Screwin’ with the status quo

A look at countercultural types from the past 60 years

Megan Turnbull
Megan Turnbull
Megan Turnbull
Megan Turnbull
Megan Turnbull
Megan Turnbull

The societal dynamics of a generation produces a distinct group of individuals whose goal is to challenge the status quo. Here’s a look at some of the counter-cultural groups who have made a mark over the past 60 years.

Anarchists (1800s – today)

Commonly thought of as flag burners or cop abusers, anarchists claim to reject organized government institutions and authority. They emphasize community cooperation, and believe the working class that produces the wealth of a country should decide where it goes. Unfortunately (or fortunately), anarchists can’t get their act together long enough to successfully overthrow government. Rather, many “rebel” by expressing their beliefs in anarchist publications, spreading propaganda and engaging in rowdy demonstrations.

If I may pass judgment here – who do these folks think they are? They encourage the rejection of authority, but what gives them the authority to tell us what to do? And what gives them the authority to overthrow authority? Oh, the irony.

The Beatniks (1950s)

These post-World War II non-conformists basically snubbed mainstream America. More than just black turtlenecks, bongos and berets, the beats challenged the passive acceptance of authority, and opposed the conformist sentiment and traditional Leave it to Beaver family structure that existed after the war. The beats were big on experimenting with anything: from sexuality, to drugs and eastern religions. They also prided themselves on their spontaneous creativity. But seriously, what made them think they were so damn creative? I can make a mean pair of goggles out of egg cartons without the help of psychedelic drugs. Take that, beatniks.

Hippies (1960s)

Imagine a beatnik who stopped showering, stopped going to the barber, upped their intake of marijuana and incorporated the words “love” and “peace” into every sentence they spoke; behold, the hippie. Now, the hippie isn’t just the go-to Halloween costume for the entire western world, they actually stood for something. They openly protested the Vietnam War while preaching peace and civil rights. They also had a thing for tree humping – I mean hugging – and health food. The influence of the hippie still remains in today’s culture. Check it out for yourself in Winnipeg’s Wolseley area.

Metalheads (1980s)

Metalheads worshipped heavy metal bands and had pretty rigid standards as to who was worthy of their praise (and their t-shirt). Metalheads were big on musical integrity and were therefore disgusted by bands that gained commercial success. Thus, metalheads only respected the bands that stayed true to their music and didn’t let fame get the best of them. Some say the decline of the sub-culture began when such bands gained widespread popularity. There are still some authentic metalheads around today, but they are not to be mistaken with poser metalheads who resemble homely looking emo variants.

Generation X (1990s)

Born between the mid-1960s and 1980, the people in this subculture saw the creation of the inaugural personal computer. Their family dynamics were unique as well, as they were the first to grow up in households with two working parents. Also, a large number of Xers were children of divorce. Perhaps all of these characteristics contributed to Generation X’s general political disengagement. It seems these guys didn’t have a rebellious streak. They were too busy plunkin’ away on their giant computers and keeping their parents from killing each other. Poor Generation X. One can hardly blame them for being so apathetic.

Hipsters (2009)

They have their image down – American Apparel t-shirts, unwashed, matted hair and Andy Warhol paraphernalia, worn while chomping organic foods and sipping local brews – but I honestly couldn’t tell you what hipsters are rebelling against. Although seemingly under the shifting guise of countering conservatism, global warming and striving for the decriminalization of marijuana, it’s difficult to pinpoint a cause. Perhaps it’s all the radiation from cell phones or the excessive pampering they received from their parents resulting in a preoccupation with self. So go out, find a skinny-jeans wearing, fair trade coffee drinking, independent film watching hipster and ask them yourself what they’re rebelling against.

If you find out, be sure to let me know.

Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)

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