Hipsterism, and My Discontents

I love going to an institution that I mostly don’t like.  I’ll back up and say I feel old.  And I wonder if aging, real aging–not ego hickups of specific thresholds, being hitched or conceiving by a certain date, which from my perspective are more adolescent self-esteem ripples–begins when a trend starts, and like some cool undertoe that catches you unawares, and you don’t fully get when it’s ashore.

It’s taken me years to see the hipster for what it–he, she, whatever–is:  a retrograde with an avant-gardist’s mindset.  A guilt-free, hypocritical embodiment, spanning two worlds to better ruin this one.  I could have just as easily called this post “Hip Hipster” or “Religious Religion” because from what I can imbibe, hipsterism in its current form (or perhaps degeneration and decline) is all about redundancy, in both senses.  A needless repetition, and an elimination or sublimation of what it deems as unnecessary, from a vantage of extreme exceptionalism.

Obamaism, to which I unabashedly ascribe yet do not cling to uncritically, could be said either to be a logical extension of it, or the seed into which this perverse outgrowth germinated.  I go to said place, which I will not even name or tag for fear of exclusion, itself a special embodiment of hipsterism.  The leader is beyond reproach, however the structure is an odd time morph/warp, where nothing short of a description of old school characterizes the way it plays out collectively, amidst nothing short of a “hip”, “edgy” rendering with sounds and rhythms that for the place and purpose are utterly anachronistic.

I’ve joked to some of the community members that I come for the band always, and with the floor show it’s hit or miss depending on the time of the month–a sexist swipe at the leader, utterly uncalled for, and yet something I mischievously delight in.  Divorced and set apart from the hyper “we’re-taking-this-so-seriously-we’re-positively-reinventing-it” ambiance, the leader is a true visionary and iconoclast–overused labels but spot on in their case.  In context of the flock though, they can seem shrill if not grating and self-serving.

I wonder if all institutions are like this?  If the Kool Aid doesn’t take, are you forever left halfway in and out of the gates, jostled and trampled by those rushing in or fleeing?  Forever bifurcated in one’s predilections?  And given my extreme precaution about this institution, does all this make me a closet hipster?!  Am I not simply a nebbishy masochist or am I really the thing I so much enjoy loathing?

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Urban Removal Hits Home

This term was a casually ironic for the new yet lackluster housing that replaced the homes of poorer African-American residents in various parts of Washington, DC, with either housing projects or pre-fabish homes to stem “white flight.”  Both were ultimately mediocre if not downright scarring wounds on top of wounds to the urban landscape.

I’ve never been priced out of a neighborhood.  Until now.  I’ve never been one of “those people” who are summarily forced to pick and move.  Except of course my not too distant ancestors, who essentially went through the exact same thing, albeit at the hands of severely racist authorities/occupiers.  I wonder if it’s genetic, if underearning and “serfdom” skips a generation somehow.  In my case, not in the least pushed along by my own mostly life-long financial dependence upon my parents.  It’s highly ironic, as I hope that my mother’s house will soon sell that I can put her into a better, more appropriate assisted-living situation which could likely leave nothing left by the time she’s died.  But after all it’s her money, not mine.

Back in my ‘hood, I should have seen the writing on the wall, with a building next door that’s charging almost three times of what I’m paying?  the dumpy building I live in doesn’t get any less dumpy–except when I complain to the City (about lack of heat).  And they’re forced to rectify it, and concomitantly raised the rent.  And today I find out that the parking hunger games I described a year ago are no longer something I have to suffer through.  Or a solution to an extremely dysfunctional, but nevertheless human neighborhood.

My car is truly my most valuable material asset.  And this being my neighborhood, full of transient, hormonal millenials–mostly male–it’s risky to park an asset on the street.  It gets scratched a lot, and there is basically no free parking to be found, ever.  So I will park it either in a cheaper or as cheap (fat chance) garage, or more likely in the “permit parking” zone which actually is nowhere near where I live physically.

Meanwhile, my most recent affordable housing application was turned down–I’m too wealthy for them.  And in the midst of all this I’m wondering where or what the “American Dream” is or ever was.  Because my version, or fall-back anyway, was always about inheriting what my parents left behind.   Which is about as cutting-edge or forward leaning as the Middle Ages, the ones where good health care involved a lot of leeches as remedies.  Wealth, or social advancement, through inheritance.

