Where Have All the Flower Children Gone?

Press Democrat - Special for Towns, Santa Rosa, California • Friday, August 8th, 2014 • Published and posted online



By ASHI OLSHAN





















Attendance at Woodstock swelled to nearly 500,000 in August, 1969. (Life Magazine, 1969)



It’s hard to believe, but this weekend, it will be 45 years since the rock concert that shook the world. Having been there, I can’t help but feel there will never be another festival quite like Woodstock, 1969. Here’s why.


We called ourselves freaks, hippies, long hairs, Flower Children. Together we were “The Movement,” “The Counter-culture.” Our motto was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Our aim was to change the world, our method was peaceful protest, and our immediate goal was to end the war in Vietnam.


Our music was rock, and the Beatles were our heroes. Our uniform was faded jeans, tie-dyed T-shirts, no underwear, beards and long hair. So-called dirty four-letter words no longer bothered us, while words like nigger, spic, kike, wop and fag were offensive to us all.


We were the post-war babies, hurt and disgusted with our facade-oriented society for putting money, property and prestige before people’s feelings. We were tired of our parents’ middle-class values, which catered to our material wants but too often neglected our emotional needs.


We were psychological pioneers, exploring our world from within as we experimented with psychedelics and other mind-altering drugs. We were outcasts because we mixed interracially. We were subversives because we protested against the policies of our government and defied the draft that wanted us to fight a war we could not believe in. We were outlaws - because of our use of illegal drugs and demonstrations, the college campus was our battleground, and some of us lost our lives as a result.


Nevertheless, we were Americans, maybe the best kind because we were not willing to stand by and watch our politicians slowly deny us our Constitutional rights. And we were stronger than we knew, at least until The Woodstock Festival of 1969 took us by surprise and demonstrated to the world what we were all about.

The festival was supposed to be three days of music, peace and love, for a crowd of 10,000-50,000 that turned into nearly 500,000, showing the world that half a million people could congregate under adverse conditions (heavy rain and shortage of facilities) and still maintain a peace and brotherhood the likes of which the world had never seen before.


I’ll never forget the elated feelings as we all shared what we had, generously. Everyone was my brother and sister. And there was no violence. I remember an incident that really touched me. Two guys were arguing. They began to create a negative atmosphere as their views grew further apart. Suddenly, people around them were clapping hands in protest, then stamping feet in sync with the clapping while chanting, “PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!”


In a matter of moments, the guys began to laugh and finally hugged each other. We all applauded and circled them for a collective, giant group hug. My faith in humanity soared.
















 















The festival showed the world that half a million people could congregate under adverse conditions and stil maintain peace and brotherhood. (Life Magazine photo, 1969)


Now it’s 2014, 45 years since “Sergeant Pepper taught us how to play.” What I hear now is, “Where have all the Flower Children gone?”

Ask some disheartened souls, and you are likely to hear, “It’s dead, man, the movement died.” But, ask others who remember too well what the pre-’60s world was like and you’ll hear, “We didn’t get our revolution, but we did manage to change the world (a little) for the better.”


I’m one of those grateful souls who feels glad the so-called “Happy Days” of the ‘50s are over.

Think way way back to the ‘glorious’ 50s, when bigotry was popular and minorities had no chance of success. Women were another repressed minority. They had no say in our government, in society and, half the time, not even in their own homes. Women knew their place, which was behind (and under) their husbands. The sexual double standard was as traditional and American as white bread and baseball.


It was no bed of roses for men either, as they inherited a self-oppression that wasn’t even touched upon until the ‘60s. “Men don’t cry” destroyed more than a few as men held in their emotions but let out their frustrations in violent, destructive ways. Men were labeled cowards if they didn’t choose to fight, be it on the street or in a war. And children had no rights at all, which explains the Woodstock phenomenon.


I can’t quite accept the idea that “the movement is dead,” and I don’t believe all the Flower Children have gone. Just look around you for signs of our effects on society, The Establishment, the world. Look at multi-cultural organizations, socially acceptable interracial and gay marriages, sexual education, consciousness raising, the self-help and 12-step programs, civil rights laws, ecological awareness and anti-war consciousness.


How dead can the movement be when only 50some years after “Amos ‘n’ Andy” ruled the airwaves a black man was elected president? And look at all the women, overtly gay people and people of color holding some of the highest offices in government.


“The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,”


Apple founder Steve Jobs is credited with saying. And so Steve did, giving us instant pocket access to all the world’s knowledge, entertainment and products.


Where have all the Flower Children gone? We’re all right here, a few no longer in our bodies but most of us still right here on this plane Our hair is shorter, our clothes are different, our values matured. We’re the 60+ age group now, employed in every profession. For many of us, while our hearts and spirits are still in the sky, we stand with both feet on the ground.


To the few who haven’t grown much in 45 years, we may appear to be traitors. They can’t see past the length of our hair, the style of our clothes or the shine on our new cars. But make no mistake about it. In spite of trading in our hair for jobs, acid for meditation and spirituality, and revolution for a more conscious evolution, what we still all feel in common is our brotherhood, our love and concern for humanity and our prayers for a more peaceful future.


Ashi Olshan





















A Prophecy by Ashi

The seeds of consciousness,
Planted during the defiant ‘60s,
Took root during the introspective ‘70s,
Broke ground during the budding ‘80s,
Flowered during the enlightening ‘90s,
And will bear fruit by the year 2020.
NO MORE WAR,
NO DYING POOR,
BY 2024.



 

J. Ashi Olshan is a Santa Rosa-based sculptor and author. Contact Ashi at ashi-arts-unlimited.com

 





 



Author’s title was “P.A.V.E. -

Parents against violent entertainment”

Author’s title, “Redefining manhood”

to not cater to the

Author’s original title, “The art of peaceful parting”

Author’s original title, “Art vs. craft”

Below is the first of three published versions of this article; 1. Aug. 14, 1979 on the tenth anniversary of Woodstock Festival 1969. 2. Aug.1994 the 25th anniversary. And the third (above) for the 45 anniversary in the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California

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Author’s title was “Respect and be respected”