free_hippies_by_tanin2011-d4dhhjnHOW THE HIPPIES MADE NATIONALITY AN IRRELEVANCE It’s a curious turn of events but it is nonetheless very real . The reason you are reading this at all is in large part the result of a bunch of hippies in the 1960’s .These words on that little electronic screen are their legacy. I suppose, if you are young enough to have been born with or shortly thereafter been given some kind of computing gadget into your little pink fist and immediately started hammering the screen and scrolling with your now , near- redundant opposable thumbs, you might take it all for granted…. ..just as you take it for granted that you may never again, in your lifetime, ever have to lift something as antique as a biro pen or even a fountain pen, if you know what that is , and compose and write a letter . God forbid that you should ever have to buy something as primitive as a postage stamp and lick its gummy backside before sticking it on an envelope before sending a letter. You may have never come across an envelope either …or a letter. This is, after all, the 21 st century and we are all now keypad warriors. our hands may never again grasp a pen. Have you ever even written a letter with an actual pen? That’s the revolution you are living in and your children and grandchildren are being born into. The cultural “cartoon” stereotype for the 1960’s “hippy”…the shorthand , if you like is usually flagged up in any number of articles or films about the counter-culture in the 1960’s .There’s usually shaky film footage of hash smoking, stoned young adults at rock festivals , blowing bubbles, taking drugs or dancing naked .That was a part of it , of course , just as it is part of a lot of young people’s lives in any generation. Lest we forget ,there was also the flowering of some very radical and new ways of thinking too, though. Take the freedom of the internet….I know , we all take this free oceanic resource of knowledge and information for granted .If we want to know anything , we “Google” it and after a seconds- quick search have all the information we could ever need to know. That facility and freedom of the “Net” is a flowering vine of knowledge, planted in the 1960s and early 1970’s, when hippie communalism and libertarian politics interwove to bind together the roots of the modern cybernet. Back then, the very idea of it was a scary, unknowable thing .It was rumoured to be a control ploy by the CIA to keep an eye on us all like George Orwell’s Big Brother nightmare. { Little did Orwell foresee that our vanity and pursuit of “fame” would make some of us complaint in that “live” televisual psychosis.}. The internet was, and possibly still is, dangerously anarchic, but the “counterculture” was driven by such as Bob Dylan’s throwaway plea to “Don’t follow leaders and watch the parking meters.” In the minds of those hippies ,the new “rock” music had a vital power of communication and Dylan was the unelected sage with the revealing words for many. {Granted, people took Bob a little too seriously .The cultish belief in that musical power led the likes of Charles Manson to murderous delusion .His distorted mindset , fixated on the the Beatles’ lyrics as messages to commit and lead carnage against a perceived Establishment, much as the Yorkshire Ripper later blamed God for his murders. On the other hand, that same kind of disrespect for the “banality” and emptyness of collective wealth, promoted the philosopy that the internet would never have a central control .It would , in effect be a leaderless free-flowing experiment of communication…entering the consiousness like music. The Jesus axiom to break bread , share and feed thousands, rather than hoarding it all for yourself, didn’t take on board the fact that too many humans can be greedy and venal too. Thinkers like Marshall McLuhan,for whom “the Medium is the Message” became a strapline ,and technophiles like Buckminster Fuller ,embraced the exotic technologies of their day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychedelic drugs like LSD. What was learned from them,were ultimately cul de sacs though . Building exotic structures was fine, later on, for the likes of Eden Project Centre, as a statement of future intent, but communal living, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s , out in the wilds like pioneers ,was not either socially or economically , the “Good Life”, without the support and societal infrastructue of established schools, hospitals and the rest. That kind of individualism was hard work, even in a shared household.. The majority of the youth in the 1960’s, if they thought about them at all, feared computers as at worst , a control mechanism that would render their every move in thrall to “the Man” …the Conservative Controlling Establishment…just as CCTV cameras are similarly feared today . There was a knowledgeable small group, later to be known as “hackers” who set about transforming these machines into tools to liberate human communication.after the earlier blind alleys.That became the route to take. Science fiction and comics were also a huge influence, which is mostly unchartered or unwritten.The forward thinking of writers such as Robert Heinlein with his hugely influential book “Stranger in a Strange Land”, with it’s contempt for governmental authority, was a touchstone as were