The awful cult of the talentless hipster has taken over
September 15, 2014 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Will Self takes responsibility ...

... us fiftysomethings? We’re the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditisation of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action by the flying columns of capitalism’s blitzkrieg; we’re the twats who sat there saying that there was no distinction between high and popular culture, and that adverts should be considered as an art form; we’re the idiots who scrumped the golden apples from the Tree of Jobs until our bellies swelled and we jetted slurry from our dickhead arseholes – slurry we claimed was “cultural criticism”.
posted by philip-random (95 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 


NO NO NO NO DON'T FALL PREY TO THE GEN-X WEAKNESS OF ASSUMING THAT EVERYTHING IS OUR OWN FAULT IT ABSOLUTELY ISN'T

Actually, I think that it's the Boomers who were saying some of this shit first.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:25 AM on September 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's not really taking responsibility when you blame your entire generation. That's more wea culpa than mea culpa.
posted by srboisvert at 11:29 AM on September 15, 2014 [33 favorites]


Some of us Boomers are still fiftysomething....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hear a grouchy dude clinging to relevance.

Sorry was I on your lawn again? I'll get off.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Interesting to find that Will Self shares my opinion on the worth of his endeavours.

As a determinedly barefoot haircut-resistant bearded simplifier with a visceral loathing for advertising and all its works, though, I wish to distance myself from his lazy implication that merely being a fifty-something means it's all our fault. Fuck that noise. I have been arguing against the crass commercialization of everything for years and years and years and have absolutely no intention of stopping now, just because some up-himself English nong finally shows signs of developing a well deserved midlife crisis.
posted by flabdablet at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2014 [21 favorites]


Actually, I think that it's the Boomers who were saying some of this shit first.

I'd say that the Boomers had their counterculture commodified and sold back to them by the previous (i.e. "Greatest") generation. And, even though Self is 53, I'm not sure that that really makes him old enough to have taken part in whatever degree that the boomers were involved in that commodification. First Orwell, now this: what will Self be wrong about next?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:33 AM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation. It's always been a question of authenticity.
posted by njohnson23 at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


..."English nong"?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 11:35 AM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really, really want to like Will Self, partly because as far as I can tell he looks almost exactly like Magneto, my very favorite mutant, and partly because his most recent novel really looks awfully interesting, and partly because going through life named "Will Self" seems like a burden of its own and partly because since he was named "Will Self" for years I thought he had something to do with Henry Rollins, and then I got him confused with Nick Hornby for unrelated reasons and I feel bad about that.

And of course, I do like blaming my generation - it's a good mix of the glow of taking responsibility and a way of externalizing anger and depression while still feeling that you are in control rather than past it.

But sometimes, Will Self, you seem like you're mostly trolling, and frankly it's not even our mutual middle-aged white people who started with all that epater-le-bourgeoisie business so we can just stop, eh?
posted by Frowner at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


He's wrong about Clifton. It's not full of hipsters as such.The streets there are "haunching" (does he perhaps mean "hoaching"?) with 60-somethings in pink trousers in emulation of our treasured mayor. There are plenty of hipsters in town where it's a bit sharper, yeah? Far too posh in Clifton.
posted by aesop at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2014


That article seems like a lot of work to go through for the author to convince himself that there is something wrong with everyone else, rather than just that he has become the sort of middle-aged dude complaining about the volume of the music that every teenager since music was invented has quietly rolled his or her eyes at. Take a nap, Dad; you’re getting cranky.

I work down the street from Farmer’s Daughter, and I’ve eaten there half a dozen times. In my experience, the food is pretty good and the service is bafflingly slow. The crowd volume sometimes makes it hard to have a conversation, but I’ve never noticed the music being distractingly loud (but maybe I just haven’t aged into being hyper-aware of that sort of thing yet).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:39 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


njohnson23: Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation. It's always been a question of authenticity.

Could anyone point me to some basic reading on what an "inauthentic life" is? Because I don't know what it is.
posted by clawsoon at 11:40 AM on September 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Sounds like he has hyperacusis.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:43 AM on September 15, 2014


I dunno, Frowner, more like the product of Magneto and a poorly calibrated telepod with Iggy Pop trapped inside.
posted by adipocere at 11:44 AM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


A sage from the '80s once said "There's no youth culture / Only masks they let you rent."

