Archive for April 14, 2014

How to Get Over Our Hippie Hangover

When I was a teenager I thought hippies were cool, and I wished that I had lived back in the ’60’s when there was so much social consciousness, protests going on, the 1990s seemed sooo boring compared to back then to me. Then I got older and a bit wiser, and started to observe the influences that the hippies had on Pagan and left-wing political movements and other aspects of American culture. Hippie culture had its purposes- and still does in some contexts. But I think the problem now is many of us are waking up to a long hangover after the wild party are a little too stuck on some ideas.

The white middle-class social norms that hippies were reacting against needed to be challenged, and some of them still do. One of the problems though, is that rebelling against some of these norms- by using drugs, engaging in pre-marital or promiscuous sex- being involved in radical protest movements- are things that white middle and upper-class youth can often get away with fewer repercussions than working-class youth (of various ethnicities). Young people with privilege can get more help from their parents when they have trouble with the law, drugs, unplanned pregnancies. This is a point many conservatives have been making since the 1980’s- and while I’ve come to see at as valid, it’s limited in context. The conservatives usually follow up this point by stating that we need to go back to those original 1950’s WASP norms, without questioning them, and that class-privileged whites in particular need to set a “good example” to others. Keep on the straight and narrow. Don’t question authority. Don’t ask for more.

If you look at an entry-level job application at a fast-food restaurant, it will often state things to the applicant such as “Show up to the interview on time, cleanly groomed and in professional clothing, and sober. No visible tattoos or facial piercings”. In other words don’t act or look like a hippie if you want the job.

Sometimes you have to subvert the machine from within. Remember how many of these radical movements were happening at elite universities- which were transformed. Sometimes you need to work for “the Man” to make a living- and you might be able to go further in your artistic/social/political/spiritual goals if you do so, rather than “slumming it” as a street musician. We can’t all “follow our bliss” at least not in a way than means we get paid to do it. Someone has to collect the garbage, wait on tables, stock the grocery store shelves. Ideally I’d like to see a society where, much like a household shares on doing chores, we all chipped in to help with work we see as menial or unpleasant. (This is why I sometimes bus my own table or put away items I’m not buying at a store) Perhaps if we did things that way, it wouldn’t be seen as so terrible. In the mean time, I want everyone who can work to get a fair shot at a job that pays a living wage, and a job that gives them paid time off, and schedule flexibility for work/life balance. I want everyone who can’t work full-time or work at all, to get sufficient support they need from society that does not shame them for their disability or force them to spend down their savings to keep their benefits. We also need to make it easier for people with disabilities to find work that accommodates them, and helps people move between SSDI and Voc Rehab. I think these are perfectly reasonable, and realistic goals for us to strive towards- it just may not seem that way because of how our economy and society is structured.

We can make all this happen, yet there will still probably be people who don’t show up to work (on time or at all), don’t do their job well enough and are lazy or dishonest. There are people like that, and they are always used as an excuse to deny benefits and assistance to honest, hardworking people that need help. I think if people feel as if they have a fair chance, and fair pay and treatment in the workplace they will be more motivated. But there are still people that will try to cut corners and find easy ways out. Wealthy people who are lazy and dishonest frequently go unpunished, and are even rewarded in various ways. But if a poor person does, their punishment is often swift and harsh, often too harsh for them to be able make it back into a good job, housing and stable family life. In spite of this, their slacking off, or theft or drug use, or what have you often has a small impact on the rest of society, compared to the wealthy person. Though they should of course be held accountable for their actions. I also think that if you treat people with constant suspicion, and raise them with the expectation that they will be a criminal, all too often they will prove you right. This is a terrible shame.

(Once again, this is a pretty broad ranging post- I have way more to say about many specific topics mentioned here! I also realized that this post became mostly secular in focus, so I will discuss spiritual aspects more at another time.)


April 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm 2 comments


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