July 19, 2013

"Somehow or another we have to make it, 'You’re not with it if you’re not air drying your clothes!'"

Oh! Look at the colorful T-shirts and dresses pinned to the long clotheslines strung up in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. It's "Air Dry For the Environment." California Youth Energy Services will also come to your house — if you're in Berkeley, Antioch, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremond, Hayward, Oakland, Pleasanton, Richmond, Union City, or Marin County — and install a retractable clothesline. Free!

These young people seem nice and positive, and I like the specific, practical approach. I remember the old days when people didn't have dryers and it was the norm to hang everything outside. It didn't have a feeling attached to it. You didn't feel hip or virtuous. But to get people to go back to something that seems labor-intensive and possibly an invasion of your own privacy — I note there are no underpants or bras in that Civic Center Park display — you've got to work with people's feelings.

They'd like to make it feel hip to hang out your clothes, but the stronger argument is that it is virtuous. Do hipness and virtuousness go together? In the old days, the hip scorned traditional values, but they (we?) might have embraced some selected virtues — maybe stark truthtelling. But I don't think that environmentalism — which used to be called "conservation" — seems hip at all. Trying to make it feel hip to people seems like the exact opposite of hipness. Perhaps you'd like to see the end of hipness. This wholesomeness could be fatal. But it's more likely that new hipsters will emerge, and they'll have to scoff at the virtues that were promoted in a way that feels shallow and dishonest.

It's not hip to hang laundry.