Interestingly, the same sage also said "Regrets are for weepy old Frenchmen."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:48 AM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't quite understand about these tiny New Statesman columns - they're clickbait and all, but it would be so easy to make a good rather than polemical and sure-to-be-ignored argument here. I can't imagine that Self hasn't read all those old Baffler articles from the mid-nineties, or Thomas Frank's embookified dissertation, The Conquest of Cool, all of which trace an actual history of changes in cultural projection which would make this much more plausible and less "let's argue about the kids today".
posted by Frowner at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think Will Self has been over this ground before in a much more entertaining fashion.
posted by dortmunder at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2014


It's really pushing it to be fifty-something and say you're Gen-X. Usually I see Gen-X as defined as born 1965ish to 1980ish. I had always thought that the defining factor was coming of age in some form during the 1980s. If you were born in 1960, you really came of age more in the 70s.
posted by Muddler at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I used to blame us Gen X'ers for being the first to package our counterculture and sell it to ourselves but after a little thought the first concrete example of that I can think of is when they turned the "Buy The World A Coke" jingle into an actual charting hippie anthem.
posted by sourwookie at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2014


By the time you've reached fifty, you've learned to recognize that when someone uses merely being born within a few years of each other to claim "you and me, mate, we're so alike, aren't we?", you should put a hand over your wallet and start paying extra attention to what's going on, because it's pretty likely that they're trying to sell you something of very low quality. Or maybe you take past experience as a guide and just walk away without waiting to hear all the poorly-argued details.

tl;dr - I didn't read the fine article.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Doug Coupland, who wrote Generation X, is fifty-two, almost fifty-three.
posted by philip-random at 11:55 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation. It's always been a question of authenticity.

If you're living it, it's an authentic life. The real deal, yours alone and you only get one. That's the secret to authenticity - it's mostly bullshit designed to sell cultural artifacts, such as written opinions on other cultural artifacts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2014 [12 favorites]



It's really pushing it to be fifty-something and say you're Gen-X. Usually I see Gen-X as defined as born 1965ish to 1980ish. I had always thought that the defining factor was coming of age in some form during the 1980s. If you were born in 1960, you really came of age more in the 70s.


But Self talks about going nightclubbing and using substances during the mid-nineties, when he would have been in his mid-thirties - I think he probably came of age rather late for his actual calendar age. I find this likeable, as I don't think I really finished being in my twenties until my late thirties myself. In me it's a character flaw, but I've always found it to have a melancholy charm in others.
posted by Frowner at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Interesting to find that Will Self shares my opinion on the worth of his endeavours.

This. That piss running down Will Self's leg is not rain.
posted by spitbull at 11:58 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The NYT had a great piece that I think makes for an interesting diptych to Will Self's article. The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.

When rebellion and refute are bred in the bone of your culture - sometimes it feels like a dead end. But mostly - its awesome, we swim in so much freedom that we don't notice it. If Will Self is sick of it - he shouldn't staying at the Farmer's Daughter in first place. He's got choices and that's a good thing.
posted by helmutdog at 12:01 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


philip-random: "Doug Coupland, who wrote Generation X, is fifty-two, almost fifty-three."

Which makes him a boomer, like me.
posted by octothorpe at 12:03 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation.

For me, authenticity just means being true to myself, living in accord with my own directives, and when I was younger, I suspect I was more confused about those directives. So yeah, for me at least, age was a factor ... at least until my early-mid twenties.
posted by philip-random at 12:04 PM on September 15, 2014


I found all of this extraordinarily confusing, that an entire culture of crass commercialism and such could be blamed on a crossword puzzle editor, of all the preposterous occupations in the world. Then I realized that Will Self and Will Shortz are entirely different people.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:08 PM on September 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


philip-random: For me, authenticity just means being true to myself, living in accord with my own directives

So sort of being an Ayn Rand hero, but for smart people?
posted by clawsoon at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2014


So sort of being an Ayn Rand hero, but for smart people?

you got me there.
posted by philip-random at 12:15 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


philip-random: "Doug Coupland, who wrote Generation X, is fifty-two, almost fifty-three."

