In the decade after the Second World War (1945 to 1955) there was a baby boom in the Western world. Today the baby boomers are still the single largest generation. But it isn’t just the size of that generation that made it special, it was their role in the changing of society. In 1960, the first of the baby boomers turned 15 and these teens set about changing the world. In an environment of financial prosperity and the threat of world wide destruction (via nuclear warfare during the cold war), set against the background of a narrow escape from a terrible war, and fueled by new technology, access to Eastern philosophy and recreational drugs, some of these teens began to see the world differently to previous generations.
As always in movements that set off societal change, the philosophers and visionaries were the artists, writers and musicians. In previous generations, they would not have had such power, but new, affordable technology in media gave their ideas a world-wide reach. Today the music available is highly diverse, then, everyone in the teen generation listened to the same music, and the songs spoke of a revolution of love and peace. Radio had been around for a while, but television gave a whole new voice to those who wanted to be heard. The ideas were there before, but it was the Vietnam war and television that galvanised the generation across the Western World.
Some photographs had made their way out of the previous wars, but governments prevented anything too upsetting or controversial from getting out to the general population. Vietnam was different. Photographs showing exactly what was happening found their way into newspapers and shocked the populous, especially the young whose friends were the ones that were dying. When drafting came in, you had a whole bunch of people fighting a war they didn’t believe was necessary. The baby boomers weren’t going to let that continue, and they told the world why, through music, televised demonstrations and newspaper articles.
If you break it down to its bare bones, what they said was . . .
Love is the most important force in the universe.
Happiness is not attained through the accumulation of material goods but by living a life dedicated to unconditional love. (There was a great deal of confusion in many people as to what constituted this love, but all philosophies and religions have those who misinterpret their tenets. It is unwise to dismiss a philosophy merely because of those who fail to represent it well)
Obviously, War has no place in such a philosophy.
No one likes war anyway, and the Vietnam war was a particularly dirty one. Protesting against the war spread the hippie ideals of love, not war to a wider population. Baby boomers were either ‘with it’, meaning that they understood the philosophy and did their best to live it, or they were a ‘square’, meaning that they still subscribed to the values that had started the war. Part of being ‘with it’ was working on your psyche or the spiritual side of life. For many, drugs were a part of the process, as were reading books on psychology and Eastern religion, and meditation in one form or another.
The war eventually ended – thanks to the protesters - the baby boomers grew up and, on the outside, everything seemed to go to back to normal. But something had shifted. A new sense of consciousness had been unleashed. Ideas had entered popular Western culture that had not been there before, and a whole bunch of people had dropped out and were living their life in an alternative way. Many dropped back in, but they would never be the same as those who had never dropped out at all. You can have a job, buy your white goods and climb the corporate ladder, but if you know in your heart that love and peace are more important than any of those things, then you’re not trapped, unlike someone who thinks that having those things is the purpose of their life.
That’s the base line, having your priorities right, knowing what’s really important in life. And when I find myself with friends, (in this case over Christmas dinner) who share the same base line as I do, I feel it. That underlying belief in the importance of unconditional love for all over everything else informs your every moment, so that everything material is seen as just that, material, to be enjoyed and given up in equal measure. You do not cling to the material, to your pain or your joy or to anything, because all that dissolves in the light of your commitment to the ethereal nature of unconditional love. Call it God, call it love, call it shunyata or the nature of mind, call it what you want, but when that is your priority, I feel it in you, and you will feel it enriching every moment of your life.
So, to the baby boomer generation, how much effect did the Flower Power philosophy have on you and how you have lived your life? I suspect that for many, when they really look, they will find that even after all these years, the flower still has power. Once you’ve discovered that it’s still there, have the courage to live it. If it has faded for lack of water, then water it and nurture it back to life, for although love isn’t necessarily the answer to everything, it is the answer to your quest for happiness.
What is your base line, the thing that is most important in your life?