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San Francisco Values

Yesterday the Chronicle featured an article on “San Francisco Values,” as a response to all the San-Francisco-values bashing happening in this midterm election season (if the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, representative from San Francisco, will likely become Speaker of the House).

Having lived in the Bay Area for almost all my adult life (apart from two years in New York), San Francisco Values are something I’ve thought about. When discussing such things, one can’t avoid oversimplification. Oh well.

One of the distinctions that so pleases me about San Francisco is that it is not a town of *ambition*. It might be a town of drive, passion, and spirit, but you don’t get the ladder-climbing, the achievement-at-all-costs that I saw in New York, and in elements of Los Angeles. People do what they want to do not because they want to “succeed,” but because it’s simply their passion that drives them.

As part of this, there’s a natural entrepreneurial bent in San Francisco. People are willing to try new things, and those around them are eager to support them. Even in a land of high rents and salaries, the number of small start-up businesses is pretty staggering.

Only San Francisco could have born Burning Man. There’s something about the mixture of art, technology, and spirituality that resonates with San Franciscans. In particular, San Franciscans are remarkably tolerant of differing spiritual paths.

Recently, I’ve seen San Francisco encourage misguided, if not abominable, values (also related to Burning Man, actually). San Franciscans value outre behavior for its own sake. Piercings! Tattoos! Sexual fluidity!

Hipsterism can lead to an unfortunate fetish on appearance and presentation that I’ve seen enocurage people to grow increasingly superficial. People who pay hundreds of dollars on hipster wear in some strange effort to buy happiness through acceptance by others.

And, of course, there’s the drugs. It’s very easy to find people who will support you in your drug taking, even if the behavior is destructive. Because, you know, drugs are fun (and dangerous! (outre!)), and your hipster friends will think your cool!

Any locale’s values will have it’s upsides and downsides. I love San Francisco, and find it resonates with my passion. But I’ve also seen the harm it can do.