Hippies with iPhones

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar jtron
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    says:

    They’re hippies, not Luddites. While there’s some overlap, they’re not congruent. There’s been a futurist, pro-technology strain in American bohemianism for quite a long time. In fact, it’s very often countercultures who help find new uses for emerging technologies, and I would recommend you look up the Peoples Computer Company as a starting point for finding out about this sort of thing. Similarly, you may be surprised to learn that “hippies” were members of the Silicon Valley tech revolution; at least one of Apple’s founders could be, not inaccurately, described thus.

    “In fact, I bet if the iPhone (and the internet) had been around in the 1960’s there would have been no hippie movement at all. ”

    COINTELPRO, mass societal disapproval, and heavy, uneducated drug use didn’t make ’em disappear. But Internet access and pocket computers would?Report

  2. Avatar jtron
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    says:

    “And when hippies with all the trappings of a drifter are still packing iPhones…well, I think it pretty much puts the nail in that particular counter-cultural coffin.”

    It’s been, what, about 45 years of “hippies” now? Hell, even “punks” (for all the strength of the underground and DIY scene) are today about as threatening to the mass culture as Sha Na Na.

    (full disclosure: I have a Black Flag tattoo as well as one commemorating the Nation of Ulysses)Report

  3. Avatar dexter45
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    says:

    The hippies were just a fad like disco and about as deep. Even though I am risking my nonexistent street cred, I have to ask what or who is the “Nation of Ulysses”?Report

    • Avatar Rufus in reply to dexter45
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      says:

      @dexter45, I lived in DC in the mid 90s and they were a very popular band with the Dischord Records/Positive Force scene, which come to think of it probably means nothing to you either. I saw them play a bunch of times, but I was always more into stuff like the Cramps and can’t describe them without insulting anyone who’s into them. Nevertheless, sort of like arty post-punk with a bit of emo and jazz thrown in, and they wore suits and pretended to be a guerrilla youth movement on their records, but there was always a strange sense of humor to it. Here’s a show I was at:

      Report

    • Avatar theotherjimmyolson in reply to dexter45
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      says:

      @dexter45, Whoa, How to violate the Clement maxim.Report

  4. Avatar Carsten
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    says:

    if the internet would have been around there would have been no hippies.

    the grateful dead were part of the hippie movement (if i am not completely mistaken) and the WELL was one of the first net communities helping deadheads to bridge the time between one concert to the next. so one could say that today’s craze of social media was actually invented by hippies.Report

  5. Avatar jtron
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    says:

    “The hippies were just a fad like disco and about as deep.”

    Both shallow and incorrect. Aftermath of hippies: the environmental movement, rock music as mainstream cultural idiom (with all the economic structure supporting it), Silicon Valley, greater tolerance for individual difference, huge flowering in DIY, especially in terms of the ‘back to the land’ movement and independent publishing and media distribution (viz “The Whole Earth Catalog;” this strain continued through punk and hardcore, both of which depended on DIY to get their music out there, and has diffused through the culture today) – ah heck, I’ll be lazy here and quote from Wikipedia:
    “The legacy of the hippie movement continues to permeate Western society. In general, unmarried couples of all ages feel free to travel and live together without societal disapproval. Frankness regarding sexual matters has become more common, and the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people, as well as people who choose not to categorize themselves at all, have expanded. Religious and cultural diversity has gained greater acceptance. Co-operative business enterprises and creative community living arrangements are more accepted than before. Some of the little hippie health food stores of the 1960s and 1970s are now large-scale, profitable businesses, due to greater interest in natural foods, herbal remedies, vitamins and other nutritional supplements. Author Stewart Brand argues that the development and popularization of the Internet finds one of its primary roots in the anti-authoritarian ethos promoted by hippie culture.”
    It goes on. As for disco, I’d say its primary legacy has been the acceptance of electronic music (especially electronic rhythms) in popular music and culture. Disco also brought together people of different cultures and sexual orientations in a non-competitive way, and I don’t see a downside to that. Nevertheless, Disco did not have the lasting cultural legacy that the hippies had.

    As for the Nation of Ulysses: band from Washington DC, early 90s, lots of put-on fake revolutionary pose and rippingly intense music.Report

  6. Avatar Sam M
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    says:

    Can’t you cast this in the exact opposite direction?

    “When even careerist kids who own things like iPhones are dressing and acting like hippies, I think it pretty much puts the nail in that particular cultural coffin.”

    So maybe the hippes won?Report

  7. Avatar Rufus
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    says:

    I saw an interview with Hakim Bey on French television, which was weird in itself, but he said something that stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like, “It has yet to sink in with the left how counterrevolutionary the Internet is, but I think things will change when it does.”Report

  8. Avatar Herb
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    says:

    Ha! That’s funny. This summer, I saw some protesters holding signs saying “Stop the resource-driven profit-motivated economy.”

    Then one of them pulled out her cellphone….Report

  9. Avatar dexter45
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    says:

    If the hippies had won the econonic problems we are having would not be as bad as they are. I am convinced that Ayn Rand won. Anybody who is a billionaire and says he was a hippie is either deluded or has undergone a major mental metaphorosis. One last thing, the hippies I know said that during the day they would would all the modern conveniences at their disposa-l such as rotary phones and trains.Report

  10. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    Is it because hippies/bohemians are supposed to be back to the Earth Luddites? Well, that’s just plain silly, coming from a man of your sophistication. Who defines “hippy” or “bohemian” in your world and what on Earth would it have to do with iPhones, etc etc.?

