There was a distinctly pagan, non-Western approach to the good life in the last third of the century, that was not nearly so puritanical and clean-cut as it was even in the 1930s or 1950s. For this, multiculturalism was largely responsible. Many radical activists of the 1960s and 1970s spent their formative years living in what they saw as the 'alternative society' to worldwide consumer capitalism, and their political and social networks were as intense (and as internationalist) as those of the 1790s, 1840s, 1890s, or 1930s. Some activists found to their great surprise that, although their grandparents or parents could not actually become 'hippies', they were more than capable of becoming 'Greens' or tree-savers, or protesting against world war, apartheid, or nuclear power. It was the ecological puritans of the 1960s who were the first to point out that there was a global environmental pollution problem. Their bible was Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962), which not only exposed the extent of the man-made chemical contamination of the environment, but warned of possible long-term consequences for human genetic mutation and destruction of chromosomes. At the same time the ecology-inspired principle of 'intermediate technology' and the 'Gaia' philosophy of a self-sustaining planet, originally proposed by James Lovelock, was being developed within the alternative 'green' student movements of the 1960s and 1970s;ten years later it had moved into international aid organizations and colonized university academic departments. Ecology conquered the United Nations and 'greened' many global economists in the 1980s-1990s.37
Another hidden link with older radicals was through pure food movements, and the campaign for 'real' and organic foods. Alternative food reform was accompanied by 'purist' cookery using authentic recipes and ingredients from the world's peasant cuisines (also peasant or traditional beauty receipts), and took over the marketing of naturopathic macrobiotic foods in a surge of small 'health food' producers and cooperative outlets selling yoghurt, muesli, lentils, wholemeal bread, brown rice, organic vegetables, and natural cosmetics— older naturopathic outlets were often saved from extinction.38 Starting in the 1980s, ethnic cuisines, organic products, and an unprecedented array of fresh vegetables and fruit have been successfully mass marketed by globalized supermarket chains, feeding growing numbers of healthy-lifestyle consumers.
It was pre-1945 naturopaths who had begun to experiment with yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and other forms of multicultural medicine. Their moral stand against orthodox medicine had never slackened, and was quietly picked up by activists from the 1960s onwards. 'Flower power', 'ethnic', or non-Christian multicultural moral philosophies and therapies played a large part in the late-century surge of holistic health care—an 'alternative' (or 'fringe') medicine that included many things that Granny might have tried, while sharing the same rooted distrust of doctors.
Was this article helpful?