November 10, 2012

Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 1

who wants Haterade

In the John Waters-esque sector of northwest Baltimore -- equal parts kitschy, sketchy, artsy and weird -- Gerry Mak and Sarah Magida sauntered through a small ethnic market stocked with Japanese eggplant, mint chutney and fresh turmeric. After gathering ingredients for that evening's dinner, they walked to the cash register and awaited their moments of truth.

Those are two "hipsters", and the punchline is that they pay for their foodie porn with foodie stamps, which sounds like it should be a terrible thing, except it's in, which means they're going to try and tell you how it's a good thing, which they don't, because they can't.  It's madness.

It's very easy and satisfying to hate these two, and nothing would make me happier than to hit them square in the back with a jack-o-lantern.  But I also recognize that I am being told to hate them, so I have to take a step back and find out why it is so important that I hate them.  I did.  I should have just reached for the pumpkin.

No one but the state and psychiatry can profit from another's misery, and they are the same thing, so let's see why Election Day doesn't matter.


First, the obvious: what's wrong with hipsters on food stamps is that these are college educated people who should be able to get jobs, not live off the state.   They're not black, after all.  Hell, one of the two in the article is even Asian.  "What, like Russian Asian?"  No, like Asian Asian.  "Whaaaaaaat?"

"It's the economy, stupid!"  Thanks guy from 1992, but the economy did not tell you to go to college for something you knew in advance would make you unemployable, especially when that unemployable choice cost exactly the same as the employable choice, i.e. too much.  Lesson one at the academia should be the importance of separating vocation from avocation, as character actor Fred Thompson and electrical contractor Benjamin Franklin both understood. When I was six I wanted to be in Playboy.  Just because it's your dream, doesn't mean you should pursue it.  

So what makes them hatable is the seeming choice they have made: they could work, yes at jobs they don't like but hey, that's America; but instead they choose to feel entitled to  $200/month from the rest of us salarymen.

However, secondly:

Before we blame them for their choice, we should ask why they felt they could make that choice.  I'm not trying to start trouble, but let's choose something I'm familiar with, i.e. women: why would a smart high school junior, 4.0 and AP Everything, think that going to Hampshire College for English Literature was a good idea?  Why would her parents allow this madness, other than the fact that they were divorcing?  What did she think would happen given that she knew in advance there were no jobs for English majors?  Serious answers, please, I'll offer four I had personal experience with: law school; academia; non-profits; marriage.  Don't roll your eyes at me, young lady: let's say you are the daughter of a lawyer and you major in English.  When you were 17 and you imagined your life at your Dad's age-- not the starving poetess fantasy you wrote about in your spiral notebook, but a glimpse of the bourgeois future you then thought you didn't want-- what kind of a house did you imagine in the "if that happens to me I'll Anne Sexton myself" scenario?  A lawyer's house or an English major's house? In other words, the choice to major in English was predicated on information she received from multiple sources like schools and TV-- sources I will collectively call the Matrix--  that every generation does better than the last, that there was a safety net of sorts, a bailout at the end, that future happiness was inevitable, and so we return to economics: the general name for that safety net is credit.  America was the land of the minimum monthly payment.  And if this analogy isn't clear enough for you, let me reverse it: the ability of the economy to offer English as a major required a massive subsidy to make you feel like $20k/yr was the same as free.  If you had to pay it up front, you'd either be an engineer or $80k richer.  That subsidy is now worthless, not because the money doesn't exist but because the bailout at the end, e.g the four options I suggested were operational 1977-1999 which guaranteed the payments would be made, won't help.

Imagine a large corporate machine mobilized to get you to buy something you don't need at a tremendously inflated cost, complete with advertising, marketing, and branding that says you're not hip if you don't have one, but when you get one you discover it's of poor quality and obsolete in ten months. That's a BA.


When we see a welfare mom we assume she can't find work, but when we see a hipster we become infuriated because we assume he doesn't want to work but could easily do so-- on account of the fact that he can speak well-- that he went to college.  But now suddenly we're all shocked: to the economy, the English grad is just as superfluous as the disenfranchised welfare mom in the hood-- the college education is just as irrelevant as the skin color.  Not irrelevant for now, not irrelevant "until the economy improves"-- irrelevant forever. The economy doesn't care about intelligence, at all, it doesn't care what you know, merely what you can produce for it.  The only thing the English grad is "qualified" for in this economy is the very things s/he is already doing: coffeehouse agitator, Trader Joe's associate, Apple customer.................................................. and spouse of a capitalist.

Of course I'm not happy about this, I like smart people, but that's the new reality.  There was a time where women went to college to get an MRS degree, and I am telling you that that time is today, there is nothing else of value in there.  Sure, some college women go on to become doctors and CEOs, and some go on to become child pornographers and Salon writers, none of those things have anything to do with what happened in college.  If you are going to college to get an education and not to meet guys, you are insane, literally insane, delusional, in reality one is never going to happen and the other is going to happen anyway, and you could have gotten both for free at a bookstore.  Worked for me.  The only question for the future single mom is whether it's worth $XXXXXX a year to meet guys, and the answer is of course it's not, even nightclubs let ladies in for free.

