Disarm: part 1

Disarm: part 1

Part 1 of post I decided to split up. This part is more of a short rant about the demonization of youth by older, failed generations. The upcoming second part features a more personal story of a friend from my past, in other words, one of the youth being demonized.

America eats its babies, we- I'm, no matter what y'all think about me
I'm still your child, you know what I'm sayin?

-2Pac, 1994 interview

There is a saying often uttered by the old or aging. "Youth is wasted on the young." I despise this saying. It's not our fault that you misused years of your life and now hold a myriad of regrets. We should be stating instead, "Wisdom is wasted on the old", because when it is most vital, our youth, it is notoriously absent. The wisdom that one day things will get better. The wisdom that despite the apparent chaos and randomness of life, there is a certain amount of control one can grasp over it. The wisdom of retrospect and being able to foresee or expect definite consequences and outcomes. These perspectives take years, even decades, to gain.

But the more common saying sticks, becoming adopted by the successive aging generation as part of a larger demonization of youth. Currently, perhaps in reaction to the explosion of characters in television commercials having skinny jeans and coke bottle glasses, there has been a tsunami of 'What is wrong with millenials?' articles. From mainstream newsstand regulars to web-only cultural sites, a smorgasbord of charts, graphs and polls have been schlepped out to prove how fucked up people born between the years of 1980 and 20001 really are. It almost reminds one of the second half of the 1990s, when Marilyn Manson and video games such as Mortal Kombat were seen as clear indicators of society's eventual collapse into Thunderdome-esque entropy.

Forgotten are the faults of the previous generations. Generation X, much lauded or disparaged for their cynicism of American greed and bullying militarism, were the first to declare an era of 'post-irony' as the so-called War On Terror built up the coffers of the Defense Department. Their inward looking, self-obsession, once seen as a reaction towards the decadence of the money chasing 1980s, morphed into a sort of individualistic market moralism. If only enough single units in a fractured and atomized society decided to go along, things would change, right? However, the nerve of overpaid and undertalented Gen-X hacks such as Joel Stein, to criticize the kids who birthed the first mass movement centering on economic inequality in decades, as 'narcissistic' does indicate that his generation's insistence on the death of irony wasn't adopted.

As for the Baby Boomers, perhaps the most idealistic generation, it's self-congratulatory and arrogant tunnel vision is so infamous it exists as its own meme. It's suspicion of an economy based on cutthroat competition and disregard for the unfortunate mutated into extreme vulture capitalism and a downward spiral for the poor, of which there has been little recovery. The Boomers' rejection of 'America First', racial discrimination and totalitarianism were quickly discarded when they moved up to the streets of D.C. Now we sit with an ever expanding and exploding prison population with drastic racial disparities and regenerated American exceptionalism, which has robots killing whomever and all pervading intelligence services that are quickly approaching the dystopic levels fictionalized in Japanese anime.

It's difficult to separate generational stereotypes from real world people when the stereotypes become so personalized. When this one-way criticism happens, immediately it brings to mind the world we have inherited and what it has done to us. Some of us cannot make it through this world. A not insignificant number of my age group (American, Iraqi and Afghan) are gone forever, existing only in pictures and memories, the result of a Baby Boomer led war. Others see nothing more but concrete and steel, an abandoned nation bonded into a modern Gulag system.

A minority didn't make it for reasons more complicated and nuanced, but the end result was the same.

To be continued...

  • 1. Or whatever arbitrary timeline.

Posted By

Poe Man's Dreams
May 29 2014 03:21


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Jun 1 2014 19:53

If I may ... I'm a couple of years ahead of 'official Boomer' category, and was certainly involved in counter-culture of that time. I still am - as are many others. I was drawn to the counter culture in university, (I attended on a low-income government loan, as did my siblings). But even then, I did not fully accept all criticisms directed at the generation that raised us. Because of my rural roots, I knew the 'salt of earth' values of my parents and grandparents. I parted company quite sharply with family on many political views, but did not feel justified in vilifying 'those' generations, (parents, grandparents). Nor, of course, do I presently vilify any generations following me. I doubt I'm alone in this.