Which makes him a boomer, like me.


Dear 50 year olds. You are not part of generation x. You are just old. See you in 14 years.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Who's this "We?" I'm gonna be 52 in a month and I ain't to blame for any of that bullshit. Yeah, I make a buck off advertising most days, but a man's gotta eat. Dude seems kinda tetchy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:22 PM on September 15, 2014


I always wonder if the "talentless" part is a qualifier. Like, do I get a pass if I actually do what I went to art school for? Is it ok to listen to vinyl records then?

Could anyone point me to some basic reading on what an "inauthentic life" is?

Sure
posted by bradbane at 12:27 PM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Doug Coupland, who wrote Generation X, is fifty-two, almost fifty-three.

Yes, this is the fiery debate that rages among students of Generation X—when does it start, precisely? 1960? 1962? 1965? Even later? Must you be scarred by Kennedy's death or is Vietnam enough? Grown-ass men have nearly come to blows over this question.

Re: Self's column: that's the most rubbish piece of prose I've read in a while. I hope he's prepared to swap out a few names and phrases so he can run it in The Daily Mail and Reader's Digest as well.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:28 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Will Self: [to doctor] It stinks! It stinks! It stinks!
Doctor: Yes, Mr. Self. Everything stinks.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:31 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


As someone born in the late 1970s I don't consider myself a Gen Xer. Especially since the generation it was meant to describe was a bunch of mid 20s slackers in 1990, when I was 12.

I also feel too old for millennials. Some people I know who were born in 1982 seem pretty long in the tooth for "revolutionizing the workplace" and other things millennials are meant to be doing.

I consider 1975-1985 the My So Called Life Generation.
posted by sweetkid at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


First Orwell, now this: what will Self be wrong about next?

Everything?
posted by blucevalo at 12:37 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


July 2014: it’s breakfast time at the Farmer’s Daughter, a boutique motel in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. The decor is suggestive of some deconstructed Midwestern idyll, what with old farming implements nailed up against one exterior wall, yards of gingham hanging from assorted rails and plenty of rough-hewn yet varnished wood.
1) The Farmer's Daughter hotel has been there for at least 35 years (and probably much longer), and is so named and themed due to its proximity to the world famous Farmer's Market.

2) I remember when it transitioned to "hip" hotel. That was probably 25 years ago, around the time lounge made a comeback.

As Parasite Unseen said, Take a nap, Dad; you’re getting cranky.

Disclaimer: I'll be 50 in March. I'm sorry Will, it's time.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:39 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


and then what's with those hipster americans pretending to be artists in paris?

oh, wait, that was the 20s and they're all dead - never mind
posted by pyramid termite at 12:40 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


they're in Berlin
posted by sweetkid at 12:41 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


the service is bafflingly slow

The service is never bafflingly slow in achingly hip eateries - it is always perfectly, explicably slow. They have employed servers who's job is not to serve you, quickly, politely, and effectively, but who's job it is to be hip, which they often do extremely well. They may from time to time enquire after what you want, and on occasion bring it to you, but this is a really a sideline to imbuing the establishment with studied nonchalance and artfully chosen and curated outfits.

if you are in a hurry to be served quickly and efficiently, clearly you are entirely the wrong type of clientele in the first place, and hopefully the languorous service will disabuse you of the idea of coming again in the future.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:44 PM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Yes, this is the fiery debate that rages among students of Generation X—when does it start, precisely? 1960? 1962? 1965?

The baby boom is considered to have started in 1945. Although, like all model years, delivery of the 1945 models actually occurred in 1946. Anyway, 20 years past that, and you have the GenXers starting in 1965, and Millennials in 1985.

I agree that it's kind of arbitary, though - my wife and I are ~10 years apart, and she doesn't remember Nuclear Armageddon as an actual thing, which is bizarre to me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:45 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Will Self becomes recursive.
posted by Pudhoho at 12:47 PM on September 15, 2014


Being a follower is a wired trait for most of the population. Whatever you think you "are" is usually something that lots of people think they "are". Bottom line: if you think you're cool, you're not. Cool is, like the answer to most Zen koans, unattainable. It's not for the wannabe "cool one" to decide for him- or herself.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:52 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dude, it's the dream of the nineties, not the spirit, which is alive in Portland.

