Leonard: A new strain of failure

Edward Leonard

It seems like our generation is constantly under attack by some pandemic. We’ve survived the swine flu, the bird flu and just about every other flu or disease that has threatened to destroy civilization as we know it. Today, however, we face a menace who has the potential to infect us all: the hipster.

You may have some questions about this new scourge, such as, “What are hipsters?” “Is the condition they spread treatable?” or “Can I catch it from a toilet seat?” These are all valid questions.

Hipsters are twentysomethings who pride themselves on being above — or, more accurately, in the underground below — mainstream culture. Symptoms of this condition include (but are not limited to) the wearing of skinny jeans, Tom’s shoes, ironic tee-shirts, vintage glasses, vintage bags and vintage watches.

Although these are the symptoms that the average infected person presents, the condition can extend far beyond the victim’s choice of accessories. Serious cases of hipster are characterized by veganism, a preference for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and the infliction of truly abominable haircuts on themselves and others.

Hipsters often combine these traits with one of several “underground” obsessions. They geek out over obscure music, movies, art, political causes and pretty much everything else that can possibly be out of the public eye.

If you suspect that friends or loved ones may have fallen victim to this plague, don’t panic. You can diagnose the condition accurately with a few simple questions.

First, ask them to go out for a burger. Most hipsters will not only refuse, but proceed to announce that they are vegetarians (if they’re full-on vegans, it’s pretty much a lost cause). They’ll then proceed to lecture you on the evils of eating meat and the inhumane living conditions endured by cattle.

Next, ask them where they got their shirts. If they reply with a well-known brand name, you are likely safe. If they are victims at all, their conditions are likely mild, and you should pat yourself on the back for catching them so early. If, however, they answer with a brand you’ve never heard of, Goodwill or (God forbid) a website, their conditions could be serious.

If all signs you’ve observed so far point to a serious case of this disease, proceed with caution. There is still one more question that can determine just how low into the underground they have sunk. Ask them their favorite bands. If they name bands you’ve never heard of, such as The Firey Furnaces or Irrelevant Elephant, your friends or loved ones have serious cases of hipster and should be treated immediately. If they answer “Pavement”, or worse, “You’ve probably never heard of it”, shoot them on the spot. It’s the safest, most merciful thing to do.

Ironically, hipsters can often give the most accurate diagnoses of the disease in others while failing to recognize it in themselves. One hipster will recognize another and be able to diagnose him or her as a hipster. The diagnoser will even express the natural aversion to the other infected person that the healthy among us feel. This is due to the hipster’s natural aversion to conformity.

While hipsters will wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and ride the same fixed-gear bicycles as their brethren, they will insist that they are not hipsters because they are doing so “ironically.” They will fail, however, to see the irony in this declaration.

You may be relieved to hear that this disease, though contagious, is not absolutely virulent. If you fortify your diet with meat and listen to plenty of mainstream music, you may even be able to talk to hipsters on a regular basis with only a minimal risk of infection.

As for those who are already infected, there are several options. It may be wisest to let the condition run its course. Many cases of hipster, even those that appear the most serious, clear up on their own after a few years, allowing the former victim to mature into a well-adjusted and productive member of society.

There are many ways to expedite a hipster’s recovery. A cure may be as simple as finding a Lady Gaga song (or similarly mainstream cultural artifact) that the patient enjoys. This will force them to accept that there are criteria for judging something’s aesthetic value beyond its obscurity or its irony quotient.

For the most serious cases, however, there is little hope. The best thing to do is pack them lunches and send them to New York City to live among their own kind. Just sit back and wait for them to destroy each other with their shutter-shades.

If we let this epidemic go unchecked, there will be untold consequences for society at large. As the condition becomes more and more common, the “subculture” will continue to take different things from more and more “underground” or “nonconformist” sources. Eventually, this will make “normal” culture less widely shared than hipster culture. At this point, in order to sustain itself, the hipster mass will have no choice but to absorb everything and everyone into their fold, making everything and everyone a victim.

So if you value your individuality at all, do everyone a favor. Punch a hipster in the face.