Monday, June 8, 2009

It's Not the Age of Aquarius. It Never Was.

By Alan Caruba

While watching the Tony Awards Sunday evening, a portion of the show included an excerpt from the revival of “Hair”, a Broadway show devoted to the excesses of the 1960s when words like “hippie” became part of the national vocabulary.

By the 1960s I had already graduated college and served in the U.S. Army. I was a journalist at the time so I had opportunities to observe and report upon various events and personalities of the era. I was in my twenties, but I recall being appalled by the ethos of a new generation that abandoned all the traditional values that most Americans shared at the time.

I thought then and now that the hippies represented an immaturity and irresponsibility that one associates with the worst aspects of adolescence. The Tony Awards segment only reaffirmed my feelings and I found it no less offensive than when the show first offered its view of America, the use of illegal drugs, the so-called sexual revolution, and other justifications for refusing to grow up.

Admittedly, I liked some of the songs and so did much of the nation. When it opened on Broadway in April 1968 several of the songs became top forty hits. A film adaptation was released in 1979. The revival opened on Broadway on March 31, 2009 and was embraced once again by the critics, mostly likely for its anti-war theme which was originally focused on the war in Vietnam and now fits in with opposition to the war in Iraq that helped get Barack Obama elected.

It seems to me that the 1960s marked some invisible line between the America that held strong, patriotic and traditional values, and a unity that has not existed since then. While only a handful of those growing up during that decade became hippies, those that did bequeathed a tolerance for drugs that became a social problem that remains to this day.

The 1960s was a decade of incredible turmoil, occurring as it did when the Civil Rights movement hit full stride. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and not long after Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated by a Palestinian immigrant.

While plunging deeper into the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson let loose a “Great Society” series of programs in the name of helping the poor and the disadvantaged, along with the inevitably slothful members of society who can never be counted upon to work.

Barack Obama is attempting to do the same today, issuing “stimulus” checks and massive government-run takeovers and programs instead of allowing the free market system to correct itself as it always has.

In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion, a form of license for “free love.” Forced busing in the name of equality became the law, quotas made their way into the workplace and colleges in the name of “fairness”, but consuming everyone’s attention was the Vietnam War.

“Hair” was about not wanting to fight that war, about “dropping out and tuning in” as the drug culture became a permanent part of the American scene, but mostly it was and is about self-indulgence as characterized by letting one’s hair grow long. The musical’s characters pursued the "bohemian" life in New York.

The America in which I had grown up was characterized as a bad place.

I didn’t like much about the 1960s and I had to live through it. The 1970s was no picnic either. It featured the one-term idiocy of Jimmy Carter.

For a brief respite, Ronald Reagan reintroduced a mature approach to the way a great nation must behave, but he was replaced by the feckless Bill Clinton whose Oval Office antics tainted the role of the presidency. A no-nonsense former Texas Governor took over. After 9/11, we got through until now unscathed because he was not inclined to be nice to our enemies. For this, he was vilified by Democrats and those who supported Barack Obama.

The youth-oriented culture of the 1960s has returned in the person of Barack Obama who got elected by opposing the war in Iraq and promising “hope and change”.

The bill has come due for the financial excesses of the previous decade, as much the mark of immature, reckless behavior as anything else by those who came of age in the 1960s.

Obama is the worst combination of LBJ, Carter, and Clinton. Much of the cloying media treat him like a rock star.

The nation is on the threshhold of abandoning the vision of its Founding Fathers and the dictates of the U.S. Constitution. Driving that transformation is a narcissistic man-child and an ideologically besotted Congress that refuses to acknowledge the laws and truths of science, economics, and the reason America came into being; the focus on individual liberty backed up by a limited federal government.

It is not the Age of Aquarius. It never was.


Red said...

Our modern day ode to "Hair": "RENT". I can't stand either one.

Ayrdale said...

It certainly is not the age of aquarius, but the USA now, and over the last 9 years my country, has had to suffer under the influence of that age.

GWB was reviled because baby boomer aquarians control the established MSM, they hadn't ascended fully when Reagan was in power. Look though what is steadily and slowly happening around the world. Britain and Europe are tilting to the right, Obama in the USA will be seen as we now see Jimmy Carter, a none too bright utopian trying to spend his way out of trouble and relying on discredited ideology.

Kia kaha.

Dave's Daily Day Dream said...

You write (so well, Alan),

"The nation is on the threshhold of abandoning the vision of its Founding Fathers and the dictates of the U.S. Constitution."

