I attended a small liberal arts college that had a strong hippy bent. I would often encounter freshman or sophomore guys at parties who wanted to tell me all about the ‘revolution’ that they were were a part of or planning. It seemed that they read the first half of the communist manifesto, attached it to some kind of organic farming bent, and then watched the film “Zeitgeist.” Not long after they discovering “Zeitgeist” they could be found running around at parties trying to change the world, blindly threatening violence against the “status quo” with protests and false threats of violence against corporations and religion. After running into a few of these guys I started calling them “college revolutionaries.” Having read a substantial bit of Marx, Gramsci, and so on, I often argued that it was time to hit the books instead of the riot gear. Unsurprisingly, they often tried to fight me physically instead of verbally.
This anger isn’t restricted to liberal college students who read half of a blood stained Marx essay, it can be seen all over the United States since the so-called ‘economic collapse’ of 2008. The quarter life crisis has become the norm, and millions of college students graduate every year to dead-end jobs and little hope of long term success. This has sparked nihilistic twenty-something cultures of coffee fueled inquiries into novelty and an embodied sense of postmodern murkiness. Digital hipsterati have proclaimed themselves liberated of the status quo and free to pen the neo-manifesto’s of the cybernetic age without concern for whose work they bastardizing or the rhetorical traps in which they are ensnared. I will term these self aggrandizing rebranded self-help digital hipsters ‘dipsters’ throughout this essay.
Misunderstanding paradigms and texts are the norm, as dipsters are not concerned with understanding the texts they are building on, or citing them. Dipsters are only interested in creating writing that merely has the appearance of intelligence and depth. Dipsters are often found constantly masturbating to inspirational TED Talks, content to be inspired by the future but not actively involved in its creation. Dipsters are potent generalists, often directing this energy at the creation of short flamboyant PDF documents they call “ebooks.” The intellectual task of reviewing literature, understanding the texts, and then synthesizing them into new ideas is lost on them, the only task that matters is putting their own unique paradigm out there for other dipsters to read in implied great acclaim. Digital hipsterism is purely anti-intellectual. Depth of research and well reasoned arguments are not valued, but merely the appearance of depth is regarded as the ideal. Criticism is dismissed by way of suggesting that the criticizer is ‘just being negative,’ that they should go and do something else ‘useful’ by creating a movement of their own, or that they simply aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the new paradigm being created.
A perfect example of a digital hipsterati manifesto is “How To Be ExPoMod” by Drew Jacob. Jacob argues that there have been “changes in technology, art, the economy, and what people want in life” that are enough to “establish a new zeitgiest” and “a new paradigm.” In order to rhetorically establish this new paradigm, Jacob has taken it upon himself to single handedly declare postmodernism dead. In a completely fallacious appeal to popularity Jacob begins his post: “It’s an open secret that postmodernism is dead. Most people say “dying,” out of respect for the old king. But the position is vacant.” Funny, nobody informed the critical theorists of this so called “open secret.”
Jacob calls his new paradigm “expostmodernism”, and suggests that it is descendant from the enlightenment, modernism, and finally postmodernism. Like many freshman English and Philosophy students, Jacob has taken it upon himself to once and for all create a response to the postmodern problem without reading nearly enough of the bounty of available literature. I must admit, I myself have skated across this cliche in my early studies of rhetoric and poststructural theory, but I was fortunate to be steered by a wise advisor to foundational poststructural texts from minds such as Lyotard, Baudrillard, Foucault, and Derrida, and I had the foresight to settle down my academic horses realizing that I was being fucking stupid.
Jacob describes postmodernism as set a attitudes: relativism, cynicism, and alienation. Missing the massive elephant in the room, he passes over the vast philosophical insights of poststructuralism, and blindly assumes that postmoderinity’s reign is dictated by it’s influence on the attitudes feelings of the people at large. The fact that he believes that the validity of postmodernism pivots around the attitudes of the people is the primary problems of his analysis. He argues that the main shift centers around what youth chose to do: “In popular narrative this led to an iconic lifestyle arc: the youth who is rebellious and individualistic, but eventually settles down, gets a job, and does what society expects.
“The new narrative is a radically different arc: the individual who was settled, had a job, and realizes they can leave it behind to follow their passion—successfully.” In most pathetic form, Jacob presents the successor to postmodernism as lifestyle design. He supports this by suggesting that people are now able to receive “satisfaction” in more ways than ever because of increased availability of choices and that this increased “satisfaction” is the replacement for postmodern alienation.
Laypeople mistakenly think that postmodernism requires an additional post at it’s bow because of their fundamental misunderstanding of what poststructuralism is, and how subjectivity functions. Poststructuralism suggests that is there is no Truth with a capital T, in the sense that there is no way to accurately ascertain what it is, and even which it is. Foucault often wrote about access to truth as if it were layers of an infinite onion. The sophomoric mistake is to take subjective truth as a detriment, as alienation, or a problem. Jacob has done exactly this.
The deliciously ironic twist in Jabob’s essay is that without realizing it, he has written a postmodern critique of modernism. His “proof” for “expostmodernism” all center around decentralized power, the ability of the individual to choose what’s best for them, and the notion that the artist is the true “cutting edge” of society. These themes are decidedly postmodern, and in the end his “expostmodernism” means exactly nothing. Furthermore, Jacob’s underlying thesis is that lifestyle design is the way of the future, however lifestyle design itself is the same old capitalistic story of an individual picking themselves up by their boostraps and living their way in the world, and shaping it in their own image. Thus Jacob’s essay awkwardly walks the divide between the subjectivity of postmodernity and the patriarchal individualism of modernity under the guise of being new and progressive. Ultimately suggesting that lifestyle design is the response to postmodernism is a pathetically uninformed thesis that even a freshman English student should be embarrassed of.
Jacob’s essay fits very neatly in to the dipster ethos by presenting a seemingly inspired piece that in fact has no depth or inertia whatsoever. The dipster anti-intellectual elite is a growing cancerous mass in the online sphere. They call themselves lifestyle designers, revolutionaries, non-conformists, unconventionals, connectors, and world dominators. Their obsessive writings about pointless self-help drivel and pick yourself by your bootstraps capitalism claims to be a new digital revolution of freedom for the world’s working class, but the reality is they are only supporting and strengthening the capitalistic and social status quo by means of very public masturbation.
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