The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World, directed and produced by Mike Connelly, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer.

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I loved this nostalgic look back at the The Summer of Love and How Hippies Changed the World, but I think there should be a question mark at the end of it. I was five in 1967. Pyjamas had not been commercialised to the extent that Superman pyjamas existed, but even if they did I couldn’t have flown to Haight-Ashbury in California to drop out. I hadn’t even been to school yet and I wasn’t much of a hippy, short-back and sides haircut and shiny shoes (well mostly shiny, until the toes got kicked out of them). Now we have the moron’s moron in the White House and a world which F Scott Fitzgerald would be familiar with and wrote about in The Great Gatsby. The Tom Buchanan’s of the world are in public office and run the world. Gut prejudices about race, gender and religion are public policy and we in back in the l920s where money routinely runs from the poor to the rich at an increasing rate. Hate has pretty much conquered love. The third world war has already begun with global warming and there’s been rearmament of hypocrisy.  Money talks. Aristotelian and Christian ideas of wholeness in the service of self and the community, well, it’s just went to pot. And I’m not even sure it ever existed, but here is the evidence in Part 1 that it was more a fad.

Patron saint of Haight/Ashbury Aleister Crowley. ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’. John Sinclair sums it up by talking about the church of weirdness, perhaps as an antidote to the church of white supremacy and middle-class spending to get ahead of the rat race. The anthem of course sung by Scott Mackenzie and written by John Philips of the Mamas & Papas, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear a Flower in your hair and that’s what hundreds of thousand young people did. LSD, opening up the portals of the mind and being one with the ‘gentle people there’, ‘a whole generation, people in motion.’ Different tribes the nature boys, students from Berkeley, radicals from left-wing ‘Diggers’, New Agers and old agers like Aldous Huxley and coalesced around pop music and the need for change. We get the likes of  Jimmi Hendrix’s ripped version of the Star Spangled Banner and Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin being nothing but herself, but strangely no Nobel Prize winning Bob Dylan, who more than any epitomises zeitgeist change from 1967 to now, the rise of the economic opportunities created by hippies and the cultural appropriation of their music and lifestyles to create money for the fat cats. For a moment San Francisco might have been a scene not from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (Heaven and Hell) but his less well known novel, Island, in which young people are taught to love their bodies and explore their sexuality from an early age together, without guilt and live at one with nature on their Island. Island ends with a young Trump like figure coming on gun ships to rescue them from all that depravity and lack of respect about who owns what.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World looks a bit worn now, no longer new, bypassed by Anthony Burgess’s  violence for violence’s sake in  A Clockwork Orange and George Orwell’s 1984, with its idea of DoubleThink and betrayal looking the best bet to explain alternative facts and false news. The world now is less utopian, but the second episode shows the backlash against dropping out and opposing the system. The Black Panthers, Yippes and other left-wing groups were no match for Hoover’s FBI surveillance, police batons and bullets. Those that dropped out of sight –politically- and retired to remote communities in the American countryside were largely left unmolested. Unless you were a woman. Then patriarchy still prevailed. Put up and shut up being the underbelly of hippydom. And those tens of thousands of crazy kids than went to San Franciso were cannon fodder for poverty, abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and the gurus like Charles Manson. You can’t fuck with the government and get away with it was the message, but you can fuck up someone else’s life, as long as you lie low. Did Hippydom change the world? Did David Bowie? Did Punk? Did Oasis or the Stone Roses? Discuss.


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