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Withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy

Hating generates false camaraderie

“Left” and “right” is a pretty meaningless distinction today.
  • “Left” and “right” is a pretty meaningless distinction today.

Dear Hipmeister, In a recent answer to a question about increasing automobile size, you wrote, “It’s like a big middle finger to hipsters everywhere, which, naturally, people love.” That brought two questions to mind. One, why do people love the big middle finger to hipsters? Two, is it hipsters that are being the flipped the middle finger, or is it the authoritarian left and their penchant for forcing their agenda through shaming = judges legislating from the bench, and occasional outright violence? — Anne Teefa, North Park

Your first question raises an old theme that has permeated this column since its inception — to wit, what is so irresistible about hating hipsters? Even hipsters like to hate other hipsters, or, at least, they like to say they hate other hipsters. You see, the little nugget of delicious wisdom here lies in unpacking the difference between saying and doing when the former can’t readily be distinguished from the latter. On a superficial level, to say “I hate hipsters” appears no different from in fact hating hipsters. Beneath the surface, it proves itself little more than an empty social gesture, like talking about the weather. People can share this “You know what I hate? Hipsters! Amiright?” moment with each other, but it doesn’t actually carry any weight because it’s only a sweeping declaration used to generate a false kind of camaraderie. It’s easy to say things that you don’t really mean but that you’re pretty sure a lot of people are going to agree with; which, I guess, sort of brings me to the second question.

I’m no political theorist, but I’m pretty sure that “authoritarian left” is a poli-sci term of art for Communist dictatorships circa 1950. I think it’s a serious mistake to equate any “agenda forcing” political faction, real or imagined, with the policies of Stalinism.

Even more, I’d say that “left” and “right” is a pretty meaningless distinction today. It probably has been for some time now, but neither you nor I nor anybody else can credibly determine when distinctions like that stopped making sense. Not that it matters to figure out exactly when that happened. You might just as well consult your tea leaves for a fortune as plunder the past for some definitive moment when meaning came unmoored from reality.

Linklater offered that “withdrawing in disgust is not the same thing as apathy,” fully cognizant of the beginning of the end of meaning in the 20th Century. Next time someone blames the “left” or the “right,” ask yourself, would it change anything if they switched the words around?

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