I found this very detailed examination by Chuck on a subject near and dear to my heart.
Apparently, the least cool happen to be the most prone to diligently immerse themselves in the practice of deciphering and reverse engineering COOL.
Are YOU a cool motherfucker?
Chuck examines the elemental structure Cool from a racial perspective of “black Coolness.” He illustrates the ostensible trend-setting Coolness of black entertainers, athletes, and the American black populace in general. He chides Cool for representing an existential opposition to the values of “Western culture.” Actually, he demonizes Cool as a slacker black quality which represents the strict antithesis to the glorious American way of life. He points to Cool as the reason, or symptom, for blacks’ inability to embrace materialistic American society and all its trappings of education, consumerism and status obsession.
Therein lies a problem.
As outlined, Cool is primarily a black quality.
Cool also represents a broad range of qualities which blacks, by virtue of their historic path, fall into, and the problem that has become the modern criminal-minded pop culture has thus usurped Cool and twisted it into a psychopathic self-absorbed clown show. Cool, as expressed by spoiled and self-involved athletes and entertainers has transformed into a mythical and pre-ordained trait which blacks automatically inherit by being black. Cool, perverted by what we see on MTV, is not what Cool truly is. Chuck himself has bought into the pop culture paradigm which redefines Cool as a veritable feast of stupidity and one-dimensional thoughtlessness.
NO, Cool is the indomitable standard that can be expressed through anyone in our society, but which, finding a most suitable home in the conscience of the modern black American, has allowed black celebrities to usurp and conquer the Cool moniker for the sake of the legions of pop culture connoisseurs.
It’s tempting (and easy) to buy into the concept of Cool as the putative province of Black culture. But Cool comes in all colors and guises. In principle, Cool is ageless and “raceless,” but I’m a pragmatist and I admit that in the real world where perceptions are generally shaped by the mass media, Cool hinges upon the ability to act and dress like a rapper or a baller.
My point is that anyone can be cool if they first surrender the suffocating trappings of modern consumerist society.
In this respect, I would venture that “cool” as a personal quality is more closely aligned with class than race. Black Americans, generally falling into the lower economic classes, are also culturally aligned with the Cool factor which closely parallels the Cool paradigm. Cool as a behavioral quality is difficult to maintain for the upper economic classes.
A Tale of Two Worlds
On Thursday, I posted about the first leg of an eventful public transportation commute to work. I did not go further into the second leg of my trip because at over 1,000 words, the post was in danger of turning into a saga (much as this one is/has). If I had continued, I would have described the portion of my commute in which I boarded the Red Line to Hollywood and watched in dismay as my empty car was suddenly swarmed by a mass of inner city high school kids at one of the ghetto-trodden stations. I stood in the corner, pressed, and a couple of black guys with chicks in tow stood next to me. They were accompanied by a black girl who stood to my left, away from them. One of the kids was relatively quiet and undemonstrative, but the other, a taller dude dressed with all the accoutrements of a young urban black male, was an explosion of animated and boisterous physical expression. He entertained his friends with a constant stream of dialog and festival of gestations and he stood directly to my right easily out-Alpha’ing me with his spacial invasion and even grasping the bar I leaned against above my head. I listened to my earphones, so I could not hear what he was saying, but even without sound I could tell he was Cool Incarnate simply by his body language and the rapt feedback he elicited in his small audience. He epitomized the notion of Black coolness as perceived by the inhibited White audience.
You know….cool is loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s rhythmic.
You know cool, right?
Interestingly, the black girl who boarded with them was very much the “stoic” symbol of coolness who remained apart. She stood calmly with a serene expression molded on her face. Her eyes sparkled and a slight smile bent her lips when amused. She was a very pretty girl and stood in fixed, statuesque position. She did not talk loudly nor laugh like a crazed hyena even though the guy to my right continued to act out in a self-fulfilling manner which was most likely shaped by what his favorite celebrity cultural icon blueprinted for him.
The girl was Cool. But not in the manner which most are likely to visualize as Cool because the quality has been distorted and corrupted by the mass media. The kid…played the clownish Cool we accept as the iconic representation of that word.
