Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Taking back the name Hippie"

By James Ehrlich  
November 16, 2007


We're taking back the name Hippie for all the positive and hopeful things it truly represents.


The recent story in the news about Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer (D-NY) attempting to earmark $1 million for a museum in Woodstock, New York, could have been the first real public steps to reclaim the name Hippie in a positive light, while commemorating this historic location and events that categorically re-shaped our country in so many profound ways.


Unfortunately and predictably, this earmark was dropped like a hot potato not because of the modest amount of money being asked for, (a mere 1% of the overall budget), but because of the negative connotations surrounding one word, 'Hippie.'


It can be said that in 1967 the term Hippie was born out of a generation's desire for peace, love, community and environmental stewardship, amongst many other noble ideals.   But as early as 1968, just one year after the famed "Summer of Love" in San Francisco, the images of the peaceful flower-child were replaced with the dark stereotypes that sought to destroy the spirit of one of the most positive movements our nation has ever seen.


During the 1970's, Madison Avenue enjoyed portraying the colorful and and 'far-out' way to market products in a 'hippie-style,' even as a separate campaign to defame the name Hippie in mainstream media was already in full motion.


With the same gusto and enthusiasm that America was taught to despise communists in the 1950's, a similar concerted effort was placed on equating the name Hippie with anything dirty, detached from reality, and on the fringe of society. So 40 years later it's no wonder that by merely invoking the name Hippie, those who wish to marginalize others and deprecate their opinions and credibility can do so with one simple word.


The irony of course is that Hippie ideology brought us a renewed environmental awareness, after 70+ years of unchecked industrial revolution, reconnected us to healthy eating, by returning us to the roots of organics and sustainable crops and food sources, and can even be said to be the inspiration for everything from solar power, to hybrid vehicles, and even personal computers, and the Internet in many ways.


Hippies taught us how to leverage the creative freedom in music, blending the inspiration of folk lyrics with rock melodies, and turning up the volume for the world to hear. Hippie culture gave us pop art, edgy documentary films, and poetry (amongst a myriad of other art forms), to enable individuals with the power to experiment and convey stories, if only to offer a little perspective on what is truly important in life.


Now, nearly a decade into the new millennium and after the recent 40 th Anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, we're calling back the name Hippie to be defined as culturally American as Jazz, and to therefore be due all of its historical significance and status as the great American cultural movement that it deserves.


If the recent Green Festival in San Francisco proves anything, it's that there is a lot of money to be made from Hippie ingenuity as well.   Being called 'The World's Largest Sustainability Event,' the Green Festival is clearly a vibrant market place for folks looking for environmentally positive products and services to support. Literally tens of thousands of people attended the GreenFestival, where we witnessed first-hand with our TV cameras the fact that the green economy is flourishing. And yes, this is what we call very Hippie.


We were also struck by the number of young people who attended and volunteered at the Green Festival. The next crop of late teen and 20-somethings who identify themselves as Hippies, and how their interpretation of living Hippie is set to shape a whole new generation of positive thought and actions to come.


Like the word 'liberal' we can either stand idle and allow a vocal minority (and their powerful media alliances) to equate this word with being 'un-American' somehow, or we can stand up and be proud for what these words really mean to us in our own lives.


So we're taking the name Hippie back, and are proud of all that it means and conveys!



James Ehrlich is the Producer and Director of The Hippy Gourmet, a national PBS TV cooking, travel and lifestyle series and Organic Living with the Hippy Gourmet, a commercially broadcast TV series featuring all things organic and sustainable, and is also Co-author of "The Hippy Gourmet's Quick and Simple Cookbook for Healthy Eating" (Hachette USA).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good, I've just been musing on the same thing recently- on a discussion forum -- that somehow or other the impulses that fuelled the hippie movement of the sixties, have died. Something wonderful happened, and it was stamped out.

Why is it that you never, ever hear Sly and the Family Stone's music on 'classic rock' stations, and yet they were responsible for the greatest rock song ever "Wanna Take You Higher"? Why has Sly himself been so vilified, and so much effort gone into trampling him and his music into the mud?

Sly epitomized the 60s more than anyone . . hopefulness and equality - (Everyday People/ You Can Make it If You Try/ STAND! /Dance to the Music ) yet by the 70s the civil rights movement was dead, and he burned himself out, disillusioned - although still producing great music.

Stand! was a masterpiece, a call to stand up for what you believed in; and you never ever hear any music like that any more.
So - anything I can do to help bring the hippie name back again - let me know. Even I was aware that there were negative connotations to the word, although I've always referred to myself as a hippie.