“Much about that summer, looking back, seems incredibly foolish and narcissistic and grandiose,” said Oskar Eustis, 48, the artistic director of the Public Theater who was 9 in 1967 and whose parents took him to a demonstration at which protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon. “But it’s not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did.”...ADDED: I was a high school kid during the Summer of Love, and I was deeply affected by the hippie zeitgeist. But I never liked the people who wanted to appropriate the creativity and energy for political purposes, and I'm irked even now by those who say that the political activism was the good part and everything else was childish or narcissistic. I think what I thought then: They have no feeling for art and philosophy. The hippie thing was: Tune in, turn on, drop out. "Drop out" meant, among other things, leaving politics to the squares. Have you ever taken LSD? Did you think about politics at all when you were there? No, the political types like the Yippies were appropriating what they didn't create every bit as much as the advertising agency that made a Windex commercial out of "Let the Sun Shine In."
Mr. Eustis of the Public Theater said he hoped to invoke the utopianism of 1967 without simply playing to nostalgia that runs on the desire to forget, not to remember. “Nostalgia is a corrupting emotion,” he said. “You’re imagining a lack of contradiction in the past. You’re imagining something that wasn’t true. It’s a longing to be a child again, to have magical thinking about the world.”
But he added that nostalgia could also have a “progressive aspect” that pushes people to think forward rather than back, to “remember that you can imagine a world that is different, where money didn’t determine value, where competition wasn’t the nature of human relations.
“That imagination can be powerful,” he continued. “The dream is real. The negative aspect of nostalgia is when we want that feeling that everything is possible, but we don’t want to do anything about it. That’s just narcissistic. That’s longing to feel important again. Baby boomers are very good at that.”
Oskar Eustis is 48. That means he was 8 years old in the Summer of Love. He's not talking about feeling what it was like first hand. I think Amba was saying a while back that what really imprints on you is what was happening when you were 17. That puts Eustis in 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, Jimmy Carter, Patty Hearst, "The Gong Show," the Son of Sam, and the unification of North and South Vietnam into a communist country. For music, well, there was "Frampton Comes Alive," all that disco, KISS, and maybe you noticed the Sex Pistols. I can see how, stuck with that, you would look back on the previous decade as a source for ideas that fit you political preferences. But that wouldn't be nostalgic, would it? Because it's progressive, and progressive means looking forward.