Our ancestors generally settled in small communities. In larger cities they grouped
together in ghettos, held together by language and religion. Their social relations were
limited by work demands, lack of mobility, class and racial restrictions, but a high level
of cohesiveness and neighborly support made up for drawbacks. This support, especially
during our country’s formative period, was important, since government was not offering
cradle to grave security at that time. Free land incentives were offered in unsettled
areas already occupied by Native Peoples, but in terms of cash payments, little more
was offered than military pensions.
As a result of population growth, industrialization, improved communications, mobile
homes, increased auto production, and Veteran’s benefits, post WW II Americans had the
opportunity to live an entirely different lifestyle than their parents. America the
beautiful basked in unequaled prosperity and pride. If a person lost their job or became
bored with it, they simply severed their roots and answered the call of ‘job opportunity’
This foot-loose generation fulfilled the prophetic song that goes, “How ya gonna keep
‘em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree? (Paris).” Parents of this mobile generation
could not offer the stabilizing influence of grandparents and religious values, thus traditions
were often sacrificed on the altar of accumulation and conspicuous consumption. Keeping up with the Jones's was a weak
substitute for the feelings of belonging a small community afforded. In traditional groups,
status depended more on honesty and mutual support than the outward appearance of success.
Being raised in a multi-generational setting was an option most baby boomers never had.
These children had to be satisfied with an “Over the river and through the woods to
Grandmother’s house we go,” type relationship. Once or twice a year, the parents would pack
the car and visit relatives on the farm. Out in nature they ran freely and actually acted
like children instead of miniature versions of their parents. This liberating experience of
unbounded joy and curiosity never lasted long enough. When the suitcases were packed for the
journey home, it seemed as though their very souls were being packed in tightly along with
the clothes, suffocating and dreading the return home. Is it any wonder that the baby boomers
were so starved for community and nature that they fled their parents in droves during the
late sixties and early seventies, uniting with others who sought acceptance based on inner
dreams and the back-to-the-earth movement? This distancing from the dominant and prosperous
post-war affluence was incomprehensible to parents who had struggled for years to provide
amenities and luxuries for their ungrateful offspring. What had they done wrong?
After WW II, America witnessed the phenomena of instant neighborhoods in the form of
sprawling tract or sub-division homes that sprouted like mushrooms after a summer rain. Most
new ticky-tacky housing developments had the spiritual cohesiveness and direction of road
kill. Though not all who participated in this movement were from such suffocating areas,
the majority were. These insipid, faceless pre-fabricated communities lacked a heart or a
center, and no traditions. Where was the plaza, the church, the corner drug store, library
or market place? One could no longer walk to the post office or enjoy community atmosphere.
Even ghettos of the city offered more community than these artificial neighborhoods. Is it
any wonder these sterile, standardized housing developments spawned the mega-nightmare of
the indoor shopping mall? Finally, a substitute for the community plaza or community gathering
Most young people were not rejecting parental love, but the apathetic stance society took
in regard to Vietnam, poverty and Civil Rights issues which would directly affect the adult
world they would soon inhabit. They were also rebelling against the anemic neighborhoods in
which they simply existed, row after row of nearly identical houses, whose occupant’s main
concern was maintaining the status quo by not rocking any political boats. Television
programs like “Leave it to Beaver” also perpetuated a false reality about suburban living.
If not totally aware of the smothering sameness, the kids were aware that they were bored to
The greedy developers of these cute little cracker-box homes built them all along the
same general uniform plan, allowing minimal individual expression. Survival in these new
tracts usually meant ownership of a vehicle and those with insufficient financial resources
were drawn like magnets to another type of fast-growing instant neighborhood– the trailer
park. Other folks were drawn to newly constructed high-rise apartments. All of these instant
neighborhoods were, and still are, poor substitutes for traditional communities with an
agricultural base that affords opportunities for service and recognition based on contributions
to the common good.
The idealistic youth of the sixties suffered from claustrophobic isolation in a covetous
culture where competition was stressed over cooperation. Waste and unfocused materialism
clashed with minimalist "return to the earth" idealism.
Flower Children took poverty and unequal distribution of the earth's bounty all very
personally. Appalled to find themselves and those about them contributing to this imbalance
by pursuing ever more material goods, they rejected the upwardly mobile, yet dysfunctional
lifestyle of their parents. There was no malicious intent of rejection, just a fear of
becoming unfulfilled cogs in the mindless march of materialism and technological progress,
and horror of horrors, fodder for a war in Vietnam that had nothing to do with National
Defense at all. They wanted to make a difference and wanted more than what they saw around
them. Many of them joined the Peace Corps and other service programs as a way to find inner
balance and fulfillment.
California, land of subdivisions, was the largest contributor of disenchanted youth who
decided to break free of the smothering uniformity. They wanted to get their hands dirty
learning to live in harmony with the earth instead of stripping its resources or fighting
a war created by politicians. These same children, one or two generations removed
from the farm, had heard stories of how wonderful rural life was and yearned for an
extended family lifestyle, as well as a chance to extend their short lives.
Without family farms to return to, many answered the call of rural communal life. Feeling
threatened by a top heavy war machine, they migrated to isolated pockets of unsettled land
where religious and tribal stability still held sway. In these communities they found
children who didn't need to run away to find a sense of unity with others of like mind. To
their amazement, they met others with similar dreams who had also migrated from the cities
and suburbs as if pulled by a magnet. Awkward and green at first, they persisted in working
together to create intentional communities based on creativity, inner growth and shared
commitment to using and developing earth-friendly forms of energy, housing and food production.
These folks weren't afraid of work, but they needed to work and focus their energy toward
the realization of their own dreams, not those of the previous generation.
Our extended family was beginning to materialize . . . friends became brothers and
sisters and the Native Elders our Uncles, Grandfathers, and relatives. After the
pioneering phase of getting back to the land, individuals felt freer to explore other
vocational options. These choices were quite amazing to those who knew them well. Many of
these Flower Children farmers eventually turned to vocations such as plumbers, carpenters,
teachers, nurses and electricians, but with a different spirit and renewed sense of service
to their fellow beings.
Perhaps you know just such a person. Perhaps it was this person, that left sacks of
groceries or a cord of wood on the back porch of someone too self-sufficient to ask for help.
Perhaps it was this old Flower Child who took time to help one of your children when
everyone else was too busy. Perhaps it is this person who works in an elder care center
who takes extra time to visit with one of your elderly parents.
While most of the sixties' Flower Children have seemingly been reabsorbed back into
mainstream society, it is only an illusion. They followed their dreams and will never be
the same. Yes, they made mistakes, but got up from falling on their faces and tried again
and again until they got it right.
Today, most of the sixties' generation have well-rounded lives, but they still reject the
hollow materialism and eternal quest for more and more. In other words
they finally "got it together" . . . got their priorities straight. These hardworking folks
use their surplus to help others anonymously and have long ago given up the idea of pursuing
wealth for wealth's sake.
As Gentle Survivalists we reject things of hollow consequence, those things that moth
and rust doth corrupt. We seek for eternal values . . . a working relationship with our
Creator, harmonic co-existence with nature and friendships that enrich and edify. May we
continue to nurture those around us, treating others as we would be treated . . . or as
James Taylor sings, "Shower the people you love with love . . . show them you really care . . . "|