Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 17, No. 6, 2018
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Howard Richler
Oslavi Linares
Chris Barry
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Charles Tayler
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


interview of



When Jason McDonald, now in his 40s, was 13, his hippie father offered him a joint. In interview, he examines the influence of the hippie culture on his life and on what came to be known as Generation X.

A & O: So let’s begin at the beginning. When did you realize that you were the son of hippie parents?

JASON MCDONALD: I would say at around 11 or 12.

A & O: And what did the term hippie mean to you at that age?

JASON MCDONALD: Since both my parents were artists -- my father is a musician and my mother an artist -- and from my earliest memories I was in a creative milieu, my first association with the word hippie was that I was special, privileged, apart from let’s say regular people.

A & O: Did your friends share that view?

JASON MCDONALD: At the time, most of my friends came from the same creative milieu so I suppose we more or less at the same time realized that our parents were hippies, and we thought that was very cool.

A & O: Was there a connection between drugs and the hippie movement?

JASON MCDONALD: For sure, when I was about 13 my father, who toques to this day, offered me a joint. In those days I wanted to be Brian Jones (Rolling Stone drummer who overdosed at 27).

A & O: So your father introduced you to drug culture?

JASON MCDONALD: I was already smoking dope. I’m not sure if he had figured that out or not, but he probably thought it best that I start smoking at home, so as not to make a big deal out of it. Like the French begin serving their kids wine during the meal at a very early age. I guess his reasoning was that if it’s not a big deal, you’re not likely to abuse it.

A & O: So at the age of 13 you were smoking pot at home?

JASON MCDONALD: Oh no. Not in front of my mother. Even though she smoked a bit she was dead set against her 13-year-old kid smoking dope at home – or anywhere as a matter of fact. Of course at that rebellious age, I continued smoking and also drinking. And much later, when I moved from Toronto to Montreal at around 18, I began experimenting and using much harder drugs (cocaine and heroine).

A & O: Do you think smoking marijuana leads to harder drugs?

JASON MCDONALD: I don’t want to generalize but I would say in my case, yes. But I actually quit smoking dope at around that time because it made me paranoid; I wasn’t getting out in the world the way I would have liked and it was through that experience that I discovered that drinking and doing harder drugs are more condusive to being sociable – so that worked well for me until my early 30s, when I suddenly got fed up with my life and decided to travel and explore different cultures and languages. I lived in Slovakia, Korea for several years and substituted alcohol, in rather large quantities, for drugs.

A & O: Do you hold the hippie movement, which was the guiding light for your parents, responsible for your drug use?

JASON MCDONALD: Not at all. I’ve always taken responsibility for my decisions, and as a consequence, as I grew older, I began to see the hippie movement in a different light. If at first, I subscribed to the romantic or Rousseauian view of what hippiedom meant, the counter culture position that the natural world is beautiful, and that capitalism is evil and corrupt, I later rejected most of it because it simply didn’t correspond to reality. The hippie movement was influenced by Marxism that argued for a classless society, that hierarchies are unnatural, that it’s not natural for someone to be better or richer than someone else. Nature is of course beautiful but it’s also savage – every single day millions and maybe even billions of animals are eating other animals alive. This is reality. And this is one of the things travel taught me: it forced me to examine my culture and beliefs from another perspective.

A & O: So did you end up concluding that the influence of your hippie parents stifled your development?

JASON MCDONALD: Not really. It was my parents that introduced me to music and the visual arts. It was just that I could no longer subscribe to their blinkered view of the world: not giving a damn about anything, blaming everything on the system. I came to see the hippy movement as being very nihilistic, and agree with those critics who accuse the movement of pandering to relativism. That’s probably why for many years I didn’t give a damn about my huge debts, which is typical of the hippie mentality. It wasn’t until I settled down in Europe that I finally began to think about my life in terms of the future. Prior to that, I never looked ahead to anything. I thought I’d be dead before I’d have to get serious about my life. I lived from one day to the next, from one high to the next.

A & O: That sounds to me like a direct legacy of the hippie movement?

JASON MCDONALD: I don’t see it that way. I could easily blame my parents and the hippie movement, and there have been many books written on how the hippie movement is responsible for the mess the world is in now, but I refuse that alibi. I assume responsibility for all my decisions because in each and every case I could have decided otherwise. Unlike my parents, and this is where we hugely differ, I refuse to allow a system or philosophy to determine my life. And that’s what hippiedom was for most of the hippies, and in that sense it was just like any other system in that it expected its devotees to accept and live by its doctrine. I just couldn’t live my life like that. I want to be responsible for my own values. I believe in individual freedom and freedom of choice.

A & O: And you’re saying that the hippie movement – that advocated free love, free everything – implicitly forced its devotees to confirm to its doctrine like any other system?

JASON MCDONALD: To a certain extent but it also encouraged people like my parents to question the system, to question values the system was imposing on us – and that was OK. Every system has its positives and negatives; my parents only saw and lived by the positives, which is why we disagree on so many things.

A & O: Any regrets being raised by hippie parents? Do you think they adequately prepared you to deal with the real world?

JASON MCDONALD: No regrets, and there comes a time when the individual has to take responsibility for dealing with the real world.

