My teenage daughter recently went to what marketers described as a “Hippy Festival”. What is a modern-day hippy festival? I asked her.
There were some people in long-flowing dresses and a few folk singers. But it ended up being a free for all, lots of tween-age girls jumping on stage in micro-shorts, drunk teenage boys screaming, and lots of selfies on iPhones.
My daughter, having grown up in Byron Bay, which is hippy central, was mighty disappointed. She knows what the word “hippy” really means — that it’s a badge of honour for those of my era who were driven to change the world by the music. And she knows what her generation is missing.
I was only a child through most of it, but we hippy kids stood holding placards alongside our hippy parents protesting against the Vietnam War; fighting for civil and gay rights. I was politicised before I could walk. By 13, I was a feminist reading Germaine Greer. Too young to burn a bra, I decided not to wear one in solidarity, which owing to my biology wasn’t a huge dilemma.
Dressed in his tie-dye T-shirts and flares, my father continually had Bob Dylan blaring from the record player; and at nights we’d often sit around with his friends and their guitars, strumming the anthems of revolution and peace.
… There’s a battle outside; And it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows; And rattle your walls; For the times they are a-changin’.
It was The Age of Aquarius, Woodstock, a confluence of world events. Yes, there was unbounded hedonism: mind-altering drugs, free love, and trance dance. But nothing drowned out the poetry pouring from stages across the world as Baez, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Joplin, drove their followers on. No self-respecting hippy would have taken selfies at a concert, in deference.
“OK, we’re not a revolutionary generation and we are narcissistic,” says my daughter. “But there’s always something to protest — university fees, Syria, the treatment of asylum-seekers, damage to the environment.
“Our causes are no less worthy than yours were.”
Then she adds thoughtfully that she thinks there will be another cultural revolution in her lifetime that will take eyes off Facebook and galvanise the world: battles fought over technological advancements. There’ll be ethical wars over robots, androids, clones and life-extending technology for the rich, fights over pollution from rockets going daily to the moon, and ads beamed from satellites corrupting the night sky.
And there will be stages filled with songs of protest. But who’ll be singing them? My grandkids? Or will droids and clones be “singin’ the Blues” for equal rights? In any event, they’d be well advised to pull the old hippies out of cryogenics to spur on the chorus.