From Hippie to Happy: My Travels from the Drug-Addled Left to the Reality Right

WeThePeopleby The Krell
Growing up, for the most part, in NYC, I was always more interested in stickball and baseball than most anything else. It was not uncommon on summer days to leave home at 9 or 10 in the morning on my bike with a bat and a glove, and get back home close to dinner time having spent the day playing ball. In other words, I was a pretty normal mid 1960s kid. But all that changed when I entered a NYC high school in 1968, though not quite the “radical” I was to become.

After spending two years not quite part of the “in crowd” in the summer of 1970, prior to my senior year, I discovered cannabis; a whole new world was now opened to me. My group of friends began to change from the “geeks” I had been hangin’ with to two different circles of the freaks or the cool kids. One group were the more hardcore druggie types, generally apolitical but spouting the current left wing mantras. The other was also druggies but the intellectual types who imagined themselves as rather deep in the Timothy Leary vein. My favorite band, The Grateful Dead, naturally.

With my intellectual friends we would engage in stoned conversations that revolved around overthrowing the government, the war, and the subjective nature of reality insofar as that no one can ever know how another person experiences “reality”. (At the time I was unaware of Plato’s influence in these “raps”.)

We discussed the evils of being judgmental and having hang-ups. This was a problem for me because, while I played along, not being judgmental seemed impossible and against my nature. I innately knew that one had to judge things in order to evaluate their value to oneself. But I was in the minority on that count and I hadn’t articulated even to myself what I just wrote. It was only a nagging sense that I did not agree with my friends.

However, I viewed that disagreement as something being wrong with me, something holding me back from being a true hippie. I also believed I had many hang-ups. And I only realized much later in life that those “hang-ups” were voices inside telling me that there was something wrong with this whole hippie deal; that those voices were essentially my self-esteem trying desperately to not be totally destroyed.

And, of course, we participated in our share of anti-war demonstrations. One memorable occasion was a rally at Union Square were Sha-Na-Na performed to support the anti-war movement. Somehow my girlfriend and I managed to get right up to the stage and we actually sat on it during their performance. When I got home that night, I watched the news (not something I normally did) and sure enough, there we were, clear as day, body-dancing and singing to the music. Ahhh, fleeting fame for a left wing radical.

I did not go college like everyone else. I tried but I found that it was not yet for me. I was fortunate to have been able to turn a part time job into a full time one, very unhippieish. Furthermore, it was working for a butcher, almost blasphemous. However, I developed a good work ethic, understood the importance of doing honest labor and doing it to the best of your ability, all very unhippieish. Yet I still identified with the culture of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, though a tad light on the sex. (At the time I didn’t view my activities as being counter to the counter culture.) I eventually studied electronics at a technical school which led to my working in a midtown Manhattan recording studio.

It was at this studio that the receptionist suggested I read Atlas Shrugged. This was 1981 or 1982, so I was just shy of 30. I was struck by how much Ayn Rand seemed to be speaking to me. I was so fascinated with what she had to say that I spend the next two or so years reading all the non-fiction collections of hers that I could find. Those titles included The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and For the New Left, The Anti-Intellectual Revolution. She exposed me to many concepts and ideas that I either never considered, or believed but could not articulate. These included:

– That the world is knowable and the vehicle to accomplish that is the human consciousness
– That the tool to accomplish all productive tasks is logic, Aristotelian logic
– That humans are the only living beings whose main tool for existence is its conceptual consciousness
– That we need a moral code in order to survive
– That the moral code must be based on the objective fact of a human life
– That all actions that promote an individual’s life are morally good and those actions that result in a individual’s destruction are morally evil
– That it is forbidden to initiate the use of violence against another person but the use of violence in one’s defense is always permitted
– That the essential aspect of a civilized society is liberty; that without liberty the human mind cannot make the proper judgment about whatever situation is being confronted or about whatever choice has to be made
– That it is immoral for a government to compel people against their own self-interest
– That it is immoral for the government to take the result of one’s effort and give it to someone else who has no right to the wealth of another
– That in essence Atlas Shrugged was about what happens when rights and needs become inverted and that the government, rather than protecting individual rights, is now in the business of satisfying group needs
– Therefore, the only moral system is capitalism because it can only be successful in a political environment whose goal is to protect individual rights, a system based on liberty. This is so because capitalism is the only system that demands from the individual the best of its judgments and abilities to survive and prosper.

