I don’t try to make a firm def­i­ni­tion of “counterculture.” The term is too often used as a mar­ket­ing de­vice. I’m more in­ter­ested in the ac­tual so­ci­ol­ogy of it and its po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions. — Gary Sny­der

Pasatiempo - - TERRELL’S TUNE-UP -

Sny­der said the South­west was par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to those ex­plor­ing life­styles counter to the so­cial norms be­cause of its his­tory of spir­i­tu­al­ity and liv­ing with the land rather than ex­ploit­ing it. “There is a long and an­cient strain of al­ter­na­tive think­ing in the South­west that reaches to deep parts of Na­tive Amer­ica. And the land­scape. Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe was deeply touched by it. And it’s not just the land­scape, but the abuse of it.” He doesn’t limit the idea of counterculture to a par­tic­u­lar pe­riod in the 1960s and ’70s, but in­cludes its pre­cur­sors, cit­ing au­thor Jaime de An­gulo and arts pa­tron Ma­bel Dodge Luhan, who brought D. H. Lawrence to New Mex­ico, among oth­ers. “I think it could be traced all the way back to Cabeza de Vaca when he came walk­ing in from Texas back in the 1500s.” The po­lit­i­cal counterculture of the ’60s, he said, “starts with the left wing in Amer­ica in the 1930s and then takes off in a wide range of di­ver­gences and aes­thet­ics in life­style and po­lit­i­cal and spir­i­tual dif­fer­ences.” He sees dif­fer­ences in the counterculture move­ments on the West Coast and in the South­west. “Peo­ple on the coast smoked mar­i­juana be­fore they had pey­ote. In the South­west, they had pey­ote long be­fore they had mar­i­juana. Also wealth. There was money on the Coast. New Mex­ico was one of the poor­est states.”

The counterculture in New Mex­ico is largely re­mem­bered for its com­munes such as the New Buf­falo com­mu­nity near Taos. Sny­der, who has lived off the grid for decades along the Yuba River in Cal­i­for­nia, spent time liv­ing com­mu­nally when in Ja­pan, but he is still best known as an in­di­vid­u­al­ist rather than the com­mune type. “Be­ing in counterculture ter­ri­tory al­lows for in­di­vid­ual ex­pres­sion of our lives. I never put a lot of hope in these things, hav­ing seen too much of the short­falls of peo­ple in Amer­i­can cul­ture.” Is it time for the counterculture to rise again? “It’s be­com­ing more ob­vi­ous that mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ism is a drag on the en­vi­ron­ment. And we now have a po­lit­i­cal class that runs more like a dic­ta­tor­ship. We have to deal with that. But I don’t know what di­rec­tion it will take."

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