Do we have a countdown on the end of the hipsters yet? I’m not talking about their actual death, just the metaphoric death of their lifestyles. And actually I’m not sure if I even mean “hipster” anymore. I’m talking about Goop, Preserve, and any website that uses the work “curate” and isn’t a museum. Self- actualization through shopping. Morality through organics. Can we just be done with that?
It’s not that choosing organics or avoiding red food dye means you’re a bad person. It’s that it doesn’t mean anything. It might mean that you are fortunate enough to have the time and money to devote to buying only the “purest” items. But buying the best doesn’t mean that you are the best. And developing your personality on what you own, regardless of how high quality it is, means you’re low quality.
I, of course, am not the first person to voice this opinion. Nor have I said it the most eloquently. For me, that title belongs to David Rakoff in his essay “What Is The Sound Of One Hand Shopping?” from Don’t Get Too Comfortable.
It’s nice to have nice things. Creature comfort is not some bourgeois capitalist construct, but framing it as a moral virtue sure is. It’s what the French call Nostalgie de la Boue: a fond yearning for the mud. Two things have to be in place to really appreciate this particular brand of gluttony posing as asceticism. First, you have to have endured years and years of plenty, the mud a long-distant memory. One must have decades of such surfeit under your belt that you have been fortunate enough to grow sick of it all. (Using this economic model, Russians thirty years hence might pose less of a threat to the imperiled world supply of Versace and sequins.) And second- and this is what really separates the men from the boys- in order to maintain a life free of clutter and suitable for a sacred space, you’ll need another room to hide your shit.
Damnit, I miss you, David.
And he’s completely right. It’s both the snobbery and the hypocrisy. Buying a McMansion and a Porsche are ways we used to show off how much wealth we have. Now we do it by having “simple” “clean” lifestyles. Which only requires a maid, a private chef, a personal assistant and probably a personal trainer. It’s the best way to show how little you care about material objects by spending the GDP of small nations on only the very best objects.
But I really think the movement’s dying. The better traits (wasting less, being aware of the environmental impact of our purchases, making products that don’t cause cancer) are being incorporated into the masses’ philosophy on consuming. And nothing makes rich people flee an idea faster than the masses. Rakoff’s essay might signal the pinnacle of the “back to basics” movements, and we’re now watching it slowly die. Afterall, that book only came out in … 2005. Fuck.
Well, if Rakoff can’t convince people that this is bullshit, maybe Colbert can.