“Hipster” is generally considered to be a term of derision, with connotations of inauthenticity, vanity and even stupidity — it is often thrown around by self-conscious yuppies (like me!) who secretly worry their own lives were never that interesting or care free or, yes, bohemian. It’s a scornful catch-all for a scary “other” that’s really just youth, individuality and eccentricity. But honestly, I’ve always thought of it as an elusive category, necessarily flexible given any particular cultural moment; you know, like the idea of something being “cool” — it either is or it isn’t. It’s kind of similar to the way people trot out “pretentious” as a put down for things they’d rather not take the time to understand (I mean really, can you imagine a world without glorious, risky pretention? What a dull, colorless Midwest of the mind that would be). Or the way the old and compromised try to reduce idealism to an impetuous affliction of youth, when really, they’re just disappointed cowards. BUT NOW I’M DIGRESSING BEFORE I’VE EVEN BEGUN (stupid fucking hipsters, so distracting). Anway, the following story is about a group of smart hipsters — smart, pretentious, idealistic, revolutionary French hipsters, to be exact — and I find it delightful.
They call themselves the Invisible Committee, a name which at once conjures up counter-revolutionary royalists and Saturday morning cartoon heroes. So yeah, points for that. Two years ago they anonymously distributed a text called The Coming Insurrection, a neo-Situationist anti-capitalist augury that’s created quite a hubbub in France, particularly after alleged members of the Invisible Committee were arrested under suspicion of sabotaging rail lines (they were later released). To quote the Times article:
When the French publisher La Fabrique first issued “The Coming Insurrection” in 2007, it received comparatively little attention. But among those who did take notice were the French police, who began monitoring a group of people, mostly graduate students, living in the tiny mountain village of Tarnac in central France.
To quote Liz Lemon: “I want to go to there.” Yes, I do, to a tiny mountain village in France (as long as I don’t have to stay up late talking).
Insofar as parts of the book decry the commoditized society, I’m pretty down with it… As, it seems, were about 100 members of the local hipster intelligentsia, who swooped into the Union Square Barnes and Noble last week for an unscheduled “reading” from the text. Yup, it was kind of a Situationist flash-mob affair, which didn’t last very long. After getting nudged out by security, they shambled down the street to a makeup store to fuck shit up with their word bombs.
Man, despite what I wrote in the first paragraph, I’m still finding it very hard not to make fun of this whole thing. But no, I won’t: I’m glad people are still provocatively protesting the status quo; I’m glad people aren’t just giving up and labeling anything that challenges their assumptions as “pretentious hipster bullshit.” I salute you, dear local brigade of the Invisible Committee. And when the insurrection finally comes, I would ask you not to impale me on the forks of your fixed-gear bike.
I will leave you with this quote, from one of the
anarchists situationists dudes who was there. Frankly, I kind of agree with him 100 percent:
“The book is important because it speaks to the total bankruptcy of pretty much everything. We’re living in a high-end aesthetic with zero content.”