Friday, August 01, 2008

A Post-modern Hipster Defends Himself

I came across yet another article attempting to label the latest generation of kids who are discovering themselves and their culture in the context of the global cultural tsunami.

Written by Douglas Haddow and entitled Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization, the author does what cultural critics always do.
Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

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.


What is more interesting is this response from someone named Sam that calls the author on the perspective of the article. It is interesting because of the constant criticism aimed at young people being able to read, think critically, and write literate responses to written material. Here's Sam's commentary:
Ok. I'm a little angry about this article, but I'm not going to start flaming all over the place just because I can. I have a couple of problems with this article that I'm going to present here. Because I can, and because I believe in being constructive.

First of all, I am repulsed by the fact that in a way, the author does exactly one of the things he attacks about hipsterdom... all throughout the article, there is this barrage of pointing out what is wrong with hipsters and their "culture," and does so from the perspective of being "outside looking in." He says, "I'm not a hipster" by doing so. But then, the last two paragraphs, he starts using "we" all the time. And it's the last two paragraphs that are written more poetically, more elegantly, finding beauty in tragedy. If you're not going to include yourself in the bad stuff, you don't get to be a part of the beautiful part of your article.

Second, this focuses on the incredibly superficial aspects of hipsterdom that have ad infinitum and ad nauseum plagued popular culture in Western Civilization. Yeah, these kids (I'll actually say "us kids," because I think anyone who saw me on the street would lump me in) are superficial, obsessed with looking cool and blah blah blah. Maybe it's me, but that seems to be a defining description of every teen and twenty-something that has come before me. Let's face it. Hipster "culture" has become big enough to be considered mainstream. So now it just has to suffer from the vacuousness that comes from that.

And you know something? Hipster culture is not remotely as ineffectual as it is being made out to be here. Lots of them ride fixed-gears, it's true. Even more ride SOME kind of bike. But, the last time I checked, we have a huge environmental crisis that was caused by... what was it? Oh. Driving cars. And these kids aren't driving cars. They're not riding buses, or subways. They're getting around with their bodies, which produce no environmentally detrimental waste. What's another good thing hipsters have done for the world? Well, it seems to me that a good deal of them are vegetarians. Many are even vegans. I don't feel the need to point out why those are good things.

And it is disgusting to insist that hipsters are creating nothing new. They make clothes, they start collectives, they make media, and their eclectic taste in music has led to the musical mash-up genre.

A lot of these points have already been made by others posting here, so I'm sorry for being repetitive. But hey, it's a comments section, right?

And also, I know I started referring to hipsters as "they" instead of "we" and "us." It just sort of happened that way. I resign myself to the criticism that is due, I suppose.

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