Saturday, June 18, 2022

Notes from an ex—hippie (short story)

 A Short Story from the June 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the 1960s, I became what was then known as a “hippie”. I grew my hair long, and wore some rather odd, shabby clothes like old, tattered blue jeans with flared bellbottoms and fringes, brightly-striped tee-shirts, Indian love-beads, Afghan coats and so forth. I went travelling around England, drifting from town to town, from squat to squat, and from commune to commune. In 1966 I smoked my first joint of cannabis, outside a pub in the West End of London. I met many beatniks and hippies; they told me things I d never known before about society, the law, politics, the police.

We did have some good times, we had plenty of harmless fun; we didn’t hurt other people. The "Beat Generation”, as it was called, were all for Peace, Love and Brotherhood—but things didn't turn out the way we planned.

Our movement soon came under the scrutiny of the police; politicians of the day such as Harold Wilson and his Home Secretary regarded us with profound hostility and contempt, but then, the feeling was mutual!

Among the things I learned from the hippies was that human beings are capable of living together peacefully and harmoniously on a basis of co-operation—if there is no impediment such as property or class division in the community to cause deep contradiction and strife. The hippies also taught me that all politics and governments are bad, they cannot find real solutions to society’s problems and only pretend that they can. That was why I didn't vote at all for many years, until I learned about Socialism—the only thing worth voting for.

I once encountered a certain police officer in London who showed a little more sympathy for us than most. He wasn’t too bad. When he asked me where I was going late one night in Trafalgar Square, I said, “I’m just going to sit down for a while. I'm tired.” We had a bit of a chat for a few minutes. I asked him, “What made you decide to be a copper, then?”

He said immediately, "Because I wanted to do something good for society—to protect honest people against criminals.”

I said, ’’But couldn’t you do something better than put people away in nick? That doesn’t solve or prevent crime; and it doesn’t protect anyone either, because there’s always more crime going on the whole time. D’you think there’s an alternative?”

The young copper scratched his chin and said, “Not really . . . What else can we do?”

I said, “Well, for one thing, you only get crime against property if society has property as an institution in the first place: if there were no such thing as minority class ownership there’d be no crime either, would there?”

He shook his head. “But there’s always been murder and violence; you can’t stop that—it’ll go on anyway, and if there weren’t any laws, it'd be even worse.”

“It doesn’t follow,” I replied patiently. “The historical records show that in past ages, when there were fewer restrictions and less property law, serious violence in society was much less a problem than it is now. And the primitive tribal societies arc known to be far more peaceful than our most advanced ones. They have virtually no crime at all; they rarely kill one another. Haven’t you seen David Attenborough’s documentaries on TV?”

“Well ... I grant you that . . . But—”

“But what?”

He pulled himself up to his full height, and turned away. “Mind how you go," he said over his shoulder as he strode off across the square.

I never saw him again.

D. E. F.

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