I was asked today to explain to a friend my thoughts on Hipsters.
I try to take the approach often in my life that subcultures, when I am forced to recognize them, are composed of people. Most people, at least in my opinion, leave me wanting more out of them. This said, I try my hardest to take people on a case-by-case basis. Some people surprise you with intellection and creativity you never expected despite looking like people you might, in your biased mind, assume devalue that sort of thing. At least this is the trap I myself often fall into. I’ve gone on to assume that the charmingly attractive goth girl is clearly intelligent and superior in creative prowess to the girl across the independently run coffee shop wearing a pink hoodie with a Duquesne crest emblazoned on the back of it who, really, has no business being there anyway, besmirching this hallowed bohemia with her store-bought sham of a life. This prejudice is, as with all social prejudice, foolish and the result of me being too inured in my ways but I am not too big to admit that it crosses my mind for a minute far more often than I am comfortable realizing.
Now on to the hipster. Everyone I know who has a venomous hatred of this group of people cites their psuedointellectualism, their vapidity and their devotion to pointless irony as solid examples of why they are cultural scum. Places like the following website http://www.latfh.com/ make it really difficult to argue the pointless irony devotional point which, I admit, is a bit irritating when it stops being humorous. Their seeming dedication to humor ends up really upsetting when one realizes that, in the case of those who fit with the stereotype, nothing is really taken very seriously at all. Seriously, look at the website, it’s amusing. I’ll also grant that very few people can truly pull off those gigantic eyeglasses, although I am getting more used to them.
But! Take the two remaining key points of hipster hatred and ask yourself if the vast majority of the hippies in the sixties during the mass migration westward didn’t share them to one degree or another. Granted they were more ballsy by far. If they had rich parents they certainly left their good graces the moment they walked out the door. But at the end of the day they were entitled, self-righteous and lazy like any counter culture is bound to be. The time period in which they existed was what really vivified them. Take the Beatniks for instance. They were, to my mind, much cooler (although hippies get close because of my love of acoustic guitar) and much more intellectually driven but they get a fraction of the renown because of their temporal circumstance. Such was the time and such was the culture. So now that we exist currently we can easily dispatch insults towards cultures of people that have yet to gain any sort of particular renown as a result of the accident of temporal factors.
Moving on to the specifics as they relate to my own life I, in particular, find psuedointellectualism annoying in the way anyone who devotes themselves seriously to anything finds those who half-ass it annoying. But I will grant that psuedointellectualism is much, much better than outright glorification of idiocy seen in a lot of metal-oriented subcultures and, fond of metal though I am, I cannot abide idiocy on that scale. In the interest of a brief aside, I find that metal that goes beyond simple thrash ethics and incorporates folk or classical instruments tends to garner more intelligent and creative fans.
Vapidity can be found just about anywhere you look. Vapidity, I feel, is easiest characterized not by simply being shallow and concerned only with immediate or insubstantial things, but also from being unwilling to look beyond your own norms. It isn’t just relegated to hipsters.
While I admit that there is a grain of truth to the claims that hipster culture glorifies these values I will note that in my life I know a number of hipster-types who are artists, film majors, aspiring scholars, one talented martial artist and several good musicians. It goes to show often that if you look deep enough anyplace you will find quality.
A lot of the people I’ve seen that give hipsters a hard time are punks or anarchist punks. I’ve been to convergence and, to be frank, if you dress the two crowds up as eachother and take a social and monetary aspect out of the equation, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference initially. All the negative qualities are there they simply take a different form. As I said, I went there myself, day in and out, and have known some truly inspiring people who fall into that category of anarchist punks.
It kind of comes down to me being too old to deal with subculture-on-subculture hatred because, really, it’s those who refuse to branch out that are the problem. Stagnation, on any level, is the problem. When one refuses eclecticism on something as basic as culture one becomes a purist. Purism has rarely served humanity well for very long as it stifles ideas.
As for music… I can listen to Mischief Brew and Iron & Wine at the same time as listening to Minus the Bear and Arch Enemy and Abney Park. As with culture, expanded musical palates are often the best kind.
Feel free to comment and disagree as you see fit. I’m looking forward to it.
P.S. For the Facebook iteration of this note I have tagged those I desire to hear from the most on this topic. Please respond and always remember, I have thick skin. Be as brutal in your disagreement, if it arises, as you feel you ought to be but expect my counter argument forthwith.
P.S.S. If this note is duplicated focus on the tagged one if you'd be so kind.