Given the upcoming Nimbin Aquarius Festival celebrations in May, it’s a good opportunity to point out the importance of counter culture.
While not particularly a popular notion these days, it is perhaps the most valuable tool a society has. As Frank Zappa once said, ‘Without deviation from the norm, “progress” is not possible.’
Counter culture is mostly known for the 60s hedonistic drug- taking, which spurred psychedelic music, free loving, mismatched colourful clothing and infrequent personal hygiene practices.
But it’s so much more because it challenged the narrative of imperialism, which includes slavery and warfare. Counterculture can also summon that disgusting word intellectualism, the antithesis of slavery and warfare. And anything with the word counter in it obviously means the opposite. Activist Howard Zinn once said, ‘Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.’
Counter culture’s history includes the The Age of Enlightenment (1650 to 1700), Romanticism (1790 to 1840), Bohemianism (1850 to 1910), the Beat Generation (1944 to 1964) and Hippies (1964 to 1974).
And counter culture’s influences were usually fleeting: after the Vietnam war ended in 1972, almost all hippy baby boomers discarded the tie dye for a suit and embraced their planet-wrecking ego.
Counter culture is important because it helped to liberate gay rights, among many other things. Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial and imprisonment for ‘gross indecency’ seems ludicrous now. With any luck the imprisonment of US private Bradley Manning for spreading transparency via WikiLeaks will seem just as stupid in 100 years.
As for the counterculture of the present, some current Echo staff were present at the Aquarius Festival all those years ago, as were many who still live in this shire. Activist Harsha Prabhu’s efforts to immortalise this region and festival through a book should be wholeheartedly applauded and supported.
It was an important event that generated a significant blip of consciousness forty years ago in May.