Where have all the hippies gone?

Mickey MantleForgive me for repeating this story, but I recall reading an early edition of USA Today many years ago, the cover page of which featured Mickey Mantle and a quote that was life-changing for me. The sub-headline read:

“The people taking over the world grew up on me.”

That hit me like a ton of bricks, because I grew up with Mickey Mantle as a hero, so he was talking about me and people like me. We were taking over the world. What would we make of it? This was a significant passage in my life, because if you’re taking over the world, you’d damned well better act responsibly about it, and my generation wasn’t exactly known for that. I graduated high school in 1964 and was thrust into the middle of the Vietnam War, the peace movement, rock-n-roll, civic violence, and the love of the counterculture.

It wasn’t until I read “What the Dormouse Said” a few years ago that I began to realize the extent to which all of that was wrapped up in the creation and development of both the personal computer and the Internet. I think it’s why I’ve felt such a kinship and cosmic connection with all of this “new media” stuff. But, alas, today I am sad.

Two web heroes of mine — both old revolutionary hippie types — have written about the same subject: what’s happening to our beloved Web. I strongly recommend you read both:

Doc Searls: Edging toward the fully licensed world

Dave Winer: What comes after the post-PC?

Dave’s is a bit more upbeat, but I wonder. It’s not about us anymore, for the people now taking over the world grew up with the fruit of our passion but not necessarily the kind of leadership the world really needed. I regret that, but let me warn those who’ve moved into the “taking over” role today:

Do not let “the man” take away that which we’ve given you. Do not trust that private sector efforts to take over the Web and turn it into their profit machine based on old models of scarcity will do anything other than destroy the freedom you now possess. Don’t trust the lawyers. Don’t trust the lawmakers and policy overseers. Don’t trust the Zuckerbergs of the world, nor the Apples, Googles, Amazons and others. This is about you, young Jedi, and YOUR freedom.

I sense in my spirit the old empire stirring. The status quo is about to launch a major offensive on all fronts. Maybe Dave’s right. Maybe people WILL stand up and say “no” and demand the freedoms we’ve enjoyed over the past 15+ years.

I certainly hope so, for the older I get, the more I realize that this is our legacy.

Where have all the hippies gone?  We’re still here, watching and waiting for people to wake up. Some of us may feel the pending call of the rocking chair, but the light still shines brightly within. We’ll keep an eye on them, but our progeny is going to have to take up the cause.



  1. Thanks for weighing in, Terry. I remain guardedly optimistic, but I dunno. The Net and the Web were accidental revolutions. They came in under the radar, and the status quo (government, phone and cable companies, big biz as usual) didn’t recognize the enemy until it was too late. Paul Kunz of SLAC has a great presentation from 1999 reviewing how high energy physicists were the key players in getting the Web going, and how they did it by looking harmless to phone companies that didn’t understand what the physicists were up to, until it was too late.

    I have similar hopes for VRM, by the way. 🙂

  2. Excuse me, there is a global revolution going on. That’s where all the hippies are.
    Where are you? People need you.

    The internet reveals we all want the same things for our families. We are not that different.
    Wikileaks reveals governments routinely conspire to lie to their citizens (see: bombing Yemen).
    Last month in Poland, people demonstrated in the streets for days over a copyright bill!
    Considering the war of terror, the neoliberal economic catastrophe and climate change, it really is a choice between
    civilisation and barbarism. The App Store is neither here nor there, I reckon.

    This is the world. Please respond:

    I would say overall, the people are just beginning to realise we have the power to retrieve and extend civil liberties,
    build better economies and lives, and contain the corporate sacking of the global political economy.
    Neoliberalism is just the fundamentalist version of capitalism.
    We may not have Mickey Mantel, but we’ve got everybody. We the people.

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