What it is to be “Counterculture”
By TUSHAR DWIVEDI
Counterculture in modern culture has often been associated with the notion of subversion, making using a set of notably distinct values or beliefs to drive change in an existing system. The seemingly rebellious nature of counterculture appears embedded in the name itself; the use of counter gives the impression that there exists something that is being countered. This relationship has clear validity: one student the Indy spoke with expressed frustration with the pressure to adopt mainstream culture that “quite frankly is definitely not a one size fits all,” and in its current form, is “doing more harm than good to the youth in our generation and the ones beneath us.” So the question becomes: is counterculture just composed of elements that contrast those we think are corrupt or distasteful in mainstream culture? Equivalently, leveraging Aristotle, are mainstream culture and counterculture simply convex and concave on the same curve?
The Counterculture Issue, for the Independent, is an opportunity to explore this question, examining instances of counterculture at Harvard as well as the motivations behind them. One particular case study of interest is the private tattoo: a sophomore in Adams House possessing a secret-to-all tattoo explained that “while yes, I like the fact that the tattoo moves from away from everyday blandness, that’s not why I got it.” When asked why, she responded: “because I think tattoos are themselves beautiful.” Similarly, when asked about drug use, a Quincy House Junior revealed that being different and rebelling are not at all motivating factors. Even from these small examples, it becomes clear that counterculture is more than just anti-mainstream; it is a set of beliefs, tastes, values, and aesthetics that are to be appreciated in their own right, rather than simply valued for being different. And in this manner, everyone can share in counterculture, without limit on in what form, size, or scope, and without judgement. We rediscover this every year with the Counterculture Issue and hope you enjoy our yearly foray.