Jonah Goldberg reminded his readers of a famous essay by Tom Wolfe entitled “The Great Relearning.” It was an essay about the Summer of Love in 1968 in San Francisco. It had great significance to me since I grew up in the San Francisco area during that time, but it also has significance to all of us concerned about our culture.
He said that doctors at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic “were treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that disappeared so long ago they never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scruff, the rot.” He concluded that this happened because “the hippies, as they became known, sought nothing less than to sweep aside all codes and restraints of the past and start out from zero.”
They rejected everything from modern society, including basic hygiene. They had lots of sex with each other and shared everything from bedsheets to toothbrushes to food utensils. They were the beneficiaries of centuries of scientific investigation and wise application of sound medical and scientific knowledge. But they decided to tear down some fences and paid a heavy price.
Supposedly G.K. Chesterton warned, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” Unfortunately, we had a counterculture in the 1960s that was willing to tear down fences of civilization without giving much thought to why those moral, medical, and sexual guidelines were created in the first place.
Does that sound like our world today? Moral anarchy reigns. Our society mimics Judges 17:6 where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” Sexual morality is now based on doing what each person feels is right for them. And marriage has been redefined by divorce and same-sex marriage. All of this suggests that maybe it is time for another “great relearning.”