Taking exception: The hippie movement was not isolated or exclusive

Editor,

I am disappointed in what was printed in the Portland Phoenix on the topic of counterculture in Portland ("The modern hippie: Has counterculture gone full-blown pop culture?", Francis Fliskiuk, Sept. 22). I have been personally working on coining a term to describe the type of counterculture I prescribe to. I have been doing so diligently, and like many others, I am prone to avoid the usage of the word “hippie.” The term has officially dissolved in any form other than its derivatives.

“Hippies” are an icon from history, and a small fraction of a much larger civil rights movement. The people that were a part of that counterculture ultimately shaped the world we live in today. They were the first green activists, feminists, gay rights activists, so on and so forth; they created the paradigm changes that we see today. What is now considered an environmentally conscious activist was, during the sixties, a hippie. What is a hippie now? A historical term. Unless you’re a particular editor at the Portland Phoenix, in which case a hippie is a mocked idol. I have been labeled a hippie all my life — and I have always despised it. I have vehemently opposed the label, and I have insisted, and I insist to this day, that the counterculture of today is something very, very different. Furthermore, I beleive that until we define this counterculture, that it will have very little power. We need something to unite behind, and the “hippie” archetype is something that has become too cliche to have any power any more. It’s a symbol that has been used up and worn out, and we need a new one. You’ve done us a serious disservice by making it seem like we even want to be viewed as hippies.

Your biggest problem is that you’re trying to compare the modern counterculture to hippies in the first place. Hippies are dead, we are not trying to be them. You asked a question; what does it even mean to be a hippie any more? Nothing, man. It means you’ve got to be like 60 or 70 years old. I can’t even believe how offensive the way you carry on is, about how the modern hippie is just a lazy ideologue. What is your problem? You are literally judging a fish for its ability to climb a tree. Do you know what you’re doing? You’re making a completely invalid comparison — and just for the record, comparisons are odious to begin with. You’re trying … no … struggling with and failing to describe the modern white yuppie as a hippie. Well guess what man, you don’t know what counterculturalism is, you don’t know what hippies are, and you don’t know much about the people that live in your city. There are definitely a lot of shitty white yuppies out there, but to try and say that our counterculture is composed of those people and is simply trying but failing to live up to a “hippie” stereotype is the dumbest, most short-sighted and insulting thing I’ve ever heard. I would honestly suggest that you “read a book.”

Here’s my conclusion on that subject: The “hippie” has entered the mainstream. Hippies, as well as the civil rights movement, created the ethnocultural landscape we live in today. Green activism is alive and well because of those hippies, and some people still prescribe to their ideals, but the current counterculture has a whole other battle to wage, and most of us haven’t even figured out exactly what that is yet. Our current counterculture has an even greater responsibility to accept than our ancestors, because problems have gotten much larger and worse since the sixties. Compare the Watergate scandal and Clinton’s email scandal and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The reason you see a bunch of kids dressing up like '60s archetype “flower children” on their way to Coachella is literally because “the hippie” has entered completely into the mainstream. Think about it: Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin — you hear all of them on top 40 radio stations! That’s the only place you hear those artists any more! The reason for that is that the people who were young in the sixties now literally run the world. When you see all those rich white yuppie boys and girls dressing up like sixties wannabes, it’s because that’s exactly what they are. They are not the counterculture. They are the mainstream. They are not hippies. Hippies are dead.

