May 19, 2007

"Is it possible to extract the Summer of Love from the distorting filter of narcissism?"

Or is narcissism the essence of the Summer of Love? Anyway, take note. This year is a milestone. It was exactly 40 years ago.
“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.”...

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.”
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."

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.

72 comments:

PatCA said...

Yes, nostalgia is a corrupting emotion. It stops one from remembering the consequences of our fabled stopping the war in Vietnam. It was a little less grand than he paints it.

Paco Wové said...

F*ing boomers. I hate those guys.

Palladian said...

"where competition wasn’t the nature of human relations"

Competition is always the nature of human relations. In fact, competition is the nature of all life. The "flower children" seem to think that they weren't themselves competing with the ideology of the "man".

PatCA said...

Palladian,
Well said. It fits into what I said about The Sopranos. It's all about competition for survival, nature. Maybe this shows signals, finally, the end of the '60s?

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian: How can you say that? Don't you know:

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation

joe said...

It's hard to say narcissism did not corrupt the zeitgeist back then, when we were told, "if it feels good, do it." I agree with Ann how the Yippies tried to appropriate the energy for their own purposes. The art, the creativity, the freedom was what attracted me, as a 15 year old working for my dad in Greenwich Village, to the scene. I learned early about the oppressiveness of political activists when I was berated by a lefty type for reading Ayn Rand. Politically incorrect even then.

Saul said...

In many ways, the drug culture in the 60s was just an excuse to get laid.

yashu said...

Haha Hair! Oh, i'm so un-hippy, but I love Hair. My guilty pleasure sing-along musical. Aqua-ri-us...

John Stodder said...

At risk of seeming like an egomaniac, I'll point to an old post on my blog -- about the Beatles' Revolver album -- because I think it fits this discussion:
http://tinyurl.com/3cp52d

What I say in there is that refusal and deconstruction were the essence of the sixties revolution; letting go of the world and the rules we live by.

I think this is a pretty good passage, and it dovetails what you're saying here, Ann:

Movies like “The Big Chill” or “Running on Empty,” try to tell you that the drama of the 1960s featured young idealists who wanted to create a new world based on social justice, but fell short because they grew up, went “straight,” and abandoned their ideals.

Listen again to Revolver, and you hear something entirely different and contrary to that myth. The revolutions of the 1960s were not so much about politics as they were about states of mind — the elevation of subjective truth above traditional wisdom. And, looking at the world around us, I’d have to say that revolution was a success — and it continues.

You’ve heard the quote, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts?” There’s a reason Gen. Barry McCaffery felt compelled to say that. For many in our society, subjective truth is now the higher truth. When did that idea begin to reach popular culture? I would argue Revolver was a major source.

Meade said...

The urge toward mockery and derision aside for one brief moment, I have to admit I still find harmony, understanding, no falsehoods, and true liberation to be timelessly worthwhile aspirations.

Ann Althouse said...

John: "And, looking at the world around us, I’d have to say that revolution was a success — and it continues"

Have you read "The Long March" by Roger Kimball. He develops more or less that theory with tons of examples. I think he goes overboard, but it's very interesting and well done.

Re: "Hair." I want to go on record that I disapproved of "Hair." It was a Broadway show, and it didn't really represent hippie values -- which it criticized. But mainly, it just wasn't rock music. It was aimed at the squares. The movie, done much later, is actually kid of nicely done, but it's not of the time.

Palladian said...

"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 narcissitic."

That's a good point. The aesthetics of the later 1960s interested me very much as a young person, but the politics completely turned me off. In fact, politics usually soils anything it touches. It's like the bony, lecherous hand of an old man fondling a child.

vet66 said...

Lost in the haze of hippie anarchy were the fate of millions who died in Viet Nam and Cambodia. Our cowardly political establishment used the Watergate Scandal to pull the plug on the South VietNamese. The NVA filled the vacuum and Cambodia's Pol Pot embarked on a scale of genocide not known since Stalin.

The 5th Dimension's 'Aqaurius' unknowingly captured the moment in their lyrics "The minds true liberation..." when the cowards among us turned their collective backs on our ally, South VietNam, withdrew funding and parts, and never looked back through the narcissistic haze of marijuana smoke, 50% divorce rate, single mothers, STD's, suicides, drug/alcohol addiction, and a nanny state designed to keep them free of responsibility and accountability.

That is one fine gravestone inscription for the sorriest generation in the history of the U.S. "When the moon is in the 7th house..." must be now, because these fools are trying to replicate the Viet Nam scenario again, only this time in Iraq.

History will not be kind to this segment of the Baby Boomers!

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Your tag misspells "hippies" as "hippes."

I know. I'm a square.

rsb said...

And my brother's back at home
With his Beatles and his Stones
We never got if off on that revolution stuff
What a drag
Too many snags

Gary Carson said...

