It is the dawning of the Age of Oguarius
Yes, brothers and sisters, it has indeed been 40 full years since what came to be known as the “Summer of Love” launched the counterculture movement. If you’re looking for first causes, for the sake of argument let’s go ahead and trace it all to the Monterey Pop Festival. Surely you remember Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Canned Heat, Otis, the Dead, Ravi Shankar and the defining moment – Hendrix burning his guitar. Granted, there were a hundred other factors that had to coalesce at the precise instant they did for “the ’60s” to have happened, but Monterey was the event that tipped off the rest of us baby boomers that “something’s happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
You could see the media frenzy coming a year ago as we approached this divisible-by-10 anniversary. Equally predictable, you just knew that the coverage would be lame beyond recognition to those who lived it. One of the most feeble attempts came last Saturday when NBC’s “The Today Show” aired a neo-hippie fashion show followed by a live tune by the band Paul Kantner has formed that calls itself and vaguely resembles the Jefferson Airplane (Starship). Sitting in on bass was none other than “Today” show co-host Lester Holt, replete with the Jack Cassady signature headband. Later that day, as I flipped by the evening news, there sat that same Lester Holt, who’s recently been named NBC’s weekend anchor. He’d changed out of his faux hippie attire and donned his anchor-desk grey flannel suit and red tie. I asked myself how this guy could possibly have any credibility, given that only hours before he was consorting with known drug users and anarchists whilst playing loud, profane devil music (“Somebody To Love”) that surely impels our nation’s youth to commit acts of wanton lust and animalistic degradation. But then I thought: Wait a minute, in my world that gives him more credibility. Why shouldn’t news anchors moonlight as rock musicians?
So that set the wheels in motion. I began posing questions to myself such as how the world would be different if all my hippie brethren had stayed true to the ideals of peace, love and the brotherhood of man. What would have happened if we’d discarded the destructive elements of our lifestyle yet held fast to the underlying principals that the ’60s represented? Instead of lurching hard to starboard politically, what if we’d refined and polished our nascent radicalism and social consciousness until it matured into a new hybrid form of government that actually gave “power to the people”?
With 40 years of hindsight at my disposal, here are a few scenarios:
I suspect we’d have come up with a sort of multi-party system not unlike a parliamentary democracy. Even back then dividing ourselves up into Democrats and Republicans seemed a peculiar, almost arbitrary way to elect leaders and a virtual guarantee that the most qualified candidate had no chance of winning.
Protecting the environment would have been paramount, so we’d have established a cabinet-level department that had enforcement rights with teeth. As it is, the EPA is a cruel joke, answerable more to big oil than environmentalists. Our air would be cleaner, our water purer, our forests more protected, our endangered species sacrosanct.
More people would be riding bicycles, motorcycles and fuel-efficient cars. Oil would be a secondary way of transit, as alternative energy research would have risen to the forefront after the first gas shortage of 1974. Mass transit would be the norm, particularly high-speed rail.
Diplomacy and cordiality would certainly be the preferred method of conducting international relations rather than aggression, colonialism and imperialism. Nukes would long since have been discarded, for the common good, as would the doctrine of Thrasymicus – that morality is nothing more than the advantage of the superior power.
One of the manifestations of creating a more humane and compassionate society would be that capital punishment would have long since been invalidated except in the most heinous of cases. Non-violent offenders would rarely be in jail, partly as a result of the decriminalization of marijuana. Stem cell research would have been funded at an Apollo-like pace, and we would be a couple of decades ahead of where we are now. Most folks would scoff at the idea of its being a moral question.
Terrorism would barely be relevant in world events, in that the nation’s leaders would have taken the lead in identifying and eliminating the root causes for terrorism. 9-11 would not have happened.
George W. Bush would be an anonymous rancher in Texas. In that he never got anywhere without daddy’s clout and money, and since daddy would have been but an unsuccessful candidate for vice president under Reagan, the Duh would be as unknown as his brother Darrell and his other brother Darrell.
And that alone would have made it a better world.
Ogi may be reached at email@example.com, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.