Most of my personal life has been quite modest, and is especially so right now - I'm of 'elder' age, have no health care, and live on a very restricted budget. This - after I began full time summer work (40hr/wk) at age 12. To my parent's consternation, I took to their deeper values so strongly that I never was motivated to 'get rich'. My careers in farming and teaching always seemed to me 'careers of service'. Farming included strong commitment to land, flora, and fauna conservation. All along the way, a number of my contemporaries practiced similar values - often including political activism.

I returned to the States (from Canada) to live post-retirement, a few years pre-economic bust. (That's the lack of health care explanation, insufficient quarters for Medicare - close, but not quite.) On my return I was stunned at American dominant 'broad culture'. Consumerism vs citizenship, and 'personal realization vs attention to community' seemed rampant, to have fully captured nearly everyone in my 'new' community. By all media evidence, this seemed true of the entire culture.

I set about trying to understand, have been informally studying history, economics, and power of marketing since. Through my studies, I came to recognize the tremendous appeal, even 'relief', of a rising consumer culture post Great Depression and post WW2. "The science of marketing" (i.e. persuasion targeting emotions) paired with television may have been one of the most powerful inoculations possible to 'infect' America's post-war prosperity, to turn citizens to consumers.

What began innocently enough (automatic washing machines to replace wringer washers) was truly a boon. But automatic washers, and also automobiles, were far too durable. Planned obsolescence and eventually easy consumer credit made appeals to "buy now to realize your dream" all too easy. People followed - a Pied Piper time.

At least that's the narrative I've pieced together in trying to figure out how high-consumption and material accumulation gained such traction against other values. There have always been hold-outs - my parents weren't the only ones who refused to buy a television. But when I 'tune into' assorted forces at work mid to late 20thC, based on studies, I'm no longer puzzled. (Assorted forces included keeping 'an enemy' in mind via Cold War propaganda; co-option of the human potential movement toward materialistic 'rewards' for 'success'; and more.) You may have had opportunity to view the BBC series "Century of Self" by Adam Curtis - it's a good review of marketing power. "The Trap" also by Curtis is often cited as helpful background to understand appearance of 'trickle down' economics - yet another significant factor!

IMO, without greater awareness of 'who we are' as pyscho-social beings, we are 'sitting ducks' for some pretty powerful manipulative ploys. I would argue that fighting among ourselves is unhelpful - but that 'calling out' of blaming and stereotyping is important. We need to remind one another, as you do when you reference problems with stereotyping. (I view open respectful 'calling out' as informal 'conflict resolution', and as necessary to get us to the general unity of purpose that I think we need.)

Widespread destruction of watersheds and habitats - along with ocean degradation - are startling and rapidly accelerating developments that even those of us who lived committed 'back to land' lives did not foresee. Most days 'earth care' is my priority; and includes labor over fossil fuel to get work done. I'm in the minority in my community in terms of the level of my commitment; from my observation, every generation living - those older and younger than me, spontaneously think "what can I buy" when they want changes in anything from gardens to decor to fitness programs.

I *do* agree, by the way, that 'dominating' forces all along have shown little regard for the marginalized, and generally speaking, 'the masses' have gone along with this. Collectively, in broad-culture, we've shown little conscious intent or interest in creating inclusive, thriving, communities.

So far, in broad-cultural terms we also seem mostly asleep with regards to safeguarding earth's flora/fauna and life-supporting natural dynamics. Minutes ago I visited with a family who own a vacant lot near me. The lot has been abandoned for years, has been treated as a dump. The family is taking responsibility, including, possibly, 'clearing the whole piece'. This would include clearing wonderful trees and undergrowth that have become bird and small animal habitat. Of course if they were to want to build on the lot - much would need to be cleared, but at this time construction is not their intent. Our mentality generally remains: "Bring in some bulldozers and knock it all down".

I hope my remarks don't come across as 'a scold'. I don't mean them that way. I am deeply concerned at how humanity and the earth are faring these day.

jef costello
Feb 6 2016 18:34

Whatever happened to Poe Man's Dreams?

He was a good writer about shitty situations, hope he's not still in one.