To me a hippie is someone who, like myself, cares about issues of social justice - things like care for the environment, concern for the poor, and non-violence/peacemaking. However, unlike myself, a hippie is someone who also looks the part. That is, they are immersed in a sub-culture of like-minded people who tend to dress and present themselves in ways that reflect their values. You know the stereotypes - long hair (often dreadlocked), hemp or organic or handmade clothing with lots of holes and frayed edges, facial hair, t-shirts or bumper stickers or back-pack patches with socially progressive sayings on them, etc.
But it's not the image that is most important. The outward "hippie" look is really just a way of identifying that one is part of a community that cares about justice issues. And in fact much of the look has thoughtful rationale behind it. For instance, "hippies" are often concerned about where their clothes come from - whether they were made ethically and in environmentally friendly ways - so their clothes will tend to look different than what you'd typically find at Wal-Mart or the Banana Republic. Beyond that, hippies also tends to dress in a way that expresses themselves and reflects the community they are a part of.
Sadly, while I've always wanted to be able to pull off that look, I've never been a part of a community like that, where that image is the norm. And truthfully, it's just not me. I care about all those same issues, but I've never felt compelled to fit into the hippie, activist "look" myself. I think if I did, I would just be posing. It wouldn't be true to myself, or the community I am currently a part of.
And that, to me, is the both the attraction and the danger of being a "hippie", IMHO. I've long wanted to be part of a community like that, where I am surrounded by others who all share my same passions. I think it'd be great to live in the kind of community that Chico and Tatiana are a part of (though the introverted side of me does get a little freaked out by the idea). However, the danger is that truthfully the image can sometimes become a barrier to others who perhaps care about the issues but feel like an unwelcome "outsider" if they don't fit the look. It can honestly be intimidating for a typical suburbanite to join a group of dread-locked, hemp clad "hippies" and wonder whether we are being judged based on our more conventional attire - in the same way that hippies and others who dress in "alternative" styles are themselves very often judged by folks in mainstream society for their appearance.
I know this may all seem trivial, but this is the way society works. Wrong though it may be, we human beings do tend to judge books by their covers and exclude or welcome people based on appearances. So while I'd love to be able to fit into the hippie/activist sub-culture, I also want to be able to be a bridge to people who aren't part of that and let them know that it's okay for suburbanites to care about justice issues too. Because ultimately it's going to take all types if we really want to change the world.
Labels: social justice
Links to this post