Two Saturdays ago, an order of two yards of black mulch, dumped on my driveway, became one yard too many for me. So, I took a break from yard-work, found my phone, lay in the middle of my yard like a snow angel, and called my friend Kelly.
At some point, our conversation turned to counter-culture and I asked where it was. This feeling came over me, much like the one you have at around five when you realize your parents are going to die one day and everyone you know will as well. I shot straight up out of my snow angel position, my eyebrows knit tight together, my long arm clutching my mulch stained knees, I asked again “Where is our counter-culture? Do we have a counter-culture? Why can’t I see it, with my own eyes?”
We got off the phone and I started to think about when I was a little girl, how I often saw punks with huge, colorful, spiky Mohawks, and felt a sense of awe mixed with fear at this person who clearly didn’t follow the rules. Everyone knows what a hippie is, what a finger snapping beatnik is. Who will my kids identify as being part of the counter-culture? Who will they look at with fear and awe? Who will be that someone to make them question the rules, if even for a split second?
This realization may seem naive. The feeling to which it gave way certainly made it feel naive. Why hadn’t I realized this before? Why had I taken it for granted? It also seemed like what I feared lost was something shallow. It was like I wanted a visual counter-culture, one for the sake of visual balance. I wanted somebody to mess things up by sight alone so that, when I walk around town, I see somebody who I can identify as a bad-ass. Where are the rule-breakers?
I started to think that here in the US, we are so homogenized, even in how we look. When and where do you see the old, the disabled? They are here. We just hide them. We have huge signs on the highway that read “SILVER ALERT”, warning us of an escaped elder, the license plate number displayed so we catch them and put them back in their hiding place. Assumedly, this is so as to not upset the middle class by reminding them that they are working so hard, for so little, just to become old and regretful. Maybe the driver of the “SILVER ALERT” escaped car is the bad-ass I am looking for?
So, I did what I always do when unsure about an idea brewing in my head. I started a poll. Since that Saturday, each day I’ve asked around five people “Where is our counter-culture? Do we have one?” These are some of the responses I got in return.
“I don’t understand the question.”
“You can’t see it, it is online.”
“You can’t see it, it’s hidden.”
“With 50% of the population ok with gay marriage, than what would people be counter against?”
“It’s not our time, you can see it elsewhere, i.e. Arab Spring.”
“Ingrid, life is good, stop thinking so much.”
“It’s the green movement.”
Anytime I mentioned OWS, I got “Who? Are they still around?”
I have a hard time accepting that things are really so much better than they once were and that we don’t have a counter-culture because we don’t need one. This vague reply, one I heard over and over again in my polling, sounded more to me like “Stop making me think so I can go back to having my head up Steve Jobs’ dead ass and obsess over a new gadget. People are fine, things are better.”
Maybe so. What do I know anyway? My own selfish need to question everything, keep my mind unpolluted, my language unpolished and my foot in the aisle to trip the jerk in the room may all be . . . shallow. Without a group, a counter-culture off which to bounce my wannabe, radical, self-taught ideas, how will I ever know?
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