Lipton’s Journal/December 17, 1954/57
The Stalinists have sneered for decades at bourgeois writers, at their concern with mysticism, God, morality, etc. etc. And there is a curious half-justice to what they deride. For it is undoubtedly true that a man turns to such thoughts only when his needs are taken care of. That is the great promise of socialism—that it offers the possibility for everyone to engage in the mystic life, whereas now it is open to only a few.
But what is vulgar and unjust is that
they deny the validity of the “experience” the great bourgeois writers undoubtedly have, and in denying the validity in criticism they proceed from having denied it in life. Orwell says somewhere that twenty years of socialism and everyone could have enough. He is right, but the difficulty is that we shall never be given the twenty years, not until the underground revolution takes place, not until men know in their bones that society destroys their soul, and literally kills them. (For again, anger is released as each arch of the soul is collapsed by the lead weight of society’s bottom.) Until then, the bourgeois writers will continue to be blind to the realization that mystic revelation is always destroyed by the world until its opportunities are open to all men, and Stalinists will continue to war against cosmopolitanism, jazz, and, if it ever came up, bull-fighting. For they are the culture bearers of the hipster, and the hipster is the underground proletariat of the future, eating away at the husk of society.
- ↑ Someone who is “hip,” or in the know, especially about jazz and bohemian life. The term goes back to the 1940s, when it was used to describe white youths who were followers of black jazz artists. Later, it was popularized by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Mailer to describe alienated individuals, mainly living in New York and San Francisco, who had their own argot and ethos. In a short piece in Advertisements for Myself, “Hipster and Beatnik: A Footnote to ‘The White Negro,’” Mailer distinguishes between the beatnik and the hipster. Both believe, he says, that “society is the prison of the nervous system.” But while beatniks are attracted to mysticism and a contemplation of the mysteries of the universe, hipsters are more competitive, and ready to juggle “the perils of getting your kicks in this world, against the hell (or prison) of paying for them in the next.” Mailer’s Beatniks are left-wing and generally pacifist; his hipsters, whose “psychic style derives from the best Negroes to come up from the bottom,” are open to violence, seek power and are generally apolitical. He ends by noting that “for years now, they have lived side by side, hipster and beatnik, white Negro and crippled saint.”