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May 21st, 2014 / 2:00 pm
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Brohemia (2014)

Williamsburg is a place that memorializes masculinity while at the same time re-coding it. In the ‘olden times,’ man worked in a factory, provided for a family, controlled everything in a calm and fairly inarticulate manner. This sometimes worked. So I’ve read.

More often, the industrial society led by men descended into war, violence, chaos.

In 2006-2014 Williamsburg there is a bar called “Bar-cade” that is about a late 20c nerd’s revenge on the New York Nightlife. It’s post-industrial. It’s information society.


Guys play video games in the bar. Girls come to play video games, or more strangely, to meet boys who like to play video games. Nothing against video games. I just remember the time when video games were for socially crippled people (dudes) who were either too smart (annoying, focused) of too self-conscious (anxious) to deal well with adolescence.

There is another bar, a block or so away, called Union Pool, that proves that nerds were probably always getting laid here, in an organized weirdly systematic way, at least since the death of the factories. Male musicians are usually trouble, distant, disengaged, child-like.

The bar that measures what it takes for a weird guy to get laid seems to be going down. Meanwhile, all the non-weird guys seem to want to be weird. What happened to artistic masculinity? When did it become everything?

 

***

 

I landed in Brohemia during the apocryphal, zombie-like rise of the millennial creative (under?)class. New York is a city most recently built by bankers. A lot of guys in suits who don’t have a passion in life that fits well into their working days. These are frustrated sexual hobbyists. Overpaid goons of a subclass that must exist to service the other corporations and dynastic family organisms. So we are told by economists and CEOs.

To say that banking is conservative, heteronormative, even misogynist, isn’t an essayist’s revelation. It’s more like bar talk. Who has dated one of these bankers? Maybe he was an OK guy, but he was a guy, probably. And, he may not have been OK at all.

He may have spent his life chained to a desk, ignoring his own soul. A lot of us have been there though. Men. Women. Normal folks.

When I first moved to NY the first week I spent trying to meet people I only knew online. Aside from meeting and hanging out with Tao Lin and company (my own little Brohemian cabal, now defunct), I did a lot of nights sort of floundering at bars in Lower Manhattan. Sort of just seeing where I fit in. I spent a few too many nights at the Jane Hotel, long after the Jane Hotel was cool. There were all these men I couldn’t identify in strange formal clothing, enjoying themselves in this aimless way, posing no questions, answering none. Taking up space at the post-art party. They were just there. I supposed that they must have been bankers. Eventually I realized that it was nearly impossible for a guy to exist without this kind of patron.

Back in Williamsburg, where I would go after school, there were no people like this. It was 2010 and the bankers who lived in Brooklyn changed clothes before going out.

In Williamsburg, the type of human most readily available was, as I mentioned before, this kind of pseudo-nerd man. The brilliant dawn of the executive dork. The quirky patriarch. But it was confusing to me then and it’s confusing to me now.

I guess, maybe nerds ‘grow up’ and become.. just… New Yorkers? An adult nerd, not clinging to sad shreds of childhood, is just an adult with an interest in technical things? If it is a man there is something belligerent and faux-rational about him, a traditional sort of male arrogance.

This type of human works in the media or in the technology sector. He is like… not an artist, for the most part. He does not read much or attempt to widen his experience of the world beyond what might be useful on a resume.

He may have experimented with self-awareness in college. I think some of these boring guys did LSD once, maybe. They could have even like… taken a women’s studies class.

But this is where the conservative mechanism deeply held and kept within the cultural fabric of New York closes shut like bear trap. These guys are almost supernaturally unconcerned with either the problems of the planet, the nation, or their own inner lives.

It’s kind of blindness that extends well into areas of “art” and “business” that are supposedly “heavens” for “creatives types.” Brohemia crushes uncertainty, ambiguity, political activism, ‘queerness.’

