I just read that hipsters buck the convention of high-paying jobs they’re perfectly capable of having, working instead with their hands at places typically reserved for the proletariat. Yes, I said it, the proletariat- the bottom of the social ladder that supposedly doesn’t even exist (at least in this country). Or, if they do, it’s their fault and not that society requires the proletariat (Mitt and Barack each court “the middle class”, neither gives a shit about the poor. But even the poor don’t believe they are poor, they think they’re middle class. And for that matter, most rich people think they’re middle class, too. Basically every citizen in this goddamned country is middle class yet nobody needs two hands to count all the middle class people they know). I did not grow up proletariat, but in a bourgeois suburb that placed me at an early age on a conveyor belt where I went to honors class, then a decent college, and then a decent career. Oops, I work at a coffee shop.
To be fair, my degree was in philosophy, so one way to look at it is that I fell off the conveyor belt and- after a few years of scrubbing espresso off my smock- will hop back on and get my Ph.D. and eventually tenure and my own family- albeit a politically progressive family- and then grow old and die painlessly in a hospital bed surrounded by my loved ones. But for now, I’m bucking the convention and not pursuing a high-status job. But really, I’m not bucking any convention at all…
Everyone I work with is a college graduate. And identifies as an artist, intellectual- anything except their current position. There’s the painter who works as a barista, the drummer who works as a barista, the student working as a barista until they go back to school- nobody identifies simply as a barista. Some have been off the conveyor belt for well over a decade. They laugh at my optimism that it gets better and my art is pure and this situation is an intermediary stage that goes with progress. I’m still early in the game where I love my job, the people I work with, and writing this blog. But I don’t plan on doing this for the rest of my life. Something will have to change.
Ultimately, the conveyor belt has built into it an eddy (coffee shops and the like) where you can flounder in existential confusion and defiance, pretending to be proletariat until you a) seek a classier profession OR b) die an untimely death OR c) commit to the eddy and become an obscure outsider artist. All of us “artists” working shitty jobs to support our art will eventually have great jobs and do our art as a hobby. Until that day, you can mark how many times you spin around the purgatorial circle in this fashion: every time you ask some grad students discussing Hegel to please lift their shoes so you can sweep beneath them- that’s one.
My hope is d) figuring a way out. Which really might be staying in- as a saboteur. I don’t know, if I was really part of the proletariat, I’d probably kill to have a spot on the conveyor belt. But if you’re sincerely poor let me tell you there’s something worse than a comfortable life and painless death.