woensdag 29 augustus 2012

Post-Hippie communal life in the US

Oh! Those dreadful Hippies! I fully buy into the theory that things need to be out of date before they can become fresh and inspiring again and after reading 'The Alternative, Communal life in New America' (1970) I am again convinced that while some aspects of hippiedom are again relevant, the phenomena itself will need another 50 years for people to come to it without preconceived resentment and teeth grinding. 'The Alternative' documents a few of the reported 500+ autonomous communities that sprang up in the US from the mid sixties onwards. William Hedgepeth's language is a showcase of everything that is wrong with hippie speak: overexcited staccato, ridiculous arguments about cosmic conciousness and thought patterns that need fixing, over-abundant pseudo-psychedelic onomatopeeing, and in general a special kind of optimism that can only invoke cynicism today (we know hoe THEY ended up). But my continuing inability to see through the veneer of beards, paisley and headbands is perhaps in itself a sign that what these people were up to has not yet been fully absorbed and digested by society. The back to the land movement was an unrivalled experiment in discovery of new ways of sociability, outside the 'dollar economy' and within boundaries of ecological sustainability. So I find this book (it was suggested by a reader, thank you) completely annoying but in a stimulating, self-questioning kind of way. But is it a good book? Dennis Stock's pictures maybe stress the messianic look of the average homesteading hippie a bit too much.The writing is Time/Life more than the New York Times (say) and in the end what fails this book is that what appears to be a sympathetic inside portrayal is really a betrayal of the life style by packaging it in media clich├ęs for a middle class book buying audience.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. That geodesic dome is very cool though!
    But according to the economist Robert Shiller, a basic problem with these idealistic communes is that they suffer from "freeloaders", who profit from the work of others and don't contribute much themselves.

  2. Okay, I think I'm the reader that suggested the book. Whether you enjoyed it or not, what I found interesting was the dichotomy of the lazy hippy bums versus the hard working community founders; and as a Western/Californian, we realize that most of these immigrants came from other states, often troubled homes and stifling environments - these hippy communes were a breath of fresh air, ridiculous or not.

    But you didn't mention the religious communinty at the end of the book - they seem like the real deal, and appear to be still in operation: