By Chris Ramos
All hail the spirit of the flower, gracious and gentle. A symbol for the young colorful wanderers who are stuck in a trance, which can be fittingly described as a lust for life.
Fifty years ago, a subculture, whose slogan was peace & love, reached the pinnacle of their unity. The Summer of 1967, or famously known as “The Summer of Love”, brought thousands of young hippies who were enthusiastic in their role for change, to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. (And ultimately branched across the country, as Cleveland Heights felt a dose of the counterculture upon the streets of Coventry) The counterculture population submerged themselves within the idea of full expression and full resistance to the establishment.
In a decade where the Civil Rights Movement carried on, the Cold War was underway, President Kennedy was assassinated, the space race ensued, The U.S entered Vietnam, a new left emerged, and the experimentation of psychedelics swept across the population, the 1960’s were strange times. The baby boomers had become disillusioned with their surroundings, becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the established norms. An immense generation gap unfolded.
With the 50th anniversary upon us, I wanted to reflect upon a captivating social phenomenon in our country’s history. To see the rebellious nature of youth manifest into a newfound way of life, ultimately constructing a new community, is beyond interesting to me. Such studies of social behavior, and examining the unique interactions responsible for this tidal wave, make the research worthwhile.
Sure, the drug culture shouldn’t be praised by any means. To say that Marijuana and LSD were popular within the counterculture would a laughable understatement. Adults cringed at the thought of such substances circulating with ease, especially in regard to LSD, which was a wild card for the public as research was limited at the time. Fast forward to present day, and Marijuana has reached heights higher than the hippies who sunbathed on top of vans could attempt to reach. (Through smoking.) Regardless of your stance on it’s medical benefits, there is no denying that the push for legalization is gaining momentum. As for LSD, it’s popularity has diminished significantly, and garners little support for research regarding therapeutic value. However, Psilocybin, another psychedelic prodrug, has begun to garner that support.
The hippies certainly weren’t fixated on routine sanitization, so yes, they smelled funny. Yes, many of the guys needed to get to the barbershop as soon as possible. And yes, they could be found in long episodes of LSD idleness along the streets and park. There is no denying this, and one could claim that they lacked initiative and a sense of direction, which previous generations lived by. While I do agree with their anti-war sentiments, their misconceptions about materialism and free market economics tend to frustrate me, as well as some of the hippies siding as radical leftists. Slow your roll.
What I can confidently say, however, is that the counterculture brought sensual arts to the forefront. What else was there to turn to than music? Rock n’ Roll would be the cry for a youth whose creativity revolutionized the genre. It would lead to some of the most fascinating cultural festivals whose names still hold weight today.(Monterey, Woodstock, Isle of Wight) Rock n’ Roll. The counterculture. A match made in heaven.
Fifty years later, as a young kid who is in the midst of turbulent times (then again, when aren’t the times turbulent), I try and take the applicable lessons from this piece of history. You may disregard the free spirits but their search for self growth, or rather acceptance, tends to be kicked under the rug by many people, which leads to personal distress. As cliche as it may sound, their emphasis on love and humility is something else to study carefully. I have always told people that humility is key for reaching the next steps in success and for people to gravitate towards you. No one enjoys the company of a theatrical, loud mouthed egomaniac for long. Coupled with that, showcasing empathy for those around you constructs a genuine interaction which we all need to lead a life of happiness. We need each other. To have fun, to advance in our careers, and to gain new insight on the world. Most of all, the fast paced wails of guitars which were a staple of psychedelic rock, introduced us to phenomenal bands and LP’s.
Even with this being said, you may think that the whole counterculture was a fluke. That it was nothing more than overprivileged runaways from middle class families who decided to become unsanitary druggies. You may think that they’re political aspirations were utterly poisonous, that they had no idea how the real world worked, and quite frankly, they were cowards for listening to Timothy Leary, as they “dropped out.” They wasted precious time!
I understand that train of thought. But, if you do think that way, can you atleast admit that such a subculture forming in society was interesting, and that they certainly made their mark? I hope so.
Peace, love & Rock n’ Roll everybody.