Question #23 ~ The End of an Era?

by Hunter S. Thompson

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Unread postby Liz » Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:36 pm

lumineuse wrote:
Sands wrote:I remember having this discussion a lot in the late 60's/early 70's. There were definitely two camps, the political activists and the drop-outs. And the main argument was this: Do you put society right first, then deal with the luxury of 'consciousness expansion', or do you need the consciousness expansion first and that will automatically change society for the better?

I think both sides ultimately had the same aim - a better world - it wasn't that the drop-outs were just selfish. It's just that they didn't think real fundamental change on the outside was possible without a fundamental change in people's innermost thinking and view of the world. And I have to say I still tend to think that.

Maybe the real answer is that you need both. And also that both approaches can be used in bad ways as well as good.


There is a really interesting essay on this very topic in The Great Shark Hunt.


Lumi, can you give us a quick synopsis?
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Unread postby lumineuse » Wed Sep 28, 2005 8:29 pm

Liz wrote:Lumi, can you give us a quick synopsis?


Nope, I couldn't begin to try - but I'll try to type out a pertinent passage. From The "Hashbury" Is the Capitol of the Hippies, New York Times Magazine, May 14, 1967:

Last year in Berkeley, hard-core political radicals who had always viewed hippies as spiritual allies began to worry about the long-range implications of the Haight-Ashbury scene. Students who were once angry activists were content to lie back in their pads and smile at the world through a fog of marijuana smoke - or, worse, to dress like clowns or American Indians and stay zonked for days at a time on LSD.

Even in Berkeley, political rallies during 1966 had overtones of music, madness and absurdity. Instead of picket signs and revolutionary slogans, more and more demonstrators carried flowers, balloons, and colorful posters featuring slogans from Dr. Timothy Leary, the high priest of acid. The drug culture was spreading faster than political activists realized. Unlike the dedicated radicals who emerged for the Free Speech Movement, the hippies were more interested in dropping out of society than they were in changing it. They were generally younger than the political types, and the press dismissed them as the "pot left", a frivolous gang of druggies and sex kooks who were only along for the ride.

Then Ronald Reagan was elected Governor by almost a million-vote plurality. Shortly afterward, Clark Kerr was fired as president of the University of California - a direct result of Reagan's victory. In the same November, the G.O.P. gained 50 seats in Congress and served a clear warning on the Johnson Administration that despite all the headlines about Berkeley and the New Left, most of the electorate was a lot more hawkish, hard-nosed and conservative than the White House antennae had indicated.

The lesson was not lost on the hippies, many of whom still considered themselves at least part-time political activists. One of the most obvious casualties of the 1966 elections was the New Left's illusion of its own leverage. The radical-hippy alliance had been counting on the voters to repudiate the "right-wing, warmonger" elements in Congress. But instead it was the "liberal" Democrats who got stomped.

So it is no coincidence that the Haight-Ashbusy scene developed very suddenly in the winter of 1966-1967 from the quiet neo-Bohemian enclave that it had been for four or five years to the crowded, defiant dope fortress that it is today. The hippies, who had never really believed they were the wave of the future anyway, saw the election returns as brutal confirmation of the futility of fighting the establishment on its own terms.

There had to be a whole new scene, they said, and the only way to do it was to make the big move - either figuratively or literally - form Berkeley to the Haight-Ashbury, from pragmatism to mysticism, from politics to dope, from the hang-ups of protest to the peaceful disengagment of love, nature, and sponteneity.
Last edited by lumineuse on Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby JD101 » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:13 pm

Wonderful lumi!!! Thank you for finding and typing all that out. It illustrates exactly what we had been talking about.

Hunter was certainly more of the " hard-core political radical" type. This is the ending he described.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:35 pm

Very nice, lumi! I've been looking over letters in Proud Highway and F&LILV trying to find the quote I alluded to earlier in the discussion about The Movement and The Acid Culture to no avail... :banghead: I think this article says exactly what Hunter was writing about. Thanks! :cool:
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Unread postby Liz » Thu Sep 29, 2005 1:58 am

lumineuse wrote:
So it is no coincidence that the Haight-Ashbusy scene developed very suddenly in the winter of 1966-1967 from the quiet neo-Bohemian enclave that it had been for four or five years to the crowded, defiant dope fortress that it is today. The hippies, who had never really believed they were the wave of the future anyway, saw the election returns as brutal confirmation of the futility of fighting the establishment on its own terms.


