“Before I say anything else, I want to say no matter what you’ve done, you deserve respect, even if you make mistakes. You’re lovable and it doesn’t matter your looks, skills, or age, or size or anything. You’re worthwhile—no one can take that away from you.” And with that, the mysterious Kai the Homeless Hitchhiker began his rapid ascent into viral stardom.
Apparently, these are the feelings that come up after you’ve smashed a 290-pound, crazed man who thinks he’s Jesus in the head with a hatchet a few times. By his own admission, though, that’s what Kai did to one Jett Simmons McBride after the 54-year-old ran over a Pacific Gas & Electric employee and attempted to bear hug a woman to death in a psychotic rage. Without Kai’s intervention, there would have been, as he says, “hella lot more bodies” at the scene.
Since Fresno-based Fox affiliate KMPH ran Kai’s frenetic interview, he’s been all the rage online. Millions of YouTube hits, his own edition of Autotune the News, a shirtless cover of “Wagon Wheel,” and even an IndieGogo page to get him a surfboard later—it’s clear that the Internet can’t get enough Kai despite knowing almost nothing about him—besides, of course, that he moves a mean hatchet.
His last name? Doesn’t have one. Age? Can’t call it. Is he actually homeless? Well, “homefree” is the preferred nomenclature. He does, however, come “straight out of Dogtown” and appears to actually be the jovial stoner stereotype we all love, so there’s that.
But, conceptually, Kai is much more. He owns virtually nothing, has no career, no discernable direction, and no respect for mindless “police-y enforcer” powers that be. What he does appear to have, however, is a deeply engrained sense of right and wrong, the drive to affect change in a bad situation, and, as evidenced by his stellar “love thyself” quote above, a semi-profound respect for life or at least people as individuals (and, you know, weed). Sound familiar?
Well, it ought to. A similar description could be applied to almost any member of my generation, especially given the dire economic straits we find ourselves in today. We’re poor, outwardly misguided, and barred from even entering the career elevator. Our societal foundations are eroding, inspiring disrespect for and distrust of authority, leaving only ourselves from which to gather a sense of moral direction. Which maybe is why, as the civic generation, we millennials tend to engage more in community-centric activities than other age groups.
So, metaphorically speaking, Kai is the millennial generation, facing down the monumental task of carving out our place in the world in the form of doming a 290-pound psychotic Jesus freak. The difference here is that Kai smashed the world on its head with that hatchet; most millennials are sitting here waiting for someone to take the sheath off. What we need to change that is a shift in perception.
Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not suggesting that my temporal brethren and I all turn on, tune in, and drop out like the self-aggrandizing boomers did for the goal of peace and love or whatever. I’m saying twentysomethings need to stop waiting for permission or a leg up from the rest of the world if we’re going to take charge of any situation that’s been thrown at us, economic or otherwise. That entitlement, like Kai’s home address, must cease to exist.
Otherwise, it seems that my generation will face a “hella lot more bodies” on the Disaffected Youth/Disappointed Adults side of things—even moreso than are already there now. Sure, we’re facing extenuating circumstances, and that can’t be denied. But Kai has nothing—no possessions, no family, not even a real name—and appears to be happy regardless. That perception, that kind of security in identity, is undoubtedly not rooted in what the world has given to Kai—it’s rooted in what he’s given to the world.