George Pitcher was scathing recently about the work of Dennis Hopper (deceased) and his role as a totem for the Counterculture. Pitcher comments:
Hopper evidently really did believe in the power of hippies and might even have thought he was one. And that was just crass.
The piece more or less tries to demolish the whole ethos of that small window of hope between the Summer of Love and Altamont.
I am not sure what Pitcher means by believing in "the power of hippies" but he thinks the era was "a cheap con-trick perpetrated on us in the Sixties largely by spivs and hucksters".
To some extent I can go along with this. Wherever hippies congregated, there were some lowlifes there to rip them off. There were plenty who were only in it for the money. But there were plenty who were not. Of course, there was drugs. Drugs permeated all things hippie. Drugs perpetuated a delusion and either you left them behind, or they left you behind. I knew people who killed themselves in the 60's with drugs. One day they were there spouting love and peace, inhaling the best Red Leb, the next they were inhaling their own sick.
But for all that, there was something good. For a while, some of us tried to imagine a world without war, a world of sharing, without greed and a desperate sense of ownership as identity.
It is difficult to fight if you are mellowed out by a joint, which is probably why the Americans were so shit in Vietnam.
The counterculture was about challenging the status quo. People were suspicious about those in authority; that they were not to be trusted. The counterculture said we were being told lies. Gee, they were way off beam there, those dirty hippies, weren't they?
So ok, maybe Easy Rider was a bit Hollywood and a bit fey, but it was informed by the zeitgeist and appealed to all of us that just want to step off the bus and who above all wanted the truth and ride a ride a fecking cool motorcycle.