October 4, 2013
Cool is not a Christian virtue
As I’ve been saying since the mid-80s.
And yet/therefore it is arguably the “virtue” most avidly pursued in the West today.
I have been awake for 45 minutes.
Already the word “cool” has popped up in two stories I clicked on semi-randomly…
Among the things I discuss with my therapist is the recurring theme that sometimes I struggle with reconciling the woman I was — the career-driven, no-nonsense chick I was before bambinos — and the woman I am now, who loves being a stay-at-home mom. Do I think I’m still cool?
I was reminded of this when a friend sent me a tweet at the weekend: “Sad to see once-cool punk journalist Julie Burchill supporting Israeli apartheid @EcostreamStore in Brighton today #Uncool.”
Even sadder, I’d say, to grade political activism as “cool” or “uncool”; definitely Adrian Mole territory.
Now at Slate:
But most analysts agree it only became widespread after World War II. As Dick Pountain and David Robins wrote in their 2000 book Cool Rules, it “took the collapse of faith in organized religion and the trauma of two world wars to turn it into a mass phenomenon,” one that thrummed with the paranoias of the atomic age and the Cold War as well as fantasies of cross-racial convergence. (…)
So, just as the camp aesthetic inevitably has been diluted by queer mainstreaming, maybe cool is finished as a distinct category and is now just a generic hook on which to hang hierarchy. And yet … I owe cool too much (e.g., Krazy Kat, Gertrude Stein, Thelonious Monk, Frank O’Hara, Agnes Varda, The Slits, Outkast, David Foster Wallace [despite his protests], etc., etc.) to give up willingly on its legacy of canny, impassioned skepticism and its capacity to slip the strictures of propriety and social segregation.