:thanks!: Thanks for typing all of that out, Lumi. :cool: This explains more clearly for me what was going on here at the time in the Haight-Ashbury. I was really too young at the time to understand the political dynamics behind the whole thing.
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Unread postby lumineuse » Thu Sep 29, 2005 9:36 am

You're all very welcome. I highly recommend The Great Shark Hunt. It's quite an impressive collection of Hunter's work, and gave me a much better understanding of his intelligence and range as a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Unread postby DeppLovesBananahs » Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:57 am

Liz wrote:Heavy is an understatement, Raven. I'm not well-versed in the area of LSD as to it's original purpose. I was too young and too sheltered during the 60's and early 70's. So it is hard for me to comment. I'm enjoying reading all of yours, though. But based on what you are saying about Leary's message and the point of view back then as so eloquently put by Sands, I'm thinking that the premise was a good one--to change the people's innermost thinking. The thing is that those that were taking it, were already there. I think they needed to give it to some of our politicians. :lol: Imagine Nixon on acid.

I agree with what you've all said about Hunter. That he was all about action. And I think he was frustrated that he was fighting a losing battle, that he didn't have enough warriors on his side, and that they were tuning out. But Hunter was taking it, too. He just happened to be one of the few that could do both. He had amazing constitution that he could withstand all that drug use/abuse for so long and still be functional. Of course, we all know he went beyond functional.


I think................you're right. I liked your Nixon comment, :lol: maybe if he was on acid his presidency would be a bit more...........*insert adjectives here*
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:17 pm

Hannah wrote: I think................you're right. I liked your Nixon comment, :lol: maybe if he was on acid his presidency would be a bit more...........*insert adjectives here*_________________


Of course not all trips are good ones! :freaked:
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Unread postby Liz » Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:26 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
Hannah wrote: I think................you're right. I liked your Nixon comment, :lol: maybe if he was on acid his presidency would be a bit more...........*insert adjectives here*_________________


Of course not all trips are good ones! :freaked:


:biglaugh:
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Unread postby dharma_bum » Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:37 am

I’m glad I waited to post until today… Sands and Lumi I think you really crystallized the fissure that split a movement in two... at least for Hunter.

I find the spiritual component to this passage a little confusing. In the search for enlightenment from the inside in (yes, dharma) the “light at the end of the tunnel” would be self-made. The simple interpretation would be that HST was saying that no drug was capable of changing someone who wasn’t already on that path. But another part of me thinks that it was a slam against spiritual enlightenment altogether and that it was the quest itself doomed the movement to failure… just a thought.

It fits that aforementioned philosophical school of thought that says when you discard the notion of god or a higher being or even a higher plane of existence there is liberation. You learn to live in the moment… to exist. Your choices become limitless, as long as you accept the consequences of your actions. Is this what Hunter meant later in life when he said that he had become a road man for the lords of karma?
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:29 am

Dharma, you've got my head spinning all over again. :-) :hypnotic:

Did anyone watch The Sixties: The Years that Shaped a Generation last night? Many of the points that have been made here were made there. The only quotes I wrote down were the following: Tom Hayden referred to the young people of the time as "A generation of might have beens". And Eric Burton said he was told LSD would "change the world".
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:52 am

Liz wrote:Dharma, you've got my head spinning all over again. :-) :hypnotic:

Did anyone watch The Sixties: The Years that Shaped a Generation last night? Many of the points that have been made here were made there. The only quotes I wrote down were the following: Tom Hayden referred to the young people of the time as "A generation of might have beens". And Eric Burton said he was told LSD would "change the world".


I did watch and I feel much better now about my generation! Several things stood out for me.

The first was about the music. To paraphrase: We were not in control of the media but we were in control of the radio. It was our secret language that allowed us to communicate with each other all over the country and brought us together.