Between the man's frivolous quotation policies and his hand-waving dismissal of raves (I'M A MONSTER WHO HATES FUN BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW), I can't even listen to this man.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:54 PM on September 15, 2014


So, "I was a hipster before it was cool," basically.

No you weren't, Will Self.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:56 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's really pushing it to be fifty-something and say you're Gen-X.

Speaking as a fifty-something, I've always felt it was pushing it to be lumped-in with the Boomers™, too. I was born twelve years after WWII ended, which, in my mind, is way past the actual Baby Boom. God knows, I've never had much in common with the actual Boomers I know. I've always felt like kids in my end of the generation (high school and college in the 70's) kind of fell through the cracks, as far as a title goes. I suppose we could be called Punks, if that was an actual generational identifier. God knows we were right in the middle of all that.

On the other hand, it's kind of nice to be forgotten and be able to pass under the cultural rubberstamp radar.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:59 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Ha ha you want us to get off your lawn, old man? Go soak your head because we're young and our culture is the best and we'll never have to look back on what we've done with eye-rolling regret because we're ever so clever and smart, unlike you grown-ups!"
posted by Legomancer at 1:01 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


hal_c_on: “Dear 50 year olds. You are not part of generation x. You are just old. See you in 14 years.”
I always go by Joshua Glenn's much more sociologically useful periodization scheme:
1944-53: [Boomers] Blank Generation
1954-63: [Boomers] OGXers
1964-73: [Generation X, Thirteenth Generation] Reconstructionists
1974-82: [Generations X, Y] Revivalists
He posits that fifty-somethings are not only part of "Generation X" they are the "Generation X."
Were you born between 1964-73? If so, then like me, you’re a member of a lost generation mistakenly called “Generation X.” Members of this misidentified cohort were in their teens and 20s in the Eighties (1984-93, not to be confused with the 1980s); and in their 20s and 30s in the Nineties (1994-2003).

I’m not saying that there wasn’t a Generation X. However, that term was first adopted and popularized by men and women born between 1954 and 1963. The Original Generation X, as I’ve dubbed that cohort, regarded themselves as an unrecognized (i.e., “X”) generation because until very recently they were lumped in with their immediate elders, the Boomers — even though most OGXers were too young to participate in, or remember, the Boomers’ coming-of-age decade: the Sixties. To be a Gen Xer, then, is to be a resentful younger sibling of the Blank Generation. Those of us born from 1964-73 don’t fit the bill.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:01 PM on September 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


felt like kids in my end of the generation (high school and college in the 70's) kind of fell through the cracks, as far as a title goes. I suppose we could be called Punks, if that was an actual generational identifier. God knows we were right in the middle of all that.

born in '59. couldn't agree more, and now quoting myself quoting myself from a recent Butthole Surfers thread ...

But if you believed Jay who actually hung out with the Buttholes for a few days, they weren't much different than us. Which is to say, born at the tail end of the baby boom, not from bad homes, just boring ones, raised in ever more crowded and pointless suburbias, force fed banal education and related television. Meanwhile the various extremes of the 1960s were playing out all around. Except by the time they (and we) were old enough to cross the street, the game was over, the playground closed, the revolution a failure, the distant war lost, the President a crook ...

Like one of those 70s movies that still pop up sometimes on late night TV. Disillusioned anti-hero type wakes up with a vicious hangover, drags a hand through greasy, long hair and gazes blankly out the window at the over-exposed world.

"We blew it," he says.

Except we didn't blow it. It was already well blown before our voices had even finished changing, the debris everywhere.


so yeah. Generation Whatever.
posted by philip-random at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


"By providing even the most woefully untalented with an outlet for their “creativity”, the web has massively enlarged the numbers who style themselves as “artistic”, as well as increased the duration of their futile aspiration. In the kidult dickhead milieu, it’s now quite possible to encounter fortysomethings with weird facial hair, wearing shorts and still resolutely believing that their career is about to take off. And in a way I suppose they’re right, because the totalising capability of dickheads + web = an assumed equivalence between all remotely creative forms of endeavour."

