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If hippies were 'anti-establishment', then what did they mean by 'establishment'?

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Comparing mindsets and the mystery of short-lived idealism

(3rd edition - February 2008) by A.O. Kime
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During the turbulent days of the 1960s hippies frequently utilized the term 'establishment' when referring to the government and 'unelected ruling authorities'. It was a matter of the government, the media and powerful corporations being in cahoots which was creating a threat to the whole of American society.

While we don't hear the term being used much anymore, it should be. After all, the youth of today seem unaware the connotations and therefore have less appreciation of the danger. Of course, it could be due to widespread apathy. A sizeable portion of last 2-3 generations seem to demonstrate they no longer care. For them, it seems, America is beyond repair.

On the other hand, the large turnout of young voters during the primaries of 2008 seems to indicate a renewed interest in political affairs. However, since there's always the danger they'll later abandon their youthful idealism, as typically occurs, perhaps knowing the attitude of the 60s generation (then and now) would help them hang on to their egalitarian beliefs. One might also glean something from comparing the old bones-of-contention with the new. Another good step to is understand freedom itself... how we view the concept today compared to yesteryear. The true (ancient) perspective has emboldening qualities which should help preserve our individual freedoms. Empowerment, after all, relies heavily on perspectives.

Since the political realities are virtually the same today as during the 60s, perhaps those under 30 will find lessons to be learned. Perhaps trying to make sense of the altered attitudes over the course of the last 50 years will yield something. Some mindset changes undergone by the 60s generation were minor, some drastic (but of no particular bearing), and some were downright traitorous. The mighty question is... what causes youthful idealism to be abandoned? While it's usually helpful if everyone is on the same page, perhaps it's not true in this case. After all, if the younger generations are still on the same page (as the old) means society won't progress... and we haven't. The truth is, the establishment has gotten worse... only its veneer looks better, more polished, but inside it's a greater mess. Deeper than ever is pretence and hypocrisy and put under closer guard are the backroom shenanigans.

So, how can it be reconciled that most of today's 'unelected ruling authorities' are of the 60s generation? Weren't many of them hippies... the same ones who once fought the establishment? Unfortunately, yes... but obviously many of them weren't true hippies or had that particular mindset. Or else they lost it. The unelected ruling authorities today can only be a mixture of old 'nerds', phonies and undisciplined souls. It's virtually impossible for truly cool people to become traitors... that is, as long as they remain 'cool'. True coolness is a demeanor with honorable attributes.

Attacking the establishment

Being a very unique decade which could be considered an 'era', the 1960s was a time of social upheaval best known for both the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. However, the protests and demonstrations which the 60’s are known wasn’t just limited to civil rights or the war... the establishment was also under attack, big time. There was a significant number of people, hippies mainly, who were openly protesting the establishment... therefore being 'anti-establishment'. It was primarily a justice issue over the fact the establishment had an unauthorized grip on society… controlling us unconstitutionally (in effect). The establishment, as the hippies portrayed it, were those insiders who, by virtue of their position, are able to influence government decisions and thus were yielding extraordinary (extraneous) power. The hippie’s focus was primarily on the media for their untruthfulness, large corporations over their exploitative practices, and the federal government for most every judicially sterile reason. It was also a matter of these institutions, this triad, being in cahoots with each other.

I was in my twenties during the 60s and while I wasn’t an active participant in the protests, I was sympathetic to most all the ongoing causes. Even though I wasn’t a hippie (per se), I could relate to and admired them... but I wasn’t a redneck either so I guess I was somewhere in-between. So, it's really more about having a idealistic mindset than being a hippie. Keeping this frame-of-mind all the way through adulthood is another matter however.

Being a 'happening' extremely rare, the pervasiveness of this mindset during the 60s could be consider a social phenomenon. It was magnificent, magical... but by the mid 70s the magic of idealism was all but gone. Rarely to be seen anymore, the grim-reapers of the 80s announced it effectively dead.

