Another day, another vapid attack on hipsters.
… I say: “Really, it’s OK. After all, it’s my generation that’s to blame for this bullshit culture.” And we are, aren’t we, us fiftysomethings? We’re the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditisation of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action by the flying columns of capitalism’s blitzkrieg; we’re the twats who sat there saying that there was no distinction between high and popular culture, and that adverts should be considered as an art form; we’re the idiots who scrumped the golden apples from the Tree of Jobs until our bellies swelled and we jetted slurry from our dickhead arseholes – slurry we claimed was “cultural criticism”.
Will Self’s lament is that of a person who arrived late at the party and missed all the good hors d’oeuvres. As a representative exemplar of the choir of hipster discontents, his cultural criticism is primarily a gloss of his own projections and resentments, the source of which is unknown.
The conventional (i.e., trendy) criticism of hipsters largely plucks its spoiled fruit from the tree of traditionalist values. The charge of conformism leveled by people who are themselves conformist smacks of bad faith and a massive performative contradiction. The ideology of the traditional esthete (i.e., Mr Self) holds that profitability is a disqualification for the work of art. When he charges hipsters with “commoditisation of the counterculture” he only evinces woeful ignorance of the historical counterculture, which long ago engaged the capitalist marketplace with its own values, drawn from the humanist catalogue.
I’ve never heard a person say “I’m a hipster.” The denigrating application of the term to individuals who are not really self-identified as such is all projection, envy, and bollocks.
There’s really no reason to hate hipsters; those who do are likely projecting hatred for themselves outward onto a convenient object. This self-hatred is based, no doubt, on some unconscious envy of the enjoyment of hipsters: their aesthetic revaluation of the everyday; their ironic repositioning of cherished certainties. It is very unsettling for cultural gatekeepers to find a bohemian ethos flourishing in connection with material abundance, without manufactured apology, artificial angst, or compulsive guilt.