Friday, August 1, 2008

Bobo say "Hipsters Are Not Hip!"

Being a Bobo, my interaction with Hipsters has been mostly tangential. An endlessly dissectible social phenomenon, 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. I do love reading about them though. Here's the link for a biting smackdown of the whole hipster counter-culture. Here are some money quotes:
The American Apparel V-neck shirt, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Parliament cigarettes are symbols and icons of working or revolutionary classes that have been appropriated by hipsterdom and drained of meaning. Ten years ago, a man wearing a plain V-neck tee and drinking a Pabst would never be accused of being a trend-follower. But in 2008, such things have become shameless clich├ęs of a class of individuals that seek to escape their own wealth and privilege by immersing themselves in the aesthetic of the working class.

An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry. The only way to avoid hitting the colossus of societal failure that looms over the horizon is for the kids to abandon this vain existence and start over.

An interesting response is here. His money quote:

The question, though: does any of the above matter? Adbusters seems to think that because a portion of youth culture subscribes to this meaningless lifestyle that Western civilization as we know it is doomed. Their mistake is to assume that those who choose hipsterdom had the potential to be meaningful cultural contributors in the first place. If you'll allow the analogy, hipsters are the thieves that would never be customers. If they valued anything in the first place, they wouldn't have made the unconscious choice to value nothing.

While a tad alarmist, I am incined to agree with most of the AdBusters criticisms. 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 a liberated consciousness. Hipsters, believing only in irony, exist in an ocean of random 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. Indeed, they could be called anti-Hegelian but even being against an ideology is to retroactively endorse the concept of ideology itself. But, maybe this is the Hegelian end of history: Francis Fukuyama's dream of capitalist democracy's triumph is 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 self-obsessed- all the while, like a moth to a flame, subscribing subconciously to the most insidious kind of groupthink and conforming to the most rigid and insidious social standards. I suspect the only way to eradicate this hipster problem is satiric ridicule. And so, for your enjoyment pleasure...who needs Beijing when you have THE HIPSTER OLYMPICS:

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