BBC4’s new two-parter, How Hippies Changed the World, makes me wonder whether it was all worth it.
There’s an incredibly addictive old iPhone game called Doodle God where you effectively invent civilisation from scratch by combining basic elements. So, for example, water plus lava creates steam; the steam, in turn, can be combined with another more advanced element, I forget which, later in the game to create steam power; and so on and on until, from the primordial ooze, you have, through continual experiment, created nuclear weaponry and computers and aeroplanes and all the things we take for granted today.
I was reminded of it while watching part one (of two) of The Summer Of Love: How Hippies Changed the World (BBC4, Friday). Hippiedom, it argued, emerged from the random collision of three disparate movements in the late 1960s San Francisco Bay area — the Nature Boys, the Truthseekers and the Political Wing.
We now take it for granted that organic carrot juice, psychedelic drugs and virulently left-wing politics go hand in hand, but by the documentary’s account this was an accident of geography and fate: it just so happened that the radicals from America’s most left-wing university, Berkeley, lived next door to the acid-taking sophisticates who’d all read Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and also to the back-to-nature freaks — such as Gypsy Boots, founder of America’s first health-food store in 1959 — who in turn had been inspired by the Lebensreform movement of late 19th-century Germany.
Read the rest at the Spectator.