Having had many interactions with young people who are into either the
hippie idea or the "urban decay" type styles, I've come to the
conclusion that most of them are not doing it as rebellion but rather
as self-expression. I have known many of the type who are not angry;
who are quite warm and friendly, even happy, individuals. What for
some had once been a way of fighting what was around them has for
others become a way of self-expression. And this creates a positive
legacy for the people who had initiated and been a part of these
One example that I have observed was a young man named Kevin in San
Francisco Bay Area. He was into Jim Morrison, had long hair and walked
around shirtless, and took me on an excursion to the ocean coast where
he and his friend played a digiridoo all night. His mother kept
calling him a poser; but what she did not understand is that, when
someone does something that's not a trend and that's not a cool, then
it must be something that means a lot to him. So that, while many of
the original hippies were doing it because it was a trend, someone who
does it when it is not a trend and remains persistent in doing it is
the real McCoy.
Same is the case with the urban decay styles. While people who did it
when it was a trend included both people who were intensely into it
and people who were just following fashion trends, we will not see
trendoids doing it when it is not the popular thing to do. And if
someone does it when it is not a trend, then that means that it means
a lot to that person.
With the hippie idea, there were some who thought it to be a result of
a "bad crop" having been raised; and there were others who thought
that it spoke universally to youth, and that other generations would
unquestionably embrace it. Both were wrong. There has been some
interest in the hippie idea in my generation; there have also been
many powerful forces in society to counteract it. The latter include
the people who had been hippies originally who then turned away from
it and, like Kevin's mother, saw younger people doing it as being
posers when they were doing it, in spite of much social resistance, at
the time that it was not a trend.
More on the generational issue bears elaboration. While the first
children of hippies (those born in 1960s) were typically hateful to
their parents and everything that they had attempted to do, in my
generation there is a more moderate attitude as well as a greater mix.
We have been exposed to different cultural influences, and we do
different things with them, typically combining them in a variety of
ways. Thus in 1990s we saw "perkygoths" (gothic in style, chipper in
attitude); and at a more adult age we see banker philanthropists,
Republican rock-and-rollers, bellydancing social workers, programmer
poets, people who are into both techno and drive-in theaters, and any
variety of cross-cultural and cross-racial relationships. It appears
that our generation, given the recent history, is rightfully suited to
create a cultural richness that looks at all the different influences
that are out there and puts them together in any variety of original
and valuable ways.
One of the interesting ways to deal with these influences, as I've
seen, is using what had been once a tool of rebellion as a tool of
self-expression. This should make proud both the people who had
initiated the hippie movement and the people who had initiated the
urban decay trend. What they had done survived them and has become
something that younger people are using to grow. And this is a legacy
worthy of having had.
> One example that I have observed was a young man named Kevin in San
> Francisco Bay Area. He was into Jim Morrison, had long hair and walked
> around shirtless, and took me on an excursion to the ocean coast where
> he and his friend played a digiridoo all night. His mother kept
> calling him a poser; but what she did not understand is that, when
> someone does something that's not a trend and that's not a cool, then
> it must be something that means a lot to him. So that, while many of
> the original hippies were doing it because it was a trend, someone who
> does it when it is not a trend and remains persistent in doing it is
> the real McCoy.
Well, okay, you have a good point here: moving counter-trend can
be taken as evidence of authenticity.
I'm going to argue against it, though, because that's the kind of
guy I am.
For one thing, in an example such as the one you cite of the
Morrison fan, you might argue that this retro-hippie is copping a
pose to achieve some in-group approval, it's just that at this
point the group is a genuine "sub-culture" rather than a
But maybe that's not a terribly interesting line of argument,
what I'm actually more interested in is questioning the notion
that authenticity is all about "being true to yourself", that
it's all about finding sincere expression of the core of your
soul. Every individual, then, is regarded as this mysterious
white hole of creativity, and we all most listen down inside
ourselves to determine the modes of social interaction that are
right for us. But what really then is the point of the social
interaction at all, if inside each of us we already have this
perfect sphere at the core? Realistically, doesn't this core
actually come from somewhere outside of ourselves? Isn't it
strongly influenced (if not solely determined) by that social
Creativity does not *have* to be something practiced by a lone
individual in isolation: it could be that the entire sub-culture
is the real creative unit, that the process of exploration needs
to be a group exploration.
And if the group is successful, if they find something that
really resonates with the zeitgeist, that speaks to a
generation... why shouldn't what they come up with spread far
and wide and become a trend?
Are you supposed to abandon your life-style if it happens to be
in sync with the times?
Popularity is not, in itself, proof of inauthenticity.