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The End

Enlightenment As Self-Interest

In the ‘70’s, a group of baby boomers who had missed out on the ‘60’s adopted many of the styles, language and philosophies of that bygone era and transformed them from a cultural vernacular into a lifestyle. Suddenly, Hippies were not just going to concerts, getting high and demonstrating together; they were dropping out and forming self-sufficient communities that existed physically along side but culturally outside of mainstream society.

Many of the founding principles of these alternative communities were highly enlightened and widely influential upon mass culture as it evolved in later decades. These groups strove to “live off the land,” giving birth to the organic farming movement that has long since gone mainstream. They engaged in forms of group therapy and psychoanalysis that have become so widespread that popular media portray even mobsters as seeing shrinks. And child rearing underwent a transition from “spare the rod and spoil the child” to treating kids as “little adults” and affording them an equal status. This led to modern parents, many of whom see society at large as obligated to care for and discipline their children, since their role is to be their “best friend.”

It would be wonderful to portray the breakthroughs of this era purely as part of a quest for a “Better Way” undertaken by altruistic adventurous spirits seeking to enlighten their fellow man. But that would be Hippy Bullshit.

Not that these folks weren’t well-intentioned; it’s just that when it comes right down to it, everybody besides Mother Theresa and Gandhi tends to look out for number one, and the ‘70’s Hippies I grew up with were no exception.

It certainly sounded evolved to strive to “be open” and “do your own thing.” But when you looked a little closer, “be open” turned out to mean “fuck people outside of my relationship” and “do your own thing” was another way of saying, “I don’t want to do what you want me to do.” It’s striking how often things done by Hippies for the “greater good” just so happened to yield results that were personally gratifying to them.

This often had a direct impact on the Hippy kids growing up in this environment. Our parents wanted us to be “independent” - meaning, cook our own meals, wash our own clothes and get ourselves to school. They positioned this as a progressive, new way of raising children to make them more responsible and self-reliant. Of course, making us fend for ourselves just happened to allow our parents more time… to “do their own thing”!

When a crisis would unfold, such as The Great Scabies Outbreak of 1973, we were told in no uncertain terms, “You have a problem. What are you going to do about your Scabies problem?” Sure, the adults would eventually come around and take us to the doctor to pick up some Quell shampoo, but their initial take on the problem was one of personal, not parental responsibility. Did that make us more independent and self-sufficient? You bet. It was either that or live with Scabies! But the notion that this was done “for our own good” is simply denying the fact that it was inconvenient to tend to our medical needs… or even (gasp) take us to the doctor. (Note: If you don’t know what Scabies are, consider yourself fortunate.)

In retrospect, many of the most amusing philosophical debates of this era were argued on this same “greater good” platform, but clearly were influenced by personal agendas. If a Hippy did not own land, all land belonged “to the people.” This conveniently justified not paying rent, trespassing on private property and growing dope in national forests. Obviously, a Hippy who owned land wanted to welcome some visitors and get rid of others, invoking the law when necessary.

A Hippy man would often impress upon his wife or girlfriend that it was important that they  “be open” and “not be uptight” (i.e. fuck other people). But with two infants in tow, the Hippy woman could not as easily sleep around and thus would call him out on his “self-centered” behavior.

Hippy men in their twenties and thirties justified sleeping with underage girls as “ushering them into the ways of womanhood” in the tradition of various indigenous peoples. This was a highly controversial practice, as many of their peers agreed with the law’s position as this being inappropriate and destructive. They were, of course, accused of being “uptight.”

The Hippy adults of this time were exhibiting behavior that was commonplace in the “Me Decade.” This was a time of self-discovery, self-involvement and self-gratification. It’s the characterizations of their intentions as somehow noble or in everyone else’s best interest that I dispute. Being forced to cook for fifty people before we were teenagers certainly did force us kids to hit the ground running and learn skills we otherwise wouldn’t have. But it wasn’t done for our benefit; it was done so the adults didn’t have to cook as often.

I never have regretted how I was raised. I may piss and moan about this and that, but overall I had a happy and adventuresome childhood. I benefited from good parenting, a strongly enforced work ethic and a spectacular redwood forest as my home. But there were chances taken and boundaries crossed and it wasn’t all orgies and acid trips. All I ask is for accountability. Don’t tell me that making me fend for myself was for my own good. Don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining.