Resistance is Futile
A pro-hippie thesis on cyclic hippie nature
By Christie MathernePosted Apr 18, 2012
Today, people throw around the word “hippie” much like 24-hour news networks throw around the word “journalism” – like it’s a meaningless ragdoll. Despite its frequent usage, it has become a useless term because no one can seem to agree on what it means in today’s world.
There are two things, however, that the majority could probably agree on.
“Hippie” is generally used in a derogatory manner.
With a handful of exceptions, no one likes being called a “hippie.”
So why would a modern, bill-paying woman – who has never once picked up a hitchhiker, I’ll add – stick up for a dead-as-Latin counter culture that only finds function when two people are drunkenly insulting each other?
I thought seriously about the hippies – their origin, the ideas they embodied, the music they championed, and what a hippie might look like today – and I realized that they probably do exist in 2012, even though we can’t see them clearly; however, that’s not what made me surrender my hippie ambivalence.
What did it was finding out that the Summer of Love wasn’t an isolated incident.
Like a category-5 hurricane forming over an unseasonably warm Gulf of Mexico, a balancing subversive force will always emerge from a dirt pit of perfect societal conditions…right before the government is prepared for it, and at exactly the moment we need a good dose of chaos. Oddly enough, there have been quite a few moments of free love, no-property hippie chaos in the past…oh, 2,000 years or so.
When stripped down to basic ideology, the seeds of 1960s counter culture were accidentally sown by Socrates, when a wee pupil of Plato’s began to admire the Socratic rejection of wealth.
Around 300 B.C., the hippies of Ancient Greece were those who followed the tenets of the Socratic offshoot philosophy, Cynicism (actually means “dog-like”), which posited that “a virtuous life in agreement with nature” – with no possessions or belief in the worthless conventions of society – was the way to go.
When I read Cynic epistemology, I started humming “Imagine.”
It’s not just a philosophical likeness between the two; they share a number of tendencies as well. One of the first subscribers to go balls-out, “far out” Cynic was Diogenes of Sinope, who lived in a bathtub on the streets of Athens. A 20th century scholar went into more detail about the Cynic’s canine leanings: “First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads.” [Donald Dudley, Cambridge 1937.]
These Greek proto-hippies might have laid the groundwork for some pretty important mass thought-shifts since then. The tenets and proximity of Cynicism so closely bordered those of early Christianity, scholars have put energy into exploring the possibility that Jesus Christ himself may have been influenced by dirty hippie Cynics. Christian writers of the time even praised the Cynical rejection of material wealth, because that actually was what Jesus would do.
It’s not a hard concept to wrap your mind around, when you think about it. Jesus spoke of unconditional love, inner peace, and eternal forgiveness. He left his parents in his teen years to wander around in the desert, where he hallucinated in sandals and a bathrobe, and people started following him around. Eventually, tons of people left their jobs to go see Jesus’ awesome band play, where there were always enough loaves and fish to go around.
Cynicism eventually gave way to Stoicism, which revolved around a principle that might sound vaguely familiar:
“Make for yourself a definition or description of the thing which is presented to you, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety…For nothing is so productive of elevation of mind as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which is presented to you in life, and always to look at things so as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything has with reference to the whole.” [Marcus Aurelius, Stoic, died in 180 A.D.]
If you didn’t catch that, it was the scientific method. So basically, if you stand eight feet away and squint really hard, hippies invented science.
I understand that last part is probably made-up, and this might be a lot more than most people expect to hear about hippies, but I assure you, I was pretty damn surprised, too. If any of this postulation proves correct, and we get a shot at taking home some facts about the recurring hippie phenomenon, we should put a lot of effort into listing the conditions that draw them from the woodwork – that would certainly come in handy – and perhaps we’ll have a yearly hippie forecast someday. As far as the “hippie haters” go, I’m pretty sure that saying you’re anti-hippy is like disagreeing with a rock. Or maybe like punching a wave that’s about to knock you over: It has the power of the whole ocean, going in the opposite direction of your one fist, and if you happen to be left standing after impact, you can already see the next wave growing in the distance.