So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Friday, January 4, 2013
What the hippies could get away with that we can't
During the 60s, I was too young to participate but old enough to observe. I really came of age in the 70s. By the time I got out of high school in '76, the whole hippy thing had run its course. Many of the experiments of that time had run out of steam. The Vietnam War was over so there was no longer a major movement to unite young people.
A tiny fraction of the hippies continued to live their values. A handful of communes survived. Many people held on to some of the values but pretty much integrated the rest of society.
Most got haircuts, ditched the tie dyed clothes, finished their degrees and got real jobs.
There were real jobs to be had and money to be made. Much of the hippie movement happened on college campuses. That means those young people came from a background financially well enough off to afford college. The lower working class, by and large, didn't protest the war. They got their draft notice and went and fought it. Still, even for most of them, there were jobs waiting for them when the got home. Maybe in a factory, but they could earn a living and a piece of the American Dream.
For a while it was fashionable to drop out. When that went out of fashion, most dropped back in.
Today, the fear is that dropping out is a one way trip. Once off the corporate treadmill, it's hard to jump back on. Human resources departments don't want to hear that you took a year off to read philosophy. There are plenty of other people they could hire instead. Dropping out is long long drop these days.
Unlike the 60s, students are indentured to massive student loans. Those payments have to be made. Voluntary simplicity is for rich folks who went college without loans. How weird is that?
People don't drop out of their comfortable middle class lives; they are pushed out. Jobs are lost, houses foreclosed on, and the dream is over. It's a tough landing. Too many of friends are on the raggedy edge, looking at that hard landing. I've been told that they don't know how to live like I do. That's too bad, as their landing will be a lot harder than it could be. They keep hoping for a last minute improvement that shows no signs of appearing. Job searches have stretched into years.
It's one thing to drop out when you are 21, healthy, and live in a prosperous time. It's another thing to be pushed out when you are 40, with bad knees, a wife, kids, a mortgage and two car payments. You don't crash at a friend's pad and beg mom and dad for some bread.
Those pushed out of the middle class would benefit from having a landing zone picked out. Maybe an old RV they can park on some cheap land. Perhaps n old sailboat they can live on. Maybe something as simple as selling or abandoning the house and cramming the family into an upstairs apartment above their shop. Sure beats living in your car. Heck, maybe that car is one of the things you should have ditched years ago.
The thing is, many of us will end up living like hippies, but without the cool music and too much gray in our beards. Mom and dad won't be sending us any checks as they are barely getting by themselves. There will still be people with the appearance of living the dream, but they'll be running faster and faster just to stay in place. There will also be a lot fewer of them. For the rest, it's an exercise in getting by with less. Wake up from the dream and deal with the reality.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could at least get some decent music, peace, love and understanding out of the whole experience?
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.