Since we’re now drowning in coverage of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, complete with international commemorative concerts by frail survivors, let me take the time to confess: Hippies have always annoyed me. Specifically, the much-photographed, Woodstock variety of hippie.
On the surface, my flower-child-o-phobia doesn’t make sense. I’m a political liberal. I dig the music of Baez, Hendrix, CCR, Sly and the Family Stone, and (most of all) Joplin. I can say “dig” without flinching. I’m a hedonist who enjoys his self-indulgences. But I also strongly dislike mud, poor personal hygiene, large public groups, generational generalizations, and any desire to romanticize the aforementioned self-indulgences into some kind of mass spiritual awakening.
By all means, remember Woodstock as a great opportunity to get high, (perhaps) get laid, and just generally be young and silly while legendary musicians performed with a shitty sound system. I’m down with that. But insist that Woodstock somehow changed the world, and I’ll reply that most of its participants were commodifying the social justice movement and turning it into a cheap, consumable “lifestyle.”
Wanna read about one of the real heroes of the ‘60s youth rebellion? Check out the life’s work of the late, charismatic Mario Savio, the great student orator and Berkeley free speech activist who was willing to do the grunt work – envelope-stuffing, phone-calling, speech-writing – to see his goals of a more perfect union met. Want to read a dark, fascinating account of hippies, hippie-wannabes, and their group-think allure at its most tragic? Check out this amazing first-person piece about the 40th anniversary of the Manson family’s Tate/La Bianca murders by filmmaker, courtroom spectator, and Leslie Van Houten confidante John Waters.