California’s state motto – “Eureka!” or “I found it!” – dates back to the 1849 Gold Rush. Whatever people come west for, they seem to find it.
It’s partly the cheap living in the mild California climate that attracted both the down-at-heel Beat poets and the immigrant German organic farmers whose Lebensreform (life-reform) philosophy laid the foundations for the hippie lifestyle. Or maybe it’s just that the restless spirits who made America could go no further west once they hit the Pacific coastline and their yearning to explore turned inward. “America has a westward tilt, so all the loose nuts rolled into California,” as critics say.
Today, progressive ideas from the San Francisco Bay Area are taking the world by storm much like the Dutch and the Spanish who colonized the world in the 16th and 17th century. It is a trend that stretches from the love and peace movement of the 1960s that reformed modern society, through social communities such as Facebook and Linkedin, to the sharing economy of Airbnb and Uber.
A walk through San Fransisco’s neighborhoods reveals this freedom in the air – literally in the case of the Haight-Ashbury, where the hippie philosophy was nurtured in rambling Victorian houses. Wander into The Castro for an education in gay rights at the country’s only GLBT Museum or in its bustling bars and clubs.
And glimpse the ghosts of Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums as you sip a coffee or rough red wine in the streets of North Beach. Kerouac influenced countless writers, as well as musicians such as Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and, of course, The Beatles whose name is a tribute to his Beat Generation.
Even though Google and Apple are about big bucks, it is this philosophy of freedom born in San Francisco that still governs the internet.
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