Conversations about the establishment were commonplace; hardly a day passed when one didn’t hear someone voice their opinion... invariably 'anti-establishment' in nature. Those conversations rarely exist today it seems, I hardly hear anyone bad-mouthing the establishment openly anymore. It no longer seems a 'trendy' conversation piece. That's what makes me wonder if the younger generations even contemplate the establishment anymore. Only seldom have I picked-up on their disgust. Either they don’t talk about it like we once did, it's apathy or perhaps they keep their opinions to themselves. Like us, maybe they’re somewhat hesitant discussing it with someone older like me, figuring I'm part of the conspiracy. After all, I'm over thirty.

Over thirty

While it is uncertain whether discontentment is as widespread today as it was during the 60s, allowing for the fact discontentment is easier to measure than apathy, but if it is, it's because nothing has changed. Despite all the protests and demonstrations, the institutions which comprise the establishment are still in place, still up to their dirty tricks. When the anti-establishment fervor subsided and effectively disappeared by the early-to-mid 70s, most hippies just gave up and, for practical reasons, decided they had no choice but to re-join society. Today, ironically, many of them are those who now manage the establishment, nurture and perpetuate it. How attitudes can change with age.

Aside from bashing the establishment, we, as the younger generation in our twenties then, used to say not to trust anyone over thirty. I think that still holds true… even though I'm in my sixties now I still don’t trust anyone over 30.

Perhaps the only way to break the stranglehold of the establishment is to elect young candidates and when they pass thirty, kick them out in favor of someone younger. Protests and demonstrations don’t seem to work, maybe that will. As those thirty-plus are ushered out, sure to go kicking and screaming, protesting, claiming they ‘still got it’, don’t believe them… they’re over thirty.

Long hair doesn't necessarily make a hippie either... just like yesteryear, many of those still existing today are probably imposters. While they might know the slang, knowing and exhibiting true coolness is something else altogether. It also requires politically astuteness. While a 60s hippie could quote chapter and verse about political matters, most of them also had a demeanor remarkably peaceful. It's true, many conducted themselves as one would expect of Jesus Christ... that is, except for their drug use. It was a magical time.

The most damned

Those institutions which constituted the core of the establishment and the most damned during the 60s was (1) the media, (2) corporations and (3) government in general… and occasionally Congressmen for being so easily corruptible, whores in our opinion. Since they were considered just whores, they weren't often seen as an important part of the picture. Of this triad, it was the media which caught the most hell because they were the mouthpiece, the lie spreaders.

The hippies often referred to the media as the 'third man in the tub' although the terms ‘Fourth Estate’ or ‘Fifth Column’ are also applied but generally became popular years later. The term ‘Fourth Estate’ means ‘guardians of freedom’ and, admittedly, a few newspapers could qualify... but very few. When the media is referred to as the ‘Fifth Column’, a term coined during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), that’s not so flattering... it means a 'subversive element' (of agents).

The establishment seems perpetual for other reasons beside not having young blood in leadership positions. For example, when newspapers succumb to the Internet new faces will quickly move in to become part of the establishment. Computer-related businesses will then become equally inflexible, arrogant and just as politically influential as the old guard. We need not grieve anymore for the small independent newspapers however, they're all gone... the last independent daily ceased to exist in 2003. So what about the few good ones mentioned earlier? Well, these newspaper chains still have a few independent-minded editors left... the Dallas Morning News comes to mind. Of course, it's just a matter of time before they're weeded out as well.

While unaware of it during my twenties, I recently discovered the traditional book-publishing companies are also part of the establishment. You don’t know arrogance until you’ve dealt with one, or tried. Their arrogance, cronyism, and book submission system is so horribly bad, enough to vomit, another industry sprang up to serve the needs of thousands upon thousands of aspiring yet unpublished authors. They call themselves ‘self-publishing’ companies and while they’re just newcomers, having only been around for the last 10-15 years, nonetheless are beginning to show signs of also wanting to belong to the establishment. Their arrogance is not as blatant as the old guard yet but I see it coming. It can, and does, eventually happen with any large organization, public or private. Of course, reeking of this convention within them are those over thirty.

Anti-trust laws

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the core of the establishment would like nothing better than if all markets were monopolized. After all, centralization would give them more control. While monopolies are publicly touted as a bad situation by the establishment... it's become merely lip-service. Having come full circle since the early days of the 20th century, the antitrust rulings of late prove it. As red flags, mergers are the precursors to marketplace monopolies. It is happening because monopolies would be advantageous for a socialist country such as America. America's turnabout and abandonment of free enterprise, now on a par with China, can be attested to by its farm policies and other major industries under government control. The likelihood monopolies will soon dominate is because it fits with the establishment's socialistic goals. Free enterprise and this particular establishment cannot co-exist.