It's hard to accept that the University of Chicago grad described in the article isn't employable, that the economy doesn't need him, but it is absolutely true, but my point here is that not only is he not contributing, the economy doesn't need him to contribute.  Which is good, because there's nothing he can do for it. 1. Anything requiring science is out.  2. "He can work manual labor!"  I love how people assume economics doesn't apply to construction.  The demand for those jobs is very high AND hipsters suck at them.  At any wage, Gerry the hipster will always be outworked by Vinnie the son of a longshoreman, who will always be outworked by a Mexican illegal, i.e. the system will always be able to find someone who can do the job better AND with lower labor costs.  Bonus: no need to pay Jose's insurance, everyone knows Hispanics never get sick, except fake psychiatrically.  3. Hipsters are not good at retail or sales unless detached irony is required, which it is not, which is why they're on food stamps.  Here's a quick test, watch this video:

Is Baldwin's character a jerk or a savior?  The genius of the story is that half of you will have completely misunderstood it, and you like mint chutney and food stamps. The secret is at the beginning, at 0:15, where it is revealed that Alec Baldwin doesn't feel any of this, the whole speech is a work.  If you were in that room, some of you would understand this as a work, but feed off the energy of the message anyway, welcome the coach's cursing at you, "this guy is awesome!"; while some of you would take it personally, this guy is a jerk, you have no right to talk to me like that, or-- the standard maneuver when narcissism is confronted with a greater power-- quietly seethe and fantasize about finding information that will out him as a hypocrite.  So satisfying.

That same person will retort that the film is a critique of evil American capitalism, but then why, in a job sector with 50% more women than men, is Alec Baldwin yelling at a room in which there is not a single woman?  Are there no female capitalists?  Why does he have to teach them a mnemonic that is already posted on the bulletin board behind the chalkboard?  Same reason Pacino isn't present: because sales isn't about the product, it's about the relationship, and women and alpha males are better at relationships, while everyone else is busy outing hypocrisy.  Go get 'em.  "The leads are weak."  Oh, the leads are weak. In this example, leads=economy.

This is where the two mentalities separate.  One group of people sees the man behind the job, and judges him as an identity; and the other group of people sees the symbolic importance of the person, what he represents, a judge, a doctor, a bank teller, whatever; and that first group of people find it difficult to operate in society because they cannot see that the person is more than he "is" simply by virtue of his position, because that would doubly reinforce their own marginalization. 

The hipsters want to believe that because they are not obsessed with money/capitalism that they are better people, opting out of "materialism", but that's an after the fact rationalization.    There's simply no drive for anything except existing.  "I'm a good father."  Go home and play with your kids.  "I believe in social causes."  For which the minimum exertion is required, yes they'll have wifi at OWS.  There's plenty of attention to style, to identity, and regression to our most primitive instinct: eating, fetishized.  The next thing that should happen in this chain is the fetishization of the bathroom, "how pooping can be luxurious and how to make it more decadent."  Louis CK made a joke about this:

and in case you think "it's so true!" note that he was talking about how terrible being old is, how life was basically over for him.  And then, IRL, he went on to make two TV shows.  In other words, he was kidding about the pooping.  He wasn't talking about himself, he was saying it because he knew you'd relate.

"We're artists, not producers."  Then make some art!  "No one will buy it."  Are you insane?  The point isn't the money yet, it is the drive.  Go to the Whole Foods and ask if you can hang it for free, and if they say no, hang it anyway. I'd rather look at the most horrendous art than subway tiles or "Lose Weight Fast" ads.  I'm no artist, yet here I sit, clickity clackety clack, applying King's 2000 words a day to write you the best book of pornography I'm able to pull off (by Christmas).  The natural human instinct is to create things, beginning with the toddler who is amazed that he was able to create such a fascinating product out of his butt, the difference is most toddlers grow up and sublimate that drive and create other things.  You have not gotten past the poop, strike that, you have regressed to the oral stage, hence the emphasis on organic foods. Yes, the anal stage comes after the oral stage.

"I have a degree." No one assumes you're smart because of it, so what was the point?  You were tricked, your parents were tricked, your peers were tricked, your employers were not tricked at all.  "There's more to a college education than employability."  No there isn't.  I am not anti-liberal arts, I am all in on a classical education, I just don't think there's any possibility at all, zero, none, that you will get it at college, and anyway every single college course from MIT and Yale are on Youtube.  Is that any worse than paying $15k to cut the equivalent class at State?  Name me one contemporary fiction writer who required his college training to be a writer, and if you say David Foster Wallace I swear to god I'm going to pumpkin your house.  I think the only reason The New Yorker keeps shoving him down my throat is because he-- the guy, not his work-- is an academic's aspirational fantasy, a compromise between two worlds: mild mannered writing professor by day, brooding and non-balding antihero by night, a last chance at "I can be cool, too" for the late 30s associate  professor who thinks that intelligence alone is insufficient reason to be labeled a man.   My university is full of them, all reasonably smart, all pretending at cool through the hiding in plain site of cultural irony and political cynicism and pretend alcoholism.  "I may be drunk, but why was my polling station filled with rednecks trying to take away a female's somatic autonomy?" says the endocrinology patient wearing a blazer with jeans as he nurses his second microbrew, trying to impress me with what kind of a man he could be in the Matrix.  Come on, stop breathing.  Obviously I'm not telling you to become an alcoholic, but don't tell me you are one and then go home at 10:30 because otherwise your wife will cheat on you.  Man up or stand down, I don't care which, just don't backwash into a perfectly good beer if I'm going to have to finish half of it.


Fact: college is a waste, but we haven't yet hit that point in society where we can bypass it.  So we have to pass through another generation of massive college debt.  How to pull in the suckers in?  Answer: these articles.  By getting you to say, "these hipsters should be able to get jobs because they are college graduates!" you are saying, "college is worth something."  It isn't.  But by directing your hate towards hipsters, you are protecting the system against change.  

part 2