Victor Davis Hanson // Private Papers
Part One: Hippiedom
The Sixties were, as the late, great Peter Collier and the astute David Horowitz wrote, the work of a “Destructive Generation.”
Some of the best minds of the conservative movement who lived through those wasted years chronicled their excesses—the narcissism, the selfishness, and the legacy of free love, drugs, and radical chic resistance. All that and more were passed on to two subsequent generations, who inherited the “free that and free this” of the Sixties—but not the educational and moral instruction that ungracious and pampered radicals had received by being raised and taught by the Greatest Generation.
In the academy, the result was surreal: professors of the 1960s and early 1970s, in their 20s and 30s intent on not transmitting the “uptight” rigor and “irrelevant” training they had received from old-style liberal academics, and thus ensuring their students would be both predictably radical and ignorant.
I have no idea which was the worse result: for well-trained professors to have received a solid traditional education under the very system that they destroyed for others and never passed on? Or their clueless and babied students, nursed on therapeutics and race/class/gender homilies, who were as arrogant in their political zeal as their professors, but far more uninformed—given they lapped up postmodernism, ‘theory’ and race and gender schlock rather than mastery of languages, literature, history, and philosophy.
Myron Magnet (The Dream and the Nightmare: the Sixties) noted how the 1960s’ self-indulgence and nihilism frayed the youthful upper-middle class, but did not destroy these long-hair hipsters who had family resources—establishment connections, relative familial stability and networking affluence—and so they cut their hair, cleaned up, moved on, grew up—and turned their self-absorption to their careers.
But in their wake, “do your thing” proved devastating to the inner-city residents and many minorities, at least those who adopted 60s values—but without the resources to allow precivilized hippie indulgences to be a “lark” rather than a moral and culture catastrophe.
Tom Sowell in a variety of books (see especially, The Vision of the Anointed) demonstrated how black families and communities of the postwar era were successfully headed for parity with the white middle class, despite against great odds. They had found success mostly from their own self-disciple, community standards, and traditions of hard work and perseverance against terrible bias, all resulting in stable families, small businesses, and religious observance.
Then came the one-two punch of the Great Society agendas of upper-middle class, white liberals and the pernicious social and cultural legacy of Sixties—abortion on demand, promiscuity, rejection of religious faith, single-parent family, drug use, and crime and violence as revolutionary acts. That neutron bomb was dropped on the black community but without compensatory resources of the white suburbanite.
All that said, one thing—and only one thing?—could be said for the Sixties. There was a wild spirit of freedom and suspicion of centralized authority, akin to what the grouch Tacitus saw in German tribes across the Rhine and Danube, along with a commitment to absolutely uncensored expression and speech (especially what was crude, pornographic, and mostly anti-American). Still, many of the songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, and Bob Dylan were about the individual taking risks. He was a Steppenwolf, defying convention, and resonating empathy for the working classes. In other words, in the 1960s there were not trigger warnings, safe spaces, and micro-aggressions. Instead, everything was a shotgun blast, open-season on everyone space, and in-your-face challenges, and what are you going to do about it insults.
14 thoughts on “Eeyore ’s Corner: From Hippies to Yuppies to Our Puppies”
As VDH has asserted in his essay Water Is the Blood of Agriculture, everything the elite liberals touch is destroyed.
Professor, an illustration of what you describe about the rebellious professoriate — undermining the very legacy it was paid to pass along and cheating the students who were happy to be told they didn’t need to learn — can be found in the classic comedy “Animal House.”
Donald Sutherland plays the “hip” professor who denigrates John Milton in class and then entertains his students with a pot party.
I follow almost everything you do Victor. I enjoyed your interview with Megan Kelly today, as an example. The thing I appreciate so much about your views on what is happening “right now” is your ability to capture the enormous detail of the madness that seems to surround us, and your ability to organize this nonsense into a coherent explanation with links to events five and even ten years ago. I am also challenged by your vocabulary, although I have observed that some of these wonderful words are not uttered by you with confidence and clarity when you use them in an interview.