The summer of love had nothing to do with politics or the war. I was 18 and in San Fransico for two weeks that summer.

The hippie movement represented by that summer was very much anti-establishment, but that's as far as politics went in the early hippie movement.

I wrote something about that summer about a month ago.

yashu said...

It's interesting... just the other day I happened to catch "You Can't Take It With You" (1938, directed by Frank Capra, from the Moss & Hart play, ) on AMC: it struck me that the values it celebrates prefigure the drop-out, follow-your-bliss, artistic-creative aspect of the 60's. Star-crossed lovers from two families: one rich, stodgy, father runs a big corporation, expects son to follow suit; the other completely eccentric, wacky, loveable, all the family members have 'dropped out' of society to live a life that gives them pleasure: manufacturing firecrackers, (badly) dancing ballet, writing trashy novels, collecting strangers who arrived at their home and never left... it's like a wacky commune. But it's a very *libertarian* vision: the grandfather, paterfamilias of the eccentric family, hasn't paid his taxes for 22 years ('cause what does he get for it?). It isn't pushing a 'best' form of life, but the freedom to pursue a happy life as you might invent it for yourself-- free of societal expectation, government interference, the drudgery of office work. And it's claimed to be a distinctly *American* value (at one point the grandfather mocks the 'isms'-- fascism, communism, etc.-- cf. the date!-- obsessed with telling you how to live-- and invokes a list of names, e.g. Twain, as heroes. (Fascinatingly, one of the sons-in-law gets into trouble for obliviously printing & putting scandalous propaganda-- e.g. "Dynamite the Capitol!"-- into the wrappers of the candy his wife makes & sells... haha proto yippie anarchism! wow-- albeit 'innocuous' & unintentional here.)

It struck me that a lot of the screwball-ness of the screwball comedies celebrates this kind of... playfulness, childlikeness, resisiting the dull values of the 'adult' world, presenting the possibility of inventing another kind of life for yourself-- life as an aesthetic project, which you have the right to define for yourself. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Holiday-- in which Cary Grant's dream, his heroic project, is precisely to go 'on holiday': stop working, drop out for a while, travel, find himself... and chooses one sister (Kate Hepburn) over another (his beautiful fiancee, who expects him to work for her father, live in the mansion bought & paid for, etc.). Here, too, there is a wonderful scene of a (private) party within a party-- the collection of eccentic individuals who withdraw from the world of 'society' (the grand party below) into a playroom of sorts, where they sing & dance & do silly acrobatics...

It really struck me as a genealogical antecedent to hippie-dom... that is, the libertarian, individualistic-yet-communal, aesthetic, playful, dropping-out aspect of hippie-dom, political only insofar as it claims for itself a *freedom* from politics, *freedom* from ideology, *freedom* from society at large. Anti-establishment not in a utopian way-- e.g. advocating a revolution that will sweep away the establishment & create a new society-- but in a private way, as a form of life one can choose for oneself, leaving everyone to their freedom. Celebrated as a uniquely American possibility (in contrast to those isms): a right to the pursuit of happiness (as you might define happiness uniquely for yourself). I like the Cary Grant version more than the Timothy Leary one (or Abbie Hoffman one!). Anyway... interesting.

GeorgeH said...

When I listen to the music of 40 years ago I remember being vaguely stoned, everything smelling vaguely of incense and unwashed bodies, frenetic but trivial sex, crabs.

Nostalgia?

Not a lot of difference between the Summer of Love and a trailer park except it was Rock and Wine instead of C&W and Beer.

Steven said...

“But it’s not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did.”

Ah, yes. Everybody knows that a direct result of the Summer of Love in 1967 was the 1973 peace treaty. This peace treaty, to which the U.S., Republic of Vietnam, Viet Cong, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam were parties, was enduring, even after the U.S. withdrew all forces. In recent years the historically mutually hostile governments in Saigon and Hanoi have even begun a careful rapprochement.

J. said...

I'm attracted to the idea of just loving life and being endlessly hopeful...nostalgic for the dream, if you will...but there does seem a selfishness to the 60's, born possibly out of a reactionary nature.

I see a similarity today among my progressive friends -- it's born, rooted, and irretrievably mired in a reactionary worldview.

But I also met a couple college students who went to Haiti for their spring break. Hopeful, centered kids who passed on Florida and helped people staple their shacks together. Stunning. They didn't act like they were changing the world -- just serving the folks they worked for.

It's that kind of sacrifice that makes smoking pot, havin' sex, and dropping out just look foolish, IMHO.

jane said...

"...the libertarian, individualistic-yet-communal, aesthetic, playful, dropping-out aspect of hippie-dom, political only insofar as it claims for itself a *freedom* from politics, *freedom* from ideology, *freedom* from society at large. Anti-establishment not in a utopian way-... but in a private way, as a form of life one can choose for oneself, leaving everyone to their freedom. Celebrated as a uniquely American possibility (in contrast to those isms): a right to the pursuit of happiness..."

