Friday, September 14, 2007

The New Nihilism: What's Up with these "Slacker Psuedo Geeks" anyway?

"We need someone new, somethin new, somethin else to get us through
Better bring your gun, better bring your gun
Tropic corridor, tropic treasure, were gonna ride and have some fun
When all else fails, we can whip the horses eyes
And make them sleep, and cry."

-The Doors "Soft Parade"

This is about the recent culture of slacker nerds that have sprung up in Northern California. Unlike the original nerds this new breed are not really that smart OR that nice and unlike traditional slackers they have little cultural literacy or artistic ability preferring to embrace the generic mainstays of pot, guns, gaming and 'cool books and music' that have been played and read to death.

This new breed of mostly 20 to 27 year old middle to upper middle class manboys, mocks the free spirited artistry of open mic and Burning Man sub culture and the young political activists who actually care about the upcoming election. It slacks it's way through computer schooling in medium to low profile universities demonstrating few real values or ethics. They primarily rent out in cheap areas such as Sacramento or San Fransisco's The Mission alongside the working class or minorities who entertain none of their parental kick backs and freebies. Think apolitical hipsters who dress like shit, eat organic, write their email addresses in computer code and can rarely get hot chicks.

Think Abbie Hoffman's worst nightmare.

Geeks have traditionally been unobtrusive and charming in their bashfulness while the slacker brethren mostly benign and occasionally very creative , this new breed is cynical, non-artistic and selfish; Ayn Rand and thrill seeking vandalism in place of DnD and John Cleese. This breed can't be bothered talking to their YouTube webcam buddies while wearing a 'Gandalf Rocks' t-shirt not when they could be throwing bricks at your car.

Joie de Vivre? Only if it's from a micro brewery.

The most puzzling and oddly troubling is their glaring lack of cultural literacy usually the hallmark of any fringe subculture that grows out of colleges and universities. They may have read Burroughs but somehow missed HOWL and "who's Bukowski? A band?" The only Rolling Stone they can name is Mick Jagger-maybe. Hall and Oates? Michael Macdonald jokes? "Yacht rock? I don't get it?"

Of course they've seen "Scarface" but they think Scorsese directed it and "Taxi Driver" still hasn't made it onto the NetFlix queue. "You talkin to Travis? Fuck ups who've never seen "Taxi Driver?!" Hell, even a barroom horde of Deadspin bloggers blow them away for cultural irreverence and equanimity and that's "pretty fucking sad dude." To be culturally literate in their minds is somehow inane and "hella gay."

Amusing but it's also sadly indicative of how devoid of culture and nasty the US is becoming and how the war in Iraq is wearing down everyone especially young men as it creates this nihilistic feeling of unreality and hopelessness within our dorms and suburbs. After all, who wants to be anything brilliant or even part of anything potentially positive or light hearted when the country you live in spins it's wheels on the corpses of your peers and their younger siblings? Is there hope for them? Any semblance of direction beyond the craftsman they may rent and turn into a grow house in West Oakland? They could try to stop the war as their fathers and grandfather's did over forty years ago across the bay at CAL but they would have to actually care first and that's not an option they're 'down with,'

In fact, the Geekslerd who inspired the song "Sacreghetto Boy" even made this telling point about another well known war: "Did America really have to even get involved in World War Two? How did it really accomplish anything and make it better for Americans ultimately? What if we had just never got involved?" This spoken without a trace of irony or even devil's advocacy.

Talk to more than a few of these geek isolationists and they'll express mild disgust at the conspicuous consumption of the rich elite' Paris Hilton, reality Tv etc but coming from these guys it swiftly rings false as they themselves harness their own type of decadence-the kind that Mario Savio eschewed when he yelled "Please don't bend, fold, spindle or mutilate me" while he stood on top of a cop car in Sproul Plaza and kicked off the Free Speech Movement in 1964. They swim in a type of self indulgent malaise that's eerily reminiscent of Seung-Hui Cho, the Virgina Tech shooter. Cho (who was treated with amusement by more than one subject interviewed for this essay) and whom kicked off a movement of his own; by folding and mutilating the bodies of his teachers and fellow students he kept himself 'free' so to speak. His angry (and mostly inarticulate) ramblings blaring into media eternity via is own neatly delivered internet ready press kit.

Like the slackerhacker who finds himself laughing nervously and hastily shaving his goatee after an interrupted late night break in at a research lab puts him on a campus police crime sketch which will ultimately yield nothing but a joke on his best friend's refrigerator door for the next few years as it yellows and falls apart, these beta males seem to just want to do damage, take what they can and then hide.

Comparisons to the Lost Generation of the post World One could be drawn in pathetic culturally illiterate desperation to give these guys a scrap of legitimacy afterall they do tend to get around and don't just sit on the couch all day. They don't follow a set pattern and seem to be adventurous of spirit but Hemingway's era spawned literary giants driving everything forward in popular culture that youth culture should be; inspiring and authentic not exploitive and stagnant and they ushered in the JAZZ age making them 100% untouchable.

So are these lost the new Nihilists then? Nah, nihilism is a rejection of all systems of authority, morality, and social custom and slacker nerds desperately need those to keep the party going and the wireless up. Will their little brothers want to imitate them? Nah, who wants to be a college kid who's never heard of Quadrophenia or read Aldous Huxley? Or a slacker who never made a hemp necklace or built his own board? Unless you're a jock attending Brigham Young the answer is pretty clear.

As for violence, thankfully, like the guy who stole that San Pedro plant from the Indian reservation when he cut away one afternoon from his RV driving summer vacationing family , this type is all Beaver Cleaver wuss. Sex they learn from Wikipedia and the fears instilled by the snarky girls on the message boards who complain about back hair and cock size. Their destiny? That lies somewhere between Silicon Valley and the all night bakery that caters to meth users and serves fair trade coffee. This trend and all in UNinspires is a definite fashion (or fascist) "don't."

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3 Comments:

Blogger Ian McDowell said...

Hah! Sorry I took so long to get around to reading this, but it rocks. And yes, you truly do have the makings of an incisivle and savagely hilarious cultural essay here. Go for it.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Amanda and SuperAmanda said...

Thanks Ian! The sub culture has such an inevitable downward spiral of mediocrity that it's definitely only a one pager. ;)

1:12 AM  
Blogger ginab said...

hey there...oddly, I feel proud you wrote this. My favorite by Ginsberg by the way is Kaddish.

I was a little stunned, when I first returned to America, over the ill-literacy and then I felt terrible inside for thinking that way, but you've hit it on the war and its demeaning so many from knowledge. No one's curious anymore, or mostly the yokes you discuss are ambivalent. Or what they once thought of as brave they indeed have seen blown off the earth.

I've wondered about what boredom can do and then in the university office where I work, on nearly a daily basis, I experience a lot of what women experienced back (I feel) in 1972. There's a regress happening in the halls, and so even more I applaud you for writing what you did here. Rings worthy of the Op-eds on-line (and free now) from the New York Times. Have a snoop-see some time.

And, happy trails to you going to London,
-ginab+bb

3:46 AM  

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