Well I guess that really summarizes me, and it really is a deep-rooted fear. What right do I have to produce and distribute art? Given the means of production, I've seized it, and now the hippies have truly become the Pigs. And you're right, it's exactly what we wanted. But Mr. Self, now you're going to be asked to gaze into that same mirror, and ask the same questions of yourself. What creative quality makes your stain outshine mine? Et Tu, Dickhead?
posted by joecacti at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2014


God damn it... will people ever stop wanking on about how the older-newer-my-your-etc generation just sucks so hard because they obviously AREN'T DOING IT RIGHT!!!!

christ on a crutch. Cats, porn, and people needlessly bitching about vast over-generalizations that's what the internet is for.
posted by edgeways at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was born in '64 and always felt like I was a member of the Baby Boom Generation. That might be because I'm the baby in the family and my sisters are firmly in that demographic so I inherited a lot of my world-view from them. I was already in my mid-twenties, married with a kid before I ever heard the term Generation X.
posted by octothorpe at 1:14 PM on September 15, 2014


As someone born in the late 1970s I don't consider myself a Gen Xer. Especially since the generation it was meant to describe was a bunch of mid 20s slackers in 1990, when I was 12.

This is why "Generation Jones" was termed. Someone born in 1962 shares none of the cultural experiences of Boomers, but probably didn't really want their MTV.

But this is just a fact of "generational" writing, it's always lazy shorthand. As much as the media wants to tell me I'm a #millennial, it just doesn't fit for someone who didn't even have the internet or a cell phone until college.
posted by spaltavian at 1:16 PM on September 15, 2014


I'm almost 44. I just consider myself an old fart.
posted by jonmc at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Someone born in 1962 shares none of the cultural experiences of Boomers,

It's kind of interesting (speaking as someone born in 1963) -- people within a year or two of my age either way have tended to split somewhat randomly into those who identify with the Boomers versus those who identify with the Xers (I'm the latter), a chaotic boundary zone between the two demographics.
posted by aught at 1:27 PM on September 15, 2014


Will Self makes me think of the person that Rick from The Young Ones would have turned into.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:32 PM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, many commenters in this thread seem not to know that as a writer Will Self is a well known provocateur and satirist. I've never cared that much for his books, honestly, but I would never take his writing at sort of naive face value.
posted by aught at 1:33 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another crisis! To the Column Cave!
posted by thelonius at 1:36 PM on September 15, 2014


in the Eighties (1984-93, not to be confused with the 1980s);

By what measure? Musically, the eighties began in or around 1977, and were over by '88.
posted by rocket88 at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]




Also, many commenters in this thread seem not to know that as a writer Will Self is a well known provocateur and satirist. I've never cared that much for his books, honestly, but I would never take his writing at sort of naive face value.


But it's such low-grade provocateur-ing! "I know, I'll insult George Orwell, that will really be an incisive critique that will....er...do something! And for my next act, I can complain about the kids today!"

Now, if he's trolling the New Statesman by phoning in risible under-thought columns to see if the editors notice, that's actually a bit funny. But while I can believe that this one is "I'll write a faked-up version of that 'kids today' column and see what happens", I really think the Orwell one was more or less intended to be read as it appeared.
posted by Frowner at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was just talking with my wife the other day about how nobody ever thinks to blame all our problems on us Gen Xers--it's always Baby Boomers this, Millenials that, etc. I'm not sure, but I think all the tattoos and piercings make the other generations scared of us or something.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would never take his writing at sort of naive face value.

Oh, I'm not betting that he's sincerely yelling at clouds, but that just makes the thing more pointless. If you're going to write satire, maybe aim higher than "This music is too damned loud!" Unless it's merely provocation in the sense of mere clickbait, then, I guess, you win, Will. You win!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2014


By what measure? Musically, the eighties began in or around 1977, and were over by '88.

This is an interesting question. You will get different answers depending on what you focus on. For example, I would say that the election of Reagan finished off the 70's politically. Haircut-wise, however, they lived on for a few years.
posted by thelonius at 1:44 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


By what measure? Musically, the eighties began in or around 1977, and were over by '88.

