The ability the modern individual has to listen to just about any kind of music he can dig up destroys the modern individual’s sense of self. When asked what kind of music he enjoys listening to, the discerning hipster will inevitably proclaim, “Why good music of course!” Culture and genre mean nothing, the only thing that matter is that the music is “honest” and “real” and “played with authentic feeling.” Whether this music is the product of a down-and-out hobo, or a lovesick bluesman, a sad Celtic lament, or a Motown crooner, the culture it arises out of doesn’t really matter as long as the music is “real.’
This striving for authenticity in emotion and content demonstrates how rare these attributes are in our own everyday lives. To say that the most important aspect of any song be that it is “real,” “raw” and “authentic” just shows what a dearth there is of such attributes in our world. We thirst after the real because deep down we know that we aren’t real. We hollow men are phantoms who observe the reality of others lives. We thirst after the real like vampires thirst for blood and we can never slack our thirst. Still, there is one authentic certainty stuck in our psyche, and that is, nothing that we do is authentic. Our actions are all a mock up of the real. Authenticity is beyond our self consciousness and so all our actions are informed by a sense of irony. We know that we will never be anything, but we can always pretend. This is the hipster mentality in a nutshell.
So, why is the hipster so convinced of his own inauthenticity, or rather, why is he so utterly convinced of his own ethereal nature? How is it that the hipster divorced himself from the realm of flesh and blood and found that he had been damned to wander the liminal fringes of existence, imitating what he saw, but never becoming anything himself. How did the hipster so ironically distance himself from the world that he ceased to exist, except as a parody of himself. Why does he have no substance? And why does he think that he is the only damned person in the whole world who knows and can truly appreciate the authentic? These questions bring to mind a poem by Emily Dickinson which explores the concept of knowledge gained through loss, her untitled poem number 67.
Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear of Victory
As he defeated—dying—
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear
Perhaps here is a key. Except, for our present quandary we will substitute “authenticity” for victory. So, in this reading, the hipster is the only one in all of God’s green creation who appreciates the authentic because he is in fact the most inauthentic thing in all of God’s green creation (next to the devil himself of course.)
So then, the hipster is the self-proclaimed expert on all that is authentic without being authentic himself, hence the ironic persona. It is as if he lives on the life blood that is others authenticity. He is the self conscious undead. But this still doesn’t tell us where he comes from, it merely lets us know he is self conscious and he is undead. I suppose this could be said to be the opposite of clueless and undead, in which case we’d be dealing with zombies, i.e. the thoughtless bourgeois consumers of modern American. Regardless, neither are living.
So he is undead and he knows it. He cannot meaningfully contribute to the world but he can appreciate things for their authenticity within the world. He considers himself better than his fellow undead, because unlike the masses, the zombies, he is aware of his position, while they are ignorant of it. Why is he no longer among the living? Why is he and the denizens of the civilization which birthed him doomed to continue in this life? What is their purpose