Some say that the bay area culture is going to “hell in a handbag” as the city becomes more and more inundated with technocrats and plutocrats. Others, like a bay area local who I recently had the pleasure to engage in a lengthy conversation with outside one of the only affordable consignment shops left in San Francisco, said the culture in this area had packed up and left long over a decade ago. He later smirked and said I’d be fooling myself to think the city still retained any thread of it’s original character. Although this might sound pessimistic on paper, he said this with a cheek-to-cheek grin and little-to-no weight in his upper brow. It was as though he was only stating the facts, plain and simple.
Everyone has there opinions, and as broad-stroke and blanket-statement sounding that the above comment might appear, there are common themes found in most of the discussions that dominate conversation here in the Bay Area – high rent prices, homelessness, and the demise of culture. The word culture is arbitrary when used in conjunction to value. Culture is ever changing and for this reason, in my own opinion, I believe there is ignorance when using conclusive statements regarding culture’s directionality. Rather than value judgements, we can only truly say that a culture is “changing”, and even that comes from the subjectivity based on the relationship one has, or doesn’t have, with the city. All-in-all, however, it is true – The Grateful Dead and and Jefferson Airplane types are long gone, either by mass exodus, adopting more conventional lifestyles, or are now buried 10 feet under. The only remnants of that era that still remain can be found in the Haight-Ashbury district, which has since been over commodified and commercialized to cater to tourists. Even though on the surface this small microcosm of the city may appear to have stayed the same, culture does not exist in trinkets and Mala Beads alone, but rather, is woven into the vocalization of love, freedom, and sovereignty that use to be proclaimed in the street, which, I am disheartened to say, would be difficult to find as conspicuously nowadays.
However, there is culture. The culture is, dare I say, Google, Twitter, Apple, Facebook – to name just a few that have built and inhabited the proliferating infrastructure of the high rise. And yes, perhaps this newer cultural sect domesticating the city is more homogenous in their personal preferences and clothing attire than the city has ever seen before, nonetheless, culture in itself, undeniable prevailes.
So how does this newer, ever growing, ever expanding culture retain the weird and all it’s vibrancy that most likely drew this type of crowd in the first place? Why, by hiring the circus to entertain them at their extravagant events, of course.
Every large and medium sized tech business in the Bay Area with a hefty budget throws opulent, decadent parties. In fact, I have come to think that it might be written somewhere in the contract that each party has to be more impressive than the “boy’s next door”. It has become an extension of fraternity dynamics. And what is any party without some circus freaks showing desk-loitering-corporate-employees how to have a good time and utilize their bodies again, after too many hours a day neglecting nothing but their brain and wrists. Therefore, with their grotesquely dense budget being used for entertainment, you can’t say these companies don’t put it to a good cause. In all honesty, if it weren’t for these obsessively extravagant corporate events that hire working local artists contracted from all over the city, most of the circus would have been long gone by now. But they remain because at least, as they are becoming more and more marginalized, they can simultaneously financially benefit from the corporate tech apocalypse.
So keep employing the circus Google, it is the least you can do after you and your compatriots have taken over nearly every square inch of the city. Thank you for throwing some of your pocket change to those that are able to right some wrongs and reinvest your small penance into events that spread social justice awareness and radical change. Good job Google, good job.