Ironically dirty fingernails.
True to my generation, I love listening to podcasts.
Listening to a story or the news during a lengthy weeding session allows me to fall into a soothing rhythm where both my body and mind are enjoying a bit of exercise. While on my hands and knees carefully tugging and plucking in the radishes or baby's breath, I can travel sonically to a mountain village in Wales or a neuroscience laboratory. Sometimes its better to work in silence-- or rather, in the buzzing, chirping, whistling soundtrack of the outside--but I often welcome the chance to stay abreast of world news or learn something new.
One of the great joys of working outside, often doing repetitive, solitary tasks is that you've the time to have a good think. Happily, many of the podcasts I listen to provide lots of good, chewy thinking material. One such opportunity came this Tuesday when I listened to BBC Radio 4's Documentary program, "A Brief History of Irony". An hour-long poking-into of irony, it touched on its use within different cultures and its shape-shifting nature. There was a lot of teasing of Americans--not unusual for Radio 4.
All of the commentators, who included comedians, satirists and professors, pointed to our modern relationship with irony as one of ubiquity. It's everywhere--no sitcom, movie, book, headline, joke or advertisement skips the use of irony. The Hipster ( the poor, silly, much tsk-tsked but omnipresent nonetheless Hipster) is identified as the poster child of this Ironic Age.
With irony everywhere you look, the conclusion remains that sincerity is the new irony. Being genuine, when most everything else seems to stand slightly behind and apart from straightforward honesty, is the subversive counterculture now.
(Enter demonization of Hipster.)
I didn't think I had too many opinions about what being a hipster does or does not mean. I'm sure I've been called a hipster from a coffeeshop window or two--I don't necessarily like it, but I'm sure its happened. But something else about this argument really stuck in my craw.
I agree with the assertion that sincerity and passion are far more interesting than irony, and that we as consumers, people and consuming people are hungry for it these days. I also think it echoes loudly with the discussion surrounding modern agriculture. So many times I've heard the recent trend of young people becoming farmers (like myself) dismissed as a naive, short-sighted fad of the Hipster generation that enjoys iced coffees and Saturday yoga-pantsed strolls to the farmer's market to show off their newest tattoos. Guilty, by the way.
But here's the thing:
Certainly, wrapped up in the movement of people caring about where their food comes from there is a bushel of naivete and some posturing for the benefit of coolness. Along with folks wanting to support safe, healthy food grown by neighbors or in their own yard is a desire to eat at the hot 30-seat restaurant that just got a ton of press. Why is this bad?
If we hope to somehow reverse the tide of the past 50+ years and make our food culture one that values seasons, fair (and accurate) prices, consumer trust, bugs and balance in our soils, then jeez---we've got to make it cool. I just don't see how young people, even hipsters, caring about these issues is a bad thing.
Yes, many of thee young'uns turning to agriculture have college degrees. We probably all grew up on soccer teams where every year, you got your own trophy just for your darling participation. We're all part of the same wave that rolled us through privilege and higher education onto a shore dotted with less opportunity than we expected. Some of us will fail. Some of us will make bad choices and sound foolish. But some of us won't--though undoubtedly we will, and hope to learn from our foolishness. Some of us will change things for the better.
At least, we'll try. Sincerely.