Monday, May 16, 2011

The hipoisie: a blase attitude

Frank Chu, a San Francisco eccentric who is venerated for his dedicated campaign against the 12 Galaxies, quadrogonic hyponetikalism, Clintons and Bushes, Thomas Jeffersons, and any number of other crimes against himself and his character. His worldview is as complex and ornate as the interior of a Gaudi cathedral, and no less dramatic:

Like many bay area residents, he commutes to the city every day by train, arriving at Montgomery Street around 8am and going home on the last train at midnight. He suffers from autism and other psychological disorders--when he was 24 he took a few members of his family hostage, firing a bullet at the police which, luckily for him, missed. He has had a bar named after him, which has since closed.

Like Portland and Brooklyn, the bay area has in the last ten years been hit with an influx of young people, mostly middle-class and "alternative" in style, who might be well described with a term from Kodwo Eshun: the hipoisie, the hip new bourgeoisie, who worship Bob Dylan just as much as Fela Kuti. There's no point in raging against them, since anyone who does so is probably part of them, trying to mark a line in the sand which does not exist (at the same time, the spatial and political effects of gentrification which they leave in their wake are very serious and need to be looked at more closely). But there are some awful qualities:

The worst thing about the hipoisie is its blase cynicism. The definition of the word blase explains it: "uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence." This is the attitude of the people who have seen it all, who hide their fascinations under a thick layer of irony. As soon as a band comes out, it's no longer the coolest thing around, as soon as more than a small group of people has heard of them they're not worth talking about anymore. This blase cynicism betrays an enormous fear of the outside, of the world, of people who think and act differently from oneself. This fear is felt to be necessary for a group of white kids who are "slumming," placing themselves on the borders of working or workless class communities in order to prove themselves, to extract some style from a region and a people and turn it into a product.

This hip comedian is "interviewing" Frank Chu, in a style that reminds me of nothing more than Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity: interrupting the interviewee, repeating certain phrases with a sneering tone. He's afraid that if he does a good interview, which requires a real sympathy for one's interviewee, that it might not be funny enough to show to his friends. He wants to put Frank Chu "in his place," by proving him wrong. When he starts calling him a nutcase, Frank Chu makes a really salient point: Bush and Clinton are nutcases too, "crazier than any bacteria or nutcase in Africa." Chu has argued for years that Bush and Clinton are war criminals, and despite the complexity and bizarreness of his other convictions, he might be the only person speaking that kind of truth, on a daily basis, on the streets of San Francisco, especially in this era of ignoring the ongoing wars so as to avoid criticizing Saint Obama.

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