Sunday, August 22, 2010

HIPPIES. There, I said it.



Upon moving to the west coast I anticipated I would encounter more hippie activity in my day-to-day life. When I setup my phone and cable the customer service representative gave me the option of a digital or paper bill. I said perhaps a paper bill to start (I was, and still am, very particular about receiving and paying my bills. I like to thoroughly read over what fees I have accrued. This is perhaps my Asian distrust and paranoia of companies creeping in again). My response was met with immediate judgement from the customer service rep: "Really? Don't you want to save paper?"

Hippies, I am sure much to their dismay, function like the middle class. The definitions of a hippie are varied and extend from the artistic bohemian, to the rastafarian, to the granola head, to just a person that recycles. In many ways we are all a part of or have participated in a form of hippiedom, especially with the growing trendiness of being concerned with the environment. Hippies drive hybrids. Elementary schools are chock full of young, peanut-free hippies raised by gluten-free moms and dads. Hippies stay in touch by using toxic, cancer-inducing cell phones that are partially made of plants. Hippiedom can be made into your own, and we are hedonists who have found a way to make hippiedom into another capitalist dream.

There are many positive aspects of this rise of hippie culture. We have made a fine mess of this earth and it's about time we start actively doing something about it. Organic and sustainable foods and fair and healthy practices for raising animals is also something we can all get on board with. Recycling, reusing, and composting is not new but is certainly becoming more widespread (vintage clothing and upcycling fall under this category as well). Utensils made of corn? Sounds crazy but I can get behind it. Though there is some resistance to this, the increase in alternate forms of transportation is also a plus. Bicycles make you feel like a kid again and riding the train means you can drink more. Sounds alright to me. 

While there are numerous characteristics of hippie culture I am supportive of, there are many things I have yet to make amends with, nor do I feel I should. Firstly, there is the issue of camping. As much as I absolutely loathe camping (I am a germaphobe who can't swim, has sensitive skin, and hasn't purchased a running shoe in over 5 years. Need I say more?), I can still understand the desire to do so. The amazing wilderness, the seclusion, the fulfillment of a need to "get away from it all," are all adequate reasons to pack your car full of dehydrated snacks and overpriced gor-tex. I am not one to judge you for the complete absurdity of trying to live like a refugee in an attempt to get back to a nature you were never a part of. Good for you hippie, those trees are something amazing. Wait, I guess that was judgemental.

This mention of gore-tex and judgement leads me to the discussion of hippie capitalism. I do not appreciate being criticized for being materialistic and superficial by some long hair who is willing to embrace his capitalistic side under the guise of practicality. The exorbitant prices of hippie attire are astounding, and the acquisition of hippie "necessities" are parallel, if not in excess of, my own desire for new dresses. We are not much different, you (hippie) and I (me). Except I have no need for convertible pants and you, for some reason, think that your Parisian adventure is a good time to break out the hiking boots and zippered shorts with multiple pockets (excellent targets for pickpocketers). I'm sorry hippie capitalists, but you are just as equally implicated in our economic downturn.

The antagonistic hippie also makes an appearance as the agitated cyclist, aka the belligerent guest at a party in Strathcona. You can recognize this individual by the amount of couscous and mesclun greens on their plate while they rant about both the lack of bike paths in the city and the overabundance of non-serious bikers on the current paths. They have been sideswiped by a car once, and like the child of an emotionally abusive father, spend the rest of their time furiously competing for its attention by challenging its existence. What happened to the affectionate hippie, bursting with love and inclusiveness? Riding a bicycle in this city is downright frightening when you combine aggressive drivers with angry, spandex-wearing, work-less-party-going cyclists. I am always shocked by the amount of entitlement and rage that emanates from these bike people. Is it not good enough that I ride my bike or walk to work, rather than drive an SUV? Is it not good enough that I wear a helmet? WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME HIPPIE?

The agitated cyclist leads us to the controlling and obsessive hippie that cannot show up on time. They are unbelievably obsessive about a particular aspect of hippiedom - whether it is cycling, eating healthy, or their annoyance for large corporations. But they love to take it easy, enjoy a cup of coffee, and spend an entire day wasting someone else's time. This is truly a fascinating faction of hippie, as their uptight nature does not translate to being punctual, making a schedule, or even sticking to an original plan of any sort. Who knew you could be simultaneously obsessive and non-committal?

This brings me to food and the hippie. As mentioned previously, the prevalence of more organic foods and products in our stores is a positive result of the rise of the hippie. Although I am a proponent of organic, I am not swayed by its invincibility - yes, it's probably better for you. Yes, it tastes better. But the standards of "organic" differ depending on the country you are in and organic in China does not mean organic here, and having organic foods shipped across the world produces a great carbon footprint. This is not a deterrent to eating organic foods, but a realistic outlook, one that is sometimes dismissed by militant food hippies. I love food. I do all kinds of domestic, borderline hippie food activities, like grow tomatoes on my balcony and make homemade granola. But I do NOT believe in cleanses and I think your colonics (or its dirty non-spa worthy name, enemas) are stupid. You can judge me for all sorts of life choices, but do not demonize food and make me feel guilty about eating. Bingeing on unhealthy sugary foods and then feeling immense guilt at your lack of self-control is not a reason to only drink wheat juice for 10 days. It is also not a reason to have someone shove a tool up your butt to rid your body of toxins. The extreme nature of these processes are disturbing. What happened to having a balanced diet that incorporates a diversity of foods? The militant food hippie also takes pride in strange activities such as eating quinoa at every meal. Unless you are Peruvian, get your quinoa entitlement out of my face! When did caring about the environment and your body mean you could no longer eat things that tasted good? Things that made you blissfully content? Things that brought people together? When, hippie, did you stop wanting to be happy?

Unhappy hippies can sometimes also be referred to as hipsters. This can be summed up with: "This food sucks, this town sucks, this bike is awesome, my clothes are awesome, I am awesome, you suck." That's all I need to say on that.

The shining beacon of hippiedom, I feel, is still the old hippie. Not the dirty old hippie, just the old free-lovin' variety. The kind that wears a lot of yellow, has gray hair, and enjoys a naked swim at the lake. They throw fantastic parties that are low on the general hippie pretentiousness (but high on the baby boomer kind), are in long-term unmarried and open relationships, and have wonderful collections of antique furniture, records, and art. They smoke a few doobies and used to do acid, but now are upstanding citizens with decent jobs to support their Danish Teak and African ceramics habit. The one major downside to this hippie is their obsession with May 1968, and the subsequent and continual letdown of every "revolution" after. This old hippie can be a bit hit or miss - sometimes they are just draft dodgers that got weird. Despite this, out of all the hippies, this might still be the best. Old school and all that.

Obviously, this list could continue on for numerous posts. I have not even touched upon the political zealot or protest hippie, the reformed corporate hippie, or even celebrity or hybrid hippies. The list goes on. We all have a bit of hippie in us I suppose, some more than others. But that's the thing about hippiedom. Some of us just learn how to not let it run our lives.