Timothy Miller, in his 1991 book "The Hippies and American Values" regales us with a history of the 1960's counterculture movement, exclusive of the New Left - his focus is on the hippies. Using hippie writings, Miller explains the hippie "ethics" of dope, sex, rock 'n roll, community and cultural opposition. Whether an ex-hippie himself or not, Miller cannot abstain from displaying some bias in favor of the hippie ethics - after all, much of those ethics can be boiled down to a philosophy of love and peace. Love and peace as paradigms for living is nothing to sneeze at. Why then, did the hippie led counterculture fade out, while the politically active New Left counterculture, which does not espouse love and peace, but instead confrontation and insurrection, carries on stronger than ever to this day?
The answer is straightforward; however, some foundation needs to be laid first.
Perhaps the best way to highlight the failure of the hippies to achieve their ends is an examination of their communal movement. Miller estimates that at the height of the hippie movement over 1000 rural and 200 urban communes existed. Almost all of those communes disintegrated with a year or two. Again - why? Well for starters, unlike other experiments in communal living (aka: communism), the hippie communes operated on principles of free expression, hedonism, and anarchy - in keeping with the founders "ethics". To this day, hippies still look back on the rock festival Woodstock as the pinnacle experience of, not only free love, but selfless sharing of material goods (it rained a lot at Woodstock and essential services were overwhelmed and failed, so the concert-goers all shared food, fire wood, medical supplies, etc.). What the Woodstock participants, then and now, fail to acknowledge is that the provisions shared-around had to be acquired somewhere to begin with - those provisions weren't lowered down as manna from heaven. If they had been the hippie movement might have survived. It is in the getting of the means of survival and obtaining space in which to survive, that men meet their greatest challenges. Not only were communal members frustrated by the need to obtain necessities of life, they were frustrated by the high cost of obtaining and maintaining land for communes. Does that sound familiar to you non-communal readers who labor at a 9 to 5 job?
Can the stark realities of getting a living, and getting along with our fellow man, be overcome by love and peace? Perhaps, but not the hippie way.
At the Fall, God ejected Adam and Eve from an environment very like the one that the hippies tried to duplicate. That is one reason the hippie ethic still pulls at authors like Timothy Miller, even across the span of 20 years. God does want love and peace for us. He gave it to us once and WE rejected it, in rebelling against His order of things. God did more than get angry at Adam and Eve - in love He put them out of the Garden into a demanding environment where a person is forced to choose between self reliance and reliance upon God. This choice is true story being played out in all history. History is, in reality, a catalog of people on the one hand, struggling on their own (the history taught in universities) or on the other hand the history of people depending on God (recorded in the Bible and kept out of universities).
The hippie movement failed because it tried to usher in a utopia that can never be realized without the Prince of Peace. Christ said:
"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (Luke 12: 51-53)
Until Christ comes again, we will not realize full peace; perhaps in our hearts, but not in our experiences - "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'". (Matthew 16:24). Christ challenge to carry a cross is not an invitation to rest, but an invitation to struggle - with Him.
The hippies had a good goal in mind but poor timing and poor execution. Peace will come in Christ's time, and by His methods, and by His alone.