In part one I talked about what it’s like to be an old hippie. I consider myself an old hippie. That should’ve been clear from the earlier post. I also talked about what I think being a hippie is all about, or was all about, since there are very few hippies left in the world these days. Sad but true.
In that earlier post I complained about how the media and hippie wannabes co-opted or distorted what being a hippie was all about. For example: long hair, bellbottoms, sexual freedom, being anti-war, a love of music of all kinds, and to a certain extent, drugs – especially marijuana. For hippies, marijuana was the equivalent of what alcohol is to most straights. For those of you who aren’t aware, straights is a slang term for people who are not hippies who are so hung up in the rat race and in making money that they forget what’s really important in life. More on that subject in a bit.
The media, in its infinite stupidity, tends to convert anything and everything to a soundbite. In the 60s, one of those media soundbites was “Never trust anyone over the age of 30.” The media made it sound like hippies didn’t trust old people. I am afraid that is not quite true, even though there was a time when I almost believed it myself. Why do I say that?
One of the inspirations for hippie culture was traditional native American culture; the whole concept of a tribal culture. In 1967 there was a great Be-In held in Golden gate Park in San Francisco that was called the gathering of the tribes. Many of the trappings with hippie dress included Native American styled items like headbands, moccasins, breech cloth, and fringed shirts, jackets, and vests. We hippies truly admired the Native Americans for their independence and their strong sense of tribal unity. Many of the hippie communes patterned themselves after tribal villages like those of the Native Americans in the 16th 17th 18th and 19th centuries.
One of the defining features of any tribal culture, especially Native American culture, is their reverence for the elder members of the tribe. These elders were honored, sought out for advice, and generally well taken care of. The lives of these elders were full and rich. In tribal councils they were the ones who often advised the best possible solution to the tribes problems. The elders regularly took on the education of the children. Unlike modern American culture where we entrust our children to people who are barely out of childhood themselves, the tribal peoples entrust their children to those who are best suited to care for them.
What do I mean by that? Older people have a great deal more patience than somebody in their 20s. I speak from myself as a prime example of that. When my first wife gave birth I was 21 and, to be honest with you, I was in no way prepared to be a father. Because she and I were getting divorced, I insisted that we put that baby up for adoption as soon as it was born. I felt this was in the best interest of the child and, in all honesty, it was probably the smartest thing I did in my life until I met my current wife Elizabeth. I hate to think what that little girl would have turned out to be had I not insisted as a condition of the divorce that the child be put up for adoption. Neither my ex-wife nor myself were prepared to raise a child. I firmly believe that most people in their early 20s are not ready for marriage let alone parenthood, but there is this emphasis in American culture on having your children while you are young enough to enjoy them. Most young parents, from what I have seen, do not enjoy your children. Their children too often become a hindrance, and albatross, and often lead to the divorce of the parents.
Why is this emphasis on having children so young so common in American culture? I think it’s because we have become obsessed with the idea that getting old is something horrible, something to be avoided, something to be hidden. Old people are shunted away into retirement communities or old folks homes or nursing homes or whatever you want to call them. I’ve worked at a couple and I know what life they are is like for these old people. For most of them, these places are like waiting rooms in a doctors office where instead of waiting for the doctor you’re waiting for the Grim Reaper. These people’s lives are way too empty, when interest instead, they have so much to offer especially to our children.
Not because of any conscious decision on my part, but rather because of the luck of the draw, I did not become a father again until I was 43. Most people think that’s way too old. I know so many grandparents who are in their 40s or 50’s because they had children when they were in their late teens or early 20s. I make no claim to being a great father. Lord knows, my children will agree with me there. But I think I 43 I was a better father than I would’ve been at 23 or probably even 33. I’ve learned patience and learned even more when my autistic son Ian was born. My youngest, Michael, has benefited from the patience that I learned from working with his brother.
Yeah, I can no longer go out and play football or baseball or tennis or anything like that with my children. Honestly, I don’t think doing that is all that important. Neither do my children, who have no interest in such activites. What is more important is that I have the wisdom and the patience to teach them what they need to know to survive in life, hopefully making fewer mistakes than I made. That should not be hard. I certainly have made more than my fair share!
One of the things that I would like to see changed is for people to stop hiring young ladies fresh out of college to teach our youngest children. These women may be very nice, they may be very sweet, and they may even love children. However, most of them do not have the patience or the experience to deal with 5-8 year-olds. Hire more middle-aged or even older women, if you must insist on women. That’s another bone I have with the American educational system. We need to hire more males at the elementary school level so these kids have a male authority figure other than the principal, who is often a woman as well, that they can learn to relate to stop (my English teachers are probably turning over in their graves with all the sentences ending in prepositions. Well, I tend to write in stream of consciousness, in case you haven’t noticed, and my consciousness doesn’t always followed exactly the rules of grammar. It tries, but it is mortal.:-) )
For those of you who have young children and older parents, please don’t shut your parents away in a nursing home or whatever you want to call it if they are still of sound mind. Let them interact with your children. Let them impart their wisdom to your children. Your children will be better off for it and so will your parents and, most importantly, so will you. Get off of this hype from the cosmetic companies in the pharmaceutical companies that we need to hide the fact that were getting older. What a crock of shit! Power to the Gray Panthers.