We're the first generation of human to be able to witness first-hand what exactly concentrated mediocrity looks like. One might have thought that human kind was always destined to improve itself cuturally, constantly developing a more erudite and sophisticated man. That may be true, but there are obviously bumbs along the road, and the bumps I find myself driving over nowadays are generally called "hipsters."
Hipsters are a difficult to explain portion of counterculture. In fact, it's hard to say if they actually constitute a counterculture: punks and goths and hippies all used to stand for something (something stupid, albeit something), be it political or social, ideological or insignificant, but hipsters are intellectually vapid and morally irrelevant. Hipsters have ideas, but their essence is hard to qualify, although it should be obvious that it's nothing of sociaetal importance. Now as an amateur anthropologist and sociologist, I first encountered hipsters several years ago when I moved into downtown Atlanta. After decent observation, I think I have conclusively encapsulated hipsters, for those who still are trying to figure these creatures out.
Hipsterism is united by one over arching algorithm which can expressed in the following process:
- Abdication – One starts on the road to being a hipster by abdicating their social struggles. Hipsters are people who stop trying to dress well, stop trying to be genuinely humorous, stop trying to be artistically innovative, stop trying to be financially successful, stop trying to have meaningful relationships and stop trying to contribute to society in non-narcissistic ways. Why do they stop trying to do all of these things? Because they're bad at every single one of them. Now everyone starts out bad at everything, but normal humans better themselves or find a niche and live in it. Hipsters give up; hipsters abdicate and let their faculties atrophy.
- Mediocrity – The would-be hipster then begins to drown in mediocrity. he listens to music without tone or beat, he pretends to like abstract art, he reads post-modern literature and learns to regurgitate the language of their incoherence, he goes to college to get a useless degree in a throw-away interest and he dresses in revolting tacky clothing. These are all the immediate consequences of social abdication and are all part of trying to fit in with others in similar circumstances. Due to the hyper-subjectivist morality required for attendence in polite modern Western society, hipsters will never be called on their terrbile outfits or pseudointellectualism because we all have to pretend that "maybe they just actually enjoy it."
- "Irony" – At the final stage, the hipster achieves self-awareness. He realizes that he has become another replicable paw in a gray and droll game. He has no career prospects, he can't communicate personally with his friends and he has a taste in art, music and fashion that is so intolerable to everyone around him, and deep down, even to himself. So he decides to adopt "irony." "See guys," he says, "I'm just being ironic!" "Hey, that flannel is pretty ironic." "I listen to my friend's shitty lo-fi garage band, just to be ironic lol!" "Hey guys, I got on food stamps last week, haha pretty ironic, huh?" "Irony" becomes the excuse for mediocrity.
One of the most important concepts to the hipster is that of irony, yet this is an "irony" quite different from what the word actually means in normal English. For hipsters, "irony" is a rhetorical tool used to express embarrassing, but also controversial or bourgeois sentiments that are usually heart-felt, but are couched in the cloaks of irony to avoid the ridicule of the hip massess. A hipster might say "ironically" that he likes listening to Lady Gaga or eating at Chili's, and more often than not, that's a statement of his true preferences, but if his friends knew that it would only serve as a potential locus of ridicule. So I hipster changes the intonation of his voice to an ironic one to produce a plausible deniability sufficient to avoid any obvioius faux pas.
Your mother used to tell you "not to make that face or it might get stuck like that." That actually happens with hipster voices. Some of them eternally have the uptalk of irony constantly on their vocal cords and it becomes utterly impossible to tell a serious statement from an ironic one. Of course that's actually the eternal conundrum of the hipster. Every statement is possibly an ironic one, so hipsters can never really get close to others personally since they can't just be honest and forthright.
One of the most common forms of this "irony" is "ironic racism." Hipsters are practically by definition all political progressives, and there is nothing more revolting to a progressive than racism, but jipsters are in a kind of geographic Catch 22. Unlike most progressives, who live comfortably in fortified communities and wealthy neighborhoods away from the unwashed masses, hipsters like to live in urban areas which are often surrounded by housing projects and low-class and poor blacks. Black-on-hipster crime is not uncommon at all and hipsters live side by side and "ironically" take the bus with memebers of urban black culture, which to their own values is uncouth and rancorous (which they would never say of course). Now extressing how they come to feel about their neighbors is obviously impossbile in polite or hipster society, so "irony" is evoked to be able to say otherwise cathartic racist things, get the desired commiseration or laughs, and still remain an upstanding member of society (to the extent a hipster can be one of these).
Thus "irony" serves as a catch-all defense against accusations of tastelessness and of personal tepidness. Still despite the rhetorical importance of "irony" to the hipster, his primary trait is still his mediocrity. Hipster culture, as alluded to before, is culturally analogous to the movements of abstract "art," "indie" music and post-modern cultural mullings, if not part-and-parcel of them all. Painting is not for everyone, nor is music, nor is being an academic. Participating meaningfully in any of these on a grand scale necessitates considerable skill, wit, risk and luck.
So the post-modernist says, "I probably can't make it as a real academic, but if I write some smart-sounding prose, people might take me seriously anyway and I can get my own Wikipedia page!" The abstract painter says, "Hey I can't actually compete with some of these other painters, but if I just throw some paint on a canvas and say it's something profound, someone might take me seriously!" Hipsters are just the same: they abandon all humanity, meaning and content and pretend to be happy with being lukewarm. Well it's not funny, it's not clever and it's not profound, so excuse me for having nothing by condescension for this entire cultural "movement."