WISDOM Wednesday: The Hippie Elite©

A story by Malati Marlene Shinazy


I am among a select group of people who happened to graduate high school in and around San Francisco — and then attend one of theUniversity of California campuses in the northern part of the state — during a pivotal point in early Baby Boomer history. Those of us who attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz, had little idea we were at the epicenter of a time, space and energy vortex for an entire sub-generation. Unknowingly, we were theHippie Elite.

The oldest of boomers already graduated with their Bachelor-of-Something degrees and were deep into social/political movements or getting jobs or going to grad school.  Many of them were either fighting in the Vietnam War or fighting against the Vietnam War.

We were naïve but not neophytes to the massive social changes going on.  We made our statements from the position of uncomplicated and relatively protected lives. Half of our women friends burned their bras.  The other half didn’t wear them.  And, we all registered to vote, the moment we turned 18.

The City became an integral part of our higher education.  We’d hang out in The Haight just to have fun.  We were the ones who followed the first two Timothy Leary tenets, eschewing the third. We didn’t Drop Out.

Back at school, we attended lectures outside, stretched out on blankets, wrote research papers and made it to the Dean’s List.  We also celebrated the conception of Earth Day, became vegetarians and started recycling in earnest.  We chatted with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of Transcendental Mediation), Hare Krishna devotees and members of the Black Panthers – all were on campus often.

We hitchhiked to Altamont, the West Coast version of Woodstock, and back to school again.  Many of us drove from campus to San Francisco on weekends to attend concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, or Avalon Ballroom.  We saw every band Bill Graham booked including:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Santana
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • The Doors

During school breaks, some of us hitchhiked alone throughout Mexico and Central America without incident.  We felt safe; hitchhiking was just another accepted mode of transport.  Plus, we met other solo travelers, mostly Europeans, and learned first-hand about the cultures of the countries we visited. Riding hot, crowed busses with people and chickens for hours on end was just part of the journey.

Upon writing this story, I realize that being a member of the Hippie Elite is not about “our glory days.”  Living at that particular intersection of time and space was rich and full. It contributed to our adult worldviews and launched us into lives of continual discovery, expansion and personal responsibility. It contributed to the quality of how we express ourselves now as business people, doctors, attorneys, and parents. By a whim of birth date and location, we, the Hippie Elite were fortunate.

photo by teamstickergiant

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