Growing up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians

Growing Up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians
written by Craig Issod – © 2012
Republishing allowed with credit…

Introduction

I was born in Philadelphia in November of 1953 – a baby boomer, for certain, albeit on the younger end of that generation. Although many periods in history are full of upheaval and change, there is something unique about the speed and severity of the changes which started to occur as I entered primary school. The sequence of events are fairly well known, but to see them close at hand as a growing child was quite alarming.

I was 7 years old when JFK was elected and definitely remember all the hubbub. The country was ecstatic over our young and vibrant President and his beautiful family. The space race was on and I distinctly remember the feeling of pride as the first astronauts were conquering the unknown of space flight. The heroes of my youth were folks like Chuck Yeager, who flew the X-15 and John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth. Those were heady times – but they seemed to come crashing down with the assassination of JFK. Most every member of my generation remembers exactly what they were doing at the very moment – and then, sadly, in the days that followed. I was in third grade at the time and remember our teacher sitting down and crying and telling us all. We kids also cried and were sent home early. The nation was transfixed as we watched events unfold from there.

For many Americans, this was the end of innocence – and while it may have been a faux innocence, it was never the less quite real to those of us who were children at the time.
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Music – the soundtrack of the hippie life

Jefferson Airplane in Central Park
Jefferson Airplane in Central Park

Music was a very important aspect of the counterculture – in fact, it may have been the single most important communication medium of the time. Virtually every home in the USA had a record player – and most people had multiple radios as well as TV – although Television was not the main medium for music. The rise of FM radio in the mid 1960’s assured better signal strength and much higher quality.

Book have been written on the music of the 60’s so we will not attempt to replicate that here. Rather I will lay out some of the major musical types, basic timelines and other facts and opinions which will give a historical overview.

For ease of classification, I will break down 60’s music into genres – although, as we will see, the music soon transcended any narrow definitions. What can be said is that the majority of the music is staunchly AMERICAN and that, by and large, it ended up conquering the entire world.
Continue reading Music – the soundtrack of the hippie life

Editorial: What was the hippie movement really all about?

Drugs?
Sex?
Rock n’ Roll?
Woodstock?
The Grateful Dead?
Abbie Hoffman?

Actually, it was about none of these things – but our popular culture and mass media need ways of defining and categorizing movements, so many of these descriptors are used instead of the more difficult reality.

A more accurate synopsis of the counterculture might be found by pulling some words, phrases and song titles/lyrics from the time.

The beat of a different drummer (think different, open your mind)
With a little help from my friends (community)
When I’m 64 (positive living and aging)
If 6 was 9 (alternative ways of looking at the world)
Castles Made of Sand (life it temporary and often a tragedy, but make the best of it)
Let it Be (know what you can change and what you cannot)
Presence of the Lord (spirit)
Freedom (Richie Havens – quest for equality and personal freedoms)
Are you Experienced? (do you know the “great unsaid” – referring often to deep spirituality)
Our House – coming out the other end and living a happy and grateful life

The hippie period of history was one where “all the balls were in the air”. The combination of distrust in the society, the government, the police and other institutions put almost everything up for grabs. However, human beings desire structure as well as direction. We in the hippie movement knew what we DID NOT want, but the question of what we actually did want was much more difficult!

Most in the counterculture were very young – so-called “hippies” were often as young as 15 (I was!) to as old as 25 (although a very few were older). In a general sense, the counterculture consisted of young men and women who had not yet taken their place in society.

So, what to do???

Much of the answer was found in a single book of the era – in fact, most every true member of the counterculture probably read this tome as it contained the instructions about “what to do next”.

That book was Be Here Now – but Richard Alpert (Ram Dass):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_Here_Now_(book)

Richard Alpert, for those not familiar, was one of the two Harvard Doctors (he, along with Timothy Leary) who first experimented with LSD and other major hallucinogens. Much of this experimentation was done legally – and with the blessings of the school as well as other institutions. It was only after “the man” (government, law and order, etc.) discovered that these compounds were a danger to their authoritarianism and consumer culture (the status quo) that they were make illegal. By that point it was too late to put the drugs back on the shelve – the secret was out and Leary and Alpert proceeded to turn on many millions of people worldwide (illegally, by that time).

