LSD, Peace, and New Communities

by Paul DiSciascio

Lehigh University, Class of 2003
May 2000

[1]    Woodstock, the festival that gave the 60's an identity, is well recognized for several things, the greatest being drugs and free love. However, probably the most important aspect of the Woodstock festival was the new sense of community that the young people of that era were trying to portray to the older generation. They wanted "The Man" to understand that there could be communities where people could live together peacefully and interact with nature in a non-capitalist, non-violent environment. A big part of the festival was proving that 500,000 people could gather together in one place and interact without violence. The film Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music shows these new ideas about communities and living environments in excellent fashion. Throughout the film, there are numerous references to this new community idea, but the most powerful scene occurs when the announcement is made about the brown acid.

[2]     In the beginning of the film, there are scenes of different news teams interviewing various groups of people that have come to the festival. Some of them speak of how they have come from commune- type living environments where they are self-sufficient and do not really interact much with the outside world. It is very interesting to hear them talk about how the people who they live with are not their boyfriends or girlfriends, but they love them and they talk about the relationships that they have with them. They talk about how they have traveled all around with them, and they talk about how they live together and love them very much. However, there are no romantic implications like we would think of today if a male/female couple were living together. This idea is very unique.

 [3]    Another scene that shows this sense of community occurs when the rain starts. At this point, the crowd splits into two different groups. One group huddles together, and everybody helps each other try to stay dry and warm. The other group enjoys the rain and the company of each other while sliding around in the mud. Both enjoy a very tight sense of community. It is amazing that such a number of complete strangers would find common ground in enjoying this weather that most people would find oppressing. Not only that, but the rest of the people reach out and help a number of complete strangers keep themselves warm and dry until the bad weather has passed.

 [4]    Later in the documentary, we are informed of the "acid tents" that were common at Woodstock. These were places where people who were having bad LSD experiences could go and someone would take care of them. The care-givers were just regular people who had also come to the festival and offered to take care of people who needed this kind of attention. They gave freely of themselves to show these people the love they needed. They were not asked to do this, and they did not do it for medical purposes. Furthermore, this was not vitally necessary, and the LSD users would not have died if they did not have somewhere to go. The people who set up these tents did this out of love for their fellow human beings who had found themselves in a bad position. They happened to be in a position to help, so they did.

 [5]    These scenes do an excellent job of portraying the sense of community found at Woodstock that the youth of America were trying to show to the older generation; however, the scene with the announcement about the bad acid is far more touching. Over the speakers, we hear an announcement that some of the brown acid is bad. This doesn't mean that it is poisonous, but rather many people had been experiencing "bad trips." The announcer goes on to make it clear that many people were recommending staying away from the brown acid, but it is your own decision. That is the key part. There is a message here that is not clear to the average viewer. In the midst of this loving community, freedom is still stressed by the person on the speaker. It is important to note that the underlying message here is that "We're trying to give you the information you need to make a good decision, but it's still your decision, and if you feel bad afterwards, there is a place you can go where someone will take care of you, regardless of your background, gender, or political affiliation." That is an extremely powerful message that is completely lost today and is completely unique to Woodstock. It is a message of unconditional love from a complete group of strangers who are willing to take care of you even if you make a decision that they warned you about. They are not going to judge you; they are merely going to take care of you and show you love.

 [6]    It is hugely important to note that Woodstock took place during a time when there was still an intense fear of communism in America. However, these young people were not afraid of this. They were taking a risk when they made it obvious that they thought that perhaps Communism was not the worst idea in the world by living in communes and such. They also made this clear when they lived with this huge group of people for three days in a peaceful setting. They believed in themselves, so they were not afraid of "The Man." They believed in their goal of living together in peace. They believed that they would enjoy their lives more if they lived together in peace regardless of luxuries or governments associated with capitalism. It is a beautiful thing when people look past the law and look out for each other in order to try to love each other and live together peacefully. Woodstock should always be remembered for this unique attitude toward life, love, and peace.