Life Cage: Some Notes on Millenials
I: WORST. GENERATION. EVER.
Who doesn’t long for a bygone era of answerable questions and clearer intentions? Most people born into the Western world in the last fifty years have been afforded a relatively stable material existence (food, water, shelter) and furnished with large blocks of time for socialization, entertainment, and some kind of education, whether standardized or freestyle. Born into this, world-historically-speaking, ludicrous prosperity, the children of the latter twentieth-century have developed some pretty twisted coping mechanisms. The (predominately white) counterculture children of the sixties fomented a benevolent and drug-fueled revolution in the colleges, eager to allay their bourgeoisie boredom and be accepted as “down” by those fighting for their lives in the American South, in Cuba, Africa and Vietnam. These well-meaning youth, entombed in the realm of material certainty, quickly turned from solidarity to writing about the poverty of student life, expecting the movement to help them get over their existential malaise. Bored, depressed, filled with impotent rage? Bad feelings can be vanquished forever with the magic cure-all of revolution! Social movements withered on the vine as this more personal, lifestylist approach emerged. Some of these priveleged latter-day nihilists in the US and Europe thought they could follow in the Third World revolutionaries’ footsteps and tried to ‘accelerate the contradictions’ by turning to kidnappings, car-jackings, bombings, and assasination. They failed to learn the vanguardist lesson of John Brown—just because your little cadre is ready to really to storm the armory doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else will be. In fact, there are few things more repellent to most people than being prodded into violence by radicals who have less to lose than they do. The pendulum of emotional politics inevitably swings back in the opposite direction, and when the roulette wheel stops, the former militants have metamorphosed into neoconservatives, Kombucha-swilling spiritual cultists and tweedy leftoid professors. So perhaps it is for the best that Generation Y—the generation Jeff Daniels decries as the “Worst. Generation. Ever.” in his Newsroom tirade—seems less interested in waging insurrection than they are in making a hipster appearances at the various simulacras of insurrection (are you going down to check out Occupy later?) or sniveling things like “First World problemmmms” to each other while drinking mojitos on backyard bar patios, their sad, docile hyper-critical faces forever illuminated by the bright blue cancer-beams of their always-vibrating smartphones.
While some are making bombs, others pack bongs, slouching into oblivion, their kinetic energy to do cool stuff killed in utero by some paralyzing understanding of its futility. The only picture that it seems appropriate to paint in 2012 is a painting of people having their picture taken by famous paintings. Who has time to paint anymore, when they can Tumble and comment and post to Pinterest? Artists are running out of original ideas and motivation as they become more and more beholden to their social network. Their work becomes little more than a social appendage of their personality, a mirrored hall refracting in on itself into infinity. Art is no longer a career path sure to lead to pariah social status. My peers, I must ask: who among you are missing digits? Will those prodded on by some deep-seated compulsion, damned to feed those inner demons and always sweat-drenched seconds away from cutting off an ear or sticking your head in the microwave please stand up? The formula for winning is simple—the first will be last and the last will be first. Marina Abramovic is famous because she has sacrificed regularly. These bodies are on temporary lease, so why choose a crisp and stainless life obsessed with the condition of how they will be returned to the cleaners? As the cold-blooded O.G. Werner Herzog once said: “I believe the only underlying elements of the universe are Chaos, Hostility, and Murder.” Smoke cigarettes, give yourself prison tattoos, debauch your name, and sully yourself in misguided action. Let your skin be dragged through the dirt and cold rain. Give yourself over to failure.
an existentialist piece on the existentialism of today’s cultured youth without purpose