“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

the kids aren't so alright, Strauss and Howe

Pulling into my apartment complex, I saw a Jeep covered with snowboarding bumper stickers and a "Kill Your TV' sticker. That particular sticker is also stuck to the television welded to the wall of my classroom, and it always provokes clueless commentary: "Why would you kill your TV, Mr. Sir?" The kids just don't get it. Which is odd. We discussed Life & Stuff at the last Drinking Liberally, and I-- and I think most of my peers-- consider ourselves to be largely post-television. I mean, there's Battlestar Galactica, 24, and The Daily Show, but there's also Netflixed DVDs, TiVo and BitTorrent. As for sitting and drooling and watching whatever the network gods deign to stream into the cathode-ray tube-- not so much.

My kids-- the vaunted Millennial Generation-- they're different. Amazingly, after half a century, they are once again the bogeyman from the nineteen-fifties, the kid from the original Willie Wonka movie who sits and watches the teevee for hours on end with his mouth hanging open. Not even video games, for god's sake. The freakin' television.

It reminds me of a strange anomaly I noticed when I first started teaching in 2001. The kids all seemed to be listening to Led Zep and Jimi Hendrix. When Franz Ferdinand and The Killers hit a couple of years later, some of them listened, but it was still retro; they still didn't have their own music. Some kids prefer hip-hop or norteƱo, but those forms have sounded exactly the same since, respectively, 1979 and the eighteenth century. Strauss and Howe are right about one thing, anyway; the Millenials ain't rebellious, not at all.

S&H find that to be a happy and reassuring fact. But America was founded on rebellion and has ever and always been lurchingly propelled forward so. And I keep coming back to this: my generation, the cynical Generation X or unlucky 13th generation sadly dismissed as a lost cause by most generational theorists, has become in contemporary pop sociology the First American Generation to be Poorer (Economically) Than Their Parents. But we at least had, in our poverty, our own (cyber) culture, our own (alternative) music. Beyond our postmodernism and post-Baby Boomerism and post-capitalism has come what was, in retrospect, inevitable: the First American Generation to be Culturally Poorer Than Their Parents.