Once upon a time there was a myth named le proletariat. Though obviously a male, the myth was believed to be pregnant with child— a well conformed socialistic baby true to the Scriptures. Baby being long overdue, the congregation of the faithful first became skeptical, then frankly disgusted. Feeling cheated, never allowing that they may have misread the Book, they repudiated le proletariat, sued for divorce, and being an idealistically inclined flock, started to shop around for a better, less sterile myth. Great schisms followed, yet few of the flock turned cynical. Quite the contrary. Prompted by their thirst for eternal values, many made dangerous inroads into heretofore uncharted lands. There, as in a secret Eden happily rediscovered, amazingly new and refreshing reasons to live awaited the bold myth hunter: Liberalism, Democracy, Free World, Peace, Stop-the-AH-Experiments, etc., and —honor to whom honor is due—the long neglected bastard-brother of le proletariat: marijuana soaked Hip.
That Hip found in Norman Mailer its most outstanding and original theologist (I don’t say apologist), seems quite clear in the light of his essay [DISSENT, Summer 19571. He may be correct in stating that Hip and psychopathology follow two parallel paths, but he has still to persuade this reader that the American Negro bohemian and his white imitator embody a special brand of the human species. Starting with the fact that the Negro’s status within the American community is a marginal one, Mailer is not content to allow him his particular or characteristic psychological bent; he bestows upon him a Messianic mission.
He seems to forget that the American hipster has his counterparts and equivalents in countries with no Negro population: Sweden, England, Russia, Poland, France, to name only a few places. The Swedish youth runs properly amok. The British Teddy, the Russian besprizornye, the Polish hooligans, the French pseudo-existentialist fauna, don’t behave differently toward life than the hipster. All are the product of an identical social phenomenon prevailing in highly industrialized and more or less paternalistically ruled countries: extreme inner insecurity dipped in a State-sponsored “welfare” at the price of a terrific loss to the individual’s self. That’s one reason why, as a rule, they react on the level of a purely personal idea of “recovery”—but from what and toward what none of them really knows.