By the time I reached Hollywood (a journey delayed multiple times as the train slinked lazily through the darkened tunnels for whatever reason), I was exhausted and after I made my way into the corporate catacombs I call Home during the day, I was ill-prepared to brave the un-Cool vibe of the modern Anglo work place. People rushing around like chickens without a head, people with bloated senses of self-importance and purpose, rushing, racing through hallways, Blackberry’s at the ready, a sea of self-important bullshit. The modern business world presented a stark contrast to the Cool images I beheld just minutes earlier on the train ride.
Cool runs deeper than race.
Cool is an attitude, as they say. It’s an inherent outlook.
Fifteen years ago I worked for a Hollywood company, and the head of Sales was a middle-aged white dude who was the coolest workforce cat I’ve ever worked with.
He sauntered around deliberately, maintained a neutral and expressionless face, and never appeared fazed by anything the typical Industry work day could dish out (which is a lot). He strutted through the halls and effused the image of someone without a concern in the world. He was fucking cool. Made triply amazing by the fact that he was an executive level participant. He had a lot to lose but he didn’t act it. He was not a jovial or loud man. He was not clownish. His speech was steady and moderately leveled.
I was especially awed by his deliberateness. He never knew, but the dude was my furtive mentor. I found myself mimicking his demeanor from that moment on as I made my way through a gypsy path of various employers while managing to skirt the self-important edges of the corporate Industry. Having glimpsed his Cool aspect, I came to an important realization. He was the only truly Cool guy I’ve ever seen in an executive position. Most executives are anything but Cool. They look frazzled and worried and distracted and overly involved in maintaining their precarious role and position in their fetishistic environment while simultaneously sneaking looks at their email while sitting in the bathroom-stalled anonymity of the crapper.
What I realized about Cool is that one necessary element of Cool, regardless of race or creed, is this:
A Cool person owns himself.
That’s what being a cool cat is about.
You must own yourself.
Meaning that you have everything under complete control. Your life is under your thumb. Unfortunately, in this scattered and status-driven consumerist era, it is increasingly difficult for most people to keep their life under their thumb. The modern economic era is indifferent and damaging to the maintenance of Cool for those involved in the intricacies of society. To be Cool is to eschew that which drives the modern animal.
Cool is a manifest expression of not needing.
Most kids, regardless of other factors, fall somewhat in a “cool” category simply because they are young and have not learned to develop the ability to procure needs. The minute our youngster grows up, gets a job, earns money, discovers the ability to develop achievable needs, he loses his Coolness in gradually lessening increments, and the acceleration of this Cool drain is compounded by the pace and madness to which he seeks a lucrative life. The more we seek, the more we need, the more we devote our life to filling the void with status and wealth and stuff of various sorts, the less we are inclined to be Cool.
Cool is a luxury item for those with nothing (or less) to lose.
Cool has been monopolized by the pervasive image of the frolicking black inner city youth, and to a lesser extent, frolicking youth in general (see “Jersey Shore”). It’s not a black thing nor are blacks to be “blamed” for inciting the prevailing Cool image. The media, intent on selling and making a gruesome show of humanly extremes, enables and perpetuates outlandish behavior by abundantly portraying it in popular entertainment. The only people I see acting out like this are black youth, and once again, it is a youth- and class-driven phenomena, this Cool thing. Most black adults do not act out this way and to lay the Cool blame at their feet is delusional.
And the ones with the most to lose are those with the most to prove. Those who emanate from generational lineages of inbred accomplishment. A normal White or Asian, thus grounded and spawned from a childhood with the parental, familial and pop culture-ridden belief that they must scale certain minimal monuments of accomplishment (as set by peers and siblings) are thus born with a foot in the un-Cool grave before they have a chance to take their first step. Societal expectations dictate that they must uphold their reputation of consumerism and reflexive instinct to max out SAT scores and exaggerated driveway ornamentation. Thus grounded, how can one be Cool when he is already fractured of soul which has incidentally been sold to the highest bidder? How can you maintain Cool when you are in emotional and spiritual debt before you have a chance to claim your own sense of self? The day you can proclaim that you will be “somebody” with a “big house” and a “big car” with children and “the right school” and “the right diet” you immediately have relinquished your Life Ownership rights to the Big Society monster.
