Where Has the Flower Child Gone?

On February 21, 2012

  • Yassin Idbihi (45) goes up for a shot in a recent victory against Marshall while teammate Mark Bortz (42) looks on. The Bulls improved to 5-4 in the MAC with their most recent victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Image Contributor

Have you seen the hippies? You know, the color-melting, long-haired, dirty-jeaned, crazy-dancing, pot-smoking revelers who just got back from Phish?

I must admit, with my current collection of tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirts, I'm quite suspect of the hippie title. You got me.

It seems as though in this age of social categorization, we've invented terms like "hipster," or "Bohemian" in order to further segregate ourselves. But now we may have lost what these titles even mean. So, let's sit down, meditate, and talk about what the heck a hippie is. But first, for those of you who aren't up on your hippie history, dig this.

In the 1960s and well into the '70s, a new culture emerged from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. It was about being ‘in the know,' or being ‘hip.' So hippies became derivatives of beatniks who were aware of what was going on around them (a feat which can now be done in five minutes a day on Google). These groovy mind-travelers were on a search for purpose, and once they found it, they realized they were living in a place that needed change. Racism, war, pollution, propaganda, social hierarchy, and everything ‘The Man' stood for were all stepping stones to overcome in their quest for what they saw as a better world. And as we know, they attempted to solve these issues through peaceful protest and other passive means.

So, have we solved any of those issues? No. Is that why hippies are still around? Maybe. But there are some changes to the culture itself besides shedding off the bell bottoms.

Let's take music for example. Sure, music festivals are still kickin', but music has spliced up into countless new genres, and with it hippies have followed. They have made their way out to electronica shows and festivals not just here and there, but as a following. This may not surprise you, but when you think of the contrast between Pretty Lights and Neil Young for example, it seems as though hippies are breaking the traditional taste.

The question is, can you be a hippie without flowing hair, peace and love, or even an ear for music?

It sounds wacky, I know, but it's becoming a more general term. Not only that, but it's a term that's starting to suffer from an identity crisis. Possibly due to the way it's been repackaged, stripped of meaning, and sold by corporations to our generation. What in Tim Leary's name am I talking about?

Take the peace sign for instance, the emblem used throughout the protest era to represent the idea of harmony and disarmament. These were stitched onto jackets; spray painted onto picket signs, and etched into buildings.

Now, the sign is sold to anyone who enjoys the aesthetic circular wonder. More often than not, it's something to put on sweatpants so that every guy who walks behind this lady takes a hard gaze at her ass. I don't know if they're trying to promote peace with a butt billboard, but it seems doubtful that anyone who looks is really considering international policy.

So try this: go up to someone wearing a peace sign and ask them what they've done to protest the wars. Chances are, you'll get a strange look from someone who couldn't care less.

It's kind of like that time when hip-hop became popular and every white boy in suburbia started wearing white T-shirts and Timberlands. The symbol of disarmament has now been defused of its meaning, and the counter-culture turned into a fashion symbol. Way to go, Juicy.

Now, when I talk about hippies, I often see this group of well-informed, spiritual people that take acid and talk about Nietzsche, or travel the country in perpetual meditation while drinking green tea, selling PB&J, and playing guitar. The truth is, everyone has a very different perception of what a hippie is.

That's why I decided to put a poll on Facebook, asking Internet friends what the "defining characteristic" of a hippie is. About 57 percent of the 37 voters put "strong advocate of peace and love," while music taste, respect for nature, opposing administration, clothing, and drug use were nearly left untouched. Peace and love indeed, friends. But what else can we say defines hippies today?

In the political sphere, ‘hippie' is a derogatory term used to describe liberals or environmentalists. If you watch the glorious Fox News, (or as I like to call it, Faux News) you might have heard this once or twice.

Well, our generation finally made a name for ourselves with the Occupy movement. It's as if there's been a small revival of what one could refer to as a hippie-style protest. While key differences make Occupy a case of its own, they are too numerous to mention at this time. I would say the Vietnam protests and the Occupy movement are linked by the reaction: fear. In both cases we have an administration that is surprised, pushed back, and even kept in check.

Unfortunately, we have yet to end the war on greed, but at the very least, it's a sign that people are still just as hip to social injustice today.

Email: aad25@buffalo.edu

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