William Burroughs, Beats, Hippies

Beats, Hippies and Boredom…How we got here

I fear I write too long for Kitty…But I’ve been reading books again. I know, not so very hip, and have some thoughts on our present condition:

But the roots, the root causes if you will, go back well before 1968 to the toxic culture of the beats and the echo of that culture in the Merry Pranksters. At its core, that world is about unspeakable selfishness, a deep sense of entitlement and a profound solipsism.

The enervation of the West began on hot afternoons in Tangier, redolent of hash and the delights afforded aging homosexuals by desperate Arab boys. Is there such a thing as a counter plinth? The very opposite of a platform upon which to erect a work of art or a society? jay currie


  • Drunk_by_Noon

    Thanks Jay!

  • An excellent essay. I was too young for the 60’s as well but it held a fascination for me until I actually met real live hippies. They were damaged people.

    • ntt1

      i just had a glancing blow, late sixties ,early seventies as it turned into drugs and death but it left me chronically unable to take the CRA seriously. a fondness for sandals and a strange attraction to tiki bars,

      • Drunk_by_Noon

        The sandles were the worst part.
        Birkenstocks are of the Devil and their wearers are his minions.

        • ntt1

          I do nt remember Birkenstocks most of us wore hirachis made of old car tires Birkenstocks were an efete affectation of literature profs and the early social justice warriors

        • Jay Currie

          Satan’s shoes!

        • Clink9

          Sometimes guilty. I deserve any scorn you wish to heap upon me.

          • Drunk_by_Noon

            Go forth and sin no more.
            Let us imadgine a world without evil foot ware.
            A land where Birkenstocks, flip flops, earth shoes, or crocs are unimaginable.

          • Clink9

            We can dream. As an old Wayne’s World type of Scarborough bonehead I grew up wearing only white Adidas ( nurse shoes with stripes ) and Kodiak brand boots ( laces undone ).

    • UCSPanther

      From what I have read of the California Hippies, I have been led to the conclusion that it was a more colorful and hedonistic forerunner of Occupy Wall street, complete with the heaps of societal detritus (IE Charles Manson) that joined its ranks.

  • ntt1

    could the counter plinth be the tanks of urine used to debase western icons?

  • UCSPanther

    As I have said before, the Hippie generation was ultimately about mindless hedonism, substance abuse, reckless sex and the shirking of civic and personal responsibility. In turn, this was coupled to an immature mindset of wanting to change the world without having any clue of how the world truly works. Ultimately, it has made a mess that we are still cleaning up…

    Like any party, the 1960s ultimately had to end, and it has been one big hangover of nihilism ever since.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      This song told me all I needed to know about hippies.
      That and my heroin addict uncle raving for years while I was growing up that alcohol was the most destructive drug there is.

      • Jay Currie

        The funny part of the Small Faces was that they captured a certain moment just about perfectly. As Elvis Costello put it, “What’s so Funny about Peace Love and Understanding”.

        What was funny, of course, is that an afternoon at Itchycoo Park was tons of fun, a week a bit much, a month a serious problem and a lifetime gets you the sixty five year old, long haired drooling bum on the corner.

        Other than the music, which I love, what else did that 64-70 bunch produce of any lasting value? I’m not saying nothing because Tom Robbins. But very little art, very little literature. Not much in the way of the stuff that civilizations keep around. Psychedelic ephemera is fun – things like the Filmore posters – but it dates very quickly indeed. Fashion? Hardly. Every time the boho look is revived it sinks back beneath the waves of what women over the age of twelve might want to wear.

        Meanwhile, a few miles down the road from the Haight, a computer revolution was being born. A few more miles out and men were going to the Moon. The sixties were an incredibly fertile time in America. But they are remembered for zonked out kids “Touching the Sky”.

        The roads diverged. Sadly, the culture we live in owes more to Itchycoo parks sensibility than to Cape Canaveral. That will change but the question is will it be in time?

