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.”