After the antitrust laws (Sherman Act) went into effect in 1890, one of the first actions was in 1911 when Standard Oil was ordered to divest themselves. Since then, the government has launched some 160 cases, 34 which led to a breakup (most notably AT&T in 1984). More recently however it's been the reverse... being a process of summarily approving mergers. While the underlying cause for this new direction is due to political pressure, any goal or change in direction can easily be accomplished with the overly flexible judicial guidelines in place. It is therefore a system subject to being politically corruptible. Without apparent regard to the domestic marketplace, it is the political desires of global competitiveness, not the rule of law (albeit over-rated), which are influencing these latter-day decisions.

This seems proof antitrust laws are but a political tool and the courts a charade.

In 1940, Chief Justice Stone wrote: “The prohibitions of the Sherman Act were not stated in terms of precision or of crystal clarity and the Act itself does not define them. In consequence of the vagueness of its language, perhaps not uncalculated, the courts have been left to give content to the statute, and in the performance of that function it is appropriate that courts should interpret its words in the light of its legislative history and of the particular evils at which the legislation was aimed.”

Having given ill-advised 'content' to the statute, recent case law begot mega-mergers such as Exxon-Mobil, BP-Amoco, Daimler Benz-Chrysler, Renault-Nissan, WorldCom-MCI, Vivendi-Seagrams, Time Warner-EMI and Time Warner-AOL. Only the WorldCom-Sprint merger was blocked. So, as demonstrated, instead of abating monopolies the prevailing legal moods of today have caused most to flourish instead. Allowing Exxon and Mobil to merge even though they were once the result (offspring) of the breakup of Standard Oil is proof the latter-day courts will even undo previous rulings.

While the competitive realities of globalization may seem to justify these mergers, it's beside the point. It's a matter of ruling by decree. As the backbone of America, putting its small companies at such a competitive disadvantage is not only dangerous but traitorous.

Idealism versus experience

While the young can often be outwitted by an older person due to experience, this advantages does not necessarily spell quality leadership. Unlike the unclassifiable nature of 'experience', idealism is a known quantity. While idealism may often consist of naivety, it is nonetheless inherently good. Experience, on the other hand, may consist of almost anything... therefore being an unknown quantity. Since it can be demonstrated idealism and elder statesmen can rarely co-exist, our bureaucracies should be stripped of their career bureaucrats… limiting them to, say, ten years (term limits). Governments should no longer be shadow governments playing second fiddle to big money.

Cause and effect

For ages companies have tried to dominate their respective markets but beyond the quest for riches is the quest for political influence. Being the root of the whole problem, political influence usurps the ‘one man, one vote’ concept. Contributing to the problem is that root causes are largely overlooked by adults. While adults will discuss the particulars (the effects), most ignore the underlying reasons which cause them. In other words, adults over 30 tend to forget about cause and effect. For example, few seem curious why kids use drugs... only their drug use is lambasted. Shouldn't the causes be attacked instead? The number one reason people use alcohol and drugs is to escape society's bizarre realities. Upsetting the natural order causes psychological damage and in the long run perilous to the species. It's not the role of government to administer private lives or habits. Pretence and hypocrisy, not its victims, should be dealt with.

By the time they're eighteen youngsters know the causes for most things even if they don’t know all the particulars an elder might. The reason most older people only concern themselves with the effects, and not the causes, is because they don't care about the big picture anymore. For example, while attention is often paid to the activities of congress, its corrupt nature is often overlooked or shelved. As long as societies are administered by elders these root problems will continue to be shelved... an ideal environment for the American establishment. Shelve it, ignore it, move on. The belief that any system which holds things together is better left undisturbed, regardless its judicial qualities, is wholly un-American. America, after all, was born of idealism.

Anyway, that’s what the establishment is and why it continues to exist... perpetuated by we dirty rats over thirty.

A.O. Kime

Last modified: 03/06/16