The point is that in actuality I unwittingly held many of those views…except that while I “felt” those things I did not understand them nor could I articulate them in a coherent fashion prior to my reading her works.

Over the years I have learned that many people in academia and many “ivory tower” thinkers and philosophers don’t consider Ms. Rand a serious thinker or a real philosopher. I will not address that at this point, in fact I may not be able to address it in the manner necessary for a serious scholarly debate on that issue because of my own limitations in the area of the study of philosophy. What matters is the importance of Ayn Rand in changing my world view and, in my view, who I, the krell, truly am.

The real bottom line is that I was never a hardcore hippie. It was against my nature. I did however feel more comfortable in that environment than with the “straights.” I believe that was because for the majority of my life I question conventional thinking. I was against the government intruding into my decision-making process, and I accepted a wider range of human behavior as being okay than those on the other side of the generation gap.

Therefore, I didn’t really change all that much. Ayn Rand opened my eyes and my brain to who I was and to the convictions I already held even though I didn’t fully realize it. Like I did 40 years ago, I still believe in a limited government, though now I understand why it is a prerequisite to a nation founded on individual liberty.

In coming to these understandings, I learned that politically and economically I was more attuned with the Right then the Left. I still tend to buck conventional wisdom, as I found it is usually less than optimal and I am fairly liberal from a social policy aspect, which is where I tend to disagree with those on the Right. Basically, I am unconcerned with what a person does, so long as they do not attempt to force their life-style onto me.

I realize that this is a somewhat simplistic overview of the issues involved but, while it may lead to other questions, I hope the above was a somewhat entertaining tale of my journey of self-discovery. • (1566 views)

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21 Responses to From Hippie to Happy: My Travels from the Drug-Addled Left to the Reality Right

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Excellent. I must say, it is rare to run across someone who is comfortable telling their own story. You’ve done it in such a way that is neither too personal nor too formal. A true gift.

    This is what real looks like. And after spending all that time sucking the stale oxygen at NRO, I realized just how much I was missing it. Thank you, Krell, for this contribution. Do as much of this as you feel comfortable doing. It’s splendid.

  2. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey, I too travelled a similar arc minus the the drug addled part. In fact to protest the ‘conventional’ drinking I witnessed in college I abstained from alcohol for a of couple of years.

  3. Ed Cottingham says:

    Nice offering, Krell. I am definitely concerned over this craziness of not judging, as Brad and I were discussing below his review of Pi.

    I often think of the Bob Dylan’s line in celebration of his girlfriend, “She knows too much to argue or to judge.” I believe that it was in reference to his cute little commie girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, who is famously pictured with Bob on The Freelin’ Bob Dylan.

    The occasions on which I am accused of being any kind of feminist are rare…very rare indeed. But I’d like to make a bit of a feminist point on this post-60s cultural style of not judging: We particularly celebrate this decadent attribute of personality with regards to women. Surely it dates back to the beginning of the veneration of Mary, if not further. (Mary sure was a different kind of Biblical female than Judith from the Old Testament…at which point my knowledge of the Bible is near exhaustion.)

    What 60s guy (if not contemporary guy) did not long for the infinitely wise woman whose quiet mind did not need to judge. I do not exempt myself from this taste in fantasy women, which goes along with the whole expectations of public women (meaning public leaders in business, government, etc.) that they do not show anger or aggression or even have a lot of edgy opinions. But not because they are dumb; because they are wise like calm mothers.

