Watching a bit of CNN’s The Sixties, I’m glad that it isn’t the smearpiece I was worried it might be. It seems to be a fairly objective recounting, at least from my understanding of the period.
Today, a lot of hippie, hipster, and arthouse culture is viewed as fairly insipid. And, to be fair, I’ve heard some pretty trivial and banal bullshit around Cafe Mekka in Nevada City and in hippie groups in Davis.
I’m not a big Grateful Dead fan. I love Cat Stevens, but in recent years I’ve started to see that Cat (now Yusuf Islam) was pretty lost and angry and confused.
So I was quite surprised when I hear Jerry Garcia say something that could have come out of my mouth:
“What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet. We’re not thinking about anything else. We’re not thinking about any kind of power. We’re not thinking about any kind of struggles. We’re not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. That’s not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life. A simple life, a good life. And think about moving the whole human race ahead a step, or a few steps.”
Now, I disagree with Jerry here slightly in practical terms (but not in spirit). There will need to be revolutionary struggles that will change the way that we live if we want things to improve. Transhumanism, anarchism, socialism, post-Silicon Valley capitalism, and the philosophical traditions of the whole planet are going to be needed to accomplish those changes and create innovative solutions. But I do agree that we need to not be “thinking about revolution or war”. We need to be thinking about “moving the whole human race ahead a step, or a few steps”.
The sixties culture obviously had a lot of excesses. The fetishism of psychedelics, for example, is something that I think can directly be traced to some of the addiction problems we’re seeing today. People want to change their mind, but when people want to change their mind because they hate where they’re at, all drugs become is ritualistic self-extermination.
But we need a renewed period of optimism like that. Luckily, I think that all of the evidence shows that millennials are primed to explode into a firestorm of creativity and problem-solving.
Let’s try to start throwing some matches.