Diggers: The People Who Lived Without Money (At Least, for a While)

Chuck Banner | January 21st, 2017
walkerart.org
walkerart.org

The 1960s was a revolutionary time in many ways. Culturally and politically, a lot was happening, from the apex of the Civil Rights Movement and the dawn of the Women’s Rights Movement to the long Vietnam War. One of the most notorious element of 60s history was the hippie counterculture, with its emphasis on dropping out of traditional society, its craving for individualism, and ethos of “if it feels good, do it.” Many people know a little about hippie culture, like so-called “love-ins” and perhaps its most iconic event of all, Woodstock. But the counterculture wasn’t always just the “peace and love” philosophy; sometimes it went beyond that. One relatively small group, known as the Diggers, took the anti-materialism of the counterculture movement to a whole new level: they sought to create a mini-society that was completely devoid of any currency – everything was free, from food to medical care to entertainment.

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco was the epicenter of hippie culture in swinging San Francisco. Throughout the mid to late 60s, its streets were filled with free spirits who had come from all over the country and even the world to experience the hippie lifestyle. The Diggers were actors, first and foremost, but referred to themselves as “life actors” – that is, their stage was the streets of San Francisco. They hosted events known as happenings, all of which supported their ideal of establishing a Free City where capitalism did not exist. The most well-known of the Diggers’ happenings was one they called “The Death of Money,” in which participants wore animal masks and marched down the street carrying a coffin full of fake money.

Of course the group’s symbolism also had some concrete action behind it: the Diggers established Free Stores that were essentially secondhand shops in which every item was free. They were also known for distributing free food every day in Golden Gate Park, mostly soup that was made from donated or stolen meat and vegetables. The Diggers’ free medical clinic was in operation for a short time, which they managed by persuading medical students from the nearby University of California at San Francisco to donate their time. Unsurprisingly, the Diggers’ attempt at a free society did not last very long. They eventually abandoned their food bank and medical clinic, passing them on to a local church and a doctor (respectively) who would keep them running. They spread out from the city to various small towns in California and coalesced with other groups with roots in the counterculture, establishing “Free Families;” some of the Diggers and their families still live in these informal groups today.

Next Article
  • Is It Opposite Day Or Do I Have Situs Inversus

    If you happen to suffer from Situs Inversus then you may believe you are constantly looking in a mirror or that opposite day is actually a real and true reality. But that would of course not be true, your organs are simply placed in a mirror image of what is the norm. An extremely rare...

    Read More
  • Prehistoric Armadillo The Size Of A Car

    When it comes to prehistoric times it really is as if every animal was bigger than its modern counterpart. Mammoths were bigger than elephants and sloths were even taller than elephants! Some researchers have even found alligators and crocodiles that grew to the size of a city bus. And this holds true for the armadillo...

    Read More
  • People Turning Into Real Living Statues

    For most people if you fall down or have a minor injury it is not usually a big deal, maybe a little a painful and that's all but this is not the case for everyone. Some individuals live in real fear of a small injury, this is known as Stone Man Syndrome. Every little injury...

    Read More
  • The Tuna Fish Is So Strong It Can Cook Itself

    There is one fish in the ocean that you may not want to come across on a day of ocean fishing. If you happen to be out on a boating trip with some deep sea fishing in the Atlantic then you could come across the warm-blooded Atlantic bluefin tuna. This happens to be one of...

    Read More
  • Radium Girls The Terrible Time Of Using Radioactive Paint

    Just about a century ago the rage was, of course, to have a glow in the dark watch, nobody could resist them. It was a novelty that was being marketed heavily and making watch companies millions, it was like any of the hot social media trends of modern times. They did not need to charge...

    Read More
  • The Terrifying Titanoboa

    In the dusty outback of Northern Colombia, deep in the Cerrejon about just 60 miles from the Caribbean coast, you will find one of the largest coal operations in operation. It covers an area larger than Washington D.C. and estimates advise there are regularly over 10,000 workers employed. The company that operates the mining, Carbones...

    Read More
  • Man Lands A Plane In Manhattan Street Twice

    Surprise airplane landings tend to always make headlines, especially in the streets of a major US city. I doubt anyone can forget Capt Chesley Sullenberger landing on the Hudson River in 2009? There was a long island man who once landed on Rockaway Beach in 2011 and a pilot who landed on a small Suffolk...

    Read More
  • Escaping Prison To See The Dentist

    In terms of great escapes, this is definitely an odd one, one would think if you were to escape prison it would be to retrieve your freedom and just to keep on running. But for one inmate in Sweden the stakes were much different: in fact, it had to do with a toothache and nothing...

    Read More