Hipsters: Our Cultural Borg
TYPICALLY, I am vexed by discussions of hipsterism. The adjective and its objects, by “definition,” eschew labels and generally avoid generality (oh dear). As I stood in the shower this afternoon, however, I made a huge discovery. I have the power to banish hipsterism to the realm of nonentity for which it so desperately longs. I write to share this power with you.
Several thinking people have remarked that, once a cultural phenomenon can be abstracted and criticised, it is no longer, properly speaking, a part of our culture. In this way, true culture is like the present – as soon as it can be discussed, it has become a part of the past. Culture at the zenith of its power remains unspoken, it is that which informs ongoing discussions of culture by affecting our mode of understanding. It proceeds from what Richard Weaver calls our “metaphysical dream” – our collection of prejudices by which we pass judgment upon our experience. In this way, as soon as we begin to “break down” some article of culture to discuss it, we must admit that the article is really an artifact, a relic of culture. The culture represented therein may have dominated five centuries ago or five minutes ago, but it was some time ago nonetheless.
If you are a Star Trek fan, you probably don’t need any more explanation to have fully comprehended my point. However, for the reader of my blog that isn’t a nerd (I pray you’re out there, somewhere), I’ll spell it out, albeit in the grossest of simplifications. The Borg is a cyborg “species” in Star Trek that has a number of characteristics. One is relevant here. After being hit with a phasor, it develops resistance to the frequency of that phasor. For obvious reasons, conventional combat tactics (read: cultural criticism) are unable to destroy (read: destroy) the Borg.
Starfleet reaches a clever solution – it creates a weapon which unpredictably alters its frequency. So, after each blast, the Borg becomes calibrated to defend against the weapon, but the next blast is generated with a new frequency so it passes the Borg’s defenses. Thus, while the Borg is always one step ahead of the mainstream weapon, so to speak, it can actually be subdued with this one.
Hipsterism works this way. As soon as something is labeled by the mainstream as “hipster,” it disappears from the definition, and the little bugger recalibrates to defy future definition. However, having shot enough hipsters with phasors of the same frequency, Spenafleet has identified the essential element of the cultural phenomenon. And, since the ability to abstract the essential feature of a cultural phenomenon signals its transition into cultural history, hipsterism is, like, so totally over.