Hippies, explained to my parents.
My parents are devout catholics, but not fundamentalists, which is handy for this post since that's the most common religious group on Earth. They believe that "work is health" and that one must "win their bread sweat of their brow" and they might claim that money isn't happiness, but not wholeheartedly. I bet they're a bit confused about the part where Jesus says it's almost impossible for a rich man to get into paradise.
I have arrived in a very interesting place. I think I'll stay here for a few days at least, to rest from my relentless traveling. The place is... how to say... interesting.
It's not easy to find the words to describe it accurately. It's a bit like a scout camp for adults, but permanent. And without the chieftains and the hierarchy. Since the "camp" is permanent, the tents are more like houses. You know how scouts tend to build lasting structures if they stay in the same spot for a week or two. Well, just imagine if they stayed throughout the year. And since there is no hierarchy, everybody do what they wants.
You'd think that it'd be contradictory to the "building lasting structures" part ; but really, nobody must do anything and yet it's one of the busiest place I've ever visited. After breakfast, work teams seem to self-organize from a to-do list spelled out by the guru, and off they go, building stuff, moving stuff, repairing stuff, making stuff. It's right after breakfast right now, and there's a team that is finishing covering the roof of a two story barn that is at least 60 square meters floor-surface. Another team is mixing clay, in order to make an insulating layer on the outer wall of above-mentioned barn. It is meant to become a living space of some sort. My task is to move a huge soil pile and prepare the next generation of compost. So I read a lot about composting yesterday.
So it looks like everybody works. I haven't spotted any freeloader. Apart from me maybe, that is sitting with my laptop instead of working. Nobody gets paid. It looks like money isn't a very interesting thing here. I never heard anyone talk about money. Some people bring food, or bring tools, some people take them. When I'm hungry, I go in the kitchen and snatch something. When I go to town, I look in the kitchen first to see what's missing and I buy it from the market. There's a donation box on the fridge. I suppose it's to allow people that didn't bring anything to contribute. I found that box all by myself. Nobody showed it to me nor explained me that I needed to give something. The box is not attached nor sealed. I could just raid it while everyone is busy outside, or just take the whole box. I won't do it, and it looks like nobody will.
This type of self-powered work energy is really interesting to me. It's tickling my economic brain and I'm sure I can find better answers to "what makes people do what they do" here than in the venerable "wealth of nations" of Adam Smith that you swear by.
As I'm sitting in the shade, writing this instead of working, nobody judges me because I'm slacking off. I see busy / sweaty people passing by. If I look up at them, they'll just throw me a smile. They seem to assume that I'll do my share of work later. Or maybe they think it's fine if I don't do anything at all and just eat the food and drink the water. This is just making me want to do more actually. Maybe that's why everybody is working even though nobody tells them to. Maybe it's because nobody tells them to.
You remember I was talking of a guru. So there is some sort of chief here. Well... I used the word "guru" because it's in line with their religion, which I'll come back to later. The guru here is a woman my age. I think the place belongs to her. And she's not a chief in the sense that she tells people what to do. But she's the one that knows the place best. So everyone asks questions to her. "Where can I find that tool?", "what would be the best place for this project?", "can I make some fire here to cook lunch?". So, indirectly, she gets to decide a lot of what's happening. She's the one with a bird-eye view of the community, she knows everything that's going on. But she doesn't give orders.
About their religion, they are very spiritual, but not catholics. Their religion is a patchwork of Animism, Hinduism, Taoism and common-sense wisdom. They seem to believe in a sort of energy that fills everything and moves from things to things, or people for that matter. This energy is a bit like the Holy Ghost. Actually, it's extremely reminiscent of the Force, in Star Wars. Not that I think they derive their religion from watching Star Wars. It's much more likely that George Lucas was inspired by hippie spirituality when he came up with the Jedi belief system.
The guru-woman also acts as a sort of motor of that religion, suggesting rituals, and performing them with much enthusiasm. Singing songs, holding hands, hugging each other... that kind of thing.
But, to summarize, they are positivists that worship nature / the universe and they are all about love in its broader sense. You can often see them meditate / pray, or performing some ritual dance / workout. Their version of the original sin is that they constantly seem to think of themselves as "impure" and talk profusely about cleaning / purifying themselves. I would like to say that it has nothing to do with hygiene, but it seems to be related. They make a strong link between body and soul and whatever cleans the body, they seem to believe it cleans the soul too. Which makes them pretty healthy people, if you look past their dirty looking clothe.
Some of them smoke cigarettes, but it seems much less than the local average. About alcohol, yesterday evening a woman from the village (not a hippie) joined the circle around the fire. She had brought a half litre of local schnapps. I tasted some, someone washed his hands and forearms and legs with it (once the woman was gone. He said it kept mosquitoes away). Apart from that, the bottle is still sitting on the table, almost full. I think people here don't drink. Or maybe just the finest alcohol (that schnapps was nasty). And they don't seem into any other psychotropic. There's just coffee in the morning, and tea sometimes in the day. That's it for drugs.
The people here have the same profound respect of everything natural. They have a pretty extensive garden but won't use chemical fertilizer or pesticide. They rely on compost and a pretty neat natural fertilizer that they produce with a bucketload of kitchen waste and and handful of worms. There are lots and lots of flies and wasps that aggregate around every plate of fruits but they don't use insecticide. And they eat lots of fruits.
The way they eat is extremely confusing. One common denominator is that everyone is vegetarian. That means they don't eat meat. Including chicken, fish and anything that you need to kill an animal to get. Then, a lot are vegan. That's the same as vegetarian, plus that they don't eat eggs or milk or anything that comes from a live animal. Then, in addition to that, some of them eat only raw food. No cooking at all. And in addition to that, some of them eat nothing with a strong taste. No salt, no pepper, no sugar, no chili, no vinegar... Cooking for them is an interesting exercise.
I said "cooking for them" because, as the scouts, they do everything together. Nobody would fix themself a meal and not share it with everyone. The cooking is always communal. And once everything is ready, they call up everyone, perform a blessing of the food and eat all together. And when the food is finished, you don't see them lining up to clean their plate, but instead dump everything in the sink, for one volunteer to wash later.
I find all those concepts a bit ahead of their time. Even as the hippies seem to detach themselves from anything modern, the way they organize, the way they view socielty is pretty futuristic. Society is evolving the hippies way: More local, more communal / less individualist, more spiritual / less materialist, more respectful of the environment. I found it surprising to discover that all of them, with no exception, had a pretty worker-class socio-cultural background. Robbing me of my impression that such advanced initiative often come from elite dropouts.
In conclusion, I have found that the modern hippies are not very faithful to their Haigh/Ashbury, urban and drug crazed, founding fathers and mothers. They have taken to the fields, taken a shower, and they seem to be on the pointy end of all those trendy keywords like "sustainable", "permaculture", "organic" and other common greenwashing material. Except they mean it and, as far as my eye can see, they achieve it. Their society is extremely low-cost, low-footprint and long-term driven. Their religion is weird and confusing, but I suppose all foreign religions are. And as much of a technochild that I am, I can't help being impressed by all they achieve without one bit of internet access.
PS: I must admit I have idealized a bit this one community I have visited. In an attempt to make it more sound like a hippie community blueprint than an actual iteration of the idea.
Enough already with blog articles?