Jon is a hippie

by Jon Sullivan - 2023-08-24 - Jonism

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After 40 years of rejecting anything hippie, 60s culture, jam band, or related, I find myself getting back on the bus.

I grew up in the 60s. A time of social justice, the peace movement, and drug fueled enlightenment. My parents taught me right, and I grew up filled with a purpose - to make the world a better place. When I graduated high school and went to college I did so with a very strong idealism for social and economic justice. And a smug juvenile attitude about how smart I was and how I would use my superior knowledge to make the world better, cleaner, more equal. Of course the world casually chewed me up and spit me out. What I thought was going to happen is that I'd finally escape the small minded, bigoted, tiny town I grew up in and start a new journey of knowledge, and I'd begin to make the world better in meaningful ways.

It turns out the world had no interest in becoming better. Not for real. And those in power had tools refined over thousands of years to easily shut down attempts at justice or equality. I had grown up and embraced the idea that bad men could only persist if good people stood idly by. But once I started organizing protests and raising money for causes and marching in the streets I realized a million good people were no match for one person with power. My idealism crumbled. I gave in completely to pessimism. My hope for humanity became hatred of humanity. The poor idiotically worshiped the rich. The planet getting warmer became progress. Dictators succeeded, democracies failed. At some point Reagan decided the only way to fix poverty was to force the poor to give more money to the rich, and we just let it happen.

I gave up. I turned away. I stopped caring. I started drinking. A lot. I'd get drunk and the bad man would go away. Which is probably what the bad man intended.

When I took a hard look at the idealism I was raised with, in contrast with the total failure of 60s counterculture to fight "the man", I blamed the hippies. Completely. In the 60s I listened to Jerry Rubin lecture about social justice and peace. In the 80s I listened to him lecture about how all that stuff was just childish stunts. And how the real solution for change was to become a Wall Street stockbroker like he had. And his multi level marketing scams, which were somehow his new tools of change. What a fucking asshole. All the hippies who had influenced me as a child became..... not good. Joined nasty cults, worked for nasty corporations, or perhaps most often just turned out to be drunk losers who'd come for the drugs. They said they would fight for justice, they didn't, they became the old people they had criticized. So I blamed them.

Not all of course. There were, and are, millions of people fighting the good fight for the common man and the planet. Many hippies moved seamlessly into environmentalism and social justice. Many more stopped protesting in the street but still retained the cause, and lived it in a more casual way. And we have many wins - gay rights, legal weed, pollution regulations. And I salute those who have dedicated their lives to justice and environmentalism. You are the heroes we need. But it feels like a drop in the bucket. Two steps forward, two steps back.

Of course...... of course, I was still young as this new angst and disgust with 40-something hippies took over my worldview. The "real life" outside my small hometown turned out to be more complicated and difficult than I'd assumed. So I just gave up. Just like I blamed old hippies for giving up. Just like them I became what I'd demonized. Which was fine, because I'd completely stopped caring. And fueled by my own self righteous indignation I rolled all of the 60s into a strawman I'd created to justify my apathy. In my mind, jam bands in general became symbols of hypocrisy. In my mind, tie dye became the fashion of the deluded. In my mind, pot became a tool to drop out and never tune in.

I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong. 40 years of my life. 40 years of my life I've lived wrong. What the fuck??!! The hippies weren't the problem. And at 20 I was just naive and sanctimonious. And wrong. 40 fucking years.

As I stood in the crowd at the Garcia Birthday Band concert, surrounded by hippies and pot and tie dye...... It wasn't any of that I should have blamed. I should have blamed a tiny subset of hippies who were as wrong at 20 as I was. Or not even that. I should have blamed myself and others who simply just gave up because it was hard. I wanted to be a social justice hero, but then I gave up when it turned complicated.

As I stood in the crowd of hippies, the hypocrisy I'd clung to for 40 years drained away. I realized it and felt ashamed for it. And then just let it go. I didn't hate them and their music. I loved them, as I always should have. And they loved me, as they always had.

I told this story over and over to a lot of hippies last weekend. All of them smiled at me and said the exact same thing - "Welcome home".

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