Who’s the counterculture messiah of today?

I was in a meeting today with probably the coolest exec in the entertainment industry, talking about a possible history of the counterculture documentary (a project I would certainly love to work on), when she asked me, “Who is the grandmaster of counterculture today? The living Jack Kerouac of our time?”

I took a breath and said, “Well, it was Jack Herer until he died.”

I didn’t think much more about it until I got home, but after a few hours this question really began to bug me. Just who is the living Jedi Knight of the counterculture, the Temple Dragon who commands our greatest respect?

I gotta say, it’s a toss-up between Wavy Gravy and Ina May and Stephen Gaskin. But I guess Paul Krassner, Mountain Girl and Ken Babbs have some legitimate claim in this arena.

But when you jump down to the next generation, its sort of a ghost town, although Seattle Hempfest founder Vivian McPeak certainly comes to mind in a field of shadows.

I love this photo from the original Woodstock, btw: Wavy and Krassner, two Jedi’s of the counterculture meet on the ceremonial field and exchange zen-like epiphanies, no doubt. And though you might not recognize him at first (I know I didn’t), that’s Abbie Hoffman in the tie-dye standing between them.

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Author: Steven Hager

I'm a writer, journalist, filmmaker and event producer.

10 thoughts on “Who’s the counterculture messiah of today?”

    1. hmm, Jack had faults and excesses and lapses in judgment, as do we all, but I never saw him abuse or rage out on anyone, and his statue in the counterculture has nothing to do with his personality, but his research and ability to see that the emperor indeed had no clothes, a revelation that came when all around him remained hypnotized….

  1. We do not need more male dominated counterculter messiahs, we need a counterculture movement were all are recognized and no one is put at the top of the whole. We are all messiahs! Jack did not write his book on his own, just look at the list of wonderful co-editors who worked daily and selflessly to bring the truth about hemp forward. Wavy did not feed or run the trip tent on his own at Woodstock, there was a collective of folks working at Woodstock, all volunteering their time. Stephan Gaskin did not create and make The Farm a success by himself! We do not need to promote this hippie hierarchy, the kings and queens of the lamination (a pun about laminates at concerts and events) and you know your place in society by the color of wrist band you have! Please think outside of this hero worshiping paradigm it is ego based and does not serve us as a whole and it sure doesn’t help bring forward the social or political change we need and deserve.

    1. Considering the fact I put both Ina May Gaskin and Mountain Girl on the list of counterculture messiahs, its safe to say I have escaped the leash of male-dominated archteypes, so any rage on this issue is somewhat misplaced, methinks….

      1. It is not rage, it is another way of thinking. It’s great that you have included two women on your list, how many man are on your list?

  2. It’s not about men and its not about women, its about people who make significant contributions to the point they become lightning rods for change. And yes, we still need messiahs, and their gender is not an issue.

    1. I agree gender is not the issue, but I disagree that the counterculture needs messiahs. It should be about recognizing the whole, the group, the circle. Not a pyramid where there is a messiah on top leading the people. Maybe your director friend would consider doing a history of the counterculture ‘movement’ documentary featuring the history of collectives that have influenced the counter culture. Some examples would be Cannabis Action Network (CAN), Food not Bombs, Seeds of Peace, The Hogfarm Black Oak Ranch collective, Earth First!, The Ruckus Society, and there are so many more that could be documented. These collectives were/are groups of individuals that have come together for various causes/events, there are no leaders or messiahs, now to me that is counter culture. The current Anonymous concept is another example they are described as ‘a loosely associated hacktivist group’. No leaders, no messiahs it is a group of individuals really bring about progressive change.
      Maybe we just have different definitions of what ‘counter culture’ means.
      Peace K

  3. Steve, wow, I am humbled and honored that you would consider me in a similar league to such counter-culture giants as those you have mentioned. I am extremely proud of the fact that I remain a staunch, tie-dyed in the alpaca wool traditional “Woodstock hippie.” I believe that history has in many ways validated the ideals, values, principles, and issues that our often self-indulgent, sometimes naive generation and sub-cultures embraced and advocated for (and still do today). If there was ever a time for the insightful, spirited, peaceful self-examination that our culture embodied it is now as we see corporate rule extended across the globe. I hope I can live up to such kindness as you have sent my way with your nice post.

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