One of the physics graduate students with whom I go to lunch each day is a complete and total hipster. He rejects the label of course (quite emphatically, in fact–he once claimed that the word ‘hipster’ was equivalent to the word ‘n*gger,’ a nice bit of ‘ironic’ racism from an upper-middle class white man which does nothing more than further reinforce his hipster status). For a time, I appreciated his views…but after a while, it began to dawn on me that there was no real conviction behind any of the radical left wing political views that he expressed. He is firmly ensconced in the system as it exists, and any challenge that he presents to it is done only for his own personal amusement.
But I digress. This particular gentleman, as you might have guessed, is in the habit of expressing radical, contrarian opinions every day, so as to constantly remind his dining companions of what a free-thinking badass he is. Normally, I just let it slide, but today, for whatever reason, I simply was not in the mood for his bullshit.
About ten minutes into lunch, he expressed the opinion that “adults who behave like children are inherently funny.”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “When I see an adult who behaves like child, I generally assume that they’re cognitively disabled. It doesn’t really seem appropriate to laugh at them.”
Now my friend is not used to being called-out in this manner, so he hastened to cover himself up. “But you’re not laughing at them,” he insisted; “you’re laughing at the things that they do.”
“Ehh…I’m pretty sure that that still counts as laughing at them.” I replied.
Now he got defensive. “But of course you still think that it’s funny!” he insisted. “You’re just not admitting it because of political correctness!”
“No, actually; it works like this. There’s a tug of war between my sense of humour and my sense of propriety, and my sense of propriety is winning handily.”
Grumblingly, he changed the subject.
A few minutes later, the group’s conversation drifted to the subject of a banner located behind our table; it is Clubs Week on campus, and one of these clubs (indeed, the one advertised behind us) is a network for people interested in Polyamoury. Upon inspection of the banner, one of my friends found that they were ‘making themselves open to anyone who was curious, so long as they were respectful of other people’s opinions.*’
Of course, my hipster friend insisted: “I shouldn’t have to respect their opinions. I think that’s bullshit.”
“Well then don’t join the group,” I said.
“No, I have every right not to respect other people’s opinions.”
“Well, of course you do, but they have every right to say who they do or do not want in their group.”
“But is it really their group, or does it really just belong to [[Our Student Union]]**?”
“You know, there’s a fine line between free speech and being an asshole.”
“What about Hitler?” he casually dropped. I admit, I did find that shocking–mostly because it seemed far too unsophisticated for my friend. “I don’t have to respect his opinion!”
“Do we have to bring Hitler into everything?”
“Well, that’s he real important question though, isn’t it? When is it appropriate to stop respecting people’s opinions?” I’m not sure if he seriously thought that he was being profound at that point, or if he was just trying to justify his use of “shocking” arguments in a profound-sounding way***.
“Maybe they meant to say ‘poly-armourists,'” one of my other joked, and the conversation again moved on.
Eventually, it reached the subject of tours of the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland, about which the Hipster, of course, needed to say:
“I really don’t see the point of tours of Auschwitz. I mean, I already know what happened there. What’s the point?”
I didn’t even need to call him out this time; one of my other friends, who had actually been to Aushwitz, did so for me. His shenanigans were increasingly hyperbolic today (he clearly didn’t like being called out on them), and had apparently reached the point where my other friends were no longer willing to put up with it either.
The moral of the story, of course, is this:
If you constantly feel the need to remind people that you are a free-thinking individual who doesn`t care about other people`s opinions, then in fact, you do care about other people`s opinions and are likely hideously insecure about your own image.
*I assumed that this was intended to keep out people like my friend, who might be inclined to attend meeting just to troll.
**It turns out that it is, in fact, their group.”
***I was never even making the point that you had to respect other people’s opinions; also, seriously? If I don’t think trolling polyamourists is a good idea, then I’m with the Nazis? Really?