Oh, the self-expressive joy-seeking elites who afford themselves not only carefree wackiness but who also moralize over stodgy occupation. Their happy-go-lucky whimsy presupposes that enough people will do that office or corporate drudgery, else family money or social/ economic infrastructure and choice would disappear and force a subsistence living onto everybody. Existing to find one’s bliss only works for the anti-Calvin Elect few. The rest of humanity needs to produce to eat to live, and it has found that banding together in enterprise is a pretty efficient way of doing it. Of course, such work is never beautiful, fun or romantic enough for the Exceptions among us to commit to or participate in.

The Exceptions can be fascinating characters and artists, but they should be grateful and not dismissive of the system’s Leaders and Lunchbox Joes.

yashu said...

Ah yes! I agree Jane... there's something aristocratic & elitist & self-indulgent about the screwball ethos at times (cf. The Philadelphia Story-- its mocking of the hard-working bourgeois fiance).

And in "You Can't Take it With You", there's an exasperating naivete to the grandfather's screwball wisdom. In his argument with the tax inspector (re why he should pay taxes), the inspector very reasonably points out: protection from invasion, supplying the army navy weapons ships etc.-- which the grandfather mockingly shrugs off (i.e. what good is that to *me*?)... as if (here & elsewhere) the film were suggesting the wisdom of pacifism (and a shocking kind of selfishness!). Given the date, and the ambiguity of the film, and the invocation of fascism etc., I couldn't be sure whether the film fully advocated the grandfather's position... or indulged him, in a way. He does fit the isolationist-pacifist-libertarian type-- extending to world politics his view of domestic life, uninterfering & uninterfered with, as if his beautiful little bubble of screwball happiness was secure, not dependent on "the US Government" (a character in the film, in the guise of meddlesome officials) & unthreatened by larger forces...

And in his argument with the other paterfamilias (the businessman), the latter makes quite a few good points... but he too finally succumbs to screwball wisdom. Again, couldn't be sure whether the film completely sides with the 'proto-hippies' (it certainly seems to)... or whether there's a little bit of a subtle critique, a bit of distance from them. At any rate, in this film the screwball characters are populist (capra-esque) rather than elitist; they're happy but also kind of ridiculous. Not the glamorous Grant-Hepburn aristos.

Oligonicella said...

"In his argument with the tax inspector (re why he should pay taxes), the inspector very reasonably points out: protection from invasion, supplying the army navy weapons ships etc.-- which the grandfather mockingly shrugs off (i.e. what good is that to *me*?)"

That's why I loved W.C. At that point, he would have socked gramps in the nose and said, "That's why. Ya don't want that happening to your country, do ya?"

Laika's Last Woof said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laika's Last Woof said...

"I never liked the people who wanted to appropriate the creativity and energy for political purposes ..."

"Ma'am, I need to clear out your giggling stoners and your drum-circle hippies RIGHT NOW, or soon they're gonna attract something much worse: the college know-it-all hippies!"

-- Eric Cartman, "Die Hippie Die!", South Park

Tim said...

The Summer of Love was about actualizing adolescent fantasies into adulthood, free-riding off of the productivity of the rest. It's easy to "Turn on, tune in, drop out" when 90% of the adult population of working age is keeping the system running.

Or was there ever a "Summer of Love" in Ethiopia? I've forgotten.

dave™© said...

I was a high school kid during the Summer of Love.

Since the Blithering Idiot normally claims to be 49, she's lying about something here... no fucking surprise there, of course...

Kirby Olson said...

You're right that those people didn't have any feeling for art or philosophy. Unfortunately, they are now tenured professors in the humanities all across the country but they have no feeling for the arts or the humanities.

They took those fields over because of the prestige of those fields as being an area of human freedom, and then they circumscribed those fields with political ambitions.

The result is agit-prop.

And meanwhile the average citizen in Vietnam has an annual average income of 324 dollars a year.

The summer of love made us all eat their shit for the last 40 years.

Thank goodness for death.

Peter Palladas said...

Have you ever taken LSD?

Yes of course. Have you? No of course you haven't.

Whoever called it 'LSD'? Acid man. We all did. For good reasons. Highly corrosive.

But the again remember Amsterdam, Vondel Park '69, California Sunshine on blotting paper? Just never knew how much you were taking.

Thirty foot high Mickey Mouse strolls through the darkness, waving slowly and smiling at his many adorers. Hells Angel plays twelve sting acoustic blues - that much was real. Each note its own unique colour wafting and weaving through the universe. (OK that bit might have been me.)

Then one night three young Swedes dying in the park of hideous strychnine poisoning from laced acid. That was terribly true. Their death spasms. Grotesque. You had to see it to believe.

