I like Sleigh Bells, Vampire Weekend and The Smiths. I drink at dingy dive bars. I shop at American Apparel and Urban Outfitters. I’ve grown an ironic mustache (multiple times). But, I’m not a hipster. I swear.
One day after work, a few co-workers and I grabbed drinks. My two co-workers lived in Brooklyn, rode their bikes everywhere and lauded the exploits of Talking Heads and Kraftwerk. These were real hipsters. We began to debate who was the coolest person alive? I predictably took the only viable answer, Jay-Z, whether it’s right or not doesn’t matter (it’s right). No hipster, with any shred of hipster dignity, would answer the question, “Who is the coolest person alive?” with such a cliche like Jay-Z. You know how they would respond? They would respond like my two co-workers. The first, an NYU grad, who is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, responded, “Winona Rider.” I’m not going to hate on Winona Rider, because 1990s Winona Rider is just about the cutest human being to ever walk the planet, that said, WINONA RIDER?!? REALLY?!? She hasn’t been relevant for at least ten years, the last time she was relevant, Dunk-a-roos were relevant (by the way, can someone please bring back Dunk-a-roos?). My other co-worker, a harmless but bit aloof guy, said, and believe me I can’t make this up, “well, there’s a guy in Brooklyn, who’s doing some real influential things on the Brooklyn DJ scene.” I couldn’t even conceal my eye roll, when he let this fly from his mouth. I don’t even think I let him finish before pushing him to give a real answer, he begrudgingly gave his more “mainstream” answer, “Santigold.”
Later that same night, I was almost banished from the table when I made the faux pas of revealing my belief that, “Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction was a really good album.” Compounding my mistake, I referred to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums as an ally in my fight for Guns N’ Roses’ creditably. The mere mention of Rolling Stone Magazine elicited an reaction from the two as if I had just cited Mein Kampf.
Needless to say, I’m not a hipster. I am something worse, much worse. I’m a Pseudo-Intellectual.
This dawned on me the other day while watching Charlie Rose, because, well, the only people that watch Charlie Rose are pseudo-intellectuals. The entire program is geared toward pseudo-intellectuals. Who else would watch an hour long, long form, monotone interview, where Fareed Zakaria is akin to a movie star? A real intellectual would acutally be reading Fareed Zakaria’s books and articles. A pseudo intellectual just needs the talking points.
Before I keep going, let me, or better yet, let Urban Dictionary define pseudo-intellectual for those who are not familiar. “Pseudo-intellectuals are people of average intelligence who are enchanted with highly intellectual topics and discussions such as philosophy, socioeconomics, destiny of humanity, etc.” That doesn’t sound too bad, but it continues, “unlike a genuine academic, a pseudo-intellectual’s main reason for being interested in these topics is because it makes him feel intellectually superior to his peers.” Okay, that’s pretty bad.
Let’s see how I fit into the pseudo-intellectual paradigm. After a quick online IQ test, I can tell you I have an IQ of 121, above average, but well below “gifted” or “genius.” I can also tell you I scored a 1220 out of 1600 on my SATs, again, above average but far from superior or even impressive. Let’s just say, when I graduated high school the Ivy League wasn’t sending any brochures my way. Am I enchanted with intellectual topics? I just watched Charlie Rose interview David Graeber for a half hour on topics such as, debt, Occupy Wall Street and the merits of Anarchy. What do you think? Is my main reason for being interested in these topics to achieve some sort of intellectual superiority? Did I read The Great Gatsby, just to say I read The Great Gatsby? Yes, does the fact that I enjoyed it change my initial motivation? No.
The realization of my pseudo-intellectualism is depressing for two reasons. One, it means I’m basically a pretentious prick (I can live with that). Second, and more disheartening, as a sort of Woody Allen disciple, pseudo-intellectuals are suppose to be the enemy. They’re suppose to be what’s wrong. A bunch of snobbish twits hijacking high culture as helium for their inflated ego. – Ugh.- I’d rather be a hipster.