the free-thinking concepts of the artist Jack Kirby in Marvel Comics. Kirby was a voracious reader of science fiction and also new scientific concepts , which appeared regularly in those Marvel Comic stories. Before Kirby , many of those ideas would have remained buried in the back pages of stodgy scientific journals. Kirby imagined them and then re-imagined them into fast -paced stories.They became part of the popular culture of films. Computer scientists and technicians are all seemingly drawn to sci -fi concepts as examples of forward thinking…or “thinking outside the box” Somehow since the 1940’s, science fiction has always represented a openeness in outlook , embracing anti -conservatism and libertarian ideals of peaceful and unfettered co-existance . Steve Jobs was later to be the first true computer bucaneer. He was heavily influenced by the ideals espoused in the hippy Whole Earth Catalog{SIc} Jobs was a long-haired hippie who had dropped out of Reed College, and Steve Wozniak was a Hewlett -Packard engineer.They developed and sold “blue boxes,” outlaw/illegal devices under the radar , for making free telephone calls, before they had the success story that became “Apple”. There was some talk that they cheekily called their company that name in reference and homage to the Beatles “Apple” label but that’s possibly not the whole story. Their contemporary and sometime collaborator, Lee Felsenstein, designed the first portable computer, known as the Osborne 1 and , was a radical who wrote for the renowned underground hippy paper, “the Berkeley Barb”. Virtual reality – computerized sensory immersion – was, largely inspired and partly equipped by Jaron Lanier, who grew up under one of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes in New Mexico. The latest generation of supercomputers, utilizing massive parallel processing, was invented, developed and manufactured by Danny Hillis, a genial hippy. That generosity of spirit which the Beatles first endorsed in their own “Apple” vision of distributing facilities to encourage talent, although flawed in execution , held that in the giving, prosperity follows as night follows day.. The information age we now live in is indelibly stamped with the seal of the countercultural 1960’s.. Steven Levy ,in his 1984 book, “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution”,postulated that outside of what we assume is “normal/political/social” life there was a new breed of individuals who deliberately led the rest of civilization away from centralized mainframe computers and their predominant sponsor, IBM. This “Hacker Ethic,” , offered a distinctly countercultural set of tenets which promoted a “personal computer ” idealism. ..such as 1.”Access to computers should be unlimited and total.” 2.”All information should be free.” 3.”Mistrust authority – promote decentralization.” 4.”You can create art and beauty on a computer.” 5.”Computers can change your life for the better.” Timothy Leary ‘s use of psychedelics and their associated keys to creativity and unique new ways of seeing the world…his sloganeering , “Turn on, tune in and drop out,” advice appealed to the Beatles who were fortunate in that they had few money worries by then and were in an experimental state of collective mind themselves.Their huge public presence spread these underground ideas even further afield, what with McCartney’s input into the underground press via his friend Miles’ “International Times” {IT} and their support of “Oz” magazine.. This also appealed to college students of the 1960’s who also felt the pull away from academia’s vision of business practice . That “straight” , tight little box of greying suits.”Doing your own thing” was a byword for “having a go” ,” thinking outside the tight rigid box of society” and running your life and business in new and radical ways. Reviled by the broader social establishment, hippies found ready acceptance in the world of small business. They brought an honesty and a dedication to service that was attractive to vendors and customers alike. Success in business made them disinclined to “grow out of” their countercultural values, and it made a number of them wealthy and powerful at a young age.People like Ben and Jerry turned eating ice-cream into a life-style. Ben & Jerry’s Foundation was established with a gift from Ben & Jerry’s to fund community-oriented projects. Their recurring mantra was to continually challenge how business can be a force for good and address inequities inherent in global business. This was all part of that counter-cultural underground ethos which gave us the personal computer and connected us to the internet as a collection of world-spanning individuals . That inter-connected individualism is already breaking down cultural and territorial boundaries . We can now all look and talk to each other throughout the world via Skype.We are all on the same page for the first time in evolutionary history, believe it or not!. We got this far because of those 1960’s hippies. Without them we’d still be re-cycling those same old stodgy ideas that the Establishment tries to frighten us with. …That somehow we are all tight little groups in tight little nationalist countries. It’s really now A Brave New World …and it’s not for the faint of heart..


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