tHE r H i z z o n E

Running [preposition] Authenticity
Written by Impper - 28 September 2011



Running Authenticity

Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic; if it is pulled out I shall die.

There's a very specific breed of people who are just like me. Some of them are hipsters, some are weirdoes, loners, losers, nerds; some are even marginally successful. I think of Tao Lin in his depressive moods:

“...one had to expect very little—almost nothing—from life, Aaron knew, one had to be grateful, not always trying to seize the days like some maniac of living, but to give oneself up, be seized by the days, the months and years, be taken up in the froth of sun and moon, some pale and smoothie-ed river-cloud of life, a long, drawn-out, gray sort of enlightenment, so that when it was time to die, one did not scream swear words and knock things down, did not make a scene, but went easily with understanding and tact, and quietly, in a lightly pummeled way, having been consoled–having allowed to be consoled–by the soft, generous, worthlessness of it all, having allowed to be massaged by the daily beating of life, instead of just beaten.”

Or I think of Edward Limonov, bemoaning the sad state of his contemporaries:

” I've never met a person before whom I could kneel down, kiss his feet, and prostrate myself. I would do that, I would follow and serve him. But there's no such person. Everyone is serving. No one is leading. There's no one leading on a new path.

There's no one on the path.”


I’m also reminded of Dostoevsky’s underground man when he jealously contemplates action:

” One night as I was passing a tavern I saw through a lighted window some gentlemen fighting with billiard cues, and saw one of them thrown out of the window. At other times I should have felt very much disgusted, but I was in such a mood at the time, that I actually envied the gentleman thrown out of the window -- and I envied him so much that I even went into the tavern and into the billiard-room. "Perhaps," I thought, "I'll have a fight, too, and they'll throw me out of the window."

Or when he shrinks in the face of a man to whom action is natural, authentic:

”I was standing by the billiard-table and in my ignorance blocking up the way, and he wanted to pass; he took me by the shoulders and without a word -- without a warning or explanation -- moved me from where I was standing to another spot and passed by as though he had not noticed me. I could have forgiven blows, but I could not forgive his having moved me without noticing me.

Devil knows what I would have given for a real regular quarrel -- a more decent, a more literary one, so to speak. I had been treated like a fly. This officer was over six foot, while I was a spindly little fellow. But the quarrel was in my hands. I had only to protest and I certainly would have been thrown out of the window. But I changed my mind and preferred to beat a resentful retreat.


The pipsqueak, by now, is an old, well-explored character in literature. Normally I’d avoid quoting Tao Lin, but he’s one of the few writers today who’s realized that the pipsqueak’s mind-disease has leaked out of literature and now roots in the populace at large—that is, we’re all of us, men and women, rich and poor, smart and dumb, we’re all of us becoming pipsqueaks. Never has this been more clear than at a party I attended last Friday night.


I was playing billiards with my friend F in a deserted bar on Thursday night when a skinny, muscular guy with long hair (who also ironically looks a lot like me) walked up to us and asked if we wanted to play doubles with him and a friend. I didn’t care, F didn’t care, so the guy fetches his friend from the other side of the bar and we play. His friend was a reserved Hispanic girl, apparently also his girlfriend (though this didn’t stop my friend from being intimidated by her beauty and surreptitiously expressing his desire to fuck her to me); a few games of billiards later they asked if we were free the next night. Why? I asked. As it turned out, they were playing a show at a dive bar on Friday night and wanted us to come.
Here’s a strange gesture, I thought, why would they care about a pair of idiots who they’ve known for less than an hour? In the cynical part of my head I began to wonder if they were the type of band that only got to play out if they got ten or fifteen people to show up and buy two drinks each; this wouldn’t turn out to be the case. As a sidenote, he did have a name, which I’ll leave at J, and she had a name as well, which I’ll leave at M.

I tried to make it to the show on Friday but I got held up, as I tend to do, in inanities. Also, I had almost no interest in seeing them play, as I’d logged onto their band page earlier and listened to some of their songs . . . I hated them. Anyway, at about one in the morning I texted F, who’d decided to attend the show, and he told me it was still going on. Normally, as is the tendency with someone like me, I’d rather sit at home or sit at a bar than get tangled up with overly friendly musician types, but that night I decided I’ll stop by since I was in the neighborhood. I arrived just in time for their show to be over; I was overjoyed! They were walking out, equipment in hand, with a group of burnt out stoner roadies, and it looked like I’d once again avoided interacting with those naïve men of action.

