A few weeks ago there was a NYT article titled “How to Live Without Irony” that seemed to touch a nerve with a variety of people. It was about hipsters and how to solve the problem that they represent. I did not approve.
I’ve been called a hipster a number of times, usually because I used the word “obscure” to describe one of my hobbies – but I don’t have many of the qualities the article describes. The problem is that everyone means something different when they talk about hipsters. Is the hipster defined by lifestyle? Fashion choices? Personality, or philosophy? The article sought to define it as a dedication to irony and an insincere attitude, but this doesn’t compute for me. No one wakes up one day, puts on a fedora and decides that what is good in life is to be fake and pretentious. Instead, I believe hipster is stereotype that applies to a certain demographic – artistically-minded young adults living in urban settings. If this is the case, I think the article becomes a bit more ridiculous.
Imagine if someone were to write a similar article about rednecks. It might seem an unfair comparison at first, but redneck is another derogatory stereotype used to describe a specific demographic. There are fashion choices, like NASCAR shirts and NRA hats. There is a philosophy and political perspective, most often anti-government in nature, sometimes religiously motivated, but not always. There is a lifestyle that might involve living in rural areas, driving lifted pick-up trucks, and devoting time to gun collection or hunting. These are all generalizations, but it’s not difficult to find groups of people with many of these qualities.
Yet, even as redneck is considered a negative descriptor, we accept it as a reality of how and where people grow up. You would never see an article in the NYT instructing rednecks how to live without a love for shooting wild animals. There are essays on the inherent value of wildlife and articles proposing stronger gun control, but they aren’t telling an entire demographic that the way they live is inferior or fundamentally wrong. If there were such an article, the response would be simple: you don’t get it.
What the author fails to understand is that even if hipsters grossly overuse irony, this doesn’t equate to a lack of sincerity, and it certainly doesn’t mean that an entire generation has lost the ability to be genuine. There’s a name for people who fake their identities: posers. Posers exist in every demographic, and they’re hardly unique to the 21st century. Not to be glib, but the irony of this article is that it tries to identify posers by the way they dress and talk. It’s these very generalizations that have encouraged hipsters to develop their anti-styles and parodies of the rest of society.
The only way to identify the people who are truly fake is by seeking to know them – not by looking at their shoes, glasses, hair, or speech. It is the same with anyone. There are many false politicians, but there are genuine politicians as well, and it is not their words or their dress that divides them. There are fake punks, fake goths, and fake Juggalos, but the phonies do not dictate the merit of a lifestyle. Until we learn to recognize individuals as individuals, posers will continue to flourish throughout all sectors of society.