A Symbol of Non-Violence Ideology

Man putting flower in National Guard gun

 
 

Flower power was a slogan used during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of passive resistance and non-violence ideology. It is rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War. The expression was coined by the American beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1965 as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. Hippies embraced the symbolism by dressing in clothing with embroidered flowers and vibrant colors, wearing flowers in their hair, and distributing flowers to the public, becoming known as flower children. The term later became generalized as a modern reference to the hippie movement and the so-called counterculture of drugs, psychedelic music, psychedelic art and social permissiveness.

Flower Power originated in Berkeley, California as a symbolic action of protest against the Vietnam War. In his November 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with “masses of flowers” to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators. The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to turn anti-war rallies into a form of street theater thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat that is inherent within protests. In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the “specter” of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who supported the war, equated war protesters with communists and had threatened to violently disrupt planned anti-war demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley. Using Ginsberg’s methods, the protest received positive attention and the use of “flower power” became an integral symbol in the counterculture movement.

 
 

George Harrison, Pattie Boyd, Derek Taylor and others in San Francisco, 1967

 
 

Hippies in Haight Ashbury

 
 

The iconic center of the Flower Power movement was the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco, California. By the mid-1960s, the area, marked by the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets, had become a focal point for psychedelic rock music. At the end of summer 1967, The Diggers (a street theater group who combined spontaneous street theater with anarchistic action and art happenings) declared the “death” of the hippie movement and burned an effigy of a hippie in Golden Gate Park.

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In The Back of The Real Poem

Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs protesting against the War in Vietnam at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1968

 
 

“railroad yard in San Jose
I wandered desolate
in front of a tank factory
and sat on a bench
near the switchman’s shack.

A flower lay on the hay on
the asphalt highway
–the dread hay flower
I thought–It had a
brittle black stem and
corolla of yellowish dirty
spikes like Jesus’ inchlong
crown, and a soiled
dry center cotton tuft
like a used shaving brush
that’s been lying under
the garage for a year.

Yellow, yellow flower, and
flower of industry,
tough spiky ugly flower,
flower nonetheless,
with the form of the great yellow
Rose in your brain!
This is the flower of the World.”

Lennon and The Psychedelic Experience

Come Together, drawing by John Lennon

 
 

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (commonly referred to as The Psychedelic Experience) is an instruction manual intended for use during sessions involving psychedelic drugs. The book is dedicated to Aldous Huxley and includes a short introductory citation from Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception. Part of this text was used by The Beatles in the song Tomorrow Never Knows (1966).

 
 

Recording Give Peace a Chance. Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams

 
 

Timothy Leary once recruited Lennon to write a theme song for his California gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan (which was interrupted by his prison sentence due to cannabis possession), inspiring Lennon to come up with Come Together (1969), based on Leary’s theme and catchphrase for the campaign. Leary was also present when Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, recorded Give Peace a Chance (1969) during one of their bed-ins in Montreal, and is mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

The original last verse of the song refers to: “John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and Hare Krishna”. In the performance of Give Peace a Chance included on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album, Lennon openly stated that he could not remember all of the words and improvised with the names of the band members sharing the stage with him and anything that came to mind: “John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Penny Lane, Roosevelt, Nixon, Tommy Jones and Tommy Cooper, and somebody.” The third verse contains a reference to masturbation, but Lennon changed this to “mastication” on the official lyric sheet. He later admitted this was a “cop out” but wanted to avoid unnecessary controversy.

To watch the music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl