Mostly, overwhelmingly White, and affluent – affluent enough to afford the paraphernalia of his costume (and mostly male) The Contemporary Hipster emerges in the vapor trail of the destruction and collapse of fin de siecle Imperial Post-Industrial America.
He is a fetish piece for himself and uses the mentality of imposing the fetish upon those he colonizes. What is gentrification – the transformation of ethnic cleansing into a benign sounding economic restructuring as Ethnic Cleansing was an Orwellian transformation of genocide into something that sounds less like the sadistic industrial-scale slaughter of humans and more like a mistranslation of a commercial slogan for detergents.
He is motivated by and consumed with guilt. He has made money or inherited it or both and he longs, is in fact desperate, to belong to a gang, a club, a fraternity that is consumed with a fantasy – the dream, the corrupt illusion of a late 19th century arcadia devoid of mass production, mass consumption, mass surveillance, mass obedience, institutionalized racism and thus filled with an innocence that exists because it has been stripped of its reality and injected instead with the filler of pretense – artisanal in place of assembly lines, small batch instead of mass produced and thus free of any taint – the stench of immoral i/slave-labor at Foxconn. He may use an iphone but he makes overpriced small batch bourbon and thus, he insists, is pure. He grows organic weed with Canadian water shipped from a collapsing glacier and thus he is righteous.
He is fragile. His peacock displays of masculine tropes covers his little-boy fear. Instead of a sportscar and a trophy wife and a prescription for viagra, he grows an extravagant beard. He wears plaid. And yet he is terrified of what he knows to be true. He knows the environment is in free-fall and its collapse will lead to his death. He knows that his tools and his toys are manufactured by slaves. He knows that he is the beneficiary of an unjust, corrupt neo-fascist wage-slave economic gulag and he knows above all else that he is a coward. But what he will say instead is that he is a post-modern cowboy; a gunslinger wielding technology instead of iron. Thus, he will tell you, he is noble.
Just ask him. Or his friends.
His costume is a drone’s uniform masquerading as the flash of a working man who takes care of business. He will tell you he lives in the rush of October in the Railroad Earth and goes where the working class go because he is, he insists, unafraid of the Hood. He is not to be found wearing a suit or a tie and his office is a renovated warehouse where the brick and the wood are on display because they demonstrate his connection to and celebration of the rustic – the unique – even as the ghosts of the pre-union slave-laborers weep from between the cracks . His experiences are, he insists, authentic. He alternates between drinking exhorbitantly priced hand-crafted cocktails, and working class piss-water beers because, he is, authentic and he is aligned with the tastes of the working class, – as a drug dealer is aligned with the habits of a junkie.
He is democratic and not a bigot or a misogynist – he is Whitmanesque, if Whitman had worked for a global branding conglomerate and had invested his fortune in a start-up that handled advertising accounts for Sanders, and Clinton and a hedge fund that in turn handled portfolios for mass murdering despots.
His morality is small batch. He sports a 19th century artisanal beard because he can afford it and because it suggests a masculinity that is his birthright and because he does not adhere to proforma dictates of normative codes – he is, the beard says, wild yet urban, untamed yet successful and navigates the fast lane of Kapital. His beard is phallic and at the same time vaginal because the truth is his sense of his identity is broken and impotent. Thus, he must overcompensate.
He hates the fraudulent and the shallow propaganda of the corporate dictatorship up to the point where he is required to take action against it or not use anything manufactured by Apple.
He can be found in dimly lit, overpriced, bars that pretend to be speakeasies because it hints at the illicit with none of the risk and he will insist that The Wire is the greatest show in the history of television while discussing his investment in his frat brother’s weed farm.
He will name drop bands and novels that are obscure because he is consumed with the fear that what he knows is common and common knowledge and thus, tainted. He will speak of authors and musicians and travel destinations that he prays you have never heard of in the faint hope that he will be able to persuade you and himself, that he is unique.
He lives in what amounts to a gated community while insisting he is a social justice warrior.
His spiritual ancestor is Mailer’s White Negro but only in the sense that the contemporary Hipster has stripped the past of soul in the same way that strip-mining decapitates the top from a mountain. Everything about him is pretense and pose – rebellion as suburban theatre with nothing at risk he appears to risk everything.
He can be found almost everywhere but he speaks mostly of Austin, Brooklyn and Berlin. He will not willingly travel to Paris because, he says, it’s been done and instead he speaks of traveling to some obscure part of South America or Asia or walking the Appalachian Trail. He gets a hard-on for Hunter S. Thompson because he longs to be a lunatic who gets high with gangsters and movie stars, drinks like prohibition is due to return and writes about it and more importantly, gets paid for it.
But because he is a coward he plays it safe and goes to a writing program and hopes for a good blurb in the New York Times and a party where he can pretend to snub someone from The New Yorker. And then, the chance to
gossip blog about it.
He is chasing the faint green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He stretches his arms out but it slips away receding further and further into the misty distance.
He is the essence of exploitation and hypocrisy. He is a follower of the herd. He has gone down river and been swallowed by some infinite shadow.
He wants to believe he will escape the deluge. But the tide rises. The air is foul. The land is sick. The earth beats as a heart and the drum of our time is sounding without let-up, full of the terrible mercy of all true things.