nothing left, says he

The first thing I happened to read this morning was this article from Adbusters, by Douglas Haddow. He goes,

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

Some of the message here is a little over the top. Other subcultures and youth obsessions have existed before the hipster that have been criticized equally for the self-referential and eerily duplicate nature of its members. Come to think of it, probably all of them at some juncture. Disco comes readily to mind, which was conceivably regarded as even more vapid and soulless as this article’s author regards hipster; and any participant of a party-scene that thinks they did it first should read Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. The further disdain for that which appears hopelessly derivative is itself recycled, as the whine of “nothing is original anymore” tends to crop up whenever there’s a period of reflection in a decadent society, and a true innovator has yet to surface for everyone else to emulate into the future.hipster

It could be argued that North America has adopted other urban vogues in the spirit of consumerism before: movements that had their roots in foreign issues, appropriated without a real stake in what they were about (punk and rave are good examples); but the feeling they represented traveled with them, and persisted as boys and girls pulled themselves into their various emblematic costumes. Mantras like “fuck the system” or “peace, love, unity, respect” found inauthentic homes, but still unified, through attitude, youth from one side of the pond to the other. What is now called hipster has its roots in a deep and abiding sense of irony that was home grown but is also global, so at least it has that going for it. That the majority of its membership would now be unable to even define the word “irony” wouldn’t set them apart from the rank and file of those sporting a mohawk or waving a glow stick back in the day, with no concept of who Thatcher was, or what the class-system actually meant.

“Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?”

These individuals come along to sport a trend late in any subculture’s life, and are generally the sign of its imminent end. (And, to be honest, I do have to admit that those skinny jeans look retarded. The sooner they disappear the better.)

If youth-driven countercultures don’t exist to purport revolution, then they do to express confusion and reject what its members rightly see as the massive hypocrisy of the generations before them. This can take many bents, but at our point in history, locked into an endless cycle of consumerism, awash with global information obsessed with chronicling its own failures, perhaps a hipster grounded in apathetic narcissism is appropriate for the age: while everyone fecklessly wonders what the hell they could do to affect some kind of difference in a mean society that just seems to absorb good intentions, why not do some blow and shrug at music while someone takes your grimy picture? Does it have less point than anything else?


~ by A Mundi on March 4, 2009.

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