        • dance…dancetotheradio

          I think Elvis Costello’s song Two Little Hitlers presaged the current cultural climate.
          The genius of Itchycoo Park was that it was an upbeat song that really said there’s nothing there to be happy about, the flower power thing was an illusion.
          From my vantage point, as far as fashion goes, the sixties were blighted by the introduction of colour television.
          Suddenly there was this palette they could exploit to extremes that are still evident today in, say, A&W.
          I worked at this hotel ten years ago that was built in the seventies.
          The front elevators had been renovated to feature newer interior design, albeit with aquariums in the walls, but the back elevator for the staff was orange, still.
          I am fascinated by early computer design.
          I’d love to find the schematics and manuals they used for the moon shot.

          • Jay Currie

            Google is your friend (when not your enemy) This is just the Wiki but there are loads of images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Guidance_Computer

            I can be as nostalgic as the next guy but the internet and Google are very cool indeed. When I was writing the piece I needed the spelling of Neal Cassady’s name. Bang, there it was. The funny part is that schools have barely adapted to information on demand. Meanwhile my homeschooled 14 year old, using Google-fu honed by thousands of hands on hours, has fixed the settings on his mum’s phone so she can play her music in the car on her phone by voice command.

            We live in an age of miracles and wonders.

          • Justin St.Denis

            I always thought Costello’s GREEN SHIRT was the penultimate takedown of anyone/anything obsessed with ephemera in the face of things of greater importance.

            You preen
            You flirt
            And you shine all the buttons on your green shirt

    • Clausewitz

      This man had the right idea………….

  • Hard Little Machine

    Nothing irritated me quite so much as their loud silly demands for the right to rebel in order to be like everyone else. Like every other pop culture artifact they were a brand first.

  • John

    That’s a very well written article. The sixties cultural movements were made possible, especially in America, by the unparalleled levels of material wealth. On some levels The Greatest Generation is responsible for it all. Coming of age in the depression, and then having to wage WWII and all the depravation those two events incurred, this generation aimed to make sure their children would never have to endure similar conditions.
    I think they indulged their offspring far too much. The post-war world and its economy worked way too well. The people growing up in that age developed unrealistic expectations, and that deception, that illusion, is reflected in so many aspects of 60s counter culture.
    In counterpoint to The Greatest Generation we have the one immediately following ; The Beat Generation. These people knew they could never possibly surpass the achievements of those 10 to 15 years older and so they chanelled the resluting resentiment into corrupting their offspring.
    People talk ‘hippie’ all the time, but when you do the rundown of the leaders of the 60s counterculture, you soon discover that none were boomers. Everyone from Jerry Rubin to Charles Manson were all 30s born. They are the snake in the grass. The boomers born in the 40s and early 50s who came of age in the 60s and early 70s never really had a voice; they simply repeated what cynical indiviuals a decade or more older told them to repeat.
    When you see images of those anti-war marches on Washington in the late 60s, the leaders, those barking orders, those leading the chants, those manipulating the youths, those with the megaphones…they’re all 10 and 12 and even 15 years older. It was like taking candy from a baby.
    Charles Manson epitomizes the entire period. A savvy guy, a guy born in 34, a guy old enough to remember Swing, faking ‘hippie’ and manipulating gullible people 10, 12 and 15 years younger to do his bidding, to provide him with money, to supply him with drugs and to give him sex.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      We can only influence the people that we live with and work with.
      Sometimes I feel like it is salmon spawning upstream.
      But, I keep going.
      I had a conversation with a guy at work the other day about salt.
      He said you have to be careful about it.
      I said, no you don’t because the body is built to regulate salt.
      What about all those studies? he said.
      I said those studies are as true as the people who funded them.
      You’re really in trouble if you have too little.
      That’s where we evolved from.
      The ocean.
      You need salt.
      And too much will be gotten rid of by your kidneys.
      You’re really in trouble if you have too little.