Then J asked me, in all seriousness, if I wanted to go to a party with them. Sure, why not, I was already partially drunk, I could go for free booze & the opportunity to talk to a bunch of obnoxious weirdoes. So we pile into the van (they were a band with a ratty old van from the 1970s, painted on the outside with psychedelic landscapes and slogans), which now contained the band, consisting of J, M (the attractive female bass player, a real innovation), and their drummer A, their three disgusting roadies, myself, and F. It’s difficult to communicate exactly how out of place I was here (and F even moreso); earlier I mentioned that there are strains of people in the world who are very much like me—the people I shared the van with couldn’t have been any further from my type . . . Even the roadies, who wordlessly followed their leader J around, were confident in their status as lackies; they never questioned the situation or their place within it. On the way to the party, F and I would not stop insulting one another and making ironic statements, some of which played well with J, M, A, and the roadies. All the while I knew this behavior was self-destructive, as everybody there (F and myself excepted) was out to have a good time and party, not engage in pathetic contests of wit.

Earlier I posted a still from the film Almost Famous. Here’s another one:



My reason for posting these images will soon become clear.

Arriving at the party, a twenty-five year old Jason Lee lookalike sprinted out and greeted J with an enthusiastic bear hug. A few more of these types walked out: friends of the ultra-cool bandleader. Each of these guys was more clichéd than the next: shoulder-length hair, flared jeans, stoned expressions . . . There wasn’t a hint of irony in any of these guys, just as there wasn’t a hint of irony in J, who was so open and genuine that he reached out to me and my friend, both of whom are the disaffected, disconnected type. All together, there were about five of these anachronistic burnt out musicians, and three or four roadie types . . . Inside was a stereotypical musician’s house: guitars strewn everywhere, a cheap Hammond organ, bongos, tambourines, loud music playing on a pair of 50 year old studio monitors (Bob Dylan, Black Keys, Johnny Cash, The Doors), hand-painted psychedelia on the walls.

A preliminary note so you might understand why this party was unique: the party was taking place in a part of town called Logan Square. Some of you may be familiar with Wicker Park if you’ve seen movies like High Fidelity or Wicker Park: WP is a somewhat expensive part of town that has a lot of authentic urban cred; however, since it has this credibility, it has become expensive and full of rich people over the years, and even though it’s still infested with hipsters, Goths, punks, degenerates, and other unsavory, the predominant type there now is a rich yuppie playing at hipsterism. Now Logan Square is where all the poorer people who’ve been priced out of Wicker Park have gone; as such, the neighborhood, while still maintaining some small part of its working class roots, is filled to the brim with hipsters and other forms of urban fauna.

Other than the cast and crew of Almost Famous who I mentioned earlier and who I will now refer to as Stillwater, every single person at this party was a fairly typical Logan Square Hipster. In fact, they were so genuinely hipster that I got along swimmingly with all of them, as my sardonic wit and general depressiveness tends to play extremely well with these people. These are my people: to them, nothing is ever real, nothing is ever genuine, and so laughter and wit are musts, as are disaffection, nearly-earnest embarrassment, and an aversion to genuine conversation or action; but all the same, all of us claim to be looking for something authentic, something real that has meaning. Some short descriptions: a homosexual ironically making a fool of himself, performing embarrassing dances, running up to guys and doing kissy faces, and delighting every time Stillwater would bust up laughing at him when he found some new depth of self-abasement; a girl wearing a mime’s shirt, a bonnet, and a pair of black tights that let you see her pussy, she made it a point to strike haughty poses and utter mysterious sayings; a man dressed as a cactus, in green sweatpants, green shirt, green hat, green face paint, and with green straws hotglued to his outfit; a quiet guy in a hoodie staring wistfully at certain points in the room; a skinny young man ironically performing the dougie; and more.

So there were two distinct factions at the party, and I myself was caught between the two. I have long hair, about the same length as the members of Stillwater, and I’d come with the alpha musician; but in attitude and demeanor I was clearly one of the hipsters. Things proceeded fairly normally at first: people drank, smoked up, talked . . . lines were being demarcated, as they are at parties, and people were making their alliances for the night. As the night wore on, Stillwater got more and more into their “thing,” 3 of them playing their guitars, passing a tambourine around, involving a bongo set; the ones who weren’t playing an instrument swayed their heads disgustingly to the music: at times it seemed as if they were ensconced in trance.

