A Half Century of the Counterculture

I confess. I was once an out and proud member of the 60s counterculture. Yep, I was once fully into the whole thing: the hippy scene, the New Left, the drug culture, the Woodstock era, the peace, love and rock and roll culture, etc. My involvement was unlike many: most folks were in college while part of all this.

But I was still a high school kid, and I got heavily involved in the whole scene from around 1968 until August 1971 (when I made a radical break with that by becoming a Christian). You can read about my testimony and those heady days in this piece: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/

Or, if you can’t read (in which case I guess you wouldn’t be reading this!), you can listen to my story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytuiY7yBXMA

While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where and when the counterculture began, one could rightly highlight the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco in the mid to late 60s. Since the counterculture was such a big part of my young life, let me reminisce a bit here. One piece says this about the place:

The mainstream media’s coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district “Hashbury” in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily. The Haight-Ashbury district was sought out by hippies to constitute a community based upon counterculture ideals, drugs, and music. This neighborhood offered a concentrated gathering spot for hippies to create a social experiment that would soon spread throughout the nation.
The first ever head shop, Ron and Jay Thelin’s Psychedelic Shop, opened on Haight Street on January 3, 1966, offering hippies a spot to purchase marijuana and LSD, which was essential to hippie life in Haight-Ashbury. Along with businesses like the coffee shop The Blue Unicorn, the Psychedelic Shop quickly became one of the unofficial community centers for the growing numbers of freaks, heads, and hippies migrating to the neighborhood in 1966-67. The entire hippie community had easy access to drugs, which was perceived as a community unifier.
Another well-known neighborhood presence was the Diggers, a local “community anarchist” group known for its street theater, formed in the mid to late 1960s. The Diggers believed in a free society and the good in human nature. To express their belief, they established a free store, gave out free meals daily, and built a free medical clinic, which was the first of its kind, all of which functioned off of volunteers and donations. The Diggers were strongly opposed to a capitalistic society; they felt that by eliminating the need for money, people would be free to examine their own personal values, which would provoke people to change the way they lived to better suit their character, and thus lead a happier life.
During the 1967 Summer of Love, psychedelic rock music was entering the mainstream, receiving more and more commercial radio airplay. The Scott McKenzie song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” became a hit that year. The Monterey Pop Festival in June further cemented the status of psychedelic music as a part of mainstream culture and elevated local Haight bands such as the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Jefferson Airplane to national stardom. A July 7, 1967, Time magazine cover story on “The Hippies: Philosophy of a Subculture,” an August CBS News television report on “The Hippie Temptation” and other major media interest in the hippie subculture exposed the Haight-Ashbury district to enormous national attention and popularized the counterculture movement across the country and around the world.
The neighborhood’s fame reached its peak as it became the haven for a number of psychedelic rock performers and groups of the time. The members of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin, all lived close to the intersection. They not only immortalized the scene in song, but also knew many within the community.
The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia; middle-class vacationers; and even partying military personnel from bases within driving distance. The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood. Many people left in the autumn to resume their college studies. On October 6, 1967, those remaining in the Haight staged a mock funeral, Digger happening, “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony. Mary Kasper explained the message of the mock funeral as: “We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, don’t come out. Stay where you are! Bring the revolution to where you live. Don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”
After 1968, the area went into decline due to “an influx of hard drugs and a lack of police presence,” but was improved and renewed in the late 1970s.

As this representative piece makes clear, the counterculture was characterised by rebellion of all sorts. It was a protest movement against the police, parents, churches, the military, the West, capitalism, any form of authority, and “the system”. And it helped to birth the various “liberation” movements, such as gay power, black power and women’s lib.

We are of course still feeling the impact of all this today. And it has been a pretty nasty impact all things considered. As but one example, the recent transgender agenda grew directly out of the counterculture. As I told a Sydney audience yesterday, the radical feminist and homosexual movement contained all the seeds of the trans activism we now see everywhere.

