Sunday, May 1, 2011

Can You Trust "The Man"?

This post is a continuation, as promised, of my post last week

This post is a report is of my other attempt at gaining national notoriety as a photojournalist albeit a semi-pro one. The event was a Woodstock redux in northern California shortly after the iconic Woodstock concert everybody remembers.

As dozens of Woodstock wannabe concerts sprang up across the nation I drove north with fellow photographer Bob Burroughs in my Volkswagen bug to the faux Woodstock at Laguna Beach arriving Sunday evening. We had to park miles away and hike on muddy trails over the hills to get in because local law enforcement was having a conniption fit over the "hippie invasion" coming so soon after the hysteria following the real Woodstock.

They had blocked off the road leading into the area. Even with my real genuine issued-by-the-police press pass they wouldn't let bearded me & long haired he in.

Arriving at the concert site about 1 a.m. we went to sleep among the hippies. Bob had had the foresight to bring along his sleeping bag. It was a cold night and in the dawn's early light I awoke freezing to find I'd been spooning up against his bag to keep at least one side of me warm.

Also by the dawn's early light I saw a line of police officers and sheriffs deputies coming over the crest of a hill with their riot batons in their hands. One of my pictures on the front page of a San Diego weekly newspaper. Click to enlarge picture. Then click again to enlarge again.

I woke Bob up and started taking pictures while he rolled up his expensive sleeping bag. By the time the bag was rolled the cops were upon us. He'd had the foresight to bring a sleeping bag; I'd had the foresight to bring my press pass. My press pass allowed me to stay while my credentialess companion, and the rest of the hippies, were unceremoniously ushered out of the valley.

The valley was broomed. No one without a press pass was allowed behind the police lines as the line of officers swept down the valley pushing everyone before them. No one was allowed to pack up their tents, sleeping bags or any other gear they couldn't pick up and carry with them on a moments notice.

I took great pictures of the cops coming over the hill, burning "abandoned" hippie belongings etc. I sent the prints off to the L.A. Free Press which, at the time, was the counter culture's newspaper of record.

The L.A. Free Press printed every one of my photos on it front page, but never sent me a cent which is why the endeavor was a photojournalistic failure.
My Pictures on the front page of the L.A. Free Press. (Above the fold) Click to enlarge picture. Then click again to enlarge again.

The L.A. Free Press still exists, online at least. In its dead tree publishing days their mantra was "Freedom!" but its present maxim is "Yesterday, it was the Counter Culture... Today, it’s all about us." Today the Free Press's online presence looks more like the Wall Street Journal than Haight-Ashbury's answer to the Los Angels Times. My Pictures on the front page of the L.A. Free Press. (Below the fold) Click to enlarge picture. Then click again to enlarge again.

This brings me, at last, to my point, two of them actually. One is the effect of peer pressure on your friends and neighbors and the other point is the effect of peer pressure when magnified through the lens of government.

It seems the locals had put pressure on the land owner who'd rented out the concert site. Under that pressure the owner reneged on his agreement with the concert promoters and, at dawn, the cops came to enforce a suddenly extant trespassing complaint.

I don't know if the land owner knew what he was getting into when he agreed to rent the concert site to the promoters, but I think he got more than he bargained for.

His farmer friends and ranching neighbors he'd known all his life (and would likely be living with for the rest of his life) didn't appreciate him letting "hippies" into their neck of the woods. It's doubtful that many of them had ever had any direct contact with that crowd from Haight-Ashbury, but they thought they knew all about "Hippies" and rock bands.

Perception is reality at least insofar as we react to it.
Expectations are predictions of the future based on past experience filtered through perception.
-- Desert Dave -- (Quotation, with attribution, permitted and encouraged.)

Since the country cousins knew all about hippies they knew what to expect from them now that "they" were in the valley. Maybe "they" would try to start a pot growing commune!

Lesson learned from that experience:
Guard your reputation! If you're branded a "Prepper" or worse yet a "Survivalist" people will begin behaving differently around you in times of stress.

Point two, your local LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) is a manifestation of the community's perception of reality. E.g. when local governments thought they'd found a new money tree in the form of traffic light cameras they openly bragged of the money the jurisdictions were raking in. Citizens groups went ballistic.

In jurisdictions where the local government failed to get ahead of the issue with a PR campaign presenting the red light cameras as a citizen's safety issue rather than yet another money grubbing scheme by the politicians to wring even more money out of the wallets of the taxpayer's public pressure forced the removal of the cameras.

When the road of life takes a sudden detour you don't want to be perceived as a red light camera by your friends, neighbors, co-workers and voters.

Wearing cammies to the school board meeting doesn't raise awareness of the need for us all to prepare a 72 hour survival kit, but it does mark you as a kook.

Right now "Preppers" are looked upon by the public as slightly kooky while "Survivalists" have a darker image. We can't allow politicians to paint us all with a broad brush and demonize us.

As shown in the pictures above the police did things at the hippie camp that they wouldn't dream of doing if a church's summer youth club campout got out of hand.

If, as I expect, hyperinflation rears its ugly head in the near future politicians will be franticly looking for scapegoats. They may not be able to lay the blame teens of trillions of debt on you personally, but they'll be looking for something, anything, to deflect the public's attention. "Never mind what I voted for; we need to find those people hording food!"

Don't be a whipping boy; let the politicians find their fall guy elsewhere. The guy who's been bragging about his garage full of food has pinned a target on his chest and another on his back.

The establishment may send LEO's to the front door to confiscate "hoarded goods" while "friends" and neighbors are hauling them out the back door.

As for the LEO's:
When push comes to shove you can count on "the man" to habitually follow orders, at least until it becomes abundantly clear that law and order and paychecks don't exist anymore.

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