To the hipsters at the party, this sort of release couldn’t have been more alienating. There was one moment in particular where a pair of hipster girls (one a well-groomed brunette wearing plaid, the other dressed as a librarian might) sat somewhat close to Stillwater: this was a grave mistake on their part. One girl got the bongo, the other the tambourine; a song came on and Stillwater began loudly encouraging them to play along. Jason Lee and J were swinging their heads, hair flying everywhere, jamming on their guitars, the eyes of the room were on the girls—it was impossible for them to not act. So they ensued playing, not letting go, entirely self-conscious, giving a truly pathetic and half-hearted effort. I spied both of them desperately looking around at the room, expecting to find judgment and admonition, but instead there was only Stillwater’s feral head-bopping and savage, off-beat guitar pounding: this was the worst of all, that there were no eyes to cast judgment on these two poor girls (save for mine, and they both made self-abased eye contact with me for a portion of the song), nobody to care that they couldn’t hold a rhythm and that they were too self-conscious to lose themselves in the music (save for me, who sympathized with them). This went on for a good four minutes, and by the end I can swear one of them was on the verge of tears: the moment was too disgustingly real, too authentic in its baseness and vulgarity. It was music, man . . . But both girls jumped to their feet and retreated from the room as soon as the song faded out.

As the night wore on and Stillwater became increasingly authentic, the hipsters slowly began to disappear. This wasn’t their scene; these weren’t their vibes . . . But what about me? In a sense, and I think I shared this with all the other hipsters, I was attracted to the strange energy they were giving off, the release of being able to genuinely act like a moron and simply live in the moment. Kierkegaard again: The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived. At the same time, I understood perfectly why everybody there save for Stillwater wanted nothing more than to get out at the first opportunity: with even the slightest awareness of surveillance, to dive into a scene like that is anathema (what does the hipster want after all? To be seen). What if I were to look down on myself in the third person? How could joining Stillwater in their reveries be tolerated? And truly nobody did join Stillwater: every hipster there, obsessed with authenticity, was separated absolutely from the authentic experience transpiring right under their noses. Most of them were there alone or in a pair; there was nothing to prevent participation, yet there was no participation.

The False Escape

At a certain point in the night, I began talking to a girl who’d come alone to the party. Call her T. Her dress was that of a yuppie playing at nihilistic urbanite: expensive jeans, knee-high boots, tiny leather jacket, tattoos. I saw her standing away from Stillwater, looking at them with bewilderment and a slight scowl on her face; but neither was she talking to any of the hipsters, and in truth I wanted nothing to do with them either. I began talking to her, and at some point I said, “Who let out the cast of Almost Famous,” which she found to be irresistibly funny. Other than me, she barely talked to anybody all night; in a moment of brilliant, high-level self-deprecation, I talked about how the two of us were observing ourselves in the third person by distancing ourselves as we were, and our behavior was ensuring the highest level of alienation there could be. She concurred; however, unlike me, she felt no attraction to Stillwater’s authentic antics whatsoever—she was being crushed by an overwhelming boredom that I’d done some part in curing. At about the point she’d drank half a liter of vodka, she started to ask me if I had a coke connect. This was patently ridiculous, as she should have known, but later she did manage to get some cocaine (how? We will never know). She was gracious enough to share with me, and for a while I didn’t give a damn whether I was being authentic or not. I did, however, feel somewhat dirty, and the next day I was once again obsessed with this question of authentic experience: hedonism and nihilism are cruelly temporary palliatives.

Anyway

Call my type what you will: depressive, melancholic, pipsqueak, ironist, loser, hipster—the only cure for us would have been to dive headfirst into the authentic moment Stillwater had created. None of us will ever make that jump; we never have, we never will. Present the opportunity a thousand times, and at best you’ll be like one of those girls pounding a bongo, hitting yours 2s where the 1s should be and the 3s where the 4s should be and cringing every time. Even if we embroil ourselves in something real, we’ll regret it because we’re incapable of true action. It’s just like Kierkegaard said: If you do it, you’ll regret it; if you don’t do it, you’ll regret it!


pictured: hipster in its natural plumage

#1


Tsargon

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#2


Tsargon
but seriously, folks:

well done, i like it! im far removed (both culturally and physically) from any type of thing as is described, but the ennui and alienation of OBAMA'S AMERICA as described is well articulated, and i appreciate your bravery, op, in finishing on a defined conclusion and position, instead of simply fading off on an ironically hopeful note about finally finding something real, which is simply too disgusting to even contemplate!