I share your views on the collapse of our “academy” in the late 60s. There was a massive recruitment that went on in 1965 to 1969 in anticipation of the coming “baby boomers”. This was before your time. Almost all of those who graduated from Harvey Mudd prior to 1966 were hired as tenured track assistant professors by the time I got out of the Coast Guard in 1971. To my great surprise, a friend who had dropped out of HMC after our Freshmen year (1963-1964,) was a faculty member at MIT when I returned to continue my graduate studies. He had enrolled at CalPoly San Louis Obispo in the fall of 1964, and was awarded a PhD from UC Davis in Civil Engineering about the time I was competing Officer Candidate School in the Coast Guard. Another very good friend got out of the Peace Corps in 1967 ( he taught Physics in Turkey as his “peace” offering,) and finished his PhD with a thesis on fruit fly genetics from UCLA. He was an Assistant Prof. at UC San Diego about the time I received an early discharge from the CG to continue my graduate studies. I mention this not only to celebrate their success, but also to establish some ground truth. They were both deserving whatever they achieved. But their experience in quickly landing tenured track positions was driven by an underlying market force. The need to double graduate and undergraduate enrollment as the wave of baby boomers descended on our colleges and universities.
If the universities had hired deans and senior administrative officers with the same accomplishments as my friends, all would have been well. But they didn’t. As I was completing my PhD at MIT, my reading in the library or Student Center was often disrupted by clouds of tear gas from Harvard demonstrations that carried down Massachusetts Avenue into Central Square. The fools that Harvard and MIT had hired mindlessly and cravenly turned over their offices, or cut their ties to first rate research outfits like Draper Labs, to accommodate these scum, and then they celebrated their “tolerance” as support of free speech. My guess is that the people who should have occupied their positions had been killed, discouraged, or seriously disabled by the folly in Vietnam. Opportunists and egomaniacs took their place.
I stopped supporting HMC after their new President inflicted an Oxfam Feast on the student body in the mid-70s. She was a product of the Stanford cult of administration, and my fears about the collapse of integrity in our academy has proven to be correct. My wife and I do enjoy supporting Hillsdale. And I am one of the multitude who appreciated your contribution to the Athens/Sparta online course.
The “hippie” movement was well underway in the late 50s and early 60s with the ‘beatniks” and mimicking the life style exemplified by the “rat pack”. The late 60s early 70s hippies were just an extension of mid century modern that imploded into the “yuppies”later on. However it’s hard to ignore the achievements in the sciences that came from thinking “outside the box” which spurred the excesses you lament. Always a fan of your clear thinking, right on so many levels.
I cannot get enough of VDH !!!!
If there was one event in the 60s that was the beginning of the ruin of America, it was the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it provided a document that codified entitlements for Blacks (inverse discrimination), including affirmative action. Blacks and others believed that they were “owed”; they did not have to work for anything; a good life was a right.
The result: 46% of Blacks are employed by the government at entry level. Their percentage at career level (SES) is 22%. Blacks are only 13.5% of the population.
Do you think the free-market capitalist democracy society model has a chance against the two behemoths: Chinese communism and Muslim fundamentalism?
We seem to be transforming into the former while surrendering to the latter.
It’s been too long since you made a podcast!!! Bring ’em back!!
Don’t forget there was this little thing the Vietnam war which undermined the WW II and depression era ethic of our parents’ generation. All “hippies” we’re not the sex-drugs-rock pointless group critics lump the ’60s generation into (if I may end with a preposition).
Professor, the last paragraph of this article is the best and most astute. It is a point I have been making for years. The Woodstock generation hippies to a large extent have become willing totalitarians. Can you imagine the federal and/or state governments trying to impose the Covid style restrictions in 1968 or 1969? Hat tip for mentioning The Band!
There’s a book here just waiting for VDH to write it. The definitive history of the Boomer generation.
Eeyore’s corner is genius, not necessarily true of the Professor, I have seen him laugh, but genius all the same.
Dear Victor Hanson, I so enjoy your web page, you podcasts. I want to just learn everything I can. I have seen you on Laura Ingram, heard you on Rush’s show and appreciate your knowledge, and experience.
Rejection of religious faith does not turn people into nefarious citizens. I’ve been an atheist since I was 14 years old and consider myself a law abiding citizen. My philosophy about being a member of society is to treat others as I would want them to treat me without expectations of the reciprocity. Carl Sagan stated: “if you’re going to make extraordinary claims, you have to offer extraordinary proof”. You put forth a hypothesis that a rejection of religious faith was a contributing factor to the situation we find ourselves in today. It’s the only statement in the paper with which I disagree. I would suggest that you put forth proof that a total secular society cannot be orderly and functional. May I suggest you read Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens, who was the best of the group. Yes, I miss Hitch.