We went home after that.

dave™© said...

Of course, If You Remember It - You Weren't There!

John Stodder said...

To me, that era is bracketed at the other end by 1975, the specific moment a spring evening after the collapse of the Saigon government, sitting at my apartment kitchen table in Berkeley, from which I could see Telegraph Avenue. There was a parade of people noisily celebrating the communist takeover.

At that point, my brain exploded. I was as opposed to the Vietnam war as anyone of "my generation." But not because I preferred communism. Far from it. I just thought it was an idiotic place for the U.S. to make a stand, an idiotic place to sacrifice tens of thousands American lives in what was at best a sideshow to a sideshow in the Cold War. But: celebrate a communist takeover? I was deeply embarassed. Then after that: The boat people, the killing fields, Pol Pot... I noted that a lot of my liberal friends blamed the U.S. for all that too. If we hadn't done xyz, then... The logic was so tendentious, I can't even remember it.

I still feel just as strongly that Vietnam war was a horrible, wasteful mistake. But I bet a lot more boomers than just me had a similar epiphany about the essential phoniness and logical disconnect required to be a left-winger. I was a left-winger, but after 1975-76, I wasn't anymore.

TMink said...

“But it’s not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did.”...

What you mean "we" white man? He was 8, I was 7. We were watching Roy Rogers and playing cowboy. If he misses that germain point, I am not interested in his others.

But it is interesting how much vituperative energy the post is bringing up here. My assessment of the Summer of Love, from study rather than participation, is that is was just before the tide turned from hedonistic, utopian abandon to something much darker. I wonder if the drugs changrd from pot and acid to speed and cocaine about then.

Trey

ricpic said...

The '60's was horse puckey. But you had to be fully formed when that great tide of seawrack came in to have seen it for what it was. The unformed got caught in the wreckage and have never, for the mostpart, managed to get themselves uncaught.

jane said...

“The unformed got caught in the wreckage and have never, for the mostpart, managed to get themselves uncaught."

And many of the ensnared are running the show now. That's why it wasn't just the Summer of Love back then. It's been more like "The Endless Summer" ever since, as they keep searching out that perfect wave of society, politics, environment, etc. to surf. They’re no longer dropped out, but they’re still cool dudes, so it’s more like ‘Tune in, turn on, and hang ten’ in their We Are the World middle years.

lee david said...

A generation is born in the aftermath of the greatest armed conflict the world has ever known. The big guns are silent but the conclusion of the war saw the use of atomic weapons. A new reality under the glow of Atomic weapon tests sets in. The children who never knew their parents depression and wartime privations only know the tension that the "cold war" produces, learn to "duck and cover in school, grow up under a cloud of apopalyptic predictions and civil defense plans that offer only a faint hope of survival should the worst occur. In the meantime much of the capital, human and monetary, that had been bound up in the war effort is released back into the free market. Growth explodes in the only participating country whose cities weren't touched by the bombs of WWII. We get Cadillac tailfins and Elvis as the generation who fought tries to forget and get back to the business of living. Life is good but, the tension remains and increases with every new development in the arms race that is the face of the cold war. An existential crisis erupts in the form of the Cuban missile crisis. It comes and goes while the bulk of the generation is too young to grasp the potential of what has been averted. Preparedness evolves, progressing from civil defence planning and back yard bomb shelters to mutually assured destruction.

The parents who suffered wage and price controls, wartime rationing, and wartime taxes work hard to forget the real horror of war and shelter their children from it while trying to give them every advantage that they never had the opportunity of having. They can only do so much. The atomic cloud with it's apopalyptic fallout can't be hidden. The results of the ideology of communism that is the opposing force that is causing the tension are hidden behind an iron curtain, behind a haze of propaganda while millions die. Because the results are hidden the generation learns about the ideological struggle in acedemic terms without the benifit of seeing the results. A sheltered generation can't even imagine such horror, they have been denied any frame of reference that would allow it. The tension remains high and real shooting conflict erupts here and there as probing and defensive postures ebb and flow between the two Ideologies. Viet Nam starts out as one of these but ballons into a serious deployment of men and material just as this sheltered generation becomes eligible to participate.

The prosperity of the parents has given the children the freedom and money with which to rebel and form their own culture, a counter culture. They can't understand their parents culture and to a large degree the parents don't want them to understand and feel the things that had so much to do with shaping their lives. The leading expression of the youth culture was of course the music. The kids had the money to buy the records and the clothes. It was an economic demographic that couldn't be ignored. It was party time. But it was party time with a difference, there were drugs.

The atomic tension was still there as the kids of the sheltered generation gained autonomy. They had lived all of their lives with the tension and nothing had happened. They were sick of it. There was a party going on and a utopian theme emerged to keep it going that reached its apotheosis with John Lennons "Imagine". The thing that was spoiling the party was that Viet Nam war. everything would be fine if we could just stop that war. Rock on. Let's party while we protest, and we did.