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#3


babyfinland
good article

prayer works btw.

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#4


discipline
oh god you wrote about that party you got all coked up at

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#5


Impper
that is purely a sidenote, the real action was in the literary realm

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#6


germanjoey
lol

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#7


animedad
I'm interested in "hipsters" but, if given a chance to live in ukranian village or w/e i always balk because i might have to engage with people that are disgustingly ike myself or maybe even more me than me, and i couldn't deal with that.

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#8


BosnianWizard
Didn't read.

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#9


mistersix
I enjoyed your article impper

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#10


Impper
thanks. whenever i get writing i always think of places where i failed and where it could be spruced up... anyway i promise i don't just write about urban wanderings of idiots haha, it was just on my mind

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#11


babyfinland

Impper posted:
thanks. whenever i get writing i always think of places where i failed and where it could be spruced up... anyway i promise i don't just write about urban wanderings of idiots haha, it was just on my mind



oh thank god, I was concerned

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#12


Impper

animedad posted:
I'm interested in "hipsters" but, if given a chance to live in ukranian village or w/e i always balk because i might have to engage with people that are disgustingly ike myself or maybe even more me than me, and i couldn't deal with that.


ukrainian village isnt that bad really, but yes there is a high chance you'll run into people that are like you. however, most people are not horrified of their mirror image to the same extent you are

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#13


getfiscal
I think it is useful to examine what authenticity might mean in this situation. Is it fidelity to truth? I think that might be part of it. People are increasingly aware how contingent their positions are, and they don't want to find themselves stuck in the ridiculous lurch of having thought they found authenticity and really owned stepped in another silly trap. Imagine if one found themselves caught up in some minor social cause, like hybrid car advocacy or fair trade coffee promotion, and someone says something that makes this obviously a silly effort? Then the entire time they just lived shrugs away, dead, and they might feel empty. One of the reasons Zizek is so famous is that he spins off thousands of examples of people stepping into these sorts of traps. This doesn't make such people immune to traps, if anything it means that their blind spots are bigger, they fall for even bigger nonsense than most of their parents did - new age beliefs, fantasies about being great artists, projects to save the world.

So paradoxically we are both prohibited from dreaming about small goals due to fear and unable to complete our big goals due to reality. But this is not stable: What comes next is a descent into madness. Liberated from everyday constraints and disgusted at the lack of progress in some giant project, anything becomes possible - this is where terror is born. The hipsters of today are the fascists of tomorrow. How do we avoid this? And yes, we should. We need to recommit to the mundane, to the grey, to find thrills in nuance, in building safety, in courageous work as we stand in door frames.

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#14


Impper
you're absolutely right in that today's hipsters are tomorrow's fascists, aesthetic fascists in particular. as far as avoiding this, i disagree, and refuse to recommit to the mundane, even if it means my destruction . . .

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#15


babyfinland

getfiscal posted:
I think it is useful to examine what authenticity might mean in this situation. Is it fidelity to truth? I think that might be part of it. People are increasingly aware how contingent their positions are, and they don't want to find themselves stuck in the ridiculous lurch of having thought they found authenticity and really owned stepped in another silly trap. Imagine if one found themselves caught up in some minor social cause, like hybrid car advocacy or fair trade coffee promotion, and someone says something that makes this obviously a silly effort? Then the entire time they just lived shrugs away, dead, and they might feel empty. One of the reasons Zizek is so famous is that he spins off thousands of examples of people stepping into these sorts of traps. This doesn't make such people immune to traps, if anything it means that their blind spots are bigger, they fall for even bigger nonsense than most of their parents did - new age beliefs, fantasies about being great artists, projects to save the world.

So paradoxically we are both prohibited from dreaming about small goals due to fear and unable to complete our big goals due to reality. But this is not stable: What comes next is a descent into madness. Liberated from everyday constraints and disgusted at the lack of progress in some giant project, anything becomes possible - this is where terror is born. The hipsters of today are the fascists of tomorrow. How do we avoid this? And yes, we should. We need to recommit to the mundane, to the grey, to find thrills in nuance, in building safety, in courageous work as we stand in door frames.