Except that music was awesome from 77 to about 81 and (mostly) horrible after that.
posted by octothorpe at 2:01 PM on September 15, 2014


music's always awesome. you just need to move to a different part of the room every now and then.
posted by philip-random at 2:34 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Except that music was awesome from 77 to about 81 and (mostly) horrible after that.

What? No no no no.

That's just my top 4 from 1984, I can carry on if you need more convincing.
posted by tinkletown at 2:36 PM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]




For Clawsoon:

Stolen from wiki land...

Authenticity is a technical term used in as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith.


This is primarily from Mr. Sartre...
posted by njohnson23 at 2:46 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well really from Heidegger, isn't it? I think that is where Sartre took it from (but it has been a long time since college....)
posted by thelonius at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2014


I'm about 50 theses into The Society of the Spectacle, and I have to admit to wishing for Authenticity for Dummies. Something with many more concrete words. I can read some portion of my own experience and knowledge into the abstract words that the author is using, but not nearly enough to make it coherent for me.

Reading the "authenticity" Wikipedia page, I have to admit more sympathy for the Fromm formulation than the Sartre formulation. Sartre in that summary really does sound like a French version of Ayn Rand: Fuck other people, you are a misunderstood genius, be true to yourself. The summary of Fromm, on the other hand, sounds like someone who recognizes the give and take of real relationships.

In capsule form, I wouldn't want to leave my kid with Sartre, in case he decided that changing a diaper would be succumbing to external pressure to maintain cleanliness and a failure to be true to himself. In general, the philosophers of authenticity sound like they'd make awful parents.
posted by clawsoon at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that you bring up parenting, clawsoon; I was thinking that Sartre's definition sounded like an assertion that only the monkey with the wire mother is truly real.
posted by The Gaffer at 3:15 PM on September 15, 2014


I read the article and I still don't know who Will Self is. Nor do I have any idea what any of it meant.

I was born in '64 and always felt like I was a member of the Baby Boom Generation. That might be because I'm the baby in the family and my sisters are firmly in that demographic so I inherited a lot of my world-view from them. I was already in my mid-twenties, married with a kid before I ever heard the term Generation X.

At least I understand the discussion here! I vaguely associate Boomers with Mickey Mouse Club, desegregation, beatniks, the Vietnam War, 1960s activism, and 1970s hedonism. I was born in 1965, and missed all of that; ergo: I'm not a boomer, even though I make the cut-off date.

Although I grew up outside Ann Arbor and so heard about how great 1967 was pretty much non fucking stop. For me, the first signifier of Gen X is that we heard about how great everything was until we came along.
posted by kanewai at 3:16 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Gaffer: I was thinking that Sartre's definition sounded like an assertion that only the monkey with the wire mother is truly real.

Interesting. Could you explain/expand?
posted by clawsoon at 3:22 PM on September 15, 2014


Meanwhile, Mark's Work Wearhouse announces rules for who gets to wear plaid.

At least someone is taking a stand.
posted by chapps at 3:39 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation. It's always been a question of authenticity.

I couldn't afford an authentic life so I bought a knock-off on eBay (although I am eyeing a rather nice handcrafted life made by a gloriously bearded gentleman from Silver Lake on Etsy).
posted by MikeMc at 3:57 PM on September 15, 2014


That's more wea culpa than mea culpa.

Sub Pop culpa.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:17 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Leading an inauthentic life has nothing whatsoever to do with your age. It's never been a question of generation. It's always been a question of authenticity.

At first I thought, "Amen!" but I think the question is further complicated by the fact that there are two kinds of authenticity: our personal authenticity, and a shared, culturally-defined authenticity, which sadly has a LOT to do with ages, generations, and yes, economic backgrounds, all of which are constantly changing with the times. It's very tempting to say that personal authenticity is all that matters, but few if any really exist in a vacuum of perfect personal authenticity; we act on society, and society acts on us.

For my money (and I'll get to the worth-- or lack thereof-- of that in a second), the dissonance between these two types of authenticity has been at the heart of American life (perhaps even westernized, culturally imperialistic life at large) since the Beat Generation. An excellent essay on matters I think highly pertinent can be found in Alan Watts' essay Beat Zen, Square Zen. I highly, highly recommend the read. For fun, try reading it replacing "beat" with "hipster" and see if you think it's relevant to our times, too. But like I like I said, that's just for my money, and I agree with Lao Tzu when he says, "The Man Who Justifies Himself Convinces None."