    I often look to the animal world to try to perceive truth that we humans may be trying to obscure. In this connection, I think of lions. The females are definitely not all sugar and spice, not from the perspective of a zebra or a Thompson’s gazelle, anyway. I wonder if we have not done some damage to our culture by the pervasiveness of this artificial female construct that so soothes so many of us males. Maybe we’d be better off if Petrarch had never written poems to Laura, if Dante had never encountered Beatrice, etc.

    But we definitely need somebody in this culture to do the arguing and the judging. Enough with, “That’s cool, man.” (Actually, unattached older women are traditionally famous for being the finger-wagging upholders of good morals and decorous behavior. We had one such who used to patrol my college campus back in the day with parasol in hand and write letters to the student newspaper upbraiding students for poor manners that she observed.)

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ed, speaking of chicks, Michael Medved notes that one reason that he and guys like him were so overtly liberal was because that’s how you got the chicks. Chicks would just melt at the sight of some guy at a student rally. It showed they really “cared” or something (and thus perhaps started the feminization of men beyond all reason).

      Youth have always been youth. And it doesn’t take much prompting to get youth to go off on binges. But one way I view the entire hippie/Leftist thing is as a search for meaning and excitement and finding it in all the wrong places.

      I certainly don’t condemn the search. My dear older brother right now (early retirement) is still looking for his Bob Dylan days. The search for meaning and a brotherhood of sorts may never end. And maybe it should never end. But we should at least stop looking in all the wrong places, including promiscuous sex, drugs, and stupid Leftitst/liberal ideas.

      As far as I know, no one on the right is dead. We’re all still searching, living, loving, and hoping for something better. But we’ve stopped (for the most part) doing so in naive and destructive ways. Instead of leading with ego and willfulness, there starts to creep in a deeper “something.” Some have that “something” imparted via religion. Some from just the sheer pain of the failed attempts looking in all the wrong places. And some by revising the search, making it less frantic and perhaps more appreciative of the small things.

      At some point, Utopia does not have the appeal that it once did. The real is sometimes hard, but it is indeed real. It’s not as sexy as Leftist/liberal delusions, but real is longer-lasting and saner.

      • the krell says:

        Something else Ms. Rand was big on is that no matter what you may wish, want, think, do, need, decide, etc, etc, Reality is always the final arbiter.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Yeah, but reality often sucks….or it sucks in proportion to the amount of Utopia we inject into our expectations. And, really, to understand the Left in the West today is to understand a totally exalted and unreasonable set of expectations. Period.

          I certainly don’t have the perfect formula for when to dream and when to just accept reality as it is. But one conservative truism is that any damn dreams you want to pursue, go ahead. But you pay for the crash-and-burn. Don’t expect me to. That, in many respects, is the very definition of freedom. You have the freedom to fail…but not on my dime.

          • the krell says:

            Absolutely, always pursue your dreams. That is the entire point. But if your dreams are antithetical to reality don’t stamp your feet and cry and expect the government or anyone else to make your dreams come true. I don’t mean to refer back to her but Ayn Rand was a huge believer in the limitless potential of the human spirit; limitless but bound by the reality we all live in. Don’t jump of a bridge and expect to fly just because you want to. And like you said, my dreams, my cash, my exhaultation or my disappointment. No one elses and I expect no one to bail me out. That of course being the greatest moral hazard, not suffering the results of your own decisions.

          • Black JEM says:

            Yeah – freedom doesn’t sound so fun when you get to own it.

            But when I try and say if you want some of my cash to bail you out, there are some conditions, I am the racist, sexist, homophobe, etc.

            I can be a very cynical do whatever you want type – but when you are starving, homeless, or dying because you were stupid – I will let you remain in dire straits. And any help I give will have conditions. If you don’t meet them, tough.

            It sounds rather harsh I know. But isn’t that the result of their actions, not mine?

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              BlackJEM, it’s not harsh. If you want to NOT mire people in poverty, you don’t make it easy for them to be poor. If you DON’T want to mire people in criminal behavior, you don’t make it easy for them to do crime.