We're way beyond the threshold. I'll wager you couldn't find five out of one hundred voting people who could even begin to discuss either the founder's ideas, our Nation's history or what the Constitution is for.

I'll also wager they'd know that "The Closer" starts tonight on TNT and "American Idol" is concluded.

"Where's my remote, honey? How 'bout another Bud?"

Carolyn said...

Hi Mr. Caruba- I don't remember the 60's very well- as I was born in '65, but i have to admit, I always liked the music. That said, I've seen all the iconic 60's type movies and documentaries, and one thing I've noticed is that all those communal "hippies" used to go around saying never trust anyone over 30 and don't trust the government (man) - well, now we've got a bunch of aging, over 30 ex hippies and peacenick commies running the government. It's scary.
God Bless~

Alan Caruba said...

I am not prepared to write off the common sense and growing anger of the common man (and woman) in American.

We can and we must win this fight with Obama and the Democrat liberals controlling Congress.

Alan Caruba said...

Carolyn: Don't be scared, be angry and be active at the local level. The GOP and conservatives have to take our case to the people.

Jesse said...

I liked the 60s and 70s. The girls were beautiful as they are now, with long beautiful hair.
You could hitchhike from coast to coast with few hassles and faster than a greyhound bus. Now a days, I would hesitate to pick up anybody.
I despised the Viet Nam War. A war of attrition and make believe battle lines that our troops couldn't cross. A war that our troops were not allowed to win. Thank you LBJ and the democratic party, and thank you Tricky Dicky for continuing it. They called it a "police action". I can't tell you of how many friends that I lost over there and for nothing.

I still remember the heartbreak that I felt when Clinton was in office and he basically deserted our troops in the disastrous mission in Somalia on October 3, 1993. No cover for our troops. That idiot secretary of "defenseless" Les Aspin was forced to resign but he should have been put up against a wall and shot.
The cut and run policies... good grief. Started with Truman in Korea. Then LBJ and Nixon in Viet Nam. Ronald Reagan allowed our Marines to die in Lebanon in the Beirut barracks bombing (October 23, 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon) during the Lebanese Civil War killing 299 servicemen, including 220 U.S. Marines.
I'm wondering if a great man like Ronald Reagan was, did a cut and run. What will "the god" Obama do?
I fear for any of our service people under this administration.
At least, during the sixties it wasn't so crazy and violent as it is today. We at least knew the system was screwed up.
But, I don't worry, for the "god" Obama will save and deliver us from all of our sorrows. "For his speech is smooth as butter, his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords." Be careful not to blaspheme our new "god".

Kendra said...

Foiled again! I read your site yesterday and thought I was caught up and you snuck this in when I'd gone off line for the day (if you're Eastern time, I'm 6 hrs later). Now I know better - last thing before turning in, see if you've written something I want / need to respond to.

So here I am at work, with lots to say about this piece. I do have time later - part of my job description is simply presence. Unless it's a problem for you, I'll still come back and try to make one point at a time - maybe the thread won't go cold (Brian, you out there?).

First point: I think you are enough older than I am to have had a different experience. Although I really only can speak for myself, I have heard many similar stories to mine. The early 60s high school experience I and my 2 brothers and sister endured was a society unto itself. It was an elitist, PC in a very different way, cronyist, repressive oligarchy. This continued on into my first year or so of college.

This has nothing to do with my value system - I've always been not only instinctively freedom-loving (yes, haha, "free spirit"), but was raised by extremely intelligent, honest, ethical and active parents. I have never rebelled against them. If I gave you their names, you wouldn't recognize them right off but a little research would impress the hell out of you.

That's the general background. If OK, I'll be back, because what happened in the 60s was extremely complex.

Thanks, Alan, if you'll indulge me.

Kendra said...


I've been obsessing over the next point I wanted to bring up. Then I realized, I got suckered once again.

I was accepting a strawman.

There are no Aquarians in power. There never were many to begin with. It was a little bubble, that attracted many people for myriad reasons. It was hijacked.

The people who are in power now - their parents and the oldsters still hanging on - helped create the Aquarian types. It's only a reprise of petty, bureacratic, statist, sanctimonious, judgmental types that held sway in the early 60s.

Sorry, I do feel very passionately about this. My plans to earn my keep working for my friend-boss are out the window - I admit I'm a bit "hypomanic" hahaha. But, as I said in my earlier comment, I'm also being paid for my presence, so I can make up for it tomorrow.

