I complain a lot about the changes occurring in San Francisco, and I stick by those complaints. There is much being lost in the fading past of this “Dungeness crab city,” and certainly not all have benefited from the transformations. Reading this captivating article, however, I am reminded that there is something bigger happening as well. And along with being a time for a lot of greed and silliness and even mourning the losses, it is a moment of great energy and creativity, which seem too big to be stopped. Let’s make the most of it. If there’s any truth to the sentences below, maybe the energy can be harnessed for something bigger than profits… political consciousness, social engagement, new economic priorities… maybe…
In 1966, Hendrik Hertzberg, then a young Newsweek reporter in the Bay Area, wrote about San Francisco’s “new bohemianism”:
The hippies, much more numerous than the Beats ever were, accentuate the positive. . . . Like the Beats, they are dropouts from the conventional “status games,” but, unlike them, have created their own happy lifestyles to drop into. “In a way,” says Jerry Garcia, twenty-four, lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead and one of the cultural heroes of Haight-Ashbury, “we’re searching for respectability—not Ford or GM respectability, but the respectability of a community supporting itself financially and spiritually.”
The youth, the upward dreams, the emphasis on life style over other status markers, the disdain for industrial hierarchy, the social benefits of good deeds and warm thoughts—only proper nouns distinguish this description from a portrait of the startup culture in the Bay Area today. It is startling to realize that urban tech life is the closest heir to the spirit of the sixties, and its creative efflorescence, that the country has so far produced.
From Nathan Heller’s “Bay Watched: How San Francisco’s New Entrepreneurial Culture Is Changing the Country,” in The New Yorker.