We are all a series of contradictions. We claim we all have these really unique and distinct identities, yet we all wear jeans that are likely within a few shades of each other. We claim we are contributing members of society—productive, and eager to learn—yet we spend countless class periods and library sessions scrolling through Facebook albums. We say don’t like to fit in into the norm, but the vast majority of us are afraid to venture too far outside it.
One morning last week, I came across an article from a college that listed the top 10 most “hipster” campuses in the country. It just so happened that my school, Georgetown University, rounded out the list at number ten. Initially, I was a little confused. How could a school that was recently accused of being part of the 1% also be one of the nation’s most bohemian? How can a school where the majority of students come from private or boarding schools, a school whose business students earn the second highest starting salaries in the nation, be considered anti-establishment? The article said that this year it seems like more students are adding “hipster” to their resumes, especially at Georgetown. Resumes? Isn’t that just about as anti-hipster as you could get?
But then, it all made sense. Well, not really, because that would mean that the world’s problems were solved and we could all go home and call it a day. What I meant to say, was that it kind of made sense to me.
When I first stumbled upon the article, I was wearing a flat brimmed trucker hat, a plain gray sweatshirt from Urban Outfitters, Sperry Top-Siders, and a sleeveless UCLA Jersey. I was also listening to Brand New, who, for those of you who have never spent a Friday night hanging out in a Starbucks parking lot, encapsulates high school suburbia more than any 80’s movie or Dawson’s Creek Episode ever could. It is also important to mention that I was reading this article while taking a break from researching my thesis on new narratives of social elitism and meritocratic success. Also of importance, I was doing all of this at a place called Baked & Wired, a coffee shop whose clear shortage of seating makes you think that they haven’t realized that they are actually popular. (Don’t be fooled; they know. It’s not cool to be popular. Duh. Well actually, maybe it is.)
So, where am I going with all this? Well, in case you missed it, everything from the clothes that I was wearing, to the music I was listening to, to my thesis topic, when combined, is pretty much a giant contradiction. For one, wearing a jersey, often a sign of fratty bro-ness, does not belong anywhere near a coffee shop. Secondly, writing a thesis on achievement culture and social elitism doesn’t seem likely to coincide with listening to a band whose lyrics treat high school drama like something more important than the Crusades.
Funnily enough though, I think that is the point.
Counterculture is called counterculture because it has to go against something. In other words, if culture is Professor Charles Xavier, counterculture is Magneto. Although counter-culture and culture both want the same thing (self-actualization through ideological expression), the methods behind the madness are often too different to even pretend to be friends. Yet, today, we increasingly see the co-existence of things that shouldn’t like each other, but end up working quite well together. Think green eggs and ham, except we’re not living in a Dr. Seuss Book.
In his 2001 book Bobos in Paradise, New York Times columnist David Brooks spends a great deal of time talking about things that appear to be walking contradictions, such as socially conscious bureaucrats, or business-savvy artists. He discusses how in recent years, values that were typically reserved for the bourgeoisie have fused with the ethos often associated with counterculturist bohemians. While these ideologies may appear to be markedly different, Brooks paints a stunningly lucid picture that depicts a world that is fueled on dichotomy. A world where ideas and individualistic expression fuel business, fitness and self-discipline fuel leisure pursuits, and environmentally conscious ideals fuel methods of material consumption.
At Onesixtyfourth, we’ve talked about how Millennials are fueled by this dichotomy. How we crave spontaneity, yet seek security from structure. How we’re open and public with our own thoughts and feelings, yet are often mistrustful of corporations and politicians who attend to do the same. And how we seek to craft individualistic identities, yet depend on others for validation and cultivation of these identities. All in all, GenYer’s are a cultural mashup. We’re a combination of things that may not have gone together well before, but in a world where convergence seems privy to both mainstream and counterculturist movements, perhaps this collision is inevitable.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that in our own little way, we’re all hipsters. Of course, this is probably the most anti-hipster thing anybody could ever say. But that’s exactly the point. Or the anti-point.