If you knew my history, it'd probably curl your toes. Nevertheless, I've always been true to what is not only instinctively right (haha) but rationally right. And stood up for that. I've challenged Cesar Chavez dupes in California, for instance, back in 69.

The word hippie has entered the jargon, now, and people who were "never there, never done that" put it on as a mantle. I never did - and many others as well.

They were the sweet, naive, ones. Not a mean bone in their bodies. No possibility to ride to power - laissez faire. Of course, many (because they were not known for their intellect) took handouts, but the more intelligent wanted no part of that. They were the ones who endured endless statist intervention. No, they couldn't lovingly build a sod house with their hands - they had to get the permits, and be harassed endlessly by petty bureaucracy. Sorry, if only they had the intellect - and there were enough of them - you'd have a powerful political force.

If any of them still survive today, they're not running things.

And of course, it's youthful self-indulgence. But is that worse than the straight "juicers" whose youthful indulgence consisted of getting drunk and hunting down "hippies" so they could spray them with fire extinguishers?

No matter what one's youth is like - one either grows up or not. That this is even an issue is a sign of the luxury we have / had as an affluent society (since when did hunter-gatherers have a depression pandemic).

People from the 60s reflect the diversity that exists throughout the ages. There are the innocents, the stalwarts, the opportunists, the power-hungry, the bitter. No one of them should ever have the power to control.

I, although luckily never having been confronted with having to knowingly compromise, appreciate Patrick Henry, in defense of liberty everywhere for everyone, even those of whom we do not approve. I would come home to fight for that.

Alan Caruba said...

Yes, Kendra, not all "hippies" were druggy freaks, but a commentary cannot take into account all the differences. Mine focused on the "image" projected by "Hair" and it wasn't a pretty one.

And I am confident your parents did a great job raising you!

Kendra said...

Alan, thanks, they did (and luckily, they got to find out while they were still alive).

I think I'll drop it all for now, but I had a pretty hard day coming to terms with my thesis that those in control today were the same type as those who were 45 years ago - the ones many of us were happy to shake ourselves free of, albeit temporarily.

As far as drugs go, there are simply some of us who want to experience things, but not to make them the focus. So while I had plenty of psychedelic experiences, which I do not regret - including one "bad trip" - nothing, no drug, no guru, ever replaced or undermined my knowledge that I was responsible for myself and my future and were never to make up for any lack - in character or otherwise.

None of my self-indulgent "experiences" have been at the monetary cost of another - I've never taken any kind of hand-out in my life (the occasional 200 "loan" from the folks years ago, yes). We (my husband and I) have also always shared - we had the misfortune to be childless and, in days of fortune, this has enabled us to share with others, whom we choose (funny how us some of us evil capitalists in-name-only keep giving our money away while all the statists sock it away in green hedges or whatever scam they're up to these days).

Of course, I have cost family and friends sleepless nights with worry - as they have also cost me - this is inevitable where there are ties of love.

Jesse, it was wonderful to no longer be a geek because I had curly, wild hair. Before, during and after Aquarius, and still, long straight hair was always "cool." Us non-preppy-looking types were definitely looked down on until at least 1968 in mainstream America. Now, hormones have come into play and I lost my wild hair but, on the other hand, now I look very 60s French.

Being the unrepentent, incorrigible creature that I am, I will go home and be a hedonistic never-hippie (remember my definition of hippie). I'll do laundry, have some stimulating conversation with C, smoke a little poor-man's tobacco (yes, it's true, hemp was what poor people used to smoke here long ago when tobacco was too expensive - naturally, it wasn't very strong then. I'm told hemp was only criminalized - barely - in 76, anyway.) I'll also have a couple of glasses of wine and some rich man's tobacco as well.

P.S. GWB and the Age of Aquarius - a whole nother subject....

I'll do tomorrow the office work I didn't do today for my boss-friend (he's likely to be doing something similar, tonight, too). Of course, I met my daily deadlines (website entry, etc.)

Kendra said...

Just looking again at the title of your post, Alan.

We are in total agreement.

Chris said...

I don't remember the 1960s, but the '70s were grim and violent times here in the UK. The '80s were grim and violent too, but more interesting than many will allow as it's not politically correct to mention the 1980s.

In fact, I found the 1980s far more interesting, on the whole, than the 1970s. Thank you for a thought provoking article.

As for hippies... my mother was of the age to have been a hippie in the 1960s, but working class. She says: "You needed money to drop out!"