Welcome   |   Login   |   Sign Up   |

THE SIXTIES/ Sanctifying the Inner Hippie: Gimme Shelter

DANIEL HOFFMAN comments on the 60’s, a cultural explosion, a clash of the old, hypocritical ideology with a new one, an era of rebellion where conformity was king.

Anti-war protest of the 60's Anti-war protest of the 60's

Everyone knows about Woodstock and its iconic representation of the 1960s generation, but December 6 will mark the anniversary of the Altamont, California concert made famous by the film “Gimme Shelter”. On that dark day in 1969, the hippie movement and those seeking freedom from the slavish conformity of the suburban “me too” culture, were given a warning. These two important cultural events point both to the youthful cry for something more and the warning that all initial movements toward authentic freedom will fail if they do not heed the signs and show a willingness to develop.

The Altamont concert featured the Rolling Stones and ended in the murder of Meredith Hunter by the Hell’s Angels “security guards”. It was a cold glass of reality thrown on to an adolescent movement. A libertine mindset that mocked order and thought it okay to freely play songs like “Sympathy for the Devil” was met head on by the reality of a fallen human nature; a nature that can be transformed, but not by mere superficial responses to the failures of modern times. Sadly, our generation chose not to learn from this sad day, and thought the generational and infantile cry for non-conformity was enough to improve the world.

The 60s was a cultural explosion where conformity was king. Our culture was divided into two camps that offered helpful critiques of one another, but failed to present substantial ways of living. On one hand stood the good, but increasingly hypocritical and weakening suburban culture of America. The youth generation emerged as a response and offered some valid critiques. They mocked their parents clean cut exterior while “running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper” in the form of alcohol and tranquilizers. By the time, the “hippie generation” erupted onto the scene, the West was dominated by an almost embarrassing conformist culture; one that was shaped by two hegemonic ideologies and overseen by the mutual threat of nuclear weapons hanging over it all. It was descending into a society wherein the wearing of a tie or a nice, suburban house was enough to declare one “good”. Into that faltering artifice came the “me” generation. Raised with the idea that life was about things and one’s response to the material world was the key to success or happiness, young people looked around and saw nothing but boredom, drudgery and hypocrisy. Homes were still pretty much intact in those days but there was a creeping, insidious rebellion working its way into them. Part of that rebellion was spurred on by young people watching adults live dual lives. The public image of Calvinistic purity was seen as false by those young people who witnessed alcohol problems, secretive affairs and not so happy homes. The critique, as in Marx’s criticisms of capitalism, made sense to young people, but sadly, that growing culture of rebellion and criticism was never allowed to develop into an authentic alternative or culture of renewal. Rather it became an adolescent cry that failed to mature into something better, often spurred on by amorphous cries for rebellion and reforms by Marxists and those who often adhered to ideologies foreign to American culture.