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Life Without Irony? Why?
Published on December 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about why I could never live a life without irony.

Here's an excerpt:

"The New York Times recently printed an opinion piece titled 'How to Live Without Irony,' and my immediate reaction was 'Why would I want to do that?'

But the topic interested me, and I soon found myself absorbed by the piece.
The author, an assistant professor of French at Princeton University, suggests that ironic living is running amok and that the consequences are grave: People — especially younger people — are too cynical and mocking to actually care about stuff. Much of Christy Wampole’s attack is aimed at hipsters, whom she lambastes for their weird hobbies, offbeat fashion sensibilities and attachment to unusual gadgets. At times, the piece takes the form of a confessional:

'I, too, exhibit ironic tendencies,' Wampole writes. 'For example, I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of ‘Texas, the Lone Star State,’ plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity. . . . If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references, a competition to see who can care the least [or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition], it seems we’ve made a collective misstep.'

Wampole isn’t the first person who’s tried to make me feel guilty about my self-aware mocking ways, and I doubt she’ll be the last. And though her essay is easy to make fun of, I don’t completely disagree with her. For instance, she thinks it’s good to care about stuff, and so do I. Where I disagree with Wampole is in her diagnosis of the problem. I don’t think irony, or hipsters, are to blame for apathy. You can actually be sarcastic and wear vintage clothing and buy vinyl records and still care about stuff."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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