August 19, 2012
General Motors has a commercial for their hot new E-Assist technology where a freshly-scrubbed, neatly-coifed, very-Republican-looking young man (late 30s?) is driving his parents in his new GM vehicle. His mother is trying to give him money for gas, but he doesn’t want to take it. He’s trying to explain that with E-Assist, he gets great mileage. “Aw that’s hippie talk!” exclaims his father from the back seat, “Take the money!” So he does accept $2 from his mother.
Juxtapose the current run of fund-raising music specials being shown on Public Television, many of which reprise the 60s and early 70s. It’s amazing how familiar the 5th Dimension flying around on their saucer-stage against a blurry multi-colored background all the while singing about “Harmony and understanding; Sympathy and trust abounding; No more falsehoods or derisions: Golden living dreams of visions,” can look to someone who saw it on the Ed Sullivan Show more than 40 years ago. Now that was hippie talk.
And then, of course, there’s the Thornapple CSA. “Tune in, turn on and drop out,” is the way some disgruntled Harvard prof put it. Get out of the supermarket and let the sunshine in. If living on a commune and deriving one’s sustenance exclusively by getting one’s hands dirty didn’t quite pan out the way that erstwhile Aquarians might have thought, well maybe the monthly workday combined with a diet rich in leafy greens will do the trick. The moon is in the 7th house, after all, and Jupiter aligns with Mars.
Well excuse me if I just gag myself with a spoon here for second thinking back on the proposition that we were entering a time when “peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars” back then when I was a young sprat alternating my thoughts between wondering what the future had in store for me and trying to figure out how to meet girls. If you got the fundraising interlude broadcast here in Lansing with your dose of the 5th Dimension, you got the hosts pining for the days when bullying wasn’t a problem. Really? My thought is that the only person who could think that bullying was not a problem in ’67 or ’68 was either someone who was a bully, or someone who was (as they used to say) ”popular”, which (as some of us used to say) means “totally full of it”. Translated into the present tense that’s “thoroughly oblivious to any experience of the surrounding environment.”
Ah! Sarcasm! Friend of the underappreciated and marginalized outsider. Some of the marginalized outsiders from that era when there was not bullying went on to be become Tom Petty, or Bruce Springsteen or Patty Smith. (They were never bullied—just ask them.) Most of us settled back into a life of “quiet desperation,” as the Head Hippie of another generation put it. His answer was to head out into the woods, but then not so far into the woods as to create great inconvenience when it is time to take the laundry back into town so that his friend Mrs. Emerson could look after it. Maybe not so much unlike the Thornapple CSA, after all.
And then there are the August tomatoes. No place for sarcasm there. Quiet desperation, it seems, has its rewards.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University