artwork below by Emmanuel Laflamme
I need to preface this by saying I’m not a very tech-savvy guy. Sure, there was a time when I was recklessly altering the system files of my parents’ Packard Bell to change the Windows 95 start-up screen to a picture of Tyler Durden, but those times have passed me by. I know that’s a strange thing for a guy in his late 20’s to say, but a lot has changed since I traded the Spider-Man t-shirts for six-pack tall boys, and I didn’t keep up. I still watch VHS tapes on a hand-me-down 19” TV, the remote control ten years missing, presumed dead. The timecode forever blinking in the corner of the screen- an epitaph. Never forget. My phone flips open and has a camera, so that’s pretty cool. I can hang up on people with authority and occasionally get a signal in my house.
All that might give you the impression of a Man Out of Touch, and you’d be right. But I still post to my Facebook ten times a day. I still watch all my new releases on Netflix and my TV on Hulu. I still surf Reddit while I should be working and email my mom pictures of cute animals. The internet is my news source, my scrapbook, my soapbox and my shopping mall. And it’s killing my attention span.
I’m a Typical, Average, Everyday member of Generation Y. Those of us lucky (?) enough to have been born on the cusp. Old enough to have checked pay phone coin returns for quarters, but young enough to understand the privacy settings on Facebook. We are the Transitionals, the Both-Worlders, the Grand Experiment. We’ll be the first to find out if cell phones cause brain cancer and the last to collect Social Security. We are the man-children, the Peter Pans, the Standard Bearers of Adderall and Apathy. And soon enough, for better or worse, we’ll be the ones running things around here.
But the future for us Millennials is an uncertain one. The concept of a lifelong career sounds a bit heavy, bro, and being a parent? Dude, my mom still does my taxes. Are we a lost generation? It certainly doesn’t feel like it, but something’s… off. We’re confused. (Are we?) We’re angry. (Why?) Are we the brave leaders of a New Revolution or are we the unfortunate cast-offs of the Digital Divide? I know more drunks and pill poppers than I do corporate ladder climbers. I know more people with a rock band than a 401k plan. For that matter, what the hell is a 401k plan? But I digress.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Some of my friends are business owners and some of my acquaintances followed the path of their parents to the two-kid, white-picket-fence American Dream. But something is different. Five beers in, and we’re talking revolution. The Occupy Wall Street movement- love it or hate it –is the flashpoint of our Great Big Whateverthefuck. It’s the whitehead formed from years of Livejournal whining turned MySpace connecting turned Facebook organizing. And it, the Great Big Whatever, is about to pop.
My Gen Y attention span has me checking Twitter feeds ten minutes into a Netflix doc or during the obnoxiously repetitive Hulu commercial breaks that cut into the newest Parks & Rec. My life in tabbed browsing. But I hear things before Wolf Blitzer has time to mousse his hair for the camera. We’re in the goddamn thick of it from the moment we proxy browse at work to the moment we put on the PJ pants for PBR&R. And we’re pissed. We’re mobilizing. And it’s working.
The propaganda I hear on the news merits another article unto itself, but the backlash from the older folks, the Baby Boomers, is something I can’t help but comment on. The people who raised us to believe we could be anything we wanted to be, if only we put our minds to it. The people we taught how to use computers so they could send us chain emails regarding the dangers of illusory gang initiations in mall parking lots. The people who singlehandedly ended an unjust war and then threw in the tie-dye towel when Free Love’s unintended consequences- us -blessed their lives with new meaning.
It’s hard for us to understand. An aging 60’s/70’s college idealist casting their lot with the Water Polo and Monocle Society of America and the endless ranks of faceless, uniformed, gas-masked, heavily-armed police as they do everything in their power (and beyond it) to crush the dissent of youth. Good. Good riddance. We get it. Time to go home now. Get a job. We were protesting Vietnam back then. It was different. Now we just need somebody in office who can fix the economy. Corporations aren’t your enemy. Where do you think you got your iPhone?
But it’s more than that. Something that’s difficult to describe and hard to pin down. Something that somehow flows better in hashtags and image macros than it does in prose and tax code legislation. In my opinion, this isn’t about politics or parties or presidents. The social environment is changing. The culture is changing. How, I don’t claim to know, and I doubt we’d all agree, if those of us in the thick of it really sat down to mull it over. But it, whatever it is, is happening. I can’t help but draw parallels to a time two decades before I was born. The same people who smoked cheap pot and laughed at the Red Scare are now the ones lamenting the filthy socialists and their naïve belief that the world can be a better place, somehow, someway. These people, our parents, our elected leaders, our neighbors, did change the world. In art, in politics, in civil rights and beyond. It only saddens me to see so many of them forget.
They were standing on city streets shouting Hey hey LBJ, how many kids have you killed today? but now, 40 years later, they’ve found themselves on the side of Ann Coulter, Pat Robertson, J.P. Morgan and the dehumanized, gas-masked faces of those who only lately traded firehoses for rubber bullets.
Who are you now, groovy moonbeam right-on brother? You took Free Love, bottled it and sold it in an “eco-friendly” plastic bottle and bought a condo on the oil-soaked beaches of The Man’s America. Your ideals passed out drunk and pillfucked in a bathtub and asphyxiated on their own vomit. Too young, too young. Such a loss. Live fast, die in a Florida retirement home during the afternoon encore of Wheel of Fortune. Sex, Drugs and Rockefeller.
And we, the Tranistionals, the Both-Worlders, the Grand Experiment persist. For now. Or will we become distracted? Get bored? Open a new tab and tell Facebook OMG IDK LOL and do our best to be satisfied with aiming high and landing in suburban debt, raising kids to believe they can be whatever they want to be, if only they shut the fuck up and earlybird it to Black Friday? I think not. And I hope not. But any way it goes, we can’t sit still. And not just because of the meth medication they gave us because math is boring. No, this is something else. Something big. And I couldn’t be happier to have been born here in the goddamn thick of it.