Donna said...

Yippies. I remember 1970. A night in Boston, stoned night in our apartment on St. Stephens street. Watching "The Point" on TV in a haze when my MIT student husband went downstairs and couldn't open the door to our apartment. Paranoria enused, must be robbers in the apartment! Called the Boston Police for help. Back in those days the copy (pigs) and the Phone Company (Halliburton of the time)were the enemy. I remember the cops with guns drawn, my husband and other friends cowering afraid in the halls, while the police kicked the door in. Copes went in and saw the Yippie Cops are Pigs Poster. The cop said "Yippies, Huh". It was only the carpet sticking the door shut. The Yippies were safe.

babuilder said...

Boomers are also the first group to be raised with (by?) the T.V.

Peter Palladas said...

The '60's was horse puckey

Horses don't puke. They don't sneeze either. So frigging hard to tell what's wrong with a horse.

Ask any hippie. They wouldn't have a frigging clue.

I judge all cults by how well they know their horses. It's a good test.

Ann Althouse said...

Where did I claim to be 49? I've never hidden my age. I was born in 1951, as I've said repeatedly. I graduated from high school in 1969, as I've said repeatedly. Call me old or say I lie about my age but don't say both! I've always called attention to my age because I want to use my first-hand knowledge of things from back then. Jeez.

Pogo said...

I was just past 2nd grade that summer, but had 5 teenaged siblings steeped in the profound cultural changes as they hit Omaha. How quickly that rose faded, though.

By the summer of 1971, hippies had taken over Memorial Park, a few blocks from my house, essentially squatting there full time. To kick them out, a curfew was made for the park, which sparked a riot. I remember my older brother snuck out to watch hippies turn over cop cars and throw Molotov cocktails. My Dad bought a shotgun and stood guard in the front of the house.

By the fall, Dad decided to move, just to get away from the violence and drugs. So he took a lesser job and moved to Minnesota. I didn't understand at the time the kind of fear they had as parents, or the career hit my dad endured for us.

I think his current dementia is a cure for that awful time.

I read today that on Thursday, the UW Madison physics department dedicated a plaque in memory of Robert Fassnacht, a post-doc student killed in the Aug. 24, 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall. "The perpetrators hadn't counted on someone like Fassnacht being there at the time. Karl Armstrong, one of four people involved in the plot, said later that they bombed Sterling Hall in the wee hours of the night because they assumed it would be vacant. They hadn't wanted anyone to be hurt."

The summer of love was a necessary precursor to that event.

Steven said...

Hey, I know that on a number of occasions I've claimed to be sixteen. So, since I'm not sixteen, somebody like dave™© could well jump to the conclusion that I've misstated my age.

Of course, all those times I claimed to be sixteen were in 1994 and 1995.

Rob said...

I grew up in and around San Francisco, and spent the summer of 1967 living near the Haight, taking a summer school class at USF in the morning and hanging out in the Hashbury or the Park most afternoons, doing everything from playing pretty competitive tennis on the Golden Gate Park courts to partying all hours with older friends who'd been living in that part of the City for several years, going to rock concerts and then to parties afterwards with some of the bands, getting stoned and laid, and basically having a great time. OH, yeah, and pulled the Hare Krishna swami's juggernaut through the Park

As much as there was an anti-war movement big time, and as much as people wore peace symbols and buttons that said "make love not war" -- that time was really not about leftist politics, except in the countercultural sense of adolescent rebellion and a desire to be left alone by the world to take drugs, hang out and have sex.

I actually remember that many of the movement radicals in those days, before '68, tended to be much cleaner cut than the hippies, whose connection with the beats was about alienation from work a day life, not politics per se.

Zeb Quinn said...

In the summer of 1967 I passed through San Francisco with friends, on my way from Las Vegas where I grew up to Oregon to begin college. We had to stop there. There was just famously too much supposedly happening there not to. We were there for a week. It was fun and interesting. But once we got to Eugene we found that it really wasn't too much different in many ways. The way I remember it is that in 1967 the hippie culture was not political at all, other than being generally anti-establishment, and the anti-war movement was mainly anti-draft. At least that's what to a large extent drove it. People tend to forget that back in those days the war was Lyndon Johnson's war, and the Democrats controlled everything. So the Democrats were not liked any better than the Republicans, maybe even less. The hippies weren't feeling political, at least not in terms of left-right or Democrat-Republican. After 1968 that changed, and the political left moved to co-opt the counterculture and take possession of it as its own.

As fate would have it, exactly two years later I was in the Navy, and spent 6 months including the summer of 1969 on Treasure Island in San Francisco going to a technical school. Actually, San Francisco seemed pretty much the same as it was in 1967.

