batik’ section – pure fabrication, the only time I ever batiked was with a horde of manic six year olds, it was horribly difficult, distressingly messy and the results were in truth, visually disturbing.

The underlying theme of my book was to illuminate readers with easy ways to reduce living costs while creating the life they truly desire: basically how to be a good hippie.

To my mind, good hippies are unfettered creatures, they follow their hearts and are largely unconcerned with material gain, preferring to value the more esoteric things in life; think flowers in cornfields, high-grade marijuana and loving kindness.

The real-deal-back-in-the-day hippies were radical psychedelic freaks who, having evolved from the bohemian goulash created by the beatniks & hipsters, whole-heartedly turned their backs on mainstream thinking. Imagine the magnificent Diggers of San Francisco of 60s Haight-Ashbury: artists, performers and free-thinkers who wanted to create a society free of money and capitalism. They baked whole-wheat bread in coffee-cans at their Free Bakery as well as serving a daily meal at the Panhandle around 4pm. They offered free accommodation to kids arriving in the city, free healthcare, free stores and most famously, free music and performances. Digger belly dancers drove down to the Financial District in a flat-bed truck to give free performances to the brokers who were encouraged to get on board and forget about their work.

The Diggers grew, or rather flowed into the Free Family, vibing with other groups like the fabulously named Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, founded by artists who wanted art to be integral to society not an appendage to wealth. The Motherfuckers had the whole free scenario set-up going on in New York City: in those days hippies were springing up everywhere like pretty weeds in the cracks on the sidewalk.  Millions grew their hair, learnt to weave, meditate and strike new grooves by following appealing edicts like  Do Your Own Thing! and of course, Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.

From this perspective I’m not just a bad hippie I’m a travesty- my radical tendencies are little more than a preference for organic grains and an antipathy for multi-nationals. As clever hippie McLuhan pointed out, in our society the medium is the message, and though it was 1967 when the Diggers staged “The Death of Hippie” parade, with Hippie’s coffin bearing the truism “Hippie-Son of Media” the hippy archetype is alive and ridiculed today.

If you recycle, eat brown bread, wear clogs or Birkenstocks and/or smoke weed chances are your peers have identified you as a hippy. Most social circles have a token hippy in the mix – even self-identified yuppies need access to pot and ecstasy and after all, somebody has to eat the vegan alternative at the barbeque.

Ravers are the new hippies, they are peaceful fun-loving dance folk who re-visited the hippie philosophy or at least the bits about drugs. Ravers get a bad rap for being complete hedonists and not having much of a political agenda, but I believe that in time we’ll see that dance music culture is subversive and culture-changing- that people enjoy a little ego-dissolving rave party on a Saturday night  more than the mainstream pretensions of bottle service and the VIP room.

My real hippy guilt runs deeper than the shame of faking batik techniques and I don’t know how I’ll ever absolve myself. I know that the only way we’ll change things in human society is if we really do change our profit-crazy mindset. We can’t end the Oil Age if we are still driving round in gas-fuelled cars, we can’t bitch about plastic packaging and still buy our food in it. The writing is on the wall, a recent U.N report spelt it out; eating meat everyday is more damaging to the environment than driving a Hummer and that to sustain human populations we must adopt a planet-wide vegan diet. That story, fairly buried by the media, is now so much metaphoric newspaper wrapping for our unethical fish and chips.

I know what I should be doing eco-wise but I’m often just playing lip service to my self-professed ideals. A good example is my clothes-buying ‘rule”; sustainably produced, fair traded and preferably hemp if new, anything else has to be second-hand. A position hard to stick to, especially with  hemp knickers coming in at $45 a pair and a plain long sleeved t shirt  at $70. I break down and buy t‘s which are probably the most toxic garments on the planet and my pathetic excuse is affordability. Any real hippy would whip out Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living On the Earth and follow the pattern for making a peasant blouse out of old tea towels.

I’m also aware that poverty can engender piety and by that I mean that a lot of the righteous bean-soaking and sprouting that I do is created by my limited income not by a desire to buy out of this rotten system of ours. When there is more money in the kitty we dine in comparative style down at the local Japanese while the lentils fizz and reek in the stockpot. My friend who travels a lot and feels bad about the environmental impact of plane travel can consider my carbon offset her own, I’ve probably flown ten times in as many years.

We laugh at hippies because we want to believe that they’ve missed the point, that there is more to life than the simpler pleasures and that endless loving kindness. What is the elusive more that is better than a shared joint & songs around the fire? Is it Prada handbags that really fulfill us, or maybe I-phones?

Its been two months since the Deepwater oil leak began, thousands of barrels-worth of oil are still gushing out into the Gulf every day, destroying marine life and the viability of the coastland. Now the farmers in the region are reporting that their crops are suffering effects of acid rain.

I went to protest outside BP’s offices on New Montgomery, there were around forty of us, crazy looking hippy fringe people, it was pretty sad.

I’m a bad hippie who is still driving a car, when I’m not driving it, I’m on a bus or in somebody else’s motor.

