Contrary to popular belief, the counterculture didn't start with the Haight-Ashbury, nor did it end with Woodstock. People have asked me what it was about that time period that was so special and what happened to the people involved with it. These are questions almost every student studying the time period wants to know. I was lucky to have been old enough to be able to observe what was happening and to understand the dynamics of it. Once that happened, I knew I had to become a part of it. I'll have more on that later but first I hope to answer those nagging questions.
There probably always has been and probably always will be a group of people who refuse to conform to the norms of society and have no desire to climb the corporate ladder or otherwise be part of the rat race. Instead, they belong to what's known as the counterculture.
Throughout history, the counterculture has had different names, sometimes put-down names from an older generation. For example, the bohemians of today (generation X) are known as slackers. I have no idea who coined that name, only that there's a movie by that name that I haven't seen yet. Before there were Hippies, there were The Beats, who named them. It was a put-down name that meant Beat wannabe. The Hippies returned the faver to the younger generation, calling them teeny boppers. The name didn't stick, however, because as soon as we got into our 20's, we were long past the wannabe stage, so by default, we became Hippies. It was the teeny boppers who were the baby boomers. Most of the Hippies were born before they dropped the bomb (early 40s).
The older bohemian movements were self-named. Jack Kerouac was credited with naming the Beats, but he probably lifted it from one of the other Beats. The bohemian movement before the Beat Generation was called the Lost Generation and before that were the Romantics and before that were the Gypies, which is where the word Bohemian comes from, since gypsies were thought to come from a country known as Bohemia. The point I'm trying to make here is you can trace the counterculture all the way back to Diogenes and the Cynics, a group not that much different from Ken Kesey and the Pranksters.
Now as to what happened to the Hippies, we're still out there. It's just that we're not front page news every day like we were back then. We still have our gatherings and rock and roll continues to happen, although maybe not like it did in the sixties. Back then, the Beatles had just come out and everyone wanted to be in a rock and roll band. It was a time period before the drug wars and all the anti-drug crapola now being pushed in schools.
One of the reasons we were so visible in the sixties was there was a war going on that we were trying to stop, so naturally, we did a lot of protesting. That meant for great television news, much more so than the drug wars we are now protesting, although that is getting some coverage.
People have also asked me why I became a Hippie. I tell them that I think I was always one. Instead of becoming one, what happened was I accidentally went to San Francisco at the right time and found my tribe. This is what is known as getting on the bus (Kesey's metaphor for becoming part of the group consciousness). The thing that attracted me to the counterculture were their values. They were against the war. I knew there had to be a good reason for them being against the war, and it turned out that there was. It turned out that the war didn't accomplish anything except killing people and to mess up the minds of the troops who went over there to serve their country. Naturally, when they come back and found out that they were hoodwinked by their country into that war, they're a little pissed off about it.
Another thing I guess I should mention here is I didn't exactly dig the values of my parents, who are more or less intellectual snobs. They didn't like all the things I did like, such as rock and roll, motorcycles, drugs and altered states of consciousness, or anything else of a pagan matter. They had their square arts that I didn't dig, and they didn't dig my pagan arts. So naturally, when the bus came by and I got a chance to get on and become a part of the counterculture, nothing in the world could keep me off of it, not even my uptight parents.
So what did the Hippies accomplish, besides their music, that is? I think we scored points in the area of getting people to think for themselves and to question authority and also in the area of networking. Questioning authority was what brought down Nixon and what also eventually ended the war. Networking is what you're doing right now, using a network to access this site. Networking is an old Hippie concept. Before the days of computers, we used to network through our underground newspapers. That's how we were able to get 400,000 to show up at Woodstock. Now we network through the Internet.
I'm glad to say I feel we're moving in the right direction. I think
that we can do a lot with the Internet, because it gives us the ability
to publish for the cost of a web site. It means that anyone can
be the media, not just the cats with the big bucks and special interests.
This is already starting to turn things around on the medical marijuana
issue. To see what I'm talking about, try taking a look at some of the
sites on the sex, drugs and rock and roll
page. It used to be that you only got the government lies, but now, thanks
to the Internet, you can also get the truth. So next time you're wondering
what happened to the counterculture, all you have to remember that it now
lives on the Internet, on this web site and hundreds of other like-minded
Copyright ©1998, Colin Pringle