Thursday, September 1, 2011
In the march of time, if time indeed marches, I see four generations in the passing parade. Heading the procession would be my parents and bringing up the rear, today’s youth with my generation and Baby Boomers in between. In fact we all overlap and bump into each other but it satisfies my need to view from afar however dissonant the big brass band.
My mother and father were profoundly shaped by the Depression years. I understood their insecurities and the coming together against fascism. I have a fair grasp of my own contemporaries living through post-war prosperity, Cold-War anxiety and the upheavals of the sixties and early seventies. Our children experienced these social changes at an earlier age and came to terms, more or less, with an array of options including further individualization, Yuppie-dom and the falling away of community. Finally we have so-called Gen X, the Slackers, who fell to Earth in the wireless superhighway born with a silver phone in their mouths.
A century in brief admittedly over-generalized but all in the service of finding a pattern. We have gone from a nation of immigrants marked by assimilation, and ambition to a new lost generation which seems to have embraced a form of Nihilism. I witness a culture of repudiation, both in values and language. It feels like the beginning of dystopia.
Music is a rage against all the sentiment we accommodated. Pattern recognition, not literacy, is a measure of intelligence. Dress is a statement of disdain. Adolescence has been extended into the thirties. Our wars seem like an extension of computer games. Sensation function has replaced deliberation. Traditional institutions, political, academic and religious are regarded as irrelevant. Geography has been obliterated by the Internet. This may be the generation least conversant with History since the lights went out in the Dark Ages. There is a disconnect between an act and its consequence. One tweets their way out of a job…..like what just happened? Connectivity without purpose seems to prevail.
Another pehnomena which isn't altogether new is the tracing of dots that aren’t there as when the Far Right, who alone have a toll-free number to God, come back to tell us how we are being scolded with horrific weather. Let's blame those damn Liberals for those quakes, temblors and twisters.
New technology calls for new behaviors and perhaps the Slackers are more aligned. Some of our cultural norms need to be abandoned or repaired anyway. Do they smell deceit more acutely? Their short-hand language is a way of rejecting our sometimes graceful, sometimes bloated sentences and media rhetoric. Like it or not we are in the midst of Slacker Aesthetic.
Their Art is often random holding presumed givens to ridicule, challenging old hierarchies and rendering identities as battered. The Slacker Aesthetic is a declaration of cultural war. It is a call for raw authenticity mixed with detachment embedded in a highly commodified society. If the tattoos, lip-rings and torn jeans are a pose they are also a powerful signifier for like minds. Are we being re-tribalized?
Of course all my observations are noted from a distant perch. I’m trying to make sense of it with my habit of seeking a pattern. Maybe that very impulse of contextualizing has itself been discarded for being bogus. Maybe the Slackers need to be cut some slack; after all these are our heirs and this is the world we bequeathed them.