I have faith in the good hippies though and the example they set to us consumer addicts. The time has never been better for reading some Wendell Berry or Stewart Brand. Or get active and go help Tree and his crew down at the Free Farm on Saturdays. Tree is the man behind the Free Farm Stand and the instigator of many reclaimed food-producing gardens in the city. The Free Farm Stand at Treat Park has given away 7417.3 lbs of produce so far, Tree believes cities can feed themselves and works tirelessly to make that a reality.

It’s a crazy mixed-up moment for humans, and in my personal dismay and confusion the words of Wendell Berry work like a charm:

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”

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13 Responses to Confessions of a Bad Hippie by Billee Sharp

  1. Lez Hannibal says:

    From one Bad Hippy to another, but at least it has Hippy in the title 🙂
    I am the re-cycle, Brown bread, Birkenstock wearer that smokes (well did, there has been a shortage in my area for almost a month)

  2. Oh Billie!!! I just love you so much. You are so wonderful and talented. What a blessing to know you. I love what you wrote so much. We are still here and still hippies and Flower Children. The dream is still alive and it is all coming together even with the oil spill. There are cars that run on water and air now..just coming. I know our world will be the paradise it is meant to be..this will all pass and The Age of Aquarius is here…just catching up to it. Keep the dream alive dearest.. I love you so much. Christine

    • billee says:

      Lez, lets hope medical status is granted in the UK soon- lots of loving hippy vibes to you & yours bx

    • billee says:

      CHristine- you are the Groove Goddess, I’m still so delighted at the confluence of events that led me to you in 1991- an artist totally unconcerned with anything beyond your art, when I’d come from an art reality where everybody was desperate about everything except their art! Thanks for reading and thanks more for making great art! bx

  3. Lodge Experienced says:

    Me a bad hippy too, but as my life begins to wind down, i’ll bet it will all start catching up to me. The transition from traveling the universe around a mountain top fire to wearing a Wilkes Bashford suit whe going up against PG&E and Chevron and the like wasn’t always easy. (billee, when i first testified in congress about windpower i was wearing a second hand brown suit, little did i know how out of place i looked. it was worse when i was invited to the White House, the first time in that same suit, and as i walked up to the West Wing scared shitless, i realized i’d smoked dope with the guiy who put the solar panels on the West Wing roof.)

    somehow i’m feeling as if the circle is beginning to close. and thanks for reminding me, in your inimitable style.

    • billee says:

      Randy I think you are a great hippy! and I like it that you use the ‘y’ spelling and not the ‘ie’ I was floundering on that & see that a lot of the original writings go with ‘ie’ so I did too altho only out of respect, I prefer the other way in some weird personal aesthetic spelling. I love the idea of you in that second hand brown suit, that is truly a sign of being a good hippy. I’m glad they have some solar power in the West Wing and I like the idea that the circle is closing with the countercultural elements fused in the arc- if only there was a way to translate the vision we’ve had to those arbiters of power- I can only think of the unorthodox dose approach, lol, thanks for reading Randy it means a lot to me!! bx

      • Lodge Experienced says:

        something tells me our time is yet to come. the way elders are honored in native culture.

        Peter Coyote was an orignal Digger, as reminder.

  4. manya says:

    🙂 love this! well said!

  5. geoff greentree says:

    Beautifully put Billee; living in Lewes (Tom Paine developed many of his ideas in the tavern where I now give Shiatsu) as we do now there are many neo-hippy-like folk sharing land and resources; it’s a good town and an excellent place for Ananda to grow. I often say to him that “the hippies were right” as of course that generation were about many things that are now becoming the zeitgeist; but OMG we have a long way to go! Paradoxically this fantastic tool I am now writing to you on is made out of oil and many other toxins, as are our mobile/cell phones (both of which didn’t even EXIST in the sixties and seventies); I turned my back on all this technology for nearly a decade, learning about growing stuff; now engaging with these toxic tools (and people) more I feel simultaneously part of the solution AND the problem, the modern malaise..So what you wrote I feel does apply to so many of us right now, we can all inspire each other in little ways. I am sure that the Deepwater debacle will inspire many of us, I hope it’s the last straw. “Where despair ends and tactics begin”. Thanks for your candour, put it all into perspective for me today. lol

  6. rachel says:

    Lovely form and content – that really was a good read – chuckles and concern are a subtly encouraging and motivating mix – and you elicit that without any weird status play. Thanks B.

  7. For whatever reasons,the pure hippie ideal never reached fruition.I consider Stewart Brand to be the person who most epitomizes the original hippie ideals,but he,as everything else is subject to Evolution,and seems to have incorporated wisdom related to the passing parade since the days of yore in the 1960s when the hippies were in vogue.I don’t go for the term sell-out because,being human in a quite unhippie-like world,pressures brought on by raising families,financial woes,powerful political anti-hippie types,etc.,made it difficult for most hippies of good will to actually live the hippie existence for a lifetime.Stewart Brand seems a rare exception.His original concept of the hippie dream seems to have adapted to the changes in world conditions including technology and how it might best serve the Universe.He seems to be a ray of hope..the link to original hippiedom..who perhaps wouldn’t be easily recognizable to the place where our visions were at during the 1960s,but I believe that’s because the original hippie dream has probably evolved to suit today’s world culture,and Stewart Brand as always,seems to be carrying the torch honorably.PEACE!!!!

  8. Your style is unique in comparison to other
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