Be Here Now (Amazon link):
http://amzn.to/1i0wHnR

The book made a number of important points, specifically:

1. Mind (your head, your outlook) creates your world
2. Drugs were just a quick shortcut for a peek at true spirituality – they are not the True Path to a good life.
3. A real life entails “chopping wood and carrying water” in the Zen Buddhist sense – meaning that you wake up each day and do what needs to be done to continue with life.

These may sound like simple guidelines, but to many people – even today – they reinforce that life is about daily living – about the so-called “here and now”, as opposed to worrying about the future and the past.

The book was, as wikipedia puts it, a “seminal work” and “the counterculture bible” and it’s influence on the direction of the counterculture cannot be underestimated. It drove many of the movements toward “back to the land” and “right livelihood” which took root in the early 1970’s.

Technology and the Hippies – Overview

“Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair.
The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution” – Stewart Brand in an article from Time Magazine
(Article is reprinted here on our site)

Many of the articles, FAQ and presentations on this site will detail further about how personal computers, the hacker and maker ethics, open source software, online communities and the internet blossomed directly from the counterculture. Art, science and technology combined into the brew that created much of our modern and connected world.

Some well known books on the subject are linked below:

What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry

Here’s a  link to a well written review

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From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

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Specifically, the personal computing and networking world was born out of visions – NOT just visions to sell more things, but visions of how to connect the world and give us all access to information and knowledge. As chronicled in the books above, much of this grew from worldviews which were influenced by psychedelic drugs.

Using Steve Jobs as an example:

“Steve Jobs grew up in a lower-middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960s. When he was a young adult, in theearly 1970s, he delved into eastern mysticism, Zen Buddhism, and hippie ideals.”

* “I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.” – Steve Jobs

* At another time, Jobs said “taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he did in his life.”
Article Link: Did Taking LSD Make Steve Jobs more creative?
Apple - Founders
One hardly needs to say more – the defining persona of the entire personal computer revolution was a hippie! LSD and other drug experimentation was just one of his many counterculture habits. He was known to walk around barefoot or with small tattered sandals, eat raw or vegan foods and even eschew frequent bathing!

Steve Wozniak was also, as the pictures show, a long hair, prankster and hacker. As a drop of the University of California Berkeley, he certainly fits the definition of a counterculture member. His ethics are pure “hippiedom” – i.e. he’s not in it for the money, he enjoys nothing more than helping people, etc. – and, as a bona fide of his hippie roots, he paid for and organized the US Festivals, some of the largest post-Woodstock rock festivals ever created.
US Festival Link
US Festival Link2

Although the two Steves are famous examples, many of those working hard on the code and hardware had lofty ideals of changing the world. This site will document many of the unsung (and sung) heroes of the baby boomer generation who took part in the technology and other recent revolutions.

*by no means is this site promoting the use of illegal drugs, walking barefoot in the modern world nor avoiding showers or baths. These are just indications from the past that Steve and others were members of the “counterculture” in various ways. We would, as a matter of recommendations, suggest healthy eating and lifestyles as well as meditations and other spiritual pursuits.

 

 

We Owe it All to the Hippies – Reprint

Copyright – Stewart Brand, TIME

HISTORY

WE OWE IT ALL TO THE HIPPIES

Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair.
The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution

BY STEWART BRAND

Newcomers to the Internet are often startled to discover themselves not so much in some soulless colony of technocrats as in a kind of cultural Brigadoon – a flowering remnant of the ’60s, when hippie communalism and libertarian politics formed the roots of the modern cyberrevolution. At the time, it all seemed dangerously anarchic (and still does to many), but the counterculture’s scorn for centralized authority provided the philosophical foundations of not only the leaderless Internet but also the entire personal-computer revolution.

We – the generation of the ’60s – were inspired by the “bards and hot-gospellers of technology,” as business historian Peter Drucker described media maven Marshall McLuhan and technophile Buckminster Fuller. And we bought enthusiastically into the exotic technologies of the day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychoactive drugs like LSD. We learned from them, but ultimately they turned out to be blind alleys. Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent – later called “hackers” – embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Do it yourself,” we said, happily perverting J.F.K.’s Inaugural exhortation. Our ethic of self-reliance came partly from science fiction. We all read Robert Heinlein’s epic Stranger in a Strange Land as well as his libertarian screed-novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Hippies and nerds alike reveled in Heinlein’s contempt for centralized authority. To this day, computer scientists and technicians are almost universally science-fiction fans. And ever since the 1950s, for reasons that are unclear to me, science fiction has been almost universally libertarian in outlook.