The second was a triggered memory. On the day in October 1969 of the big march on Washington, a national day of protest, we wore black armbands to school as our way of participating. I was a junior in high school at the time and the mom that was supposed to drive us home from school that day wouldn't let us in the car because of our armbands so we walked home.

The third thing is I left the program feeling that we did make a difference with the antiwar protests, it could have been a bigger difference but still it made a dent.
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Unread postby lumineuse » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:09 am

I watched it, too. I also thought the point about the music was interesting, DITHOT. And I agree that we made a difference, although I have to say that I think we're still trumping up reasons to involve ourselves in warfare. But the Civil Rights gains that were made for African-Americans and for women during that era are indisputable in my mind, and came at a cost to a great many truly committed people. And I don't think that the "conflict" in Viet Nam would have ended so soon without the intense political pressure applied at home.

Some of the things were a little painful to relive, especially the assasinations of King and Bobby Kennedy. You have to wonder how things might have been different if they had lived. That speech King gave about thinking that he would not make it to the mountaintop was so touching. You could see the fear in his eyes and he faced it so unbelievably bravely. They said he was the most important American of the 20th century, and I think that is probably true. It was difficult to recall the terrible riots that swept the country in the aftermath of his death. Things like that are what shot the legs out from under the belief that we could change the world, and I think led directly to the increased morphing of political activists into dopers.

It's kind of amazing that this program aired right at this point in our discussion. It really did reinforce what we were talking about. The timing couln't have been better. Thanks for reminding us this week, DITHOT - I'm not much of a TV watcher and I would have totally missed it if you hadn't. :cool:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:14 am

lumineuse wrote: Some of the things were a little painful to relive, especially the assasinations of King and Bobby Kennedy. You have to wonder how things might have been different if they had lived. That speech King gave about thinking that he would not make it to the mountaintop was so touching. You could see the fear in his eyes and he faced it so unbelievably bravely. They said he was the most important American of the 20th century, and I think that is probably true. It was difficult to recall the terrible riots that swept the country in the aftermath of his death. Things like that are what shot the legs out from under the belief that we could change the world, and I think led directly to the increased morphing of political activists into dopers.


The story really pointed that out, didn't it lumi? About how the murders of King and Kennedy really deflated everyone and left us feeling so helpless. Watching Dr. King make that speech brought tears to my eyes knowing he would soon be dead and you could almost tell he knew it too.

And, yes, some of the political rhetoric sounded very familiar... :banghead:
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Unread postby Liz » Fri Sep 30, 2005 1:17 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
lumineuse wrote: Some of the things were a little painful to relive, especially the assasinations of King and Bobby Kennedy. You have to wonder how things might have been different if they had lived. That speech King gave about thinking that he would not make it to the mountaintop was so touching. You could see the fear in his eyes and he faced it so unbelievably bravely. They said he was the most important American of the 20th century, and I think that is probably true. It was difficult to recall the terrible riots that swept the country in the aftermath of his death. Things like that are what shot the legs out from under the belief that we could change the world, and I think led directly to the increased morphing of political activists into dopers.


The story really pointed that out, didn't it lumi? About how the murders of King and Kennedy really deflated everyone and left us feeling so helpless. Watching Dr. King make that speech brought tears to my eyes knowing he would soon be dead and you could almost tell he knew it too.


And I have never had that speech presented to me that way. I had no idea he sensed it. :-O I wonder how it is presented to the kids these days when they study him.

lumineuse wrote:It's kind of amazing that this program aired right at this point in our discussion. It really did reinforce what we were talking about. The timing couln't have been better.


There are no coincidences. :-O

Aside from what you both have already mentioned, I found the background on Eugene McCarthy interesting. Even though I attended that rally for him in Berkeley, I was too young to really understand what he was all about. I didn't know his campaign was dubbed "The Children's Crusade", nor was I aware of his slogan: "Be clean for Eugene." I'm not surprised he was considered an outsider and that those attracted to him were the intellectuals. However, I was surprised that he was the first one to enter the campaign and that he had such a huge following in the beginning. I always thought of him as the underdog. I guess that's because he was once Bobby Kennedy entered the race.

The other thing that surprised me was seeing Frank Mankiewicz. I hadn't realized he was one of Bobby Kennedy's aides.
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