Take time to smell the flowers: why the hipppies were right about everything

One by one, the chicks and dudes of yesteryear are having their say. They are part of a lucky generation, never having had to fight a war, catching a wave of personal liberation four and a half decades ago, and now checking out before things get too heavy on Planet Earth.

They have never been short of opinions. In the 1960s, they started using stroppy imperatives – Make love, not war! Give peace a chance! Never trust anyone over 30! – and have continued to pronounce bossily about this and that ever since.

Some of them are still famous, and are letting off one last blast of opinion in their memoirs. Keith Richards looked back and concluded that “life is an experiment, and it’s just a matter of getting the alchemical or chemical combination right”. Jilly Cooper has revised a guide to love and marriage. Joanna Lumley has been laying down the law, too. It is just fine for an older woman to wear clothes designed for teenagers, she has said. As for the idea that she should have short hair after the age of 40, “bollocks to that! I want my hair long and I’m going to keep my long hair”.

The point about the advice of those who had a busy and exciting time during the Sixties and Seventies is that it is liberating and sensible, and disproves the tired cliché, so beloved of politicians and rent-a-gob moralists in the press, that many of today’s ills were somehow germinated by the attitudes of 45 years ago. It is worth remembering how many of the slogans of those years have been proved true over time.

Let it all hang out. Surely only the dreariest killjoy can still argue against the all-hang-out option. Joanna Lumley with her hot pants and long hair, Ronnie Wood with his young girlfriend, Lulu skipping about on Strictly Come Dancing: each in their own way has proved that to put dignity before fun, to “act one’s age”, is a sort of death.

Take time to smell the flowers. Yes, Chris Grayling, Yvette Cooper, Danny Alexander – it’s you we’re talking to. Your glazed, ambitious eyes, your Whitehall pallor, your aversion to anything resembling a joke all tell the same story. It has been a long time since you lingered by the flower-bed. Attend to your careers, but remember this great truth. Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Stick it to The Man. For years, the old hippies have been warning you about The Man. And what happened in 2008? The Man did his thing and the world paid the price. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” was the way the old warning went, but no one was listening. “Won’t get fooled again”? Some hope.

Up against the wall, redneck mother. This suggestion may have been a little crude in policy terms, but it showed an impassioned commitment to politics which subsequent generations have failed to match. With even more redneck mothers around today than ever, often wearing Armani suits and advising the Government, this cheery call to arms remains relevant.

If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. One of the most useful legacies of the alternative generation was the blurring of boundaries between love for mankind and love for someone with whom you would like to have sex as soon as possible. When the two became confused, infidelity became an act of global altruism. There has been a lot of this kind of love over the past few decades, and very beautiful it was, too.

Kick out the jams. Nobody has ever discovered what the jams were, nor why it was so imperative to kick them out, but the message was repeated on virtually every radio show of the time. We should play safe and keep kicking them out. After all, the Sixties generation have been right about everything else.

Independent, 30 September 2011