And, yes, by then the hippies had been appropriated, including by the Yippies and other political types. But also by others, and in ways even more exploitatively. The music and motion picture industries come to mind.

Peter Palladas said...

Paris '68. That was far more interesting. Not to mention easier to get to. Street fighting men we were. Kinda.

A English policeman confronted with a protester he wants to hurt takes his truncheon and stabs you in the stomach like a Roman legionary.

A French gendarme, au contraire - naturally, unholsters his pistol, points it in your face and you crap yourself.

Both tactics had their respective merits as methods of law enforcement.

Can't really concentrate on overthrowing the state with either an umbilical hernia or else a trouserful of poo.

Peter Palladas said...

I was born in 1951, as I've said repeatedly.

Of course, and I for one am so glad.

At my age it is near impossible any longer to find an 'older woman' - just - after whom properly to lust.

A man has to be worried about himself when he begins to find alluring the prospect of a septuagenarian Sophia Loren promising to strip naked in public if her team wins some football competition.

Nunway said...

Mr. Eustis asserted:

"But it’s not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did.”

General Giap and the rest of the North Vietnamese military and political leaders, as they went about their continued military operations against South Vietnam culminating with the 1975 invasion, and then went about imposing the brutal tyranny of Communism on the people of South Vietnam, must not have noticed that the all peaceful, all knowing, and all harmonic Baby Bommers had ended the war.

AllenS said...

40 years ago, I was at Ft. Bragg with the 82nd Abn. Div. Nobody was lovin AllenS.

Oligonicella said...

Peter Palladas said...

"Horses don't puke. They don't sneeze either. So frigging hard to tell what's wrong with a horse."

"I judge all cults by how well they know their horses. It's a good test."

You should perhaps rejudge the cults.


Horse
sneezing
and
vomiting.

Oligonicella said...

Trey --

I remember people experimenting with coke, speed, etc right from the git-go. I tried both and did not, did not, did not like them. Stayed with pot and mushrooms. Never saw the draw of puking mesc for four hours just to catch a cartoon and junk was already a taboo, especially as there were several junkies in my neighborhood where I grew up. Acid was only good for a couple of years, until biker gangs started making it.

As to VN, let us not forget we didn't go there to liberate, we went there to help the French keep control of a colony. Had they peacefully relinquished to VN its freedom, who knows how it would have played.

Ann Althouse said...

"after whom properly to lust"

I love all that grammatical correctness from the guy looking for "proper" lust. What would we have said about that in the 60s?

About "horse puckey." I think it's spelled "horse pucky." And it's not puke.

Peter said...

I had a ringside seat to The Summer Of Love because I'd gotten dinged in a kittle fracas across the pond. The Corps sent me to the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, across the Bay from San Francisco in Oakland.

I spent the whole spring, summer and fall of '67 in Oakland and at the Marine Barracks at the Treasure Island Naval Station, there in San Francisco Bay.

Since there isn't much for a Corporal trained only in infantry who was in plaster from his toes to his crotch on one leg to do, I got a lot of time off. Being twenty years old I spent a lot of time both arounf the Haight and in Bezerkley, looking for folks my my age.

The Summer Of Love was a myth from the getgo. The only kids that made it over there in San Francisco were those who had families sending them money. The others sold dope, or themselves to eat.

I don't know how many teenaged girls, and boys came to San Francisco with flowers in their hair and left with a heroin addiction and syphilis plus two kinds of lice.

comatus said...

I was in SF and area in 1966, the summer before. I was 14, and pretty impressed with people I met who were forging a productive life outside the conventional economy. They were long-hairs, self-sufficient, apolitically libertarian, and not on welfare. One guy made his own clothes, and also custom banjos. Today he's the top banjo maker in the country. Another was living in a borrowed beach house for a year to write his novel. He published the novel, and went on to become a leading authority on Persian carpets. And so on. As far as I'm concerned, 'Summer of Love' was nothing but a media cash-in on a growing nationwide cultural segment, talkingheadedley miscast and misunderestimated as everything the media ever looks at for 15 minutes, and generally spoiled things for a lot of honest and hardworking weirdo capitalists. I've spent 40 years trying to be as independent and unbeholden as those guys were then, and will never forgive Time and Life for imposing their very limited sense of identity, and getting me an a million others typecast for a lifetime.

DaveC said...

I would argue that 1967 marks the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s. The zeitgeist of my 60s originates in reaction against the 50s, in a European coffeehouse mentality (berets, bongos, beatniks, and especially existentialism). The real 60s was intellectual, associated with the civil rights and anti-war movements, largely drug-free except for jazz musicians, and about freedom (and just look at the Free Speech Movement guys at Berkeley in their sportoats). The entry of drugs into this scene was a disaster. When I was at the Monterey Pop Festival, I saw litle drug use, and we all sat in the arena on metal folding chairs, not knowing that an explosive Dionysian sensibility was about to blow it all away.

W. Keller said...

There were a lot of events that occurred in the summer of 67, but non bring to mind a “Summer of Love”.

I was 17 at the time and particularly interested in the events going on in Vietnam. I would graduate the next summer and be in the military within 6 weeks. It would take until April of 70 to make it to Vietnam. An experience I volunteered for and, to this day, know was the right thing to do – both as an individual and as a country. Our exit was a different matter.

In mid-July 67 I was at a Tiger’s game in Detroit when the city exploded leaving over 100 dead in 5 days. Not much love to be found there.

The drugs, the “free” sex, tripping, acid – they were all someone else’s scene but watching them, they had little to do with a “Summer of Love”.

Sometimes a catch phrase is simply used to cover up bad behavior

Kirby Olson said...

General Giap and the rest of the North Vietnamese military and political leaders, as they went about their continued military operations against South Vietnam culminating with the 1975 invasion, and then went about imposing the brutal tyranny of Communism on the people of South Vietnam, must not have noticed that the all peaceful, all knowing, and all harmonic Baby Bommers had ended the war.

-- This killed me, Nunway. Loved it. Thanks.

Buddy Larsen said...

From the first Boomer birth to the election of Ronald Reagan was 34 years, with the Kennedy assassination at the exact halfway point; 17 years on either side. What does this mean? Hell if I know.

Rob said...

comatus talks about the summer of '66 before the hype and he's pretty much right. That summer was the last summer of innocence, when most of the people who would be called 'hippies' in a year were doing their thing pretty independently, smoking some weed, maybe some recreational pharmaceuticals (but not all day all the time), were taking care of each other (the famous 'diggers' - several of whom were guys a few years older than I was whom I'd known growing up in the Bay Area. And the music! The best thing about the Bay Area scene in 1965-67 were the innovative 'acid rock' bands, the concerts at the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, and, in the summer, up on the Russian River at various resorts. That was the core of what became the "Summer of Love" scene hyped in the media, and honestly, most of the people who showed up to be part of the summer of 1967 in the City were just there for the party - a new way to be cool, rebel against the 'rents, and try absolute freedom on before going home to grow up. They were like the extras on a Hollywood spectacular film -- absolutely necessary to create the atmosphere, but not really an integral part of what was happening.

I remember when I graduated from high school in 1966, in the North Bay Area but not in the City, perhaps half-a-dozen of my high school class of 500+ had tried pot ... when I came back from my freshman year at an Eastern college, of the class behind me, perhaps only 10-15% hadn't smoked pot. Virtually my entire high school class had turned on over that year.

So, it was very much a pivotal year in California. French historian Paul Hazard once wrote of the changes in French thought between 1685 and 1715 that it was as if the average educated Frenchman had gone to bed thinking like Bossuet and woke up thinking like Voltaire.

For young adults in their late teens, and early twenties, in California, the year from the spring of 1966 through the summer of 1967 was like that: as if we went to bed playing the Beach Boys and woke up to the Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin.

I would also strongly emphasize that the only thing that made any of the young people political in any strong sense was the draft -- opposition to the war in Vietnam as about not going to scenic Southeast Asia on a MacNamara Fellowship (as we called it) - girls didn't want the guys to go and a lot of the guys didn't really want to either. So, it became cool to be against the war. The anti-war movement was built on a desire to be cool, a desire to get laid, and fear of getting killed if you got drafted.

Fat Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

Bah! I hated the effing 60s! I don't ever want to think about those years again.

Fat Man said...

"Is it possible to extract the Summer of Love from the distorting filter of narcissism?"

No. Narcissism is the defining trait of the odious "Baby Boomers" (a/k/a "The Worst Generation"). You will all be so much better off when we (I are one) are dirt napping, it will be the first time that our narcissism will be justified.

Peter Palladas said...

What would we have said about that in the 60s?

So hard to say for sure, but even back then good grammar and manners counted for something.

I was at a Dead concert and you American guys were hollering out the songs they wanted to hear with all the subtle nuance of a defensive end asking the quarter-back for the ball.

So I hooted in best Queen's English "'Morning Dew', please." (Even managed to modulate the comma.)

Garcia smiled - grinned actually - and the band played... something else altogether.

But, hey, we'd connected.

At a 'New Riders of the Purple Sage' gig - their first in Europe - I was introduced to Neil Cassady's brother.

Don't imagine he's ever recovered from my shaking his hand and asking him "How do you do, so glad you could come to England. Do you mind the weather awfully?"

(More cultural connection. So important to maintain.)

As for the 'lust' thing, as a thing in itself, that was really all the late Sixties meant to an adolescent male.

