The Kingdom of Hip
(This story will take 10 minutes to read/listen to)
Once upon a time there was a very special kingdom. And like many kingdoms it was ruled by an over-bearing king and an over-arching theory, neither of which anyone dared question - if you wanted to see your next birthday, that is. The theory, or “paradigm” as clever-clogs call it, that ruled this kingdom had become “culturally embedded”. All that means is, if you ever wanted to actually change the structure of the society that grew up around it, it would be very difficult.
And the particular theory that ruled this kingdom was called “The Survival Of The Hippest”. Hence, the title of this story, the Kingdom of Hip.
It was very simple really. The more hip you were, the more the doors opened in terms of money, careers, wealth, power, fame and so on. And conversely those who were not naturally hip experienced life at a terrible disadvantage. That’s why, amongst other things, the whole education system was geared towards increasing one’s ability to be hip. It was all very competitive because so much hinged on this one single ability.
To make matters worse, over time (as often happens) this theory of “The Survival of the Hippest” had gradually achieved the status of “fact”, backed up by science no less, even though it was just a theory in which people - for whatever reason - believed.
And once it was given the status of fact, it soon became enshrined in law. And once it became law, it resulted in people being hauled before the courts and being judged and punished for not demonstrating sufficient proficiency in being hip, for not aligning themselves adequately with the prevailing theory-belief-assumed-fact … made law.
This bizarre set-up was taken to such an extent that those who failed their hip-ability final exams were banished from the kingdom altogether, causing on such occasions some very emotional scenes.
Such was the case in the Kingdom of Hip. But all this was about to change.
Now Stanley and Susanna were the hippest couple in the kingdom. They had won the Kingdom’s main “Hip-Couple-Of-The-Year” competition an unprecedented 10 times in a row – and doors to wealth, fame and an enviable lifestyle had opened in their direction. In due course Stanley and Susanna had twins, a boy and a girl, whom they named Atlas and Zöe. Naturally they were presented as the hippest couple of babies in the kingdom.
As they grew older, however, Stanley and Susanna became increasingly concerned, because both Atlas and Zöe showed absolutely no signs whatsoever of having any natural talent at all at being hip.
But you’ve got to hand it to their parents. They tried everything. Extra-curricular tuition in being hip and eventually expensive private schooling which promised to draw out of each pupil every ounce of hipness that was in them. The trouble was, Atlas and Zöe just did not seem to have even half-an-ounce of hipness to be drawn out them in the first place.
Stanley and Susanna became increasingly frantic with worry. As still the hippest couple in the kingdom, they could hardly blame their children’s lack of hipness on genetics; ie: on their nature. And this put the blame fairly and squarely on their nurture – which Stanley and Susanna as dedicated parents took to be solely their responsibility. Not surprisingly as parents they felt like total failures. They, the long-standing and hippest couple in the kingdom, had two children who were the least hip teenagers - of all.
What’s more, the prospect of their children failing their final exams and being banished from the kingdom – forever – was looming as a distinct possibility. Worse still, Stanley and Susanna had long since been publicly in favour of this law, declaring that it maintained the high level of hipness in the kingdom, something that was also believed to make a significant contribution to the kingdom’s economics.
A couple of years’ later, the big test came. And like many parents in the kingdom, after their children had done “the big exams”, they waited sick with worry for the results to pop through the post. Then one morning, a couple of stressful days’ later than expected, PLOP! – in they dropped through the letter-box. Trembling with concern they opened the envelopes … and read the worst. Both Atlas and Zöe had not only not got an “F” for “Fail”, but a “U” for “Unclassified” – the examiners had been unable to classify their efforts, so pathetic had they been judged.
Fortunately Stanley and Susanna were not only just very hip; they were also very savvy, clear and determined. If the Ministry of Hip banished their children from the kingdom, as with these results they surely would, then they – long-standing ambassadors for the validity of Hip – would go with their children and leave the Kingdom as well. And by using their contacts, they made a big splash in the media all about their decision.
Now by questioning the underpinning belief in The Survival Of The Hippest, Stanley and Susanna not only put the Ministry of Hip in a quandary, but also the King and the whole basis of his government.
So behind closed doors, the King offered a special deal to pardon Atlas and Zöe. However, to their credit their parents absolutely refused, stating that it would be totally unfair if they got a special favour just because they were rich and famous; that would never do.
There seemed only one other option, which was to question the unquestionable. Perhaps the belief in, and assumed fact of The Survival Of The Hippest, widely regarded as it was, was not the only philosophy by which the kingdom could be run? Perhaps other ideas, theories and beliefs also had value, if not were even equally as important? Maybe people could make a valid contribution to the kingdom in ways other than merely being hip? Perhaps it was time to update (as it were) the current belief-system.
It was a very radical thought, but a seed-idea had been sown. And gradually it grew. Slowly but surely, inclusivity became more hip than exclusivity, (until of course at some point in the future when the pendulum would swing too far in the opposite direction).
Catalysed by the dilemma their children had gifted them, Stanley and Susanna redefined themselves as Leaders of the New Hip, in which unhip children were encouraged to find their buried talents and make their contribution to the kingdom in their unique, but albeit unhip, ways.
Zöe discovered her love for building dry-stone walls, became an expert in this field and built a significant business around it. She offered activity holidays to rebuild various castle walls – something for which the king was very grateful.
And Atlas discovered his love for Tunisian Macramé, specialising in making personalised macramé bras, knickers and underwear for the rich and famous; and rumour has it that both the king and queen own a number of these very expensive and exclusive items.
With this success of course, both dry-stone walling and personalised Tunisian Macramé underwear became ultra-hip, which goes to show that there is nothing so practical and enduring as a good theory.