Tents aren’t the only thing that you are likely to find ‘occupying’ Auckland’s Aotea Square. While much of Occupy NZ’s early support came from socialist campaigners, students, and Union supporters, there is another group which has slowly, but surely, permeated the fabric of Auckland’s ‘99%’.This group doesn’t carry banners bemoaning corporate greed or asset sales; they’re more likely to carry a Polaroid camera, push bike, or a copy of ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Instead of wearing shirts with slogans supporting minimum wage increases or the legalisation of marijuana; they’re wearing oversized non-prescription glasses, cardigans and skinny jeans. In case you haven’t guessed it by now, Auckland’s ‘99%’ has become heavily infiltrated by hipsters.
So why are they there? Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this question, primarily because for every 10 people camping at Aotea Square there are 20 reasons for them being there. To be honest, the only thing missing from Aotea Square is a unified sense of purpose.
One explanation for their current fascination with pitching a tent at the Square is that traditional protesting is ‘too mainstream’ for them and joining drum circles and scribbling Palahniuk quotes on the pavement with chalk is more their style.
However, Auckland’s most irreverently dressed denizens latest attempt to attach themselves to the next big thing and claim moral superiority over their peers in the endless and elaborate pissing contest that is hipsterdom might be doomed to fail. This is because hipsters suck the life out of a movement; they are quick to attach themselves to a cause but are often too apathetic to take it much further than that. In fact, the only thing hipsters seem to invest any real effort in is finding a way to look like they don’t care about anything. Well, that and sourcing ironically dated clothing.
This segment of the population aren’t particularly interested in joining the ‘People’s Mic’; they’re more committed to discovering a band that no-one has listened to than they are demanding a more egalitarian tax system. While this non-traditional form of protest might hold their interest for a few fleeting seconds, it is unlikely to be able to compete with their desire to find a vintage cardigan at the Salvation Army store.
But what is so bad about hipsters joining in on the sit in at Aotea Square, aren’t they part of the 99% too (well, those who aren’t comfortably living off their parents trust funds at least)? In theory, nothing at all; adding one more voice to the chorus of protesters should only strengthen the movement. But unless the 99% becomes more concerned with addressing the income inequality between Jay Z and ‘Death Cab for Cutie’, it is unlikely that most hipsters will give them more than a half-hearted drum circle or ironic slogan.
‘Occupy NZ’ doesn’t suffer from media attention. It suffers from not being able to communicate their valuable and necessary message. So far ‘Occupy NZ’ has failed to do anything with their profile other than spread some admittedly amusing memes. If it is going to have a lasting impact ‘Occupy’ needs committed supporters, and if not a unified message, something far more concrete than the hodgepodge of ideas that are floating around currently. What they don’t need is a bunch of people that popped along because they’ve got nothing better to do between their English Lit classes.
Eventually the media will refuse to pay the occupiers any more attention and will move on to a story about a cat playing a piano or John Key’s favourite brand of tea and the Occupiers will likely go home defeated. The hipsters won’t care, they never do; they’ve got thrift stores and Elam to look forward to.