Suddenly it was no longer 'Nice girls don't', it was 'Nice girls do it stoned, do it to save the world, just do it!'

Losing your cherry as a revolutionary act? Boy, did we men so want to believe that!

No wonder feminism rose to bite back, when the women woke up to The Great Deception. [Van Morrison passim.]

Rob said...

Peter Palladas wrote:

As for the 'lust' thing, as a thing in itself, that was really all the late Sixties meant to an adolescent male.

Suddenly it was no longer 'Nice girls don't', it was 'Nice girls do it stoned, do it to save the world, just do it!'

Losing your cherry as a revolutionary act? Boy, did we men so want to believe that!

No wonder feminism rose to bite back, when the women woke up to The Great Deception.


One of the leaders of the Movement, I can't recall who, remarked that the only appropriate position for women in the Movement was "prone".... I have often wondered if some of the vehemence of the '70s feminists came from a deep sense of having been had by the Revolution.

Roger Sweeny said...

"The only position of women in the movement is prone."

That was Stokeley Carmichael in 1969, talking about the black liberation movement.

Roger Sweeny said...

That should be "Stokely."

comrade_tovarich said...

In college during the Bush-Clinton transition, occasionally dancing with illicit intoxicants, I picked up a copy of Tim Leary's You Can Be Anyone political rap. It's mildly interesting, mainly from a historical point of view, but the liner notes mention a "Human Be In" in SF. The elitist ("If you weren't there, you weren't human"?), vacuous, got-enough-cash-to-do-nothing-but-tabs, mind-numbed smile of that event's title is, for me, the '60s headline. It jives nicely with my father's story of seeing, at the end of the '60s or in the very early '70s, spittle fly from the lips of a humanities prof denouncing the "military-industrial complex" at an anti-war pro-VC rally at a major Midwestern state university.

Rob said...

Roger Sweeney: Carmichael sounds right for the comment, but the attitude pervaded the white Movement as well. I remember a thoughtful girlfriend in the early '70s saying she thought the most significant effect of the pill and the sexual revolution wasn't that a girl who wanted to have sex could say "yes" without fear, but that a girl who didn't want to couldn't easily say "no" anymore.

jane said...

"From the first Boomer birth to the election of Ronald Reagan was 34 years..."

Maybe this end of your timeline means some baby boomers in their twenties and early thirties matured in time to vote for a grade B actor and A+ conservative pol, and that the parents of those Boomers who didn't 'grow up' voted for Ronald to save this country from their bad parenting and President Jimmy's bad brothering.

(Was going to offer how Billy Beer rates a mention, too, as it occurred exactly ten years after the Summer of Love, but others have already referenced it elsewhere.)

Peter Palladas said...

"Neil Cassady's brother"

Neal FFS!!

Just shows what alcohol can do to literacy.

And no, I never did get to meet Neil Young.

HopefulCynic68 said...

No wonder feminism rose to bite back, when the women woke up to The Great Deception.

One of the leaders of the Movement, I can't recall who, remarked that the only appropriate position for women in the Movement was "prone".... I have often wondered if some of the vehemence of the '70s feminists came from a deep sense of having been had by the Revolution.


I was born a year after the Summer of Love, July of 1968 to be precise, so I can't express any opinion about how it felt.

One thing that does occur to me watching from afteward, so to speak, is that as someone said in thread the Summer of Love was about rejecting traditional wisdom for a subjective approach, enshrining feelings.

One of traditional wisdoms that were rejected was 'old fashioned' ideas about male and female nature and the effect those basic natures tend to have on sexual, romantic, and marital relationships.

What I'm asking is whether and how much true deception there was in the attitudes of both sexes in the Sexual Revolution, and how much was naivete.

Could it be that men and women simply assumed that each other wanted the same thing they themselves did, when in fact male and female are quite different by nature? To be followed by resentment upon the discovery that each one, freed of expectations, was following a different and contradictory agenda and naively expecting the other to do the same?

Meade said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsBoY9voWYM

Roger Sweeny said...

HopefulCynic68,

I was there (b. 1950) and I think most of it was naivete.

Let me be more precise. While there was some deliberate deception, there was more ignorance and self-deception--as well as some truth. The 60s began with a crumbling but still fairly common conventional wisdom that, "women are like this and should do this; men are like that and should do that." It was sometimes wrong and almost always simplistic.

David said...

"But it's not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did."

Every time I read about some self-important boomer/boomer wannabe patting themselves on the back about "stopping the war" I just want to hit them over the head and remind them that "the war" in Southeast Asia continued for about ten years after we abandoned it, with millions more deaths added to its butcher's bill.

It would at least be honest for them to say "we got us out of the war so those little brown people could live or die on their own without me having to take notice." Of course, as was observed in one of the greatest boomer self-congratuatory cinematic exercises in ego masturbation observed, rationalization (for that generation) is more important than sex.