In the landscape of Spring there is neither better
nor worse;
The flowering branches grow naturally, some long,
some short.

posted by Perko at 4:22 PM on September 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


I couldn't afford an authentic life so I bought a knock-off on eBay

Feedback from DaliLama: A+++, would be reincarnated again.
posted by jaduncan at 4:25 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, "I was a hipster before it was cool," basically.

Much as I dislike his work, I've still gotta give the guy props for getting fired from The Observer for shooting heroin on the Prime Minister's private jet.

I've always wondered how the hell he got caught? Nodded out and left a blood-filled works in the bathroom, maybe?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:30 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Much as I dislike his work, I've still gotta give the guy props for getting fired from The Observer for shooting heroin on the Prime Minister's private jet.

I would find that much more appealing if I hadn't had to deal with junkies shooting up in the bathroom of the bookstore where I used to volunteer - that is, it's a delightfully funny story (bold as brass! shooting up when the PM was right there! fuck you, authority, I am living an authentic life of rebellion and dangerous pleasures!) until you think about cleaning up whatever mess he left (which assuredly wasn't done by the PM) and possibly cleaning him up and getting him in condition to get home and then seeing that he got there safe. Plus dealing with the results - not just his editor, who gets paid (I assume) to deal with difficult-yet-high-profile Class A writers - but the secretary who gets the nasty calls and the nasty mail and has to deal with Self when he drags in next, and I bet he's not an especially nice customer under difficult circumstances.

I mean, I want to like that story, I really do. It's just that it isn't particularly fun dealing with junkies - even the really nice, sweet one that we all liked and basically turned a blind eye toward - and it isn't especially fun dealing with stray needles. It would be a funner story if it was cocaine - perhaps he can try that next time.
posted by Frowner at 4:43 PM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Will Self: [to doctor] It stinks! It stinks! It stinks!
Doctor: Yes, Mr. Self. Everything stinks.


"Paging Dr. Busner."


Will Self's journalism is just teasing and trolling. I think the quality of his novels goes up and down. I think that his book The Quantity Theory of Insanity is pure genius.
posted by ovvl at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm about 50 theses into The Society of the Spectacle, and I have to admit to wishing for Authenticity for Dummies.

tl;dr modern society is inauthentic because our personal relationships and experiences have all been turned into representations of things that can be bought and sold. Capitalism has literally hollowed the real world out, to the point where even our sense of self is based on identifying with commodified signs and symbols. This creates a deep alienation that continues to fuel the economy, as we search to solve it by bringing more of our real experiences and self into the 'spectacle'

But yeah you should read the cliff notes, not the actual book. In a world where Facebook has capitalized on our internal states, I find it pretty relevant even if the revolutionary French tone it was written in is dense.
posted by bradbane at 6:53 PM on September 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Authenticity is a unicorn. Everyone has a different vision of what it is and what it could or should be, but it mostly doesn't exist. Unless the person who created the authentic thing is dead.
posted by psmealey at 7:04 PM on September 15, 2014


Death doesn't make things authentic or settle everyone's vision of a thing either. Hell, the longer Jesus stays dead, the less authentic he becomes--to the point that there's no longer universal agreement on even the simple question of whether he ever lived at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


With regard to the generational thing, I'm not convinced there are any meaningful boundaries beyond 1965 or so. I mean, look at the graph on this page. It spikes around 1947, then stays high for ten years, then drops down to a low-lying plateau starting at about 1975 or so. From then on, it's basically flat. I think this need to categorize people into specific age groups beyond that point is just trying to fit the facts into a preconceived idea of there being distinct generations, which seems unduly influenced by the boomers. If you come from a well-defined age cohort, you might assume there will always be well-defined age cohorts. To me, there are two main groups: boomers and post-boomers. And the only reason I would draw a distinction between those two groups is the outsize role the former has had on the economy, culture, and the media. Which has been frustrating to have to grow up with, but it makes me realize that someday my generation (loosely defined as those born between 1965 and 2000) will have some effect on those who follow us. I hope we do a good job of it.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:21 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Authenticity ... mostly doesn't exist

which is exactly what makes finding genuine examples such a treat.
posted by flabdablet at 7:44 PM on September 15, 2014


