Re: San Fran. / Leary...

EDWARD P. MORGAN (epm2@Lehigh.EDU)
Wed, 31 Jan 1996 13:33:04 -0500

I found Deepak's quest for the sixties kind of poignant but also a reflection
of how the "sixties" have been transformed by the media culture. A rather
sharp insight, I'd say, to wonder if you "were looking in the wrong places"
Deepak. I think the Haight you found is largely the Haight that the media
hyped and the consumer culture discovered in 1967 and that was largely
transformed by the mainstream culture (with some of the authentic community &
trappings still around, I suspect, if you know where to look --which is what
you're asking).... Basically, the consumer culture has coopted & commodified
the "sixties" into "things" one can buy or styles one can adopt as part of a
"political statement" that's really emptied of its subversiveness (i.e., dress
like a revolutionary, be a revolutionary).
But, most importantly, this was going on DURING the sixties, and I'd argue it
was precisely this hype (this attraction to the outward manifestations, seen
through mainstream/consumer-culture eyes) by the media of things like the
"summer of love" that drew young, apolitical runaways like moths to the light,
thereby transforming the Haight (& the counterculture) into a harmless,
acquisitive & self-indulgent form of rebellion (and, quite possibly, a form of
pre-yuppiehood). Meanwhile, the authentic counterculture lived (lives) on in
the lives of the expressive pioneers who still "struggle to maintain their
values & lifestyles in capitalist America." But you won't find it, I'd argue,
in the "corridors of power or the Hall of Fame." [You might find a read of
Doug McAdam's "Freedom Summer" or Whalen & Flacks' "Beyond the Barricades" of
some interest; though not about the counterculture, they are accounts of the
lives of 60s people in the 80s.

Anyway, theere are some lessons in there, I'd say.

And I think this media-transformation phenomenon is relevant to Mike Martin's
inquiry about Timothy Leary & "set & setting." Yes, that's the way I remember
Leary's presentation about LSD, and it seems to be the way others closer to
the culture remember him, rather than as someone who simply encouraged LSD
consumption wherever & whenever the whim struck. Perhaps there's some ex-post
facto "cleaning up of the record" by Leary here, but I suspect that the media
hype about both the drug scene AND Leary (and the actual behavior of some
folks) have fed this picture of Leary...

Ted Morgan