Wednesday, December 30, 2009

#2 - Hipsters






It was the decade when...

Apathy was the new black.

Like the hippie of the sixties and the yuppie of the eighties, the aughts too featured their own archetypal personality, a persona born of the ideological vacuum left by a post-cold war world and cauterized in the anxious miasma of a post 9/11 America. The hipster, raised in the affluent and vacuous 90's, is a child of privilege who, without rejecting his bourgeois roots like the hippies before him, merely attempts to neutralize the fact by ironically appropriating the aesthetic of the working class. Not to be confused with solidarity, this arch performance is a variety of liberal guilt that's been internalized and then regurgitated as self-conscious meta-commentary. A hipster is not dressed so much as costumed, each item and accessory meticulously chosen to juxtapose a hipster's privilege with their assumed blue-collar aesthetic. At the root of every Hipster-ism is the tension between authenticity and artifice, the hipster embracing the latter as if it was a variety of the former. Hipsters are truly fake in the most literal sense of the term.

There has always been bohemians dwelling in certain enclaves of urban centers, loci of struggling young artists, writers, thinkers, revolutionaries and philosophers who, despite what might be a middle-class or aristocratic background divert themselves from the mainstream path to success; one might think that hipsters offer little new in the way of social phenomenon. This is missing the crucial point. Whereas all other Bohemian movements, from the Belle Epoque world of Puccini's La Boheme, to the beatniks in the 50's to the hippies in the 60's, have sought out alternate enclaves of living in order to better seek out the grand philosophical ideas of truth, beauty and authenticity. The hipster is the negation of these ideals, deliberately rejecting such quests as vain exercises by sentimental people naive enough to believe in these antiquated ideas. The hipster instead exists as a living quotation mark, every facet of the personality a tacit rejection of any all proactive assertions. The Hipster is the death of hope, for hope implies an ability to rectify contradictions and achieve progress. A hipster's existence is a censure of all efforts to viscerally engage with the word in anything but an ironic context. In this way the Hipster is, of course, the extension of post-modern thought as applied to an actual individual; post-modernism taken, as it were, "to the end," penetrating the very essence of subjectivity. If post-modernism's central tenet is it's rejection of modernism's obsession with "the new" and "the true," (replacing such ideals with the negation of meaning) then the Hipster is the movement's living breathing foot soldiers.

Being a Bobo, a cousin of the Hipster but absent the pretense, my interaction with the aughts more prominent social group has been mostly tangential. A social phenomenon replete with analytical interest, my feelings toward the group have always been apathetic at best. Seeing how apathy is the dominant stance of a hipster toward, well, everything, the reaction is not without some appropriateness.

If the earnestness and "free-love" flower-power dreams of the 60's seem silly to jaded modern eyes at least we can say that the Hippies really believed in their dreams of social progress, free-love and liberated consciousness. True Hipsters, believing only in irony, exist in an ocean of ill-matching yet meticulously chosen signifiers, undoing all meaning rather than bolstering it. Neither left nor right, political ideologies are something to be undermined and not endorsed - a lazy cynicism about progress is a staple of the hipster diet. But, maybe this is the end of history; Francis Fukuyama's dream of capitalist democracy's triumph is, in fact, true, but the price we pay is that we all morph into self-referential, uber-sarcastic, consumption pod people who, in capitalism's sneakiest trick, think that this very consumption is the purest expression of our individualism. Self-obsession and the free-market go hand-in-hand, and by being too "meta" to believe in meta-narratives anyway, the hipster is nothing if not the most intense of naval gazers, all the while, like a moth to a flame, subscribing subconsciously to the most insidious kind of groupthink, conforming to the most rigid and insidious social standards.

The most insidious aspect of Hipsterism is its illusion of authenticity. In order for this grand post-modern gambit to work, the Hipster himself must be convinced that his tastes and aesthetics are entirely determined by a solipsistic self-awareness which allows him to pursue his tastes and cultivate his style based on his little more than own subjective appetites. It's a variation on a old joke: I wouldn't want to belong to any club that I had to be member of. Going by self-disclosure, there is no such thing as a Hipster; all candidates would easily deny their inclusion in this non-group. The Hipster just "digs what he digs," it's all just personal preference. To admit any solidarity with any "movement" or "scene" is to confess a kind of positive engagement with social reality, a reality that Hipsters claim to be above. To be a Hipster is to be deeply conformist yet wholly unaware of this fact. That is the ultimate irony. It's an irony which must never be spoken of lest such a breach rupture the whole architecture of disaffection that is the Hipsters raison d'etre.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't like Hipsters. I suspect the only way to eradicate this hipster problem is satiric ridicule.

You AUGHT to remember.

6 comments:

  1. Hipsters! Oh, God, major DUH. I totally forgot about it too!

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  2. "If postmodernism's central tenant" is followed by something which is very clearly not postmodernism's central tenant.

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  3. Well I'm not gonna say I don't that people because I'll be lying, but I really they should try viagra online and change their lifes.

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  4. Oh, I'm gonna have a huge party I will need a lot if wii, viagra online, alchool and a lot of stuff. haha thanks

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