Was it, and is it still, about simply working?  And earning well?  Because if that what it is, the image of Lucille Ball or Fred Flintstone–either one two-dimensional–surges up in my mind, as if I–as them, pick one or both–is on some insane treadmill whose speed erratically changes without warning.  And I must work ever harder and more furiously simply to keep up or simply stay on the track.  Merely surviving is a full-time job, never mind whatever work I might get for whatever wage or rate.

Warning: Creativity (or Slacking Off?) at Work

The idea of a truly egalitarian, layerless workplace seems neither a fairy tale nor a panacea for all that bedevils it.  Rather, in practice it seems ambiguous at best.

A “communal” environment that’s project-driven, propelled by how well it feeds the individual and collective needs of its team members, is at the heart of most creative endeavors.  With one or two in-house sounding boards occasionally playing the legal adult in the corporate family structure, notions of equality and diversity though are at the mercy of groupthink and group feelings.

As a late middle-aged white man, and a bullying survivor, superficially this notion terrifies me.  Especially the simultaneously anti-merit and anti-qualification bent of at least one cited example of hiring.  “Speed dating as interviewing,” favoring nursery school/kindergarten polish, strikes me as incredibly superficial.  But sometimes great things can come from the seemingly inconsequential.

From my first immersion into the workforce during my late 20s, my social skill set at that time was lacking that specific acumen.  Rather, the culturally-induced (and parentally validated) desire to accrue further credentials, and heap accolades and “grades” on to (mask) core inner self-esteem and under self-valuation problems, was juxtaposed by an over-compensatory zeal to oversell myself.

Given all that, trying to re-engage myself into the full-time work “oceanscape” actually feels akin to trying to board a speeding train.  My chief concern about a “bossless” office is what if anything it could do to brighten and/or broaden employment prospects of the long-term un- and/or under-employed.  But for those already/continuously working full- (and in this age mostly over-) time in one office, one company, for a prolonged period, maintaining a good nursery/kindergarten equilibrium while sating/worshiping a pseudo parental figure embedded in a long obsolescent power structure, must seem insane.

So why not cut loose, and put the boss(es) in their place, downsize their role in favor of elevating that of employees?  Given this past week’s double-barreled SCOTUS corporate deification, even the best intentions at work could turn responsible citizen individuals into a faceless mass entity embedded in individual trojan horses that could genuinely run roughshod over most of the rights and values we social value.

When Less Really is More

This article from several months ago essentially advocates, in terms of how the U.S. government measures it, for more unemployment.  Its key points concern the “new normal” of long-term unemployment:  is it now hard-wired into the “new economy,” or more transient and amorphous for the better (or worse)?

There isn’t just a hint of Darwinism here, as well as resonances of personal and social prejudices (Work is Hell was an early Matt Groening cartoon from local alt newspapers in the ’80s–newsprint, what a quaint thought).  Bullying and ageism are just iceberg tips of possibly rampant unchecked discrimination masquerading as selectivity.

The two causes offered (political vs. economic) both point to amorphous ills that dis-empower and inhibit the long-term unemployed from taking action and a stand for their own.  (Unless of course they want to go into politics or economics.)  At the same time, I wonder how much these sentiments and other rabble rousing might evoke or stoke a sense of “entitlement” regarding full-time work.

On the surface, that seems anathema to a healthy, capitalistic economy.  And yet, in the looking glass-like world of socio-economics, a “right-to-work” in its most literal definition, for which collective bargaining and unions have essentially paved the way, is now something inhibiting the latter.  But somehow as unions struggle, weakened by corrupt politicians, justice might be yet finding a way.

Turns out that the Affordable Care Act, though some claim it has negative hidden surprises, has some which are immediate, obvious and welcome.  Instead of being bound to a specific position, where employers (i.e., corporations) hold not only all the cards but can and do exert a suprahuman impact on the fate of individuals, employees now can simply look at work as duties performed for wages earned.  And not some unspoken contract of dependence, reward and approbation, that hinges entirely upon the whims and self-interest of a non-human, legal entity.

While some will never stop poo-pooing this, ultimately, only a government can can do anything about these problems on a global level, throughout the economy and the country.

Classist Porn, or How I Love to Loath “Downton Abbey”

Besides being terrific elixirs, good writing and great acting can spellbind nations.  This classist pap, which I’ve found as “addictive“/”must-see” as any other bo-ho, hipster, would-be or otherwise, vexes me with each new season despite my better judgement.  Here’s a few reasons why, in no particular order:

Happiness:  Everyone’s yearnings are so tight and narrow, from its opening moments.  As if strategically milking every desire for all its worth.  Was everyone miserable before (pick your point in time)?  How satisfying or satisfied can one be in a “class,” in a “position”?  Put differently, how salable and sexy must the creators make servitude?  How sad, mundane, and rigid must the 1% ruling class be made out to be?

