I hate the word hippie. (Hippies themselves I like). People who don’t have green values tend to throw the word out to negate any point you might be trying to convey. It’s similar to the word “prejudiced” in that once it’s thrown out there, there are few productive ways to continue to the dialogue without having it turn into a lecture.
The word in its current form is meant to conjure up images of people in peasant dresses, tie dye, and Birkenstocks. These cartoonish people are unwashed, unrealistic, live in ridiculous communes, dance around yurts, and eat soy bean curd all day. Like all effective stereotypes, this image allows others to dismiss the group in question since they’re clearly living on a different plane that no person living in the “real world” of mortgages and insurance can be expected to emulate.
Do these stereotypical hippies even really exist? Well, having spend significant time in both Davis and Santa Cruz, California, I can confirm that they do. Do they consider themselves to be “hippies”? It depends on who you ask. Do they represent the larger movement of green living and voluntary simplicity? Not so much.
If you studied the majority of people who considered themselves to be living a life of “voluntary simplicity,” I imagine that they’d look surprisingly like everybody else. I know that I don’t fit the “simple” stereotype. I love big sunglasses and pretending to be glamorous. I dream of exotic vacations and good liquor. I like to spoil my dog. I long for a home that’s impressive and elegant (though I settle for “not ugly” and “relatively clean”).
Does this mean I’m not a true simplifier? Well, that’s another topic altogether. What it does mean is that living simply isn’t about cutting yourself off from mainstream values and desires–it’s just about focusing on the ones that you actually care about while letting the others fade into the distance. If that means I need to find a communal yurt to dance around, that’s fine–just let me know where to ship my shoe collection ahead of time.