The idea that gender is fluid and a mere social construct, that women are identical to (or better than) men, and the whole push for androgyny and so on was the obvious forerunner to the current trans flight from sanity. Now everything is under attack – not just gender, but biology, DNA, reason and reality itself. Nothing is safe anymore.

Speaking of which, I was in a mall earlier today and walked past at least two barbershops. I could not help but notice how horribly discriminatory, sexist, bigoted and intolerant they were. The first one listed basic prices: Children, $18; Men, $25; Women, $30.

The other one had much more detail, including prices for primary schoolers, secondary schoolers, retirees, etc. How discriminatory! If I were a male adult (which I am), but identified as an 8-year-old, could I demand to pay children’s prices?

If I were an adult female (which I am not), but identified as a male, could I get the cheaper haircut? If I were a 30-year-old (which I am not), yet claimed to be a retiree, should I not be able to get the senior citizen discount? If not, why not? Why all the bigotry? Why all the narrow-minded assumptions about age and gender? Why the discrimination?

The trans madness is just one part of the bitter fruit of the counterculture. And the sexual revolution was a major part of it all. Just yesterday on an airplane I noticed someone reading a newspaper article that is relevant here, so I tracked it down. The title is what had grabbed my attention. It included the phrase, “the sexual counter-revolution”.

In it John O’Sullivan discusses Harvey Weinstein and all the other cases of sexual abuse, harassment and rape that are now coming out. His focus may be too narrow for my purposes, but I still like the idea of a sexual counter-revolution. But we need much more – we need a counter counterculture revolution.

How that might look and how it might be achieved will have to be the stuff of another article or two. But my point here is this: many of us celebrated the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 60s. Now some of us have realised what a terrible mistake it all was.

Weinstein is just the tip of the iceberg of what was unleashed 50 years ago. That revolution promised so much but delivered so little – at least of lasting benefit and value. It did unleash a tidal wave of social, cultural and moral upheaval which we are all still suffering from today.

It is clearly time for a counter counter-revolution.


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7 Replies to “A Half Century of the Counterculture”

  1. Bill,

    It’s time to set up a “one flesh” union business to point the parliament (politicians) and community (health, education, welfare and legal services) and society (all people) to the truth of the Bible. Australians respect services that they have to pay for rather than a free service like the church. A non-profit business that would spread the truth about a public commitment to a lifelong, faithful “one flesh” union between husband and wife as they can naturally procreate, nurture and raise new-life with a male and female role model (natural human reproduction). A “one flesh” union between husband and wife is the only sexual relationship which makes it impossible to get an STD.

    The amendment to the Marriage Act and the legal voluntary assisted dying practice means that genuine Christians are free to follow the Biblical definition and regulation of “one flesh” union and commandment “do not murder.” Genuine Christians are going to be like farmers where government authorities don’t regulate nor register their “one flesh” union behaviour nor practice of a marriage oath in order to protect the public and society from harm because adultery and breaking a marriage oath are acceptable behaviour and practice in a “marriage between any 2 people” such as the “Harlot marriage.” Farmer don’t have to register with any government authorities their cats, dogs, nor vehicles. Children don’t need a driver’s licence to drive a vehicle on the farm. However, farmers have to identify farm risks and hazards in order to avoid an accident, injury or death. A farm comes under a greater law than the roads authority and cat and dog registration with a local council as it is a work site so must meet the occupational health and safety regulations. Genuine Christians still remain under God’s law and regulations even when government authorities are no longer regulating (controlling) their “one flesh” union and or their refusal in a death-care practice in a healthcare practice.

  2. The film “Carlotta” was shown again just last night and I stumbled across the second half (or so) of it.

    The 2014 review by “The Australian” kept using the words “fairy-tale”.
    I found what I saw to be a great comment on the failure, the anxiety, and the deep abiding sadness of those who seek for acceptance in this way.
    The final comment in the movie was about loving yourself. How sad it was.

    What I saw is a good illustration of the “bitter fruit” of trans madness.
    No matter what Richard/Carol/Carlotta did, the destructive root problem was never dealt with.