Yes

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#16


getfiscal
i was sort of joking. i don't know what to do, really. i wrote a thread on this topic as it relates to politics before here, about passion-for-the-real, or a sort of viscerality. which is similar to authenticity, of seeking out some kernel of truth to our order. obviously the new age version of this is repulsive, it tries to imply a deepness to ourselves which doesn't really exist. even living for subtleties seems like an odd project, the subtleties don't really refer to anything profound. grand projects have a ring of "white god syndrome" to them, delusions of grandeur, which are romantic but somewhat pointless, i'm not sure i can get excited about them in a pointless-but-beautiful way. i whip myself into thinking that maybe i'll get a normal job and bank money and then travel around and enjoy seeing the world. but the aphorism is true, in the sense of a curse: wherever you go, there you are. i could write a book about my nonsense but i probably wouldn't care if anyone really read it. i have no deep interest in most women and can't get excited enough to be presentable to anyone. i think a sort of socialism is feasible over time but i have no interest in arguing against leftist losers and ignorant liberals. the other day i sort of felt fine with the idea that i could disappear at any moment and that even the appearance of a unitary self was an illusion.

i feel very much like i'm a little gear that got popped out of the machine and now can choose what to do with myself. and i've spent a lot of time wondering where i could pop back into the machine to help it run smoothly. and then i think about ways i could pop myself in and cause it to blow apart. now i've been out of it so long i wonder if i should just keep in place, following a new path, but what could that possibly mean.

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#17


getfiscal
one of the reasons zizek is such an insane writer is that all of his writing is about knowing that he is deliberately lying to himself. he is a obsessional-neurotic and he knows it, he's completely broken. he says himself that his problem is he constantly speaks in order to avoid real action. so he writes over a hundred books and is called "fidel" for his friends for his endless harangues. and what is the content? he says that class struggle is somehow determining, but he can't say that, so he buries it under immense amounts of hegelian logic and lacanese in order to keep from fully admitting (which he admits on the surface) that he just wants to be a marxist and doesn't care that all fixity is lost. his entire project is sutured around a point that he dances around, unable to confront, and he says that it is better this way because without belief people are lost. and he knows full well that this is the bargain he's made with the world in order to get through his days. it is utterly bizarre.

but then i think, well, yeah, but you are just making a deal with the world to be the clever cynical kind to perceives zizek to be all of these things! you are not any different! and that's true, but there seems some dignity in admitting the coordinates in a more honest way, even if it brings one to democratic politics.

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#18


babyfinland
you don't actually have to be a fraud but whatever

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#19


noavbazzer
When I saw getfiscal start posting a bunch of centrist liberal shit I figured he must be really drunk and fakeposting. I lurked OG LF for a long time where I was radicalized along with all the others of my ilk and I was there long enough to recognize most of the posters here today. A lot of y'all were Marxists if memory serves. I myself went fairly quickly from a reluctant belief in the Democrats and liberalism to defending state socialism as the only option. I thought that it would last forever... those were the best days of my life.

Here we are though, and I've noticed a general disillusionment with the ideologies of yesterday. I myself spent a lot of time trying to figure out a good reason to hold hope that any day now material conditions would shift such that proletarian revolution would soon be sweeping the world. The more I read books that aren't authored by Chairman Mao though, the more I lost any real faith in The Coming Storm. I see the merit in getfiscal's criticisms of Zizek and Badiou's attempts to keep Marxist class structure relevant and his subsequent flight to centrism. I understand Tsargon's attraction conservative revolution and the idea that first world citizens could work towards seeing conditions improve in their countries today. I fully identify with everything impper wrote about being a hipster pipsqueak. I feel sort of like a red guard after the victory of the capitalist roaders. What is to be done or worked towards? Various large projects or philosophies and programs of personal action seem appealing for awhile before I completely lose interest and see them as futile and far-flung. In the end I return to a general state of being without any direction.

So basically everything getfiscal said above except I'm not nearly well-read or smart enough to articulate it like that.

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#20


getfiscal
i fakepost as a joke but i cycle through beliefs fairly quickly over a sort of elliptical pattern over time, depending on my mood and what i've been reading.

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