As Steven Levy chronicled in his 1984 book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, there were three generations of youthful computer programmers who deliberately led the rest of civilization away from centralized mainframe computers and their predominant sponsor, IBM. “The Hacker Ethic,” articulated by Levy, offered a distinctly countercultural set of tenets. Among them:

“Access to computers should be unlimited and total.”

“All information should be free.”

“Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.”

“You can create art and beauty on a computer.”

“Computers can change your life for the better.”

Nobody had written these down in manifestoes before; it was just the way hackers behaved and talked while shaping the leading edge of computer technology.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, the first generation of hackers emerged in university computer-science departments. They transformed mainframes into virtual personal computers, using a technique called time sharing that provided widespread access to computers. Then in the late ’70s, the second generation invented and manufactured the personal computer. These nonacademic hackers were hard-core counterculture types – like Steve Jobs, a Beatle-haired hippie who had dropped out of Reed College, and Steve Wozniak, a Hewlett-Packard engineer. Before their success with Apple, both Steves developed and sold “blue boxes,” outlaw devices for making free telephone calls. Their contemporary and early collaborator, Lee Felsenstein, who designed the first portable computer, known as the Osborne 1, was a New Left radical who wrote for the renowned underground paper the Berkeley Barb.

As they followed the mantra “Turn on, tune in and drop out,” college students of the ’60s also dropped academia’s traditional disdain for business. “Do your own thing” easily translated into “Start your own business.” Reviled by the broader social establishment, hippies found ready acceptance in the world of small business. They brought an honesty and a dedication to service that was attractive to vendors and customers alike. Success in business made them disinclined to “grow out of” their countercultural values, and it made a number of them wealthy and powerful at a young age.

The third generation of revolutionaries, the software hackers of the early ’80s, created the application, education and entertainment programs for personal computers. Typical was Mitch Kapor, a former transcendental-meditation teacher, who gave us the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3, which ensured the success of IBM’s Apple-imitating PC. Like most computer pioneers, Kapor is still active. His Electronic Frontier Foundation, which he co-founded with a lyricist for the Grateful Dead, lobbies successfully in Washington for civil rights in cyberspace.

In the years since Levy’s book, a fourth generation of revolutionaries has come to power. Still abiding by the Hacker Ethic, these tens of thousands of netheads have created myriad computer bulletin boards and a nonhierarchical linking system called Usenet. At the same time, they have transformed the Defense Department-sponsored ARPAnet into what has become the global digital epidemic known as the Internet. The average age of today’s Internet users, who number in the tens of millions, is about 30 years. Just as personal computers transformed the ’80s, this latest generation knows that the Net is going to transform the ’90s. With the same ethic that has guided previous generations, today’s users are leading the way with tools created initially as “freeware” or “shareware,” available to anyone who wants them.

Of course, not everyone on the electronic frontier identifies with the countercultural roots of the ’60s. One would hardly call Nicholas Negroponte, the patrician head of M.I.T.’s Media Lab, or Microsoft magnate Bill Gates “hippies.” Yet creative forces continue to emanate from that period. Virtual reality – computerized sensory immersion – was named, largely inspired and partly equipped by Jaron Lanier, who grew up under a geodesic dome in New Mexico, once played clarinet in the New York City subway and still sports dreadlocks halfway down his back. The latest generation of supercomputers, utilizing massive parallel processing, was invented, developed and manufactured by Danny Hillis, a genial longhair who set out to build “a machine that could be proud of us.” Public-key encryption, which can ensure unbreakable privacy for anyone, is the brainchild of Whitfield Diffie, a lifelong peacenik and privacy advocate who declared in a recent interview, “I have always believed the thesis that one’s politics and the character of one’s intellectual work are inseparable.”

Our generation proved in cyberspace that where self-reliance leads, resilience follows, and where generosity leads, prosperity follows. If that dynamic continues, and everything so far suggests that it will, then the information age will bear the distinctive mark of the countercultural ’60s well into the new millennium.

Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.