Friday, October 14, 2005

Trendiness, Hip and Coolness: The Societal Gateway Drugs to Crime, Drugs and Bad Tastes in Clothes

"As I would later find out, most Republicans hate 'cool' ('They all think they're so cool and artistic,' griped one woman as she watched Fox coverage of Democratic delegates arriving in Boston). Many of the parent volunteers I met were especially bitter because they think that cool is what liberals use to lure their children away. Which they might very well be right about, of course."

Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi spent ten week volunteering in the Orlando Republican Party campaign during 2004. His comment on the perception of "cool" was one of the more revealing aspects of the article. It made me aware how groups could see the trappings of coolness: the clothes, the bling, the slang, music, etc as a wedge between different people and their beliefs. The culture wars have been ranging for years now with conservative arguing that pop culture not only was degrading our nations morality but actively marketed rebelion, sex and sin in the hunt for profits. And there was a time now long ago that TV and music reflected the values and tastes that adults mainly felt safe exposing their children to.

But there has always been fads that have taken hold with "terrible" result and the critique that children have been adversly affected by damaging stories. In the great book, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, covers both topics, fads and children are talked about. The 1841 book is long out of copyright and has been reproduced online in several places. Chapter 14, "Popular Admiration of Great Thieves" has footnotes of interview of young thieves who stole to see the play of notorious thief Jack Sheppard.

"J. L. (aged 15). The first time I was ever at the theatre was to see Jack Sheppard. There were two or three boys near to the house who were going, and they asked me. I took sixpence from the money I used to lay up weekly for clothes. The next time I went, which was the week after, I borrowed the money from a boy; I returned it to him the Saturday after. I then went many times. I took the money from my mother out of her pocket as she was sitting down, and I beside her. There was more than sixpence in her pocket. I got a great love for the theatre, and stole from people often to get there. I thought this Jack Sheppard was a clever fellow for making his escape and robbing his master. If I could get out of gaol, I think I should be as clever as him; but after his exploits, he got done at last. I have had the book out of a library at Dole Field. I had paid twopence a book for three volumes. I also got Richard Turpin, in two volumes, and paid the same. I have seen Oliver Twist, and think the Artful Dodger is very like some of the boys here. I am here for picking a pocket of 25..."

So, how can you not love a boy how turned to a life of crime to support his theater and literature habit? Lastly, I will leave you with the wisdom of Del Close and John Brent. In their spoken word album, "How to Speak Hip," the parody of social psychology has an examiner talk to a beatnik hipster in an attempt to understand what's the matter with kids these days.

"Mr. Romo, I must admit that I am puzzled. You hipsters claim to be such relaxed, free spirits yet your rules for social behavor are even more set, tight and rigid then those of square society

Yeah, well, dig, it’s simple. I’ll spell it out for you a lot. A lot of the simple everyday behavor is illegal. So, there is aways a lot of heat on us, see? You know, you have to protect yourself. Now if you break the rules of hip you get put down, now that’s true. But you break the 'square rules', they put you in the slam. That’s a big difference

There’s only two basic rules of hip… You protect yourself against the possibility of police intervention, which means you don’t associate with uncool people and you protect your state of mind. You follow the hip commandment, thou shalt not bug thy neighbor, which means be cool, that’s all…

…The hip thing is to be able perfom the exactly appropriate action at all times. And that is not easy."

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