Money:  Everyone in this show talks about and traffics in it, destroying any illusion that that’s what they’re really discussing.

Achievement:  Yearnings are swatted up, down and sideways, but ultimately cold hard cash wins out.  (Monied) broken hearts find reward through work, and (impoverished) lovers find redemption

Equality:  An olde time “liberal,” supportive of the rights of “Others,” whoever they might be, Lord Grantham, “the Man” in every respect, is so familiarly likeable.  Except of course when it impinges on his self-interest.  Making it seem “cute”, or endearing.  Those fighting for it, anyone remotely “radical,” permanently disappears or returns chastened in some way.

Posthumously noted:  for better or worse, I neglected to mention The Waltons.  A place to turn–without special cable!–for solace in the midst of very choppy economic and political currents.  For that reason alone, I won’t stop craving new Downton episodes anytime soon, of course until something better comes along.

(The New) Slavery (The Old) American Style

Perhaps only now with our first African-American president are we culturally delving in deep to slavery’s legacy, roots and hell.  Reading though about the persistent opt-out fringe, with its connection to those less enlightened times, made me wonder about that half of our union that’s refusing Medicaid’s expansion to help the poorest among us.

The Supreme’s seal of approval is already a tipped hand.  Despite the imprimatur from on high, is there something enslaving about a local government that denies its citizens rights and privledges that neighboring ones provide?  Same-sex marriage is one thing, with an implicit fluidity, and opportunity for happiness elsewhere.  But what about poor citizens, who have few or no opportunites, and would face immediate and significant barriers in those “havens” to prove their citizenship.  Not unlike Nevada dumping its mentally ill in our state, is that roster, roll call of 26 Scrooge stingebags shunning the neediest among themselves that they can cleanse their electorate of unnecessary elements and constiuencies?

Are not those states in some ways perpetuating a kind of slavery, democracy with no true respresentation whatsoever?  If their tax and government averse “neighbors”–now there’s a stretch–among them have the outsized right to essentially atomize both the rule of law and most of if not all of the structure of government, then how is it, with their magical thinking concept of governance and government, that they have any greater rights than their poor neighbors to descent, sane and sustainable health care?  And how much different are those anarchistic magical thinkers than slave-owning white artistocratic men to whom they pay infinite allegiance yet ultimately not a scance of respect to what they actually created?

‘Economic Horror’ Story

This is the very crude translation of a runaway non-fiction best-seller from nearly two decades ago in France, written in the depths of their malaise as the U.S. was recovering from the first Bush recession.

It’s fitting to recall because, as I vividly remember, having recently lived there then, France was transfixed in its own cycle of self-perpetuated misery and shock on how far it had fallen, with no clear way out.  I was in part reminded of that time and that fact also because of over the weekend the French newspaper Le Monde barely made mention of our governmental gridlock, and even today the story has vanished from any noticable mention.

In sum, at least from one signficant foreign vantage point, the U.S. has already slipped down the rung as a small player, the latest Greece, Spain or other European casualty, except in the other direction.  Here, though, the extent of the psychological warfare is particularly intense.  It’s not too far-fetched to wonder how much crazier it is for someone to willingly throw everyone and everything into chaos (which at least scans, or has a certain logic up to a certain point: restoring this country to the lawless, racist, anti-foreigner/immigrant, homophobic, male-privledged, misogynist bastion of entitlement, conquest and rape–human and environmental–that Tea Party enthusiasts so ardently pine for), than it is for someone supposed more rational, esteemed and just plain correct to dare them to do so essentially.

Beginnings of centuries however are odd barometers, and we are (as a counting species) in just that place.  His-story (history) is a a funny thing.  Like some giant airplane in the sky that interrupts your cellphone call or a moment in your day, it not only asserts itself but basically alters your entire day.  The Tea Party if nothing else has succeeded spectacularly on that level, in terrorizing everyone who’s a non-believer in its cause that it has power and a right to exist.

The real question is (if they succeed in bringing down the entire grid, which seems entirely possible at this writing, as in 1929-redux in very short order) just how much the rest of us, who so ardently yearned for Change” from Obama, might be willing not only to take to social media, but the streets, and even possibly shed blood and give our lives to not just restoring order, sanity and our economic comfort zones, but a new moral and metaphysical order to a country that is so culturally stained, soiled and rotten in what and who it really glorifies.