    It is a really strange thing that Richard was played by a woman. It is interesting that the casting could not find a trans person to look or act right. The script takes the 16 yo Richard through to the 40 yo “woman” “Carlotta” The real Carlotta looks much more of a male type than the woman playing the part in the film.

    Yes it was unleashed in the 60s and anyone looking at the fruit, or even the media promoted positive stylisation of that fruit, can’t help but notice the conflicted nature of those in it. The result is to blame. Blame the fathers, the mothers, the families, the friends, the society, and now the law.

    All they can do is scurry back into their nest of fellows who loudly profess love for each other.
    The love they look for is not there either.

    Can such a person be rescued? I believe that the answer is “yes”.
    We as Christians need to find ways to do two things that can appear opposite to each other.
    We are to proclaim the Kingdom of God with its principal command to repent and believe.
    We are also to love and care in such a way that these often angry and frustrated people will be able to hear the good news and want to be set free.

  3. I was 5 years old in 1968. Growing up in New Zealand we were a few years behind the times but the Haight-Ashbury era came to our shores and as a young teen I was infatuated with the hippie culture. I am a christian now and the age of 54 I understand that I was sold a lie. The sexual revolution destroyed the very fabric of society from its infancy in the early 60s, right through to it’s truly demonic fruition we are seeing playing out before our eyes today. May God have mercy on those of us who were ever part of this ungodliness.

  4. What did “Thunderclap” Newman say? “We have got to get it together now.” Yes there is “something in the air” alright and it’s known these days as a zeitgeist. It is a demonic juggernaut of evil. As we face the flood of overwhelming tyranny of immorality and the removal of people’s rights right, left and centre, never before were these words more true than they are now.

    The counter-culture was just that. It didn’t really matter what you did as long as it was “counter.” I.e. there were no real solutions, just complaints and overwhelmingly the things people tried were failures, often with disastrous results with drug deaths and people’s lives destroyed and even murders. I don’t know about the States but in Australia there were one or two exceptions where communes evolved basically into family businesses. They may have initially had a facade of a commune and people were initially paid by barter, which makes commercial sense because it avoids the tax man, but what they really ended up proving is the commercial realities of this world.

    What we can learn from this as we face the current reality that you are not allowed do business unless you promote immorality (which I maintain is the mark of the Beast) I’m not sure but if we can’t buy or sell without the Beast’s mark then barter may be the only alternative. As we see situations like “The Little Sisters of the Poor” in the States, it is looking increasingly like you can’t even run a religious organization without the Beast’s mark, let alone a commercial operation. Whatever the future it definitely appears that in a world of lies and illusion the Truth has definitely become the counter culture and until we have access to inform people otherwise and some balance is returned to the media, it looks set to remain so.

  5. I somehow think Prof. Timothy Leary isn’t flying around on his astral plane after all… What of those very learned theologians and philosophers on whom he based his starting premise that God is dead and that we need psychedelic sacraments to numb our incurable religious urges?

    A Protestant Work ethic devoid of belief in God and His divine vocation is bound to become an empty play-acting, sham society.

  6. The Hippie Movement was, in part, a response to an America which had lost its way spiritually and was in the process of progressively selling its soul to empty, materialist consumerism.

    Radical Christianity is the true counter-culture… living in this world as temporary residents and aliens, daring to challenge the popular obsessions and “cutting-edge” trends and received traditions of this world with the uncompromising claims of that King whose kingdom is not of this world.

  7. One of the things that the counter-revolution wanted was easy divorce. My parents were divorced. My father did not want a divorce but he gave into Mother because she was so determined. My father died a few months later. I was 16 and my brother was 13 years old. My grandparents came to live with us. My mother was living overseas at the time. My grandmother was complaining constantly. I think that my father’s death happened because he did not want the divorce. He just did not care anymore. Sometimes divorces are selfish and irresponsible. My mother just thought that she could dump us on Dad and run off. Divorce is a bad thing.

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