Now, I’d like to address an entirely different subject. The fundamental basis of your argument was purely flawed in the sense that you are trying to portray the modern counterculture as wanna-be hippies, while we are the furthest thing from that. However, you made another grave mistake, which is potentially even more disheartening and insulting. You seem to think that modern counterculturalists have completely lost their ties to their ancestors, to the first green and equal rights activists. This, to me, is just another very offensive example of your lack of research. Many young counterculturalists are lost on their path, and unable to figure out how they can change their world for the better, but the point is, they are thinking about it, rather than ignoring their consciousness. But many other counterculturalists are doing amazing things, and have incredible priorities. Many of them live lives that are extremely healthy and positive, and directed towards improving their communities and their lives and their worlds. You seem to be offended by the fact that people are still eating vegetarian and “taking pictures of their curry bowls.” Well, guess what? The reason that vegetarian eating and Hindu mysticism are mainstream today is because the sixties made it that way. And guess what, the true counterculture of today is actually AGAINST ALL THAT HIPPIE BULLSHIT. We are more concerned with sorting away the pseudoscience from the science, while simultaneously feeding our spiritual sensibilities. We are indigo children, of the greater enlightenment, of the floral consciousness … and you have no idea who we are.

Do you know what the major difference is between counterculturalists today and counterculturalits from the sixties? People in general today, counterculturalists or not, have absolutely 0% faith in the institution anymore. I’m referring to “the institution,” generally speaking as regulatory and judicial government, secondary and post-secondary education, the system of healthcare, and large scale corporate commodities traders. Why don’t you see the counterculturalists of today out there trying to start a green non-profit? Because we know from watching the sixties hippies do it that any green non-profit eventually falls victim to the same type of greed that other corporations do. We know that when we recycle bottles, the recycling companies then just pay chinese waste-management companies to dump our trash into the pacific. We know that if we vote for our chosen candidate, our votes are just as likely to get thrown in the trash. We know that we should go to school in order to find a way to improve our communities, but we don’t want to spend our entire lives as slaves to debt. We want to trust our pharmaceutical companies, but we know that they’re trying to get us addicted to toxic drugs in order to profit off of our pain. Why don’t you see the modern counterculture out there doing the same shit that the sixties generation were? You could say that we’re bitter or jaded, but in my opinion, we’re just biding our time and making a plan, before we can figure out how to take the power back for ourselves. What most of us are doing are trying to find a way to get completely off the grid — to escape from the institution — by doing things like growing our own food, making our own energy, and building tiny houses to avoid paying property tax. Our counterculture is slowly gaining force, and while you misunderstand us and try to compartmentalize us, we are quietly building up our resources to come out and take over. But we have much larger obstacles to fight than the sixties hippies did; but we’re going to succeed with equal dominance. The Phoenix has always been an example of counterculture, but your two miserable cover stories, one about how the entire organic food movement is just a rich yuppie trend, and this one, are clear examples of how the Phoenix is promoting an institutionalized frame of thinking.

I could probably write a novel about every way that your article was deleterious, damaging, insulting, and overall just plain wrong, but I think i’ll leave it at this, and just continue to define the counterculture in my day to day life. But in summary, I’ll say this:

Your article was poorly researched, and not only presumed but attempted to validate many stereotypes. You did so by strategically using particular subjects for interviewing, in order to promote the agenda you had developed. You also attempted to apply stereotypes to people to whom they do not apply. The one ostensibly redeeming characteristic of your article is that it could have begged the question, “do hippies still exist?” And then left the question up for debate. Rather than leaving room for objective debate, though … you simply answered your own question. And your answer was incredibly shortsighted, and completely ignored decades worth of social development. Also, you published the article under “news.” This is the furthest thing from news. It is a sociocultural evaluation, and a completely biased and unobjective one at that. You have more than likely lost a number of countercultural readers as a result of this article, and you have also dealt a low-blow to the power of the counterculture as it stands.

Do you know what I honestly think? I think you wrote this as a fluff piece to fill pages. I think you thought it would illicit a simple chuckle from a few of your readers, and that people would pick up the paper if you put a picture of two naked “hippies” on the front. What you didn’t realize is that you were approaching a very important and sensitive subject, which is currently in flux. I would recommend that you stick to your wheelhouse. Leave the philosophy to the philosophers. Newspapers are for news. What you have poorly attempted to write belongs in a different publication.

Samuel Ross Haiden

Portland

Last modified onMonday, 26 September 2016 11:06