from a taped interview with Allen Cohen,
editor of the San Francisco Oracle,
voice of the Haight-Ashbury hippy scene,
by Edmund O. Ward.
Francisco: Haight-Ashbury is like a huge Indian nation made up
of smaller tribes. Indeed, many people see us as descendants of the
American Indians trying to win back our country. A community like the
is a halfway house where people can turn on, find gurus, find tribes
to belong to and produce a beautiful tribal flower within this
constricted, scientific, bureaucratic, orderly death-machine.
We didn't plan it this way. It wasn't pre-meditated. It just happened.
Over the last few years, people started moving here because of the cheap
rents and the large Victorian flats — eight rooms or so. Five people
would get together, put up $30 apiece and have a nice single room, share
a kitchen. People started finding each other to get these flats— different
people from different backgrounds from all over the world getting together
in a cavernous flat in the Haight-Ashbury trying to work out all of their
different insecurities, dreams, visions, suffering together, turning
on together, developing after a while a great sense of loyalty to each
other, love for each other, because they had tested each other under
the most severe conditions — they were journeying together.
The Haight-Ashbury started to develop a tribal sense. People living
in small tribes together was happening — not for any premeditated
purpose. That's just the way it happened. People started living in
a tribe. They raised children in common, they lived together, loved
very, very close intimate relationships began developing not between
two people, but between eight people, ten people. Already you have
a different setup for a social structure. Everybody was working on
culture, although nobody knew it. It happened because the old relationships
were dead, and people began being aware that the mass society needed
a more intimate social arrangement. They needed to break away from
the mass society and have their total lives made up of human, beautiful,
loving personal intimate relationships because all of the rest of
it was a drag.
There were people who had farmhouses
and wilderness houses where they had their own tribal culture going.
Everybody opened up their house and
their heart to each other.
Haight-Ashbury is even developing
its own economic forms: The Diggers give free food, shelter and
clothing to people. Others are forming nonprofit
organizations in order to share what used to be called profits together.
It's a community of artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors,
craftsmen, leather makers, everyone is involved in creating, beautifying,
their vision into the outer world. We realize that the real problems
are not money, are not keeping your broken marriage together, your
next job, your last job. They are how to make life more meaningful
for those around you.
One of the most beautiful paraphrases of what I'm saying is a recent
statement by Gary Snyder. He said, "We are not interested in things
any more, but in states of mind." We are opening up the true
potentialities of the mind, the full evolutionary possibilities of
those states of mind so that we can create new environments together.