Yet I now see that I was pretty much wrong on all counts. I had thought the counterculture had won the battle, but that was all a mirage. Peace and nonviolence didn’t prevail. Respect and tolerance didn’t become second nature. Crass materialism did not retreat; in fact, it didn’t budge an inch. As I look back on those days with the benefit of hindsight, I have a nagging feeling that things have gotten much worse. We are angrier than ever before, more violent and self-centered, with fewer rights and responsibilities, less tolerant and forgiving, and with less consensus on how to improve the degradations — environmental, cultural, political, technological — that encroach on every side.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve started studying the 1950s and 1960s counterculture again. Not for a dose of nostalgia — although I can understand the appeal of that — but rather to grasp what went wrong and whether we can still fix it. The beatniks and hippies, with their poetry readings, love-ins, and flower power celebrations, actually did move the culture, at least for a decade or so. They had some wisdom to share. Maybe we should listen again.—Ted Gioia, Why Gregory Bateson Matters