CJ Stone Aricle – Prediction magazine

I’ve a jokey little piece I wrote for Prediction magazine, which might or might not catch some of the flavour of what I’m thinking.

In case you haven’t identified me yet, I am probably what you would call “an old hippie”, much to my embarrassment. There’s very little I can do about it now. I mean: I cut my hair a long time ago. I hardly ever go to rock concerts, I change my socks regularly, and I’ve long since eschewed the lure and the rhetoric of psycho-active substances; but whatever I do, those formative events of my youth are still casting their shadows over my life, like a line of poplars in the park at sunset.

I wonder if old teds feel the same, or old skinheads, or old punks? Probably. Except that teds and skinheads and punks had a much better wardrobe than most hippies, as I remember. You can try and imagine me in a headband if you like, or wafting about in a kaftan with bells and beads around my neck and flowers in my hair, except that I’m a little too young to have indulged in quite those sartorial excesses. I did, however, wear 40 inch flared cavalry twill loon pants which dragged along the floor sucking up mud, as well as a green-and-white vertically striped school blazer, a black-and-red horizontally striped tee shirt, and red-and-white baseball boots. I must have looked like something you would find on the shelf in a sweetie shop, but I thought I was the bees-knees at the time.

I suspect that a number of Prediction readers might also agree to accept the mantle of old hippie too, albeit with the usual reservations. Old hippies don’t die. They change their clothes and pretend to be normal. Later on they realise that no one can ever be normal again, and they just grow increasingly dishevelled and mad about the eyes while addressing total strangers in shopping precincts and cackling uncontrollably at the unexpected Brazilian soap-opera scripts raging through their heads.

Not that I’ve reached that stage yet. But I’m expecting it, oh yes. Any day now.

I’m not sure why I should be telling you this. Take is as a form of therapy. You be Doctor Freud, with his notebook and his pen, taking notes behind myhead, while I lie on the couch squirming with embarrassment at the revelations I feel compelled to impale you with. “Yes, Doctor, it’s true, it’s true. I really did spend several hours saying nothing but ‘wow’ while off my head on LSD and beer in a pub in Cardiff once. I think I even saw God, in the form of globular multi-coloured letters beaming covert messages into my brain, just before the bouncer threw me out onto the street.”

Actually, I do know why I have this on my mind at the moment. It’s down to my latest project. I’m writing yet another book (the fourth in a row) about the hippie era and its implications for our future. Specifically I am writing about the Windsor Free festivals, 1972-1974, and the two follow-ups, at Watchfield and Seasalter, in ’75 and ’76. So if any of you happened to be there, and witnessed anything interesting, then feel free to let me know.

Well we can put old hippies down if we like – we can all laugh at some of the indulgences and absurdities of the time – but the fact is that the hippies did some remarkable things. Most importantly, to my mind, they brought together two world-views or philosophies that are normally considered incompatible: namely spirituality and politics. So they protested against the Vietnam war while chanting Om in the Buddhist manner. That was Allen Ginsburg, specifically, and it was not quite so contradictory as it sounds, the Vietnamese being both Buddhist and communist at the same time.

They also recognised the importance of ancient wisdom, and practiced many of the arts celebrated in this magazine. Indeed, interest in occult and divinatory matters was something the hippies both recognised and celebrated, while at the same time they attempted to forge new forms of political organisation and new alliances with the old left. They were radical, spiritual, revolutionary, hedonistic, committed, anti-materialistic, environmentalist and – occasionally – wrong-headed and dangerous. But then: who isn’t?

But all of this – like most things in life – was transitory. While hippie culture thrived and bloomed through the late sixties and into the seventies, by the end of that decade it had all but died, buried under an avalanche of glam-rock and New Romantic posturing, with very little of either the politics or the spirituality remaining.

Old hippies went one of several ways. They joined sects, like Divine Light or Scientology. Or they went on the road and became New Age Travellers. Some of them joined the SWP and took up revolutionary politics, while others became therapists and New Age purveyors of a variety of complicated and sometimes ludicrous practices. One or two went on to found the Green Party, while others that I know of became Druids or witches. But the great sadness, to me, is not that people took up any of these things (except maybe the sects, which I never could stand) but that in the process they divorced the two original strands from each other, and began to deny the spirituality in politics, or the politics in spirituality, thus fatally weakening the two of them.

Not recognising the one is the failure to live up to the other. Because what is true politics but the recognition of the value of all human beings and their right to live fulfilling, creative and meaningful lives on this planet? And what is true spirituality but the attempt to identify in yourself the deepest source of all being, that unites and encompasses and embraces us all?

This entry was posted in . and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.