Among my friends there are some twenty and thirty somethings who say they are hippies. At first when they mentioned it I was kind of pleased. Since staying current and never being “old school” seems to be important I’d pretty much assumed the whole hippie thing interested only people my age and I got a kick out of it that they wanted to be hippies. Over time though I started waffling between that pleasure and a little bit of discomfort that they don’t mean what I do when they talk about hippies.
Now, to be honest, I’m a tad young in the hippie thing so I made the tail end of the Viet Nam war protests and hung with the hippie crowd on campus, but I missed the height of it all in the mid to late sixties. And my experience was that collegiate, anti-war side of the whole thing. The flower child/ hang out and be loose thing I knew of more from movies and documentaries than personal experience and my only encounter with the opt-out-of-society/back-to-the-land types was a bitter one while living in a small commune in the late seventies. So, my view of what it meant to be a hippie is circumscribed.
But for us it was more than wearing faded jeans and shirts from India and opting out of mainstream society – we were devoted to ending the war and very politicized. It changed my whole academic focus so that I studied economics and political science and sociology in search of “the” truth about power in this country and what form of government and/or economic system would be better. The air buzzed as we tossed out lofty ideas, marched for peace and believed we could change the world.
When I look at pictures or films of those days I feel that kind of nostalgia where your whole body is back in those times. For me, it’s a time of excitement and camaraderie and the sense of doing important things that could make a difference. And when I hear the young ones now who say they’re hippies, I don’t have the same sense. When I talk to them about it, I don’t feel like they are resonating to my sense of what was. When I searched through pictures on the internet to find one for this post, I found I could tell with very high accuracy which photos were of new hippies and which really came from the sixties and it wasn’t that I was looking closely at the styles they were wearing or other tells. It was just how they felt to me.
I don’t really care whether younger people want to call themselves hippies, but I am curious whether I’m the only old days hippie who feels like they don’t get who we were. ???