Finally getting around to reading Coupland’s Generation X. There’s an interesting (and much longer) piece to be written about the similarities/differences between people who were in the their 20s back in the 90s vs. what this whole millennial generation of 20 and 30 somethings are up to now. When I do occasionally allow myself to “commit sociology” (to borrow a phrase) I tend to wear my biases on my sleeve: I believe that our generation is actually challenging normative society in a way that the Gen Xers could only dream (and write) about. It seems like the Xers started out by confronting the absurdity of normative modernity with irony, but then irony was appropriated by those of their generation who cannibalized the ideas of their peers in service of the advertising industrial complex. Castrated by the removal of their defence arsenal, the Xers hung their heads, went to work for the government, and bought houses, becoming pierced-and-tattooed reinventions of their baby boomer parents. Conversely, while I know that the social circles I tend to run in are a selectively small sample size, the current trends towards challenging conventional monogamous relationships, appreciating gender and sexuality as spectral rather than dichotomous phenomena, and living a lot more minimalisticaly – not as a function of pop consumerism (although there’s of course an element of “style”) but out of a real desire to own less stuff and take up less space, are all exceedingly encouraging, and potentially expressive of real change.
Also, the fact that the job market has forced a disproportionately large number of us into freelancing as the only way to make any semblance of a living only further empowers us as individual agents. Maybe it doesn’t feel empowering when you can barely scrape together the few hundred dollars it takes to actually go to the dentist when your boss isn’t paying for it, but the reality is that even as you wait nervously by the phone, hoping another contract comes through before the rent’s due, just by virtue of having to take real accountability for yourself and your own livelihood, you are are expressing more agency than any baby boomer had to over a 40 year career of working for the same employer. Freelancers have to learn and adapt to a variety of different circumstances in order to survive – it’s all very Darwinian. I’m well aware of how exhausting and stressful that agency can be, but the more people are willing (or forced) to take it on, the more we have the potential to have a more engaged populace who understand enough about the world to actually make some change.
I appreciate the level of naiveté in the above, but if I didn’t have some sense of idealism about my generation it’d be sort of hard to get out of bed in the morning, you know?
Here I intended to write a very engaging examination of how Coupland, Wallace, and