[sixties-l] Denmark's hippies hit their golden years

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 10/28/00

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    Denmark's hippies hit their golden years
    October 26, 2000
    By By Charles P. Wallace in Christiana
    (TIME.com Europe) -- The sign on the gate says it all:
    You are now leaving the European Union. You're not of
    course, but life in the Free Town of Christiania, as the
    neighbourhood in the leafy outskirts of Copenhagen likes
    to call itself, seems like time travel to the 1970s -- a
    simpler time of hippies, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
    Christiania was a military compound and barracks
    abandoned by the Danish army at the start of the
    turbulent 70s. Soon after the army moved out, squatters
    moved in and began converting the army's vacant buildings
    into homes and shops.
    For 20 years, Copenhagen authorities tried to shut it
    down, but eventually gave up and signed a peace agreement
    allowing this rather 1970s vision of a commune to remain
    as long as it paid its taxes and water and light bills.
    "People say we are trying to stop time and hold on to
    flower power," says Camilla Roslind, 29, who has lived in
    Christiania for a decade and works in the commune's
    Apart from the hippie atmosphere, Christiania's claim to
    fame is its renowned Pusher Street, where marijuana and
    hashish from all over the world are sold. Prices for
    Moroccan or Thai are posted on shops like the prices for
    chicken and hamburger in more conventional cities and the
    product is stacked openly like candies in a sweet shop.
    Most visitors retire to picnic tables in a big circus
    tent, which houses a local bar, to smoke their goods
    before they leave.
    Judging by the openness, the police these days seem to
    leave the drug trade unmolested. In the past they have
    staged massive raids, cordoning off entire blocks and
    making mass arrests. For a while, they even carted away
    the fixtures of bars that didn't pay the proper taxes on
    alcohol. Now the only vestige of those days are the
    frequent signs banning photographs on Pusher Street. They
    may preach individual freedom, but drug dealers don't
    think much of seeing their photos in the newspaper.
    Apart from the drug trade, the 38-hectare commune seems
    to be thriving. The population now is more than 1,000,
    including about 650 adults and 350 children. Although the
    police aren't invited in, the residents ban sales of hard
    drugs, theft and other misdemeanors with the threat of
    expulsion from the community.
    So relaxed is the pace that they still don't want to have
    street signs or house numbers because they believe that
    such measures tend to depersonalise people. "If someone
    wants you to visit, they will explain how to find them,"
    says Roslind. The commune even boasts its own postman,
    who picks up mail from a collective address.
    As in any good commune, the community "owns" the
    buildings and 12 neighbourhood committees meet regularly
    to discuss such things as who to allow in. Tenants pay a
    $112 a month flat charge for rent for each person, plus
    water and electricity.
    Every resident has the right to convene a common meeting
    of all residents to discuss a problem. Decisions are not
    taken by a vote but by unanimous consensus, which must
    make for some long discussions. "We have a collective
    business," says Rajesh, a baker from Nepal who has lived
    in Christiania for 12 years. "We have no bosses and it's
    a nice way to work."
    At the general store, Johanes Kjmpenes explains that
    because they deal in used house fixtures that are cheaper
    than those available in other parts of Copenhagen, the
    store is only open to residents of the commune. While
    they collect the 25 per cent value-added tax just as
    other shops do, the proceeds are turned over to the
    commune rather than the Danish state to help fund such
    things as kindergartens and a health clinic.
    Christiania seems to be a favourite with artisans and
    craftsmen, including a shop that makes special hand-made
    tricycles that feature a cargo compartment to carry
    goods. That's because cars and trucks are not allowed in
    Christiania. Perhaps because they are handmade, the bikes
    cost $850 each. Another shop offers the work of a group
    of women welders who make such goods as candelabra as
    Christmas gifts.
    Although ambulance drivers used to refuse to enter
    Christiania because of the high number of drug addicts
    that once lived there, they feel less threatened now that
    hard drug users are banned. Two nurses offer first aid
    treatment at the local health clinic, provided, of
    course, that the remedies are natural. "We use
    alternative medicine as much as we can," says a nurse who
    gave her name as Anonymous. The nurses say they don't
    offer unsolicited advice on smoking pot, but will help
    people who seek assistance in quitting.
    Like any community that appeals to people who came of age
    in the 1970s, Christiania is having to deal with a novel
    problem: Old age. "It's an entirely new situation for us
    -- we have to take care of the elderly," says Roslind.
    While time seems to have stopped in Christiania, even
    hippies grow old.

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