              Compassion cannot be achieved via the checkbook. Sometimes we all need a little help from our friends. But a redemptive sort of help from our friends (or private charities) is not something that the government is capable of.

              You create a beast when you get people hooked on government…a mob.

          • CCWriter CCWriter says:

            There’s an argument to be made that letting people fail is doing them a favor. It doesn’t have to be a huge crash-and-burn, in fact if you let people fail in small ways perhaps they’re more likely to eventually succeed. This is because every failure has a lesson to teach us. Now that we know what doesn’t work, we can try something that will work.

            Of course, the culture has to be sending that message and the education system has to teach people to recognize these lessons and opportunities…not “it wasn’t your fault, let’s blame Mean Mr. XYZ.”

  4. RobL_V2 RobL_V2 says:

    Interesting points Ed, you know back in the day under Wilson the Progressives were the insufferable preening moralists. Now it’s the conservatives. I think the difference is conservatives expect people will be immoral but preach morality as the standard and hope people will make the right choice. Progressives force moral behaviors on people as they feel people are incompetent or too base to do so of their own accord.

    Obviously this is an over simplification.

    I feel article coming growing in my brain Brad, hopefully I can get it out perhaps today or tomorrow…

    • Ed Cottingham says:

      >> conservatives expect people will be immoral but preach morality as the standard and hope people will make the right choice.
      ***
      Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.
      (Wiki attributes this to quip to François de La Rochefoucauld although I think that it has also been associated with others, Ambrose Bierce, perhaps)

      So maybe in morals, too, we should embrace “fake it til you make it.”

      • Black JEM says:

        If I understand you correctly – at least then I can afford my mistakes.

        Of course perhaps this is also why the wealthy are almost always as a group the least happy.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Krell, I think every journey is different. But I do see it as an inherently uplifting thing if we see our lives in the context of a journey. And I see you as definitely on a journey of your own.

    I make no apologies whatsoever in seeing the Left as a corrosive ideology. I see its errors as twofold, particularly in conjunction with the present subject:

    1) A naive pining for Utopia
    2) The focus on youth

    The Utopian part is self-explanatory. But perhaps under-rated is the harm done to Western Civilization by the very premises of the youth-oriented Left, perhaps best articulated in the catch-phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

    In essence, the Left premises itself on the idea that all that came before them is useless in terms of how to best form a society or a person. The reasons for this view are various, but they are not important at the moment. But the fact is, they have thrown out the very premise that mankind needs to humble himself and enrich himself on the wisdom of the ages, that their is indeed a world larger than their egos or conceits.

    Instead, Leftism is based upon a youth movement (an ideology that can extend well into one’s senior years). I think it was either Prager, Sowell, or David Horowitz in a recent article or book who noted that at Berkeley in the 60’s there was a truly seminal moment, to use a five-dollar word. But it came down to some obviously stupid, illegal, and immoral student protest about something or other. And the end result was that the faculty caved.

    I won’t say that that was the cause of all that came. But it was a clear dividing line between the idea that yutes went to college in order to be educated in things that they did not know about and the Leftist idea that youth itself were to be honored, for there was no knowledge worth passing onto them. Western Civilization was icky and needed to be destroyed.s

    Thus we get these stupid “gender studies” and other worthless classes.

    That doesn’t mean that Western Civilization had it right. In fact, under that umbrella you’ll find not a monolithic idea about how man should be, but a wealth of ideas. And it is a rejection of this wealth, as well as the naive predilection for youth for youth’s sake, that defines the Left.

    And these people now are running the country and running it into the ground. And I have relatives who still believe this stupid “Progressive” shit that is tossed around in liberal circles as if it really means something.

    As far as I can see, in general, the journey away from the Left inherently means a journey toward a sort of wisdom of the ages and away from a youth-oriented narcissism, if not outright mental bafflement. It’s heady stuff to think that you are the smartest, kindest, and — gosh darn it — the most likable person in the world. But man must be developed into a noble creature. He is not born that way. Mere conceits do not get us there and, instead, retard this process.