Brohemians are sort of habitually blind and contentedly indifferent and currently they control the world this city, this country, and most of this world. These men are as enlightened as they have to be. They want to make thing better, for everyone, when they have time. They are totally going to think about changing stuff, especially if it helps them out. Because doing good always looks good. Like, for example, greenwashed business concepts.

This type of motherfucker is responsible for Tom’s shoes. Which, obviously, don’t matter. Making something overpriced and then donating some of the money is a psychological ploy to make people think they are better, more conscious humans than they are. It’s insidious.

 

***

 

I’d like to get as far away from these guys as possible.

I’d like to live in a world of people who are spiritually present in everything they do, who experience emotions like guilt, regret, sadness, helplessness, fear, empathy.

Last time I checked “We’ve been acquired by Google” isn’t an emotion. And it’s certainly not changing the world in any clear way.

If these motherfuckers really are as enlightened and creative as they seem to pretend to want to be, they’d be struggling to shut themselves up and to help other people who don’t always have the microphone, the cash, the time. They’d be supporting the work of others. They’d be reading more than writing. They’d be coding less and listening more. They’d be apologizing for literally everything. But in a short, polite way that lets everyone else respond, for like, hours.

In 2014, I just want to be gone from this place built by these unimaginative losers who seem infallible in the face of obviously changing politics, race, class, Eath. I want someone to fix everything that they (we) fucked up. It’s not that I’m too lazy, it’s that I don’t trust white men, including myself, to lead a slow, plodding revolution against cultural patterns (our own arbitrary and destructive habits) that have stood basically unexamined for ten thousand years.

Burn it down, carefully, and start again. White (straight?) guys with money last. Unfollow all men. Especially white male writers.

Obviously, the creditability problem at the center of this essay will be it’s undoing.

But said in another way, for me the problem is tradition. Who will build a new one? It’s so much fucking work to dismantle a neo patriarchy. And, as a dude, I feel unable to lead.

I want to live in a feminist utopia, andI can’t be the CEO of the construction of it. I can barely help at all without getting in the way, and this is so so depressing to me. I want brohemians to shut up and I want someone else (her) to start talking. (But what if she doesn’t want to??!!) I don’t know who and I shouldn’t be the one to suggest something.

Brohemians are the result of just… awful post 1960-90s-identity-revolution neglect. The lazy re-balancing of the social-sexual regime in America. The Patriarchy took some time off to discover himself. Came back, did basically nothing different, called it good, asked if anyone had any questions or comments, nobody did, except to say could you please not yell so loudly when you tell us our failure is the result of us not working hard enough. Because artistic men are clearly such brilliant, smart workers – clearly superior! Tradition of excellence in no way influenced by history of cutely, greed etc!

It’s the disease of control: someone has to be in charge and the person most qualified to make hard choices usually lacks to compassion to truly feel all the various consequences. Men are stupid enough to rule, numb enough. The invention and the death of rationality. It’s the oppression and weight of feeling anything at all. It’s the emotional horror at the heart of of the academy that can’t be described by post-Marxism. The death of politics, receding like a missed exit. It’s the market and all the same old white men skullfucking us again and again and again till we see history as clear and written.

Brohemians certainly have no interest in addressing this shit head on. Better to just chill out and take the VC money.

But it feels terrible to live under the thumb of relaxed indifference. Truely terrible. I’d don’t want anything much but I’m scared to live wrong and fuck up other people’s lives. His failed privilege essay. Call it the eternal crisis of compassion or the paralysis that comes from imagining pure benevolence. I think the novel Aliens and Anorexia might be about this feeling.  Physically scared of being unkind and unjust. I’m really really worried that I can can’t love the world back together again, that the polished boots of slick commercial man-terrorists really are more powerful than the total combined will Earth’s kind animals. This fear drives me, without giving me direction. I don’t trust myself with a direction. It’s exhausting to live here among the man children, the micro brews, the video sites, the hallowed menswear, the opaque corporate-political slacktavism, and the budding new fortunes of the wealthiest, most technologically advanced gender.