Generational Crap

Wailing Shabba's picture

“You, all right? I learned it by watching you!”

It’s called a shared cultural experience. Something we all grew up with, grew up surrounded by, so a passing reference to it will be understood by anyone who shares your cultural values. It’s a way to single out those who are like you in a crowd.

I only bring it up because it ties together two things I want to talk about today, namely the way one generation fucks up the next and the way attachment to childhood things seems to be our generation’s stock in trade.

I read this today, and it cemented my status as a non-fan of Baby Boomers. For the record, the first time I read On the Road I was enraptured. The second time, however, I was only amused. It wasn’t until the third time that I realized what a magnificent turd the book was. In a nutshell, like the review says, it’s all image. And that’s what the Baby Boomers looked up to as they began their rebellion. This ultimately shallow collection of stories that served to make one writer look cooler than he actually was to people he claimed to not care about.*

And that’s why this whole steaming mess of aging goofballs has always been a joke to me. They put up all this brave talk about changing the world, they grew out their hair in defiance of their parents (who they now call ‘the greatest generation;’ go figure), and then they just as quickly changed their minds when disco rolled into town. “Fuck all this revolution, I just wanna do some ludes, man.” Then they had the nerve to tell us “We didn’t start the fire.” Fuck you. Fuck you for making the world worse than you found it, more so than any generation before you.

And now they’re so wrapped up in their image as ‘boomers’ that they can’t even buy retirement planning unless the withered husk of Dennis Hopper tells them that retirement is the new mod. They’re that into their own image as this massive cultural phenomenon. They think the time they spent listening to the Monkees and digging up roots at a commune mean dick in the grand scheme of things.
Hi, remember me? I was an important counter-cultural figure to people of your general age. Later, I was King Koopa.Hi, remember me? I was an important counter-cultural figure to people of your general age. Later, I was King Koopa.

But then, here’s something uncomfortable to consider. What happens to a generation raised by such superficial people?

You look back on recent history, when the Baby Boomer generation stopped being that into ‘causes,’ you know when that was? It was the late 70s/early 80s, right? You want to know why? Go back and read old Time or Life Magazines. All the boomers could talk about was having kids. Kids became the new pet rocks. It was the in thing to do. Look around you. If you got that reference in the first line of this article, odds are good you started out as someone’s fashion accessory.

So when we’re basically raised to be children, you know what happens? Check your myspace page, see how many references to cartoons you have on it, then get back to me. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you at least mention Family Guy and the Simpsons. But those are cartoons for adults, you might say, should I be made to feel childish for enjoying them? Maybe, I respond, but think about the fact that outside of some Tijuana bibles, ‘cartoons for adults’ didn’t exist 50 years ago.

Look, T-shirts with cartoon characters on them should not come in 2X adult sizes. No one has any business having the G.I. Joe theme song as a ringtone on their $500 cell phone. For that matter, if you bought a Sidekick because it featured an ad where a bunch of 20-somethings convene in a 'flash mob' to spray 'silly string' on each other at a mall instead of 'having jobs,' you are definitely part of the problem

And for God’s sake, if you buy car insurance because some robot-fighting cartoon superspy tells you too, maybe you’re better off walking.

We’re a generation of grown children, only able to communicate with each other via pop culture references and shared love of cartoons we watched when we weren’t old enough to know better. I know it seems like I’m pinning this all on our parents’ generation, but the truth is we’re old enough to know better now.

God, if I were my in my 80s and had seen what someone in their 80s has seen, it would blow my mind that you have adults, fully grown men and women, spending half their days pasting code into a computer so that when their friend across town presses a mouse key, a snarled collage of cartoon characters, personality quizzes and glitter fonts set to a Fall Out Boy song will pop up on their screen. How can you have ever spent an entire day plowing a field and not cry for someone with all that time on their hands and nothing meaningful to do with it?

A year ago, I became a father. Maybe that’s at the root of all this for me, wanting to better my generation before my daughter grows up surrounded by the out-of-control children who were are raised by a pack of adult babies who were raised by people who only cared about their image. Maybe I want to think that there’s still a chance for my generation to make the world a better place, unlike our parents.

But maybe, it’s because when I read On the Road, the only part I can truly admire is that no one of my generation will ever speak for all of us like that book did. For all the ridiculous things it said, at least it said something. Something besides, “Hey, do you remember Voltron?” So, yes, I can sit here and call Baby Boomers shallow, but it only serves as a stunning indictment of a generation that refuses to leave the cradle and raise the bar.

*And as long as I’m on a rant against this book, I’ve never heard anyone defend On the Road by doing anything other than quoting that passage about, “The ones for me are the mad ones, the ones who burn burn burn blah blah blah.” Seriously, every time I criticize this book to someone, they bring up that paragraph. All that paragraph says is, “I’m uninteresting; I like to surround myself with interesting people so that I can write cool stories and seem interesting by proxy.” I had roommates once who used to sit around and read Kerouac poetry to each other. Goofiest shit I’ve ever seen in my life.