    One must first reject the very premises of the Left. Where one goes from there is truly an open question because there are so many good and noble ways to be. But being a dumb-ass youth-oriented narcissist who thinks that all knowledge and compassion started when their bare little bottoms hit the ground is not the way.

  6. Kung Fu Zu says:

    1) A naive pining for Utopia
    2) The focus on youth

    I like the point about youth. You may have noticed my earlier post under another article about how respect for one’s elders is breaking down even in Asia. I believe this is significant.

    Oh, “youth culture” how shall I count thy faults?
    1. We may all try to stay young but it is impossible. This leads to disassociation from reality. It’s like people think we are all not going to die. (More Utopia)
    2. Too many who perpetually pursue pristine puberty physically, remain so mentally.
    3. Too many young people are losing the opportunity to learn valuable lessons from older people they personally know as the culture says old people are bigoted fossils.
    4. The flip side to 3 is that young people listen to the wrong people, i.e. the left in the media who pretend to have young people’s best interests in mind, but really are mainly interested in self aggrandizement.
    5. A collective loss or disregard of historical memory and wisdom which hurts society as a whole.
    6. Marketers key in on the youth demographic and do their best to convince them of the necessity of superficial things. These “necessities” constantly change otherwise the money would not keep on flowing. Young people are generally more easily influenced than old people who have had life experience and have learned what is necessary as opposed to what is not.

  7. TetVet says:

    Krell:

    Yours is an interesting story that shows how some people evolve, mature. That is the part of it that offers a glimmer of hope for our future.

    You sounded introspective about how or why your views never did “feel” quite right in the hippy-dippy milieu. Although it’s not the easiest book in the world to read, I suggest you take a look at Jonathon Haidt’s “Righteous Mind.” He analyzes moral psychology from the perspective of evolution, anthropology, and social psychology and comes up with ideas that might make sense to you.

    I’m just finishing up with Haidt’s book. I plan to re-read it and flesh out a brief review for these pages, assuming my site registration gets approved.

    Thanks for your contribution.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Welcome TetVet. Hopefully you had no problem registering. I had three people who didn’t, in the registration process, get an email sent to them with their password. If anyone has that problem just email me a brad@stubbornthings.org and I’ll assign you a temporary password that you can then change later.

      The problems with this WordPress software have thankfully been few. But that is one issue that’s cropped up. And good to see you here. Submit that review of Haidt’s book to submissions@stubbornthings.org.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      TetVet, I was just reading a couple reviews of “The Righteous Mind” over at Amazon.com. It does sound like an interesting book. Can you tell me offhand whether this book sort of takes a “centrist” view? One of the reviews seems to suggest that our political system (or disagreements) are little more than that the Left stresses some values while the rights stresses others. That, to me, is more a a caricature of the situation (one typical of those with the centrist conceit). It’s the idea of just two equal and opposite psychologies mindlessly battling it out: rights vs. tradition (and such a characterization would totally ignore which type of rights — “economic” rights or unalienable rights?).

      If this is the gist of the book, it’s near useless in terms of coming to terms with a situation that is more *political* than psychological. Just wondering about that and will, of course, look forward to your review if you find time to write one.

    • the krell says:

      Thanks TetVet. You’ve added another to the list of books to read that I have been introduced to since becoming a part of Stubbornthings.

      To everyone else who took the time to respond to my story and to all of the kind words offered; thank you.

      There were many issues raised that I wish I had the time to expand on and discuss further. Unfortunately, life intrudes and I haven’t the free time right know to do a proper response. Therefore, Brad….

      I think I may have one more post in me before I get too involved with school this semester (starts 9/3, but only 1 class 1 night a week). Also, I stll need to get into the tabula rasa discussion which you continued, maybe unwittingly, in your nicely done post above.

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