A & O: You mention that your father is a life long smoker, and that you were under his influence and not so much your mother’s? In retrospect, given your battle with drugs, a decades long self-destructive life style and settling down very late in life, would you have rather been under the influence of your mother and not your father?

JASON MCDONALD: That’s a very tough question because my mother has a very cynical view of the world – one which I don’t share. I’ve never really gotten along with my mother, so even though she would have instilled more discipline than my father, on balance I really can’t say, only that because things have worked out in life, I wouldn’t change anything from the past because it has all led to the present moment: I’m happily married, I have a good job, I’m off drugs and alcohol, my views on life, my positions on the issues of the day are my own and are constantly evolving – and all of that is arguably the legacy of my hippie parents. And for all of the drugs and alcohol, it has never interfered with my productive life. When something has to get done, it gets done. We shouldn’t forget that the hippies were the first global travelers – in those days you could travel in Europe for 5 dollars a day. So when I was in my late 20s, I left Montreal to see the world and ended up travelling abroad for four years. I lived in Czechoslovakia (both Czech Rep and Slovakia) and South Korea and travelled extensively all over Eurasia and North America. Thanks to travel, I’m fluent in 3 languages, and somewhat comfortable in Slovak and German. The difference between myself and my parents is that I’m able to look at the hippie movement critically – that is separate the good and bad from the ugly. A sure way to crank up the volume in a discussion is to suggest to my parents that hippiedom’s two greatest contributions to the world are anarchism and relativism. The notion of victimization, which has gone viral in our present age, comes right out of the hippie movement.

A small correction re. my relationship with my mother. It's not quite right to say I've never gotten along with my mother. When I was in my late teens I was kind of brainwashed by my mom that my father was a bad person. It was this time when I was very angry at him but it ended -- and I managed to transition in adulthood to a good relationship with him, but that transition has not gone so well with my mother.

A & O: Did you ever lose friends or observe the lives of friends destroyed by the hippie movement?

JASON MCDONALD: I have but my views on that have changed over the years. For the most part these are people who are victims of their own constitutions rather than any system. In other words, if the hippie philosophy hadn’t been the catalyst, something else would have done them in.

A & O: Are you for the legalization marijuana?

JASON MCDONALD: Yes, but we should be concerned that the developing brain is adversely affected by THC, the active ingredient in marijuana – and that perhaps, I don’t know enough about it, the age of consent should be 21 instead of 18. What I object to most is the business aspect of it. I am totally against the government controlling the marijuana business, favouring only the largest growers while shutting out the small guy, the small entrepreneur.

A & O: If and when you become a father, are you going to offer your kid a joint when he or she turns 13? If yes, why, if not why not?

JASON MCDONALD: Absolutely not. My children, if they do want to experiment with drugs, that's fine, but it's not with me, and they can do it when they are adults with their own money. Most of my drug use occurred that way, and I got through it – including the hard drugs I experimented with (though never any needles). I always kept that a secret from my parents, and the fact that I have lived a good distance away from them for most of my life now, has helped that.

A & O: If one day, your kid asks you about his grandparents who were hippies, what are you going to tell them?

JASON MCDONALD: It would depend how old they are and it would depend how well they know their grandparents, if at all. But I would likely explain to them the historical context -- it might take time over weeks, or months, of several conversations, to explain how much the world has changed, and the context that movement came out of, and how us Gen Xers grew up in their shadow. The baby boomers have been a loud, powerful, and not always helpful generation, and they have encouraged a lot of narcissism. On the other hand, they have also promoted the idea of freedom, (or at least the original progenitors did) which is a core value of mine. So I would try to explain all of that to the child.

A & O: As the son of hippie parents and well acquainted hippie culture, on balance do you think world culture, the world’s values benefited from the hippie movement?

JASON MACDONLD: I think one of the problems with the hippies is they were very self absorbed and assumed they had much more importance than they really had. They had an impact, perhaps larger than some other generations, but if we look over time different generations have different impacts. My generation has been responsible for a lot of stuff too, (grunge music, the first Internet boom in the 90s etc) but then again those born after us, in the 80s and 90s, have brought us Facebook, Uber, Southern Hip-Hop, among a million other things. There is really only a small variance of the impact of any generation -- that is, the hippies might have had a slightly higher impact, but not much more, than any other generation.

One last thing, which I don't know how to add - I have built my life my way: I have learned several languages, travelled, gotten married successfully (which was no easy feat for me, I was a disaster at relationships -- partly because of that hippie view instilled in me at a young age, that I had to work out), and some of that has been in opposition to my upbringing, but some of it has been because of a love for freedom, and travel, and openness to different forms of music and cultures. In some senses it's really complicated, as much as I dislike the whole hippie aesthetic, I am also a product of it, and I have an artistic temperament that I bring to my work as an educator as well. For example, at Rosemont Idol, I produce that show with the view that it is an artistic project that I, me, I have created, and I have full creative control over. Because of my artistic nature, my ocassional insistence on certain things is not easy for some of the people involved in the administration, especially those who are somewhat out of touch with the youth of today. Those in the Cégep who understand how effective the show is and how much the kids love it - because it is all about THEIR music - they try to accomdate me as best they can.

A & O: I thank you, Jason, for your candidness.


Email (optional)
Author or Title












Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


Help Haiti
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2016 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 05-16st, (514) 844-2172
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
Photo by David Lieber:
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis