Peter is well known in the USA, though I don’t know about other parts of the world. He narrates documentaries and has acted in dozens of films, including “E.T.” He was a key figure in the counterculture in the 60s - when I came of age - and is, in my view, among the most clear-eyed and articulate voices in describing those times, why they matter, and how they are relevant today.
He lived on communes that were much more free form than The Farm where I resided. And as a personal aside, he started a commune way up in the north mountain woods of California called Black Bear. Later, long after he moved away (though still keeping a strong connection), my son Al lived there for a few months and while there met and developed a relationship with another young woman living there. She is now the mother of two of my grandchildren.
Peter was also a friend of Stewart Brand, who convinced him he needed to get online. as the Well support person in the mid 80s, I had the pleasure of teaching Peter how to use email – something I also did for Dr. Timothy Leary.
Here are two good quotes from this article with a local TV station that is currently airing a ten-part documentary about the Vietnam War (that is absolutely riveting, and for people my age a real catharsis.
Link to the article.
"Coyote and six others splintered off and formed the Diggers, an anarchist collective determined to incite change through theater. But instead of staging plays, the Diggers hosted events with subliminal messages. For example, they gave away free food, but in order to be fed, one had to walk through a large yellow square called ‘Free Frame of Reference.’
‘It was like a ceremony. You stepped through it and imagined yourself in a world with free food,’ Coyote said.
The point of the Free Frame of Reference and later, the Free Store, was to show others what the world could be like if everything was free. Such experiments saw the Diggers not only rebelling against capitalism, but the political tactics of the established left wing.
‘We challenged ourselves and others to imagine a world that we’d like to live in, and then make it real,’ Coyote said. “We felt that if people had a life that they liked, they might be willing to defend it. They were not going to throw themselves on the barricades because they read Mao’s little red book.’
The Diggers evolved into the Free Family, which established a series of communes that reached from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest, and throughout the Southwest. Coyote says he loved those days, even though they subsisted on little — he averaged about $2,500 a year, and much of the commune’s funds came from welfare. But everyone seemed to do their part in terms of chores and other responsibilities, the entertainment came from board games and being with each other, and the group learned it didn’t need much to be happy. For Coyote, it was ‘a wonderful life.’
‘It was the perfect confluence of living the life your art described,’ Coyote said. ‘If I didn’t need health insurance, I would still be living on a commune.’
But it couldn’t last, especially after commune members began having children. Coyote says that those with families came to resent the free spirits who wanted to hang around getting high all day. And when conflicts arose, those in the commune didn’t have the tools to resolve them. In the end, members began separating themselves from the rest of the group.
‘What we learned is that we are the problem. We grew up in this culture, with bad habits, impulses, egoism, selfishness and everything else. We could pretend we didn’t but it wasn’t actually true,’ Coyote said. 'We were so intent on building a new world, we didn’t concentrate as fully as we should’ve on building our lives.”