Things have been a little dull over the holiday period. So dull, in fact, that I’ve been picking through my receptionist’s collection of novels. First there was that book everyone’s been chattering about recently — Ian McEwan’s Atonement. The second book in her pile was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Ever helpful, my receptionist had bookmarked it with a copy of Oprah’s reading guide: "How does concern over class status affect Gary…?" asks the guide. Like this apparently:
Oh, misanthropy and sourness. Gary wanted to enjoy being a man of wealth and leisure, but the country was making it none too easy. All around him, millions of newly minted American millionaires were engaged in the identical pursuit of feeling extraordinary — of buying the perfect Victorian, of skiing the virgin slope, of knowing the chef personally, of locating the beach that has no footprints. There were further tens of millions of young Americans who didn’t have money but were nonetheless chasing the Perfect Cool. And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary? Who would perform the thankless work of being comparatively uncool?
Which brings us to our reader’s cry for help. Troppo denizen Rex Ringschott wonders " whether it would be considered cool to wear a Kevin-07 T-Shirt in Brunswick St, and if not, where one might go where it would be considered cool."
Mr Ringschott, the pursuit of cool is the deliberate pursuit of social exclusion. As Mr Franzen’s character correctly notes, it is not possible to be cool unless others are uncool. The urge to be cool is a vindictive urge for superiority. Social exclusion is contrary to the stated aims of the Rudd government and, after you realise this, the t-shirt may cause uncomfortable sensations of cognitive dissonance.
At this stage you may be wondering whether the obvious tension between the t-shirt’s message and your intent to look cool is ironic and that irony might be cool. If so, you should be aware that the t-shirt’s message is displayed publicly on your chest while the irony is sealed inside your head. Unless you can find an socially acceptable way to display a fashionably ironic stream of consciousness while walking down the street you will still not be considered cool.
I hope this helps.