This writeup is not about the internet blog "Stuff White People Like", as such. The blog "Stuff White People Like", which flourished circa the year 2008, a dim and distant time. The blog tried to convey the opinions and tastes of a certain subset of the white population, the educated, often well-to-do urbanites that straddled the line between hipster and young professional. 1 The blog was written by something whose lifestyle was actually much like those he was mocking. The blog was fairly accurate, in broad strokes, at describing the pretensions, good and ill, of a certain class of people. (And I myself, in broad strokes, fit into the category it was mocking, inasmuch as I am a white, educated person from a cosmopolitan background.)
One of the curious features of this blog is it sometimes used the term "the wrong sort of white people" to refer, in a ha-ha, only serious manner to all the white people who were not young urbanites ready to embrace any new trend of ethnic cuisine, social justice or Apple products. What seemed so fitting about this at the time is that the image of the dominant paradigm of white culture was the Prius-driving, latte-sipping, Obama-supporting young person, with the grumpy old meat and potatoes white people seemed to be fading back.
Sometime after the election, the media suddenly discovered, probably out of a desire to find a story, that not all white people were left-of-center urbanites. Instead, they discovered that many white people were, indeed, "the wrong sort of white people". Pick your stereotypes--- many white people preferred Nascar to Prius, hunting to Thai Food, etcetera. To sum up, lets just say that many white people preferred blind self-aggrandizement to blind self-abnegation.
And this is where Soren Kierkegaard comes in. Or perhaps, one aspect of his philosophy, since his writings covered many and diverse subjects. In The Sickness Unto Death, Kierkegaard wrote that sin is the process of being in despair before God, and in willing to be yourself. And that sin is the process of being in despair before God, and not willing to be yourself. After I read this, and upon reflection, I realized that Kierkegaard here was thinking of something that I had been reflecting on upon for a very long time, in various guises. How people, when trying to figure out how to deal with the difficult task that having a self entails, tend to deal with it in by folding themselves into a type of recursive self-reflection, or by adopting an identity of pure will and impulse. And in case this needs to be further explicated vis-a-vis the opinions of the aforementioned white people,:
The nexus of hipster/urbanite culture is in self-abnegation. Some people might take it as an affront that most hipsters are ashamed to be American, if not for the fact that they were also ashamed to be hipsters. The people who were the target of the "Stuff White People Like" blog were those who had turned their back on their received traditions and identity, and treated everything of that nature with derision and shame. And after doing that, and trying to prove their difference with a study of foreign cultures and new trends, they turned upon themselves, treating their own culture of derision with derision. And upon this foundation of deconstruction, very little could be built.
And for this reason, the old white culture became new again. A culture that tries to blot out all traces of doubt and fear through an enthusiastic restatement, ad nauseum, of legends of identity, belonginess, and unreflective embrace of the will. This culture is xenophobic not in a political or social sense, but in the sense of wanting to eradicate anything that is foreign, and thus disturbing, to the self. The will and tradition form a self-reinforcing relationship that nothing can break apart.
Of course, both of these viewpoints are caricatures, and are not directly relateable to any particular social or political movements. And yet, they are not illusions, because once people have found a pretend way to deal with their basic despair, one or two of these paths, and the intent social and personal madness that follows the increasingly futile attempts to deal with the self, will always occur, and will get better until the core issue is dealt with.
And do I imagine that any time soon, a culture that deals with actual social or personal issues will arise, that will enable us to deal with things in a clear manner, free of self-aggrandizement or self-abnegation? Although this might seem to be an easy enough thing to do, I have no hopes that it will happen any time soon.