Yesterday, I read an article in the NY Times about Hipsters and the power of Cultural Capital. The conclusion of the article basically states that everyone tries to achieve some kind of elite/superior social status (culturally, financially, politically, academically, athletically, etc.) because of their pride. It also claims that no one who actually achieves an elite status is genuinely superior; instead, we’re all just a bunch of posers trying to put on an image to make other people think we are better than others.
As one of my friends pointed out, the article has multiple layers of irony built on top of it. He claimed to have felt pretentious after reading it because of the social elitism the language of the article inadvertently displayed. Even the article itself is a display of social superiority. You practically need a college degree just to comprehend it.
However, I do find the article insightful in that it recognizes and purports that their is something innately in us as humans to out do one another. As Brian Regan puts it we are just a bunch of “Me Monsters” trying to one up each other. Pride it, seems is the driving motivation for all that we do. We should find nothing in ourselves more satisfying than to know we are ‘better.’
Why is it that we desire to be better than everyone around us? Partly I think it is because we want to be recognized as great. And more so I think because what we all really want is control. I desire power and the ability to manipulate everything around me to serve me alone; and you do too (that is if you’re honest).
Perhaps the most striking thing the article suggests is that we are all bluffing. I am not really ‘cool’ I just put on an image and work really hard for people to think that I am cool. But once you remove the items that make me cool, I might as well be a pimply-freckled dweeb that thinks saying ‘hello’ to a girl is flirting.
Additionally, the article states that in our superiority complex, we are all driven to hate those ‘below’ us. Flannery O’Connor knew this all too well. In her short story “Everything that Rises Must Converge” we see the power struggle of a relationship between a college graduate, Julian, and his racist mother. The irony of the story is that despite Julian’s superior knowledge and ability to recognize his mother’s racism and condescension toward African Americans, Julian is incapable of recognizing his own pride in the matter and his hatred toward his mother. O’Connor poignantly points out that everyone who rises in status, whatever it is, must converge to pride over and hatred toward those who are ‘inferior’ in status.
The question we must ask ourselves then is, Is pride over and hatred over another person a good or bad thing?
I am fully convinced that it is a bad thing. What should it profit a culture to be motivated to climb the social latter solely on hating one another? More so, what should it profit our personal and intimate relationships to operate from a standpoint seeking to be superior? We would most definitely find ourselves to be without any community or social identity. We would find ourselves to be totally and utterly alone. But of course, I am assuming that this outcome is a bad thing.
Thankfully, nobody lives to this extreme. Although, we would be foolish in the utmost to say that we are not capable of it. And we would be doubly foolish to say that we never act out of a drive to be better than others for self gain and superiority; examine your heart and you will find this is true of you.
Finally, I must ask What is the remedy? The NY Times article saliently identifies the problem, but it offers no solution. Are we doomed to always be a bunch of hate-mongers?
I SURE HOPE NOT!