What is a hippie? (1967)

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Exactly what constitutes a hippie?

by Stephen A O Golden

San Francisco — One question is asked more than any other by the people who have “dropped out” on the Haight-Ashbury. It is “What is ‘a hippie?'” And the answer could also be the answer to why they have dropped out.

Ron Thalin, co-owner with his brother Jay of the Psychedelic Shop, has what he calls a “document” that defines a hippie as he wants to be defined.

The document was written by Billy Digger, one of the first diggers of the hippie movement. A digger works and organizes so that the hippie community can have more freedom and not depend on the “straight world.”

Billy Digger calls hippies, “Free form-novas” and “an automation 1916 1942 computer acid 1943 TS 1938 Shapiro 1952 1942 missile 1945 atom bomb youth explosion 67. Always. Infinite. Forever. Now — and unchanging.”

More to the point, perhaps, he says that disillusionment with the social structure, educational system and de facto brotherhood all contribute to making a hippie.

In the paper, he writes of a school teacher talking to a classroom “cramped with sitting, suffocating children.”

She says:

“Don’t talk, children, sit there and listen to me for the next six hours, for the next five years, the next 40 years. If you successfully pass through the first eight years of imprisonment, you can do four more years in high school.

“Then, if you are intelligent, fortunate, and have money enough, you can do four more years in a university. Then you can graduate and proudly be imprisoned in offices, factories, and institutions throughout the world until, at long last, you are 65.

“Then you are free to take off more than two in a row.”

Billy Digger goes on to offer an “honest alternative.”

It is:

“In a free form, the child’s natural curiosity could flow.”

And to Billy Digger the free form would preclude making a child study with other children, under one teacher, all day.

The hippies, therefore, have rejected the biological family form and live in communes, or extended families, with each family a tribe.

“The 1919 space 007 Betty Crocker Miss Clairol family institution is a death form,” according to Billy Digger. “Marriage, responsibility for children, alimony or death. Let’s do away with the meaningless, unnecessary.”

“The basic unit of the culture,” he says, “would be the commune instead of a house with one man and one woman in it.

“The commune would not be owned by one person or one group but would be open to all people at all times, to do whatever they wish to do in it.

“There would be marriage contracts, but people could still have huge ceremonies when they meet someone they dug. And if someone dug a different person every day, he could have a different person every day.

“All children, from the moment they were born, would be the responsibility of everyone, not only of the blood mother or father.

“In the Haight-Ashbury during the last year, there was none of the shut-in paranoid one-man-and-woman-and-children family structure. Most people lived in communes because they were open and fun. People taught other people what they knew — whether it was about guitars, printing presses, dope, confronting slum lords, cooking, confronting police, raising children, painting, sex, etc.

“Children were confronted with multiple character images rather than just their mother’s and father’s. For most people, it was stimulating, more open, more knowledge-giving, more self-expressive than any other family form they had lived in.”

The communes can range from two-room “crash pads,” which anyone can enter, to houses where an extended family lives. Rents can range from $90 for the pad to $210 for the three-floor, 11-room house.

Photo 1: Hippie Demonstrator offering a flower to a military police officer – October 21, 1967. Photo 2: “Hippies on the Corner of Haight and Ashbury” by Gene Anthony. (Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images)

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