Sunday, September 28, 2008

In Defense of Hipsters

The following is my rebutal to the following article form ADBUSTERS:

In Defense of Hipsters
Joel Straley

Adbusters contributer Douglas Haddow exposes Hipsterdom"as 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. "
He goes on in the article "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization" to claim that Hipsters are simply youthful consumers who suggest that what they consume is cool and thus are apart of a never-ending circle of consuming what they are told is cool - and calling 'cool' whatever it is they are consuming. Vintage clothing and the adoption of products normally associated with the 'working class' is not a new counterculture attribute associated specifically with 'hipsters'. In fact it is well noted to have existed as early as the beat generation and so on. Hippies adopted many elements of style that were associated with poverty, i.e. Salvation army t-shirts, and an appreciation for found items that teeter on the brink of being campy and kitch.

To say that Hipsters are not doing anything challenging is completely missing the point. Truly many experimental artist are pushing against mainstream culture as hard as any counterculture has before them. In specifically the current noise movement in music is represented by a true-er brand of hipsters, in the similar way that the 'freaks' (Zappa, Beefheart, etc.) existed against the
'hippie's' during the '60's. (For more of an analysis of this I suggest Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention's "We're Only In It For The Money", with its ironic (GASP!) title the album expresses anger towards the sycophants that adopted the hippie culture, while focusing on the ever present divide between the generations that separate teenagers, who are almost always at the epicenter of counterculture, from the generation of their parents.

To suggest, as the article does, that the keffiyeh is worn only as a fashion statement and has no bearing to his meaning as it is worn by left-wing jews to show a support for Palestine shows a complete lack of knowledge of the articles subjects. I won't disagree that the Keffiyeh has been adopted as a fashion statement but to think that these hipsters at heart aren't left-wing (and mostly New York City Jews) and in support of Palestine is ignorant. Like all artsy subcultures they are a left-wing crowd who hold radical left wing view points. Earlier this very day at the Mccarren park pool party performance of Aesop Rock, I witnessed a kid wearing a shirt that featured an image of a keffiyeh wrapped around his neck. I applauded the shirt for its humorously ironic commentary on the conservative outrage of it as a fashion symbol, i.e. the Rachel Ray-Dunki' Donuts ad. If you don't find that amusing then you should admit you are out of whatever youthful loop it is we are discussing here.

After 9/11 a conversation arose as if this event, with its such serious implications, would cause an end to irony. Apathy and Irony reign supreme in hipsterdom because it is the only reaction intellectual art kids have in current society. It is the reflection of the apathy that exists across mainstream America- in small towns divided by religion with residents too scared to face the issue, in the workers of the factories too scared too speak up as they watch themselves and co-workers get laid off as their jobs are moved to far off countries, in the american public as they continue to watch gas prices raise, the continuing of an endless war and the crimes committed by a congress and presidential administration that hardly holds an adequate percentage of supports from them.
The Hipsters came of age in a world that finally received the fascist government and endless war that had been preached and fear-mongered since 1984 and all through the cold war. They witness a rise in technology that would force society to re-think social behavior and communication as well as affecting how information is perceived and its increase in over-availability.
This makes one of the ending lines of the article even more appalling. "I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise." This line is the epitome of what this article represents: Someone on the outside of 'cool' trying to analyze what 'cool' is. Not saying what 'cool' is, is how cool works. This article makes Douglas Haddow seem much less like a social and commercial culture critic and more like an old man saying 'these kids today....'. Of course hipsters don't admit to being hipsters, just as Abbie Hoffman and John Lennon wouldn't to being hippies, Ginsberg and Kerouc weren't admit to being beatnics and Johnny Rotten won't admit to being punk. This poor analyziation reaches its thesis by observing elements that have existed in all modern counterculture movements.

Perhaps what Haddow is noticing is not an end to Western Civilization and rather more the first major post-modern counterculture with its ironic view of current culture mixed with a longing nostalgia. This is evident in virtually all aspects of society, not just hipsterdom. Like "The Colbert Report" uses irony to make more obvious the current policitical hippocracies, Hipsterdom has adopted irony as a real sense of expression towards a culture that feeds them more and more celebrities who are famously "famous, for being famous". To me Hipsterdom is the perfect counterculture to a world that is obsessed around an endless "war on terror", watching its teen idols spiral out in self destruction and a new existence where over abundance of information and culture is hardly even phasing.

Back to that quote by Mr. Haddow that if only the hipsters were carrying rocks instead of Polaroid cameras they'd look like revolutionaries. Yes, if they were carrying rocks they would look like the stereotypical dictionary definition of revolutionaries. Instead the hipsters, like all countercultures, are cultures leading the revolution that is echoed in all of western society- the revolution of apathy and irony. As George W. Bush stands to not be impeached, people watch their gas prices and unemployment rate rising without a fuss, and a new endless war - what else is their to do? The hippies failed in the 60's. The free love movement created AIDS, drug abuse, and didn't stand a chance at getting the U.S. to pull out of Viet Nam or even end the draft. The Civil Rights movement is only the respectable change that occurred, particularly from a youthful counterculture , but where was the rising of disenfranchised african-americans after Katrina? Where is the rise of the unemployed fighting against the corporations that disenfranchised them? Where is the rise of the Mexican-Americans fighting to end the immigration debate? Where are all members of the country that should be rising up against the destruction of their environment and the death of their planet?

In a world based around fear and endless doom, a culture paying for its crime of a history full of quick-fixes, hipsterdom is adopting the best weapon it has- its sense of irony. So Haddow, chill the fuck out- culture's gotta end some time. If someone wants a revolution maybe you shouldn't be like everyone else and wait for someone else to do it. Adbusters sure does bring up 'revolution' a lot for a magazine that is ultimately just preaching to the choir........for 8.95 an issue.

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