Default
Localist (And Potentially Anti-Globalist) Sentiment Among Hipsters
Thumb sailer
May 10, 2012, 06:05 AM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

It`s worth keeping an eye out for what the cultural trends are among the more privileged of younger people because they can signal the beginning of sea changes. In retrospect, how Wordsworth and Coleridge felt in 1798, for instance, said a lot about how many literate Europeans would feel about various things over the next century. 

The word "locavore" was invented in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2005 to describe people who make an effort (a fetish?) to eat only food grown locally. In Brooklyn, where the climate is less propitious and land is either built-upon or toxic, this urge has mutated into people trying to eat what is manufactured locally. From Benjamin Wallace`s article The Twee Party:
By Brooklyn is a small shop that opened last April on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens with the mission of selling only products made in Kings County. Among the store’s inventory, made by some 120 different vendors, are $29 “reclaimed slate” cheese boards from the Red Hook–based Brooklyn Slate Company and wee $58 terrariums from a Dumbo company called Undiscovered Worlds. 
The store itself is a kind of walk-through diorama, a snow-globe fantasy of New Brooklyn in miniature—the boroughwide artisan arms race stuffed into a storefront. There’s packaging featuring vaguely Victorian typefaces, and scents and flavors that seem simultaneously retro and contemporary: P&H Soda Co.’s lovage soda syrup, Liddabit Sweets’ beer-and-pretzel caramels, Salty Road’s bergamot saltwater taffy. There is Clinton Hill–based Early Bird granola (“gathered in Brooklyn”); Park Slope–based Brooklyn Hard Candy (“handcrafted in Brooklyn”); Gowanus-based Brooklyn Brine Co. pickles (“proudly hand-packed in Brooklyn”); and Greenpoint-based Anarchy in a Jar jam (“made with love in Brooklyn”). As much as these are variations on a theme, they’re also a theater of marketing one-upmanship. “Small-batch” Jam Stand jam from Red Hook is displayed near “very small batch” Bittermens bitters from Dumbo and that Early Bird granola, which is baked in “tiny batches.” Clearly, small is the new big. This is packaging that, as much as telling you what you’re buying, is telling you who you are—a Brooklynite of a sort scarcely imaginable ten years ago. A Breuckelenite, let’s say. 
This is not the Brooklyn on your map but a notional place consisting mainly of the western “creative crescent” that arcs from Greenpoint south to Gowanus and runs on freelance design work and single-origin, crop-to-cup pour-over coffee. It’s the Brooklyn where bodegas stock Fentimans “botanically brewed” Dandelion & Burdock soda and where the Dumbo headquarters of crafting juggernaut Etsy has air ducts literally, no joke, swaddled in crocheted cozies. It’s not the Brooklyn of Brownsville, East Flatbush, Ocean Park, Canarsie. By Brooklyn owner Gaia DiLoreto, a 37-year-old former IT worker, is black and wants to be “a role model to young black women,” she tells me. She had one intern from East New York who “knew nothing about artisanal food. An $8 candy bar was insane to her.” 
Fortunately for DiLoreto, there’s a robust audience for whom that candy bar is the very apex of civilization. Area code 718 romantics love to see their hometown’s name every time they pull something out of the fridge, to pretend a borough of 2.5 million people is a small English village, to partake of a Shop Class As Soulcraft authenticity that’s missing in their Twitter-addled, ­cubicle-drone lives, and to reassure themselves that Brooklyn is more “real” than Manhattan and not just an annex with shorter buildings. Sightseers from 212 are equally avid buyers: salving their one percent class angst, signaling their membership in the elite tribe of ethical aesthetes, shoring up their idea of Brooklyn as that exotic but taxi-accessible place where all the kooky artists and kids live and create stuff for the adults in Manhattan who actually make the world go around. And then there are the tourists who compose half of DiLoreto’s business. “Everyone loves Brooklyn,” she says. “That’s the place everyone wants to be, to have a part of, to be a part of. I want to do everything I can to leverage that.” 

The economics of all this are wildly implausible, of course. But, still ... We`re talking about a change of heart, one that has been going on for some time.

The main engine is, of course, a new wrinkle in status-seeking. That localism emerged first in the San Francisco Bay Area has much to do with the fact the Bay Area is, as ex-sailor Richard Henry Dana explained to Americans in his 1840 bestseller Two Years before the Mast, just about the most favored locale for human habitation on Earth. It`s not surprising that Northern Californians are building barricades of local solidarity against the rest of the world. 
Similarly, the popular buzzphrase "sustainable" is deployed today to justify various silly undertakings, but it, in essence, reflects a deeply conservative impulse.
But how does this change of heart play out in the world? Anne Applebaum complains in Slate about recent European election results:
But as I look across Europe I don`t know what to call the wave of discontent, as most of the parties on the outlying right or left have more in common with one another right now than they do with anyone in the center. Generally speaking they are anti-European, anti-globalization, and anti-immigration. Their leaders, in the words of a French friend, want to "withdraw from the world." They don`t like their multiethnic capital cities or their open borders, and they don`t care for multinational companies or multilateral institutions.
Perhaps the future won`t be contested between Left and Right but between globalist dynamists and localist sustainablists: The Economist v. Tolkien.