Thus immersed, you can no longer be Cool. For Cool is to not care. It does not matter if you arrive at Cool through the route of laziness or asceticism. All that matters is that your attitude unabashedly scolds the world, “Fuck you. I do not care. You cannot hold anything over my neck because your values of buy buy buy earn earn earn mean nothing to me.” Most black people, raised in a generational-induced environment of non-needs and low-to-existent expectations, are consequently able to assimilate a Cool attitude the moment they begin rocking their little crib, so to speak. Born into a world of diminishing needs is to be born into freedom from the stranglehold of Need. Writ as Cool. And distorted at the hands of MTV into a hybridized and disgusting sort of apish behavior.
One interesting note is that though Chuck has focussed on black people, I think it’s very pertinent to mention that Hispanics have a similar perspective. True, Hispanics are not portrayed very romantically in the mass media, but hang out in East L.A. or south of the border for a day or a week and you’ll note the differing pace of life. I’ll speak to the Mexican perspective since that is my origin. Talk about slow paced! Mexican culture, a culture based an a timeless (literally) American Indian notion of non-clock watching, is one of the most serene, non-materialistic and laid back right-brained worlds imaginable. I guarantee the “siesta” culture will never take root in modern America. It’s had centuries to try but has never caught on. Siestas are the antithesis of the modern make-every-second-count American mentality. Mexicans do as they wish, it seems. If you plan a party to begin at 1pm, most guests won’t begin spilling into until 2:30 or 3. I jokingly commented to my family that there should be an new time zone designation of “MDT” for Mexican Standard Time which is computed by adding 2 hours to any existing appointment/start time.
In spite of this Chuck-appointed quality of lackadaisical-ness as an intrinsic element of Cool, I would hardly call Mexican culture the epitome of “COOLNESS” according to the dictates of pop culture. Mexican men and their society have not typically been presented as a physical threat to the individual American white male. We are generally thought of as peaceful, short and dumpy. Truth hurts, but as they say on this side of the border, it is what it is. I think the rise of the Drug Lord Culture will somewhat ameliorate this image, but at what costs?
This runs deeply and is only possible at the hands of the Whites, Asians, and other purveyors of consumerism who unknowingly spawn the Cool matrix on their Five-Thousand inch TV’s.
Blacks, the clownish entertainers, the actors, the easily-distracted athletes, though they are hardly representative of black people, have been placed on the center stage and asked to uphold behavior which mass media seeks to reinforce. And we, the hungry and lazy consumers…consume. It’s what we do. We do not ask to think or dissect. Chuck’s fixation on the black Cool factor is an extension of this. So while I do agree that black culture is the template against which all Coolness is portrayed, it does not define Cool. People are unable to recognize that Cool is not a racial hiccup. It becomes such only because the mass media and HBD closet racists are fond of defaulting to this mindset. It’s easier to blame another group for the usurpation of Cool than facing the fact you too are capable of Cool if only you would just drop the materialistic facade.
The day that self-deluded societal strivers (and the ethnic groups that compose most of them) repossess their own lives, slow down, realize that blind, frenzied, single-focussed madness is not Cool and not ironic is the day they will realize the roots of “coolness” that elude them.
Cool people ooze irony. They ooze comical insincerity and self-effacing daring. Cool is slightly aloof of one’s own conception. Uncool (you know, the crazed dude in his Prius who darts in and out of traffic with his Ferrrari balls) people need to reclaim their sense of Self. Stop the rushing, stop proving to the world that you are worthy of some vague notoriety because you have have all this ridiculous bullshit. Don’t take yourself so seriously. This world functioned well before you were born; it will function splendidly long after you are gone.
So you can drive a $50,000 steel coffin encasing you and your familiy?
Cool is not caring.
But at what cost?
Do we choose to care or do we choose to be Cool? Once we weigh our cargo down with possessions and people, it is difficult not to care, isn’t it? And thus, not easy to be Cool.
The Masters benefit from the perpetuation of the “Cool image” but they also benefit form the perpetuation of the Uncool contribution to society. Stop contributing. Be Cool.
Drop the pretense.
Lose the facade.
Embrace the Cool.