We are the aimless generation.
This should not be news to you.
But it is.
And it will be, even after you read this post. You’ll forget about it, likely, and be reminded of it months or years later.
A “generation” is hardly ever recognized during its life cycle.
Not during. Only after.
So don’t feel bad.
Very few have words for it, until it has passed.
For to try to put words to it, usually results in heated criticism anyways. Give it some time and distance– the heat always dies down. Then we talk freely.
Yet, only a select handful are brave hell-raisers who can “give voice” to a generation, helping define it.
Yeah, they give voice to it. Almost as if the notes already existed on page; they were simply the person who sang them. It is the music that resonates with everybody. It’s a universal understanding.
we are afraid. We are afraid to be wrong. We are afraid we might just be right. We are afraid to go against the grain. We are afraid people won’t agree with our view. We are afraid it will be labeled “blasphemy” and our word will be rendered “untruthful” and our character deemed “insane”.
But that’s if you are even aware of said issue. And I’m not sure we are.
In reality, maybe time is the best teacher. Mostly only in retrospect, looking at our past, do we recognize its significance.
This is “life,” I suppose.
We are blind to it, most days.
Until something stops us in our paths, like a car ablaze in the middle of the freeway, crumpled and causing traffic. Police lights are flashing.
But hardly -ever- do we seek out these things: That which confronts us, blocks our view, slows us down, and challenges every urge we have to rush on without noticing…life. It challenges your current view of the world.
J.D. Salinger comes to mind. The rebellion of the 50’s. His book “Catcher in The Rye.” (Along with that era, why do you think James Dean is still a poster on every girl’s bedroom wall?)
It’s not like people didn’t know kids smoked, cussed, and drank before that. Salinger simply was the first person to point it out, when everybody was all “hush hush. We don’t talk about that. It’s not appropriate.”
In fact the book was banned in high schools across America; not because it wasn’t representative of the generation…but because it was.
I know, it sounds silly now. Like, how could they be so blind and stubborn to the facts? But that’s the truth. And it’s true for every generation. Every decade.
We are afraid of change.
and we are afraid of anybody who stands for that.
Let me give you some base examples you probably take for granted today, which were not that long ago:
Remember, most of the people who were raised to a level of heroic fame were those who spoke out at a time when it was unpopular, but later caught on. They were not famous at the time. They were prophets of sorts. People were amazed by them. They were lifted up as a spokesperson for the generation. Like Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg was to the “Beat Generation” or Steve Jobs was to the Computer Information age. Like Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement. Like Nelson Mandela was the incarcerated antagonist to South Africa. Like Magic Johnson was a catalyst to ending the HIV stigma. Like Kurt Cobain or Bob Dylan were to Rock. etc.
Those (now) household names have one thing in common. People didn’t want that change at the time.
Who will be the voice of ours? All seems silent so far.
We are the aimless generation.
And we don’t even realize it.
We are disenchanted with the idea being either politically riotous or corporately pledged.
That would require effort. Or moving from the couch, which has two thousand channels, Netflix, and video games all in one place.
You may hear this term in “the slackers,” referring to us “millennials”. Accurate or not, it’s because people just don’t know what to call us.
And they’d be right to feel that way.
At first, I took offense to it. But is it true? Even I have to try and take another unbiased look at it.
I realized our dilemma is slightly different, creating a unique definition, albeit symptomatic: We aren’t doing it intentionally.
Not that it helps, in the eyes of the older folks. But we’re not going out of our way to cheat the system, like that stigma of kid in class who cheats off everyone and only bathes weekly if he can get away with it….
It’s not that’w we’re out to cheat the system. It’s just all we’ve ever known. We’ve grown up in the system.
We grew up with everything. Lets be honest. We have smartphones. We can Google the answer to anything IN THE FREAKIN PALM -OF- OUR- HAND, in the middle of the woods, or in a car. We don’t need directories or boomboxes or long phone conversations or calculators or board games or email or land lines or fancy cameras or dictionaries or encyclopedias or radios or the weather report. It’s all right there.
Literally and metaphorically speaking, it’s all been given to us.
We don’t have to get up from the couch to find the answer. It’s right there.
We haven’t really been defined by anything. Whereas the past generations have been defined by the in-your-face things they did, we are left with a blank label. Ours is an empty name tag. It’s about what we didn’t do.
We aren’t really passionate about….anything. Despite the short-lived fads like Invisible Children and countless others. The disappear as soon as the come.
The biggest thing to happen to us was awareness of Global Warming. And I think Al Gore is taking credit for that, I hear, anyways. Not that we’ve actually done anything about it. Unless it has a bumper sticker or a cool “share”-able video, we’re not interested in actually making a difference. (Should I make a quip about Toms Shoes here? Nah. Not worth my time.)
To find a “label” for what best expresses our generation, I had to dig deep. I had to go all the way back to the Beat Generation of the late 1940’s/early 50’s, the post-Depression Era of the 20’s/30’s, and even the 1890’s.
Jack Kerouac wrote his manifesto of sorts, which was chock full of obscene, nearly libelous juicy bits exposing the underbelly of his generation’s unrest. In 1947, he hitchhiked across America and lived wildly in different cities with his friends, abandoning the conventional culture of uprising commercialism. This would give voice to the 50’s. He would later become one of the most highly acclaimed American authors, ironically.
Jack London wrote about his time as intentionally drifting as a bum along with hundreds of thousands, on the railways of America in the 1890’s. He challenged the capitalistic ventures and values of our system to the very core. He was a bum, feeding off the teat of democracy, without paying tribute. He was a freeloader. It was blasphemy…… but he would later become one of the most highly acclaimed American authors, ironically.
But our plight is not that which spawns a literal wanderlust, like the previously mentioned examples. So, no I am definitely not saying these decades are the same, or even close– only how this is not a new dilemma of American restlessness.
I think ours is more of a symbolic aimlessness, dissatisfied with our options, but not seeing any new ones. We are “slackers” not because we have eagerly chosen this path, but because we do not see any other available ones.
Again, my mind takes a humorous route to the example of “Workaholics” to show our generations ambitions and lack of optimism for the future.
No, we are not literal vagabonds. Far from it. In fact, there are hardly a couple thousand vagabonds in America today. Ours is more of a mental rejection of society’s norms, without the actual follow-through.
We don’t want to grow up. We have not be able to find our identity, so we have rejected it altogether. We threw the baby out with the bathwater (who ever did that, incidentally? Stupid phrase.)
Instead, everything becomes ironic and symbolic of past norms. (click link for fantastic article by the NYT on hipsters and irony)
We are so scared of our future, we have resigned ourselves to living in the past. (Read my previous blog posts)
We like “vintage” things, and spend much of our time dwelling on the past, yet have not learned from it. The actual hipsters were the generation which preceded hippies. Before it became all about ingesting or inhaling large quantities of mind-numbing drugs, laying on the floor and listening to rock…..it was a social movement. Real hipsters were the ones who spoke out for change (See Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”), but unfortunately their image is usually lumped in with the latter hippies.
We need to take an honest look at how we might be similar, or entirely different.
Perhaps we need to rethink this absurd cartoonish image we have in our head of the hobo with the little bandanna pouch wrapped around the end of a stick. Ya, know what I’m talking about.
Of course, this visual depiction in our brains is because we have nothing else to substitute it with. (submit a comment on here with yours!)
Maybe it’s going to start looking more like a kid in his late 20’s, with a bachelors degree, working at SuperMax Supplies, living at his parents still, playing video games.
Or maybe even more subtle than that.
………..To Be Continued in Part 2……….
-Dave in South Texas-