Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting beyond the Hippies who Occupy Wall Street

There's an old curse that says "May you live in interesting times." When I was a kid growing up in the Bay Area in the 70's and 80's I couldn't help but feel I had missed out on such times. The Summer of Love was just shy of a generation before me, and my parents were mostly squares committed to being good Americans.

But, I saw glimpes of interesting things when we visited my uncle in San Francisco. He was a Harvy Milk generation gay man living in the Haight at that time. His life and friends seemed romantically exotic, and it was from my visits there that I got my first archetype of a Hippie. To me they were funny, and happy, and artistic and with some higher purpose (pun totally intended) that was beyond my own existence. So to me, old Hippies were more like a favorite uncle. And I'll admit that as a result of those encounters, throughout my teens, I secretly mourned that I was born too late to be a Hippie.

It wasn't until Burning Man that I started to have a disdain for Hippies. You see, at Burning Man we have this ethos that is led by 10 principles, one of which is Radical Self Reliance. After several years of systemic preparation for my annual trek to the Playa, I began to grow weary of those who would rather rely on another Burning Man principle, Gifting. In fact it wasn't long before I started to despise the phrase, "the Playa provides." To me this was code for "I'm a hippie, you're suppose to take care of me." Almost overnight, I found exaggerated dread locks, drum circles and the smell of patchouli to be annoying. What was even more annoying was the notion that I was somehow lacking as a person for not living such an unconventional life.

When the first reports of Occupy Wall Street appeared in mainstream media, I recognized the embodiment of the movement, and that created a momentary conflict for me. The statistic used to measure who has most of the wealth in this country was something I was already very familiar with. Thus, my disdain for Hippies had to take a back seat to my sense of social justice, which I ironically acquired in Catholic high school.

Now, as the Occupy movement has moved beyond Wall Street to include union members, airline pilots and veterans, I can't help but think one of two things: either somebody, somewhere cast a curse upon us for interesting times, or at some point in the early 80's I wished too hard to be able to identify with Hippies.

1 comment:

Teriese said...

I totally feel you. I have yet to experience Burning Man (definitely going 2012), but I ponder the fine line between the "Hippie" lifestyle/mentality and just being a conscious individual. Kinda like the fine line between being "spiritual" and just plain wacko...
Looks like we're about the same age. Nice to see I'm not the only one that thinks about these things. Thanks for sharing :)