Several years ago, I was having a coffee with a younger friend. For no reason, he just blurted this deep question, “Did you have fun being a hippie?” I was a bit bemused. I told him it was a good question and then asked why he was interested. “I always looked up to people like you, the activists,” he said.
After going home, I reflected our discussion. I wasn’t that much of an activist or a hippy, but I did a little. I did protest against the Vietnam War, against Conscription, and against Apartheid. As a group, ‘our’ generation engaged in peaceful sit-ins and aimed for non-violent demonstrations. We hoped not to participate in the social expectations of our slightly bewildered parents, who had produced this era of the Baby Boomers. But did that make us hippies?
Yes, maybe, that was one of our ways of making fun, trying to achieve social change through peaceful means. The Vietnam War came to its conclusion, Conscription ceased. Thankfully, Apartheid is no more. Were we the cause? Or merely part of the process? Social change did occur.
Of course, whether we were considered hippies or not, there were other aspects of our younger life and times. Back in the days when the boys were as bad as the girls unmarried women had access to contraception. Today such women would be labelled affectionately as ‘sluts’. But it takes two to tango … Sometimes more, from what I heard.
Did you have fun being a hippie? It was in the days when wearing blue jeans, duffel coat and desert boots was a unifying symbol of our student youth, and equality for women, wearing fewer skirts, suspenders and nylon stockings. Ironic, isn’t it? We hated our secondary school uniforms, won scholarships to university, and ended up looking the same. It was an unwritten dress code, long gone in the degree factories of today. I even used to wear the omnipresent long hair tied back with a shoe lace. It was my silent protest against the expense of the women’s fashion industry. I am sure the fashion gurus did not care, or take much notice.
In those days, some students were like professional scholars. When free university came along, some of my cohorts enrolled in one subject per year, never seeming to graduate. They sat around the cafeteria in a foggy haze of smoke, drinking mud coffee, then retiring to the nearby pub to plan the next great revolution. The more the beers, the better their ideas.
But somehow, we had fun being hippies. Most of us grew up to graduate, and wanted our share of the ‘Great Australian Dream’. Did we sell out to the system? We found employment, bought wheels, became lured into marriage, home ownership, parenthood.
I can say I did have fun being a hippie. The music, the protests, the icons like John Lennon, the activists, the blue jeans, the flower power, the peace, and our ideals for social change. I wonder what these millennial generations will achieve. Good luck, kids!