    In fact, if iPhones, and the like, had been available in the ’60s–70s, I’m certain that the hippies/bohemians would have snapped them up, just as they do today. Even further, if iPhones, and the like, had been available in the nineteenth century, then the original “bohemians” would have snapped them up, too. I can just see Beaudlaire, Rimbaud and Verlain, rockin’ out to whatever turned them on back them, as they walked down the street plotting their latest épater la bourgeoisie caper. I’m using very simple reasoning: if you see it happening today, most likely it happened way back in history. The analogy is with geology: one sees the effects of ice and water on rock today, therefore one is entitled to assume that they had the same effects millions of years ago, thus explaining rock formations that otherwise would be god’s work, etc etc. People don’t like socialism/Marxism today so therefore I’m entitled to think that they didn’t like it back in 1917 Russia either. In fact the historical record bears this out: the Bolsheviks lost the only election they ever stages, by a landslide, in Dec, 1917.Report

  11. Avatar theotherjimmyolson
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    says:

    Dexter as part of your ongoing education, I must inform you that I am a 70 Y/O “hippie” I left a secure highly paid job in a well known progressive Massachusetts company, to move to Maine and do subsistence farming using horses for power.Ten of us in two families shared a ten room farmhouse heated by our own wood, and having a single cold water tap in the kitchen and basic electric lights common in the rural 1920’s. In addition we were not alone . literally thousands of others did likewise. For you to state that I was involved in a fad, while enjoying all the trappings of modern life is an indication of the narrowness of your experience of a phenomenon about which you know very little. And if you think it was easy and involved no sacrifices you are simply not open to information which does not fit your pre-concieved notions. Oh, Did I mention we have an out house?Report

  12. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    This makes no sense. What’s a Hippie anyway? Back to earth? Someone who appreciates paisley? Steve Jobs a Reed drop out? Hippie as a coherent notion is about as real as its counterpart….. Ozzy and Harriet.Report

  13. Avatar dexter45
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    says:

    Reply to the otherjimmyolson: Most of the hippies were only in it because it was the popular thing to do. Most of them quit being a hippie when the fad went out of fashion. I in no way meant to disparage the real hippies. For your ongoing education I lived in Haight and I also lived in a commune in alaska. Right now I am living in Louisiana in a log house with no air. While I am not completely self sufficient, I have a large enough garden that I have not bought corn, beans, broccoli, or peppers in several. I was playing devils advocate. If the hippies had won the culture war then we would not be plagued by global warming, wars or the shear greed that permeates America today. As a side note I blame my poor hearing from leaning against a speaker during a Buffalo Springfield concert in 1967. I have seen the Dead so many times I forgot how many times I have seen them and the first time I saw them Timithy Leary was there. It wasn’t much of a concert, but the party afterwards was a puple haze type experience.Report

  14. Avatar Ryan Davidson
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    says:

    Counter-culture is, and always was, consumer culture. The transformation from Woodstock to Wall St. is just a continuation down the spectrum of attributing moral weight to one’s personal spending patterns. Whether you’re buying Dylan albums and hemp skirts or iPhones, the underlying dynamic is that one is signaling one’s moral values through one’s purchases.

    To be truly counter-cultural, one would need to, say, reject the dominant paradigm of sexual license. Something like that.Report

  15. Avatar Yellow Dog
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    says:

    “Hippie as a coherent notion is about as real as its counterpart….. Ozzy and Harriet.”

    Or the Tea Party.Report

  16. Avatar dexter45
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    says:

    yellow dog, I have to disagree that there isn’t a coherent notion as to what a hippie or an ozzie and harriet is. I think jtron’s reply to my psuedo snark is a fairly good description of what hippies were. I have known a few O and H’s also. It is not that they don’t exist, it is that they are extremely rare. I don’t know the otherjimmyolsen except through his replies, but he seems real, and please believe me when I say some of the people I knew in Boulder and Alaska in the 60’s were and still are serious hippies. I do think that disco sucked, but I don’t know much about it becuase during the height of disco I was living in the heart of Cajun country where English was a second language to most of my neighbors and they only spoke it when they were talking to me. The local bars were much more likely to have a zydeco band or one the covered southern rock especially Lynyrd Skynard before they became caricatures of themselves.Report

  17. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Regarding hippies – look, I’ve known enough hippies and have gone through my own hippie phase so I’m mostly being snarky. This girl in the post was seriously decked out, uber-bohemian, on-the-road style hippie and then she busts out the iPhone, and there’s just something so distinctly anti-bohemian about a device you have to pay close to a hundred dollars a month for. It was such a stark contrast to the rest of her. And besides, I would expect hippies to be into slightly more open technology than the super closed Apple platform. I don’t know. It was mostly a reaction to the contrast of the slick technology and materialism with the knapsack toting hippie girl that I found remarkable. If it had been just any old cell phone I wouldn’t have though twice – or if she had been just your standard hippie and not quite so over the top. (We have tons of hippies here, plenty have phones, few I’ve seen like this.)

    Besides that, my point isn’t whether hippies were great lovers of technology – it was that if we had had so many wonderfully distracting gadgets into 1960, the hippie movement may never have materialized in the first place. Kids who would later become hippies might have just gotten lost in their video games. I think that’s an interesting observation. Can counter-cultures really exist in an age of endless entertainment? Sort of Brave New World-ish.Report

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