The False Dichotomy of the Sellout vs. Hipster

September 14, 2015

By Sara A. Rahman

Recently there was a lot of drama around an Investment Banking grad who had jumped off a building to his death because of the stress. Now, coming from an Econ background, I have a lot of friends and acquaintances in these high-pressure jobs in accounting, finance, and banking.

I also know a lot of hipsters. I hate to just chuck a label on people, but if they don’t want to be labeled, the truth is they need to stop being so homogeneous. I mean, for a group that prides itself on being “different,” I can predict what these people are into – travel, coffee, acoustic music, photo apps, ‘art’, books, etc. with a side of photographic bragging on social media. It’s getting to the point where you can probably invent “Instagram Bingo” with these people’s feeds.

Some of these hipsters have taken the opportunity presented by this poor IB grad’s death to post articles about how there are so many young “sellouts” that need to “rebel” against the system. I am going to cut to the chase and just recognize this for what it is: taking advantage of a kid’s death to brag about the superiority of their artsy way of life, compared to the rest of us
“whores to capitalism.”

My Experience with IB-Types

To be honest, I have spent four years of my life constantly dealing with the Investment Banking types at university, especially in my final year. Some are lovely, and some get a little bit edgy and competitive. I’m pretty laid back, as I know what I want to do. My goal is to get into a unique field where I can try to train myself to be the best in that area. This doesn’t necessarily mean superb grades. What it does mean is having a wide worldview, a general toolbox of relevant skills, and an outlook that suits the job. I love what I do and I wouldn’t trade it for an IB job, but I can see how the extra tens of thousands are attractive to others, especially if they also have a passion in that area.

I’ve encountered my share of sociopathic behavior by over-competitive finance/econ people. Your friendship ends where their CV begins. It does suck when people who you think are your friends reveal their true nature a couple of years into the friendship. Yet I’m not complaining here, because this makes it easy to select who should be in my life and who shouldn’t. As glamorous as the “efficient sociopath” model seems, I have to admit that I’m terrible at it because I do stupid things for my friends rather often, and I’ll take this as a positive thing.

Are IB-Types Soulless?

At the same time though, this assertion that somehow IB (or other areas with long hours) grads tend to be “soulless whores of capitalism” just doesn’t hold up. This idea that these people have “underdeveloped souls” is completely ridiculous. Some of the people I’ve met in IB and other fields with long hours tend to be so much more intelligent and able to discuss real-world issues that actually impact people, compared to “hipsters” who have contributed to the bourgeoisation of human rights issues – see this lovely FP article – simply by their focus on things that are minor compared to the most pressing issues facing the the most needy, both locally and globally. This is  due to their miraculous ability to never have any solutions beyond hashtagging and “spreading awareness.”

So yes, this is just one example of a false dichotomy: You can either be a “hipster rebel against capitalism” or you’re a “soulless whore/slave of capitalism.”

To the Happy Hipsters

So to the people glorifying this poor dude’s death as an example of the superiority of their way of life, at the end of the day, realize that these “soulless capitalists” are going to be able to:

  • retire earlier
  • buy homes earlier
  • accumulate assets earlier
  • travel more
  • buy art instead of just viewing art
  • fund artists and commission public works
  • have entire libraries of books and probably buy libraries of books for others
  • make life better for happy hipsters

In Conclusion

Sure, they’re sociopaths. Sure, they’re sellouts. Sure, they sell their leisure too cheaply.

Still, I wouldn’t trust self-obsessed people who spend copious amounts of time composing photos for their Instagram feed to have any insight into the self-development that others undertake. Basically: you have no idea what these people do in their spare time and that is probably because those things to them are hobbies, and not their entire identity.

The hipsters in their fourth year of university – who still have no idea what they are going to do with their lives – need to shut up, sit down, and think about their future. Instead they spend their time propping up the cafe economy, which probably thrives more due to IB grads who drink about 4 cups of coffee a day.

Newsflash: no one cares. You’re just begging for someone to knock you down a couple of notches.