The cut-off for Baby Boomers is around 1957-1959. It is defined by Paul Ryan. Every time he proposes a budget that yanks the federal safety net out from under the American people he specifies the youngest age that will still get the previous level of benefits. It is always between three and five years older than my current age.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


This generational bullshit is just convenient marketing shorthand for who gets sold what. Usually it's packaged in language meant to make the target demographic feel good about themselves. "Boomers fall for this kind of bullshit! but not you Millennials, you'd never fall for that nonsense. You're young, hip and ready for PBR!"
Luckily none of you lot would fall for that kind of sales gimmick.
You're too smart, too knowing, too on the ball.
You're craft beer people!
Each one of our select beverages is made by hand, each one unique as a snowflake. Just for smart people like you.
Made with love by the fine folks at The Anheuser Busch Brewing Collective.
posted by evilDoug at 10:06 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Each one of our select beverages is made by hand, each one unique as a snowflake. Just for smart people like you.
Made with love by the fine folks at The Anheuser Busch Brewing Collective.


Or, in the case of craft whiskey, from "a hulking factory in Indiana" owned by food-ingredient corporation MGP.
posted by clawsoon at 11:21 PM on September 15, 2014


It would be a funner story if it was cocaine

Nah, that's just mundane.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:30 AM on September 16, 2014


Another sententious aimless piece of shit from Self. It's an interesting contrast with that excellent thing by Peep Show's David Mitchell, reflecting on the curatorial impulse and norms about what are authentic ways to be and do. Massive Attack over waffles (anything else actually going on here?) is maybe a two star yelp review, but not obviously a crisis of cultural integrity. And it's kind of annoying that Self doesn't even bother to get the Portlandia lyrics right--"Spirit of the '90s" isn't even singable to that tune--like, "eh, whatever, I'm just stewing a bunch of symbols together with anecdotes from my important comfortable life anyway..."

An interesting Gen-X-y treatment of counterculture and its "comoditization" is Nation of Rebels by Joseph Heath.
posted by batfish at 7:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


What I take from the Self piece is the idea that the commodification of the counterculture is what led to the Nathan Barleys of the world: "creative" twits who turn neighborhoods into juvenile hangouts filled with coffee shops, vinyl shops, and art spaces frequented mostly only by other twits. "Hip" taste in culture did not lead to wise people making the world concretely better: it just became another well of social capital. That 22-year-old reading a J. G. Ballard deep cut and listening to a really sick Nigerian jam band is not going to blow the world's mind: he's mostly going to hang out with his friends, decorate his bike, and try fecklessly to incorporate Adorno into the freshman comp he teaches. He's like any other child of the middle class, except with different cultural referents.

Self's annoyance is largely misplaced, IMHO. The "rise of the hipster" is a result of larger socioeconomic trends. Derision for "the hipster" may sometimes be well-earned, but the whole concept is a bit of a poisoned chalice. People seem to be taking an inordinately long time to learn that people, especially young people, have trends in fashion and music, and are also often callow. If they seem to be misappropriating aspects of "the counterculture", then maybe it's a sign that "the counterculture" wasn't turning the upside-down anyhow.

Nowhere else but forward go.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


What I take from the Self piece is the idea that the commodification of the counterculture is what led to the Nathan Barleys of the world: "creative" twits who turn neighborhoods into juvenile hangouts filled with coffee shops, vinyl shops, and art spaces frequented mostly only by other twits.

Wish we had that "problem" in our neighborhood. In my neck of the woods, the bigger problem is the twits on Wall Street who turned our middle class neighborhood into a struggling working poor/lower middle class neighborhood where half the residents are working second jobs and many more houses than before are now either sitting empty or slowly falling apart around tenants who are now underwater on their mortgages.

I guess the fact that some neighborhoods are full of people who like books, coffee, and records should be more annoying to me than the fact that other neighborhoods are becoming economic ghettos, but for some reason, it just isn't.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:41 AM on September 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I consider 1975-1985 the My So Called Life Generation.

I like this. "Yeah, I'm part of generation Catalano".
posted by hal_c_on at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


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