Saturday, March 17, 2007

Born in 1980

Born in 1980

(after “Born in 1925”, Lyotard 1948)

No one knows whether this youth of ours is a youth. We fly the flag of old age; that “nothing is new anymore” while clamoring for the fashion, or approximation, of a “new” that satisfies us with whims and toys. To be honest we must not eliminate the parts of our generation that give themselves to faith, to unerring belief. Questioning is not our strong suit. We are embodied by indifference, submissive or ambitious, and reject maturity even when we seem to accept the roles of our fathers. Here we have no definition of what we are, and make no attempt to define ourselves.

We were eight when the Berlin Wall fell, and nine when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. For a Czech this meant two weeks off of school, for the West it meant souvenirs and good television. We slept through the consequences our parents felt, and we were only … through the first Gulf War at the age of eleven. Here we understood for the war was made for us, in bedrooms and in basements, on television. We became voracious for the reality it could provide us with; an imaginary achievement in a state of exuberant plenty. [We thought] we were young. When Cobain’s death exposed the collapse of our belief we were fifteen. Absurdity was once again absorbed into capitalism as it had been three times in the last century (Breton, Camus, Lennon); it made us chaste, ineffective, and bound to a realism we really do want. Art becomes mannerist, style drowns substance, and Bob Dylan bores us.

This servility frees us from the dogma of change. We submit to fashion. The strongest of these fashions is Pentecostalism. A wave of Christianity sweeps the United States, suppressing liberalism with a charismatic conservatism, Jimmy Carter makes us ashamed: America is not overthrowing its values but suffering its fate. We became intelligent just in time to see democracy decline into personality. Fashion is the last resort by which we can affirm ourselves against the world, and even it is complicious. From Green Day to Hot Topic revolt becomes anemic, it is marketed by others. We have been present at the death throes of liberalism, and maybe even freedom. (it remains to be seen) Our progressive civilization has just been negated.

On 11 September 2001 the alienation that lies at the origin of the repression practiced in Washington was underscored by terrorist attacks. It wasn’t the first time, either. In the ten years since we have been woken up by television, we never once questioned its content, not even when the presidential election of 2000 should have called the democratic nature of the government into question. We feel we know how we should behave, and we understand it. After the Vietnam War America knew what to do; and the hard line of capitalism germinated from this instinct. After 2001 our grip tightened over a personal sensory horror even though few among us know the grief and anger of loss. In the past couple of years that personal horror has subsided after the ravages of time and repeated dysfunctional uses.

The great movement to democratize, Rock and Roll, has also lost its truth. Originating with Chuck Berry in the mid-century Rock and Roll faced a crisis after Vietnam, a crisis of expression that psychoanalyzed itself throughout culture. Our generation has its own crisis as well. There might seem to be little difference, were it not for the fact that we don’t much care that it is gone. After Rock and Roll you need to do something else. Do we really need to keep rehashing Rock and Roll? Today the Rolling Stones sell out more stadiums than you could imagine, emptying Brown Sugar and Waitin’ on a Friend of meaning. Rebellion is cut off from its occasion and source, it is impossible. There is no intoxication that can live up to our tidy consumption. Logic and worth have entered our everyday lives along with fashion, and often it is no loner desire that produces rebellion, but calculation. Rebellion becomes a quotient in a formula, subservient to capitalism and appraised on cost benefit analysis.

We have begun to change. Expression has not found its proper gait, but the world begins to change around us. In Iraq in 2003 we found ourselves grounded again in the most human activity of war, listening to those who said “Reason will end up being right.” We (do I still have the right to use this collective pronoun?) watch explosions and find them superior to those of video games. Scenes of violence still mean something different from their representation, but our taste for representation focuses ever more on reality.

We have found our dream in ourselves. How distant is the claim that we are all equal? We are all subject to capitalism, to cost benefit analysis. Inefficient use of capital is corrected, fire extra employees, move jobs internationally; take smokers off of health insurance. But who among those born in 1980 would not rather have been born?

I hope I am speaking about most of the youth; the democratization of experience through television is widespread and entertaining. I do not know if we still have an “intellectual youth”, for young people in America today (and many the world over) have absorbed the traditional rites of the avant-garde without desire (and the avant-garde has been abandoned). We are self-absorbed, isolated in experience yet experiencing personal sensory experiences second-hand from media about events. The act of viewing becomes our first-hand experience and as we begin to choose representations based on their resemblance to reality the second-hand becomes more real. Out of our isolation we breed ambition, and conversely our ambition breeds separation. The latter is especially felt by the rich and the breakdown of the remnants of civility in the aristocracy. Adventure becomes survival in the current leisure class at the breakneck pace set for it by capitalism. Many take it on themselves to work second schemes, jobs or studies; many others are obligated to. In short, we are in a state of congruence, with the decay of the truth and a desire for reality as our common denominator.

This agreement occurs in all perspectives. In art, great painters are no longer those who possess skill or have something to say, but those who have hype- who are easily reproducible and able to be written about. In politics the same is true. And so on. We question being by attempting to describe an event, any and all events, as real. In thirty years we will have found a meaning for this empiricism; and deconstructed a civilization. But we will have lived in the interim.

We still have to make due with the world, to take threats of war seriously, to think of our future. We are excited to be representing the situation that we create. We will make the image of humanity, and we don’t give a damn for tradition. Let’s choose an extravagant personal adventure.


jeannecassanova said...

This is fantastic; it meant alot to me as I read it.
I've really enjoyed all of your posts this week - thank you for sharing them.