Thursday, January 05, 2012

"Things were a lot looser then" - the New Zealand hippie movement

My thanks to Lynne for this one.

I was never a hippie in the true sense of the word, but like many of my generation I was strongly influenced by the hippie movement.  These four youtube videos tell part of the story of the hippie movement in New Zealand.  I think that you will enjoy them. I have inserted a few brief background comments between the clips.

I was eight when I first went to New Zealand. I returned eight years later, and then from 1970 visited New Zealand nearly every year. On those trips I stayed with family, at youth hostels and with New Zealand friends, so I was exposed to some degree to the trends presented in the documentary.

New Zealand is an interesting place. Very socially conservative, it yet had a strong social reform tradition that manifested itself in a variety of ways from the very early days of European settlement. Australians tend to forget that. Further, New Zealanders had and still have a closeness to the countryside that Australia has long lost.   


Australia dwarfs New Zealand in population terms. In 1970, the New Zealand population was 2,852,100, rising to 3,176,400 in 1980. In part because of that smaller population, in part because of the travelling young, the counter culture elements were more visible in New Zealand.

The Whole Earth Catalog was first published in the US in 1968 and became something of a bible. I remember one year when we arrived at the youth hostel at Kakoura (I was travelling with two mates) on the South Island, we found a group huddled around a heater drying flowers that the WEC suggested would give a high if smoked. One of the group was a long term resident at the hostel who used to run each day to the top of a nearby mountain to meditate and commune with nature. People were into that sort of thing.

Drying finished, the flowers were rolled into a joint and passed around among the group. A little later, we ran into one of the girls at the Queenstown YHA. She told us that they had apparently used the wrong flower; the high effects were totally psychological!      

The world changes. The emergence of hard drugs, the demands of family, conflicts between residents and drop-ins, the unremitting nature of the hard work involved in making an alternative life style work, all combined to bring the period to an end. Society, too, was closing up, becoming less accepting, more controlling, and yet at the same time more individualistic.  

Nostalgia runs like a thread through the videos. There is a sense of loss, but also sometimes bemusement at things done. 


Winton Bates said...

The New Zealand pronunciation of hippy seemed particularly appropriate at first. They were 'happies' for a while!

Jim Belshaw said...

You really made me smile, Winton! Absolutely right!