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27 January 2010

"Helpsters" Are The New "Hipsters"

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"Helpsters" Are The New "Hipsters"


Has the Age of the Hipster come to an end? And if so, will "helpster" be the next word that everyone calls other people, but no one uses to describe themselves? That's the question raised in this New York Press article, which details the rise of "helpsters" — socially conscious cool kids who have stopped acting like "disaffected aesthetes with nihilistic tendencies" and started becoming "motivated and committed Samaritans."

Though they are partly to blame for the gentrification of their communities, helpsters possess a "gentrifier's guilt [that] has spurred them to want to halt any further changes, and they are increasingly working to empower and enrich their neighborhoods." So they've taken to organizing concerts by bands like They Might Be Giants to raise money for a community center in Williamsburg, launched "guerilla gardening" campaigns to create new greenspaces, held bicycle demonstrations and protests, and pushed to establish Brooklyn's own currency. Helpsters even helped New York Cares have a 30 percent increase in volunteers last year, 60 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 34.

The nascent helpster movement might be gaining followers, but it's not necessarily easy to convert hipsters to their activist ways. "We have a really hard time at NAG [Neighbors Allied for Good Growth] to find people who genuinely want to volunteer if there's not beer involved," said volunteer Emily Gallagher. "Seriously everything has to be like a singles event." If hipsters do embrace volunteerism, they could turn out casting it aside in a few seasons like the trucker hats of yesteryear — yet some activists remain optimistic that civic engagement might become hip.

"What would it look like to have a cultural movement that doesn't suck, that isn't 'activism'?" asked Beka Economopoulos, cofounder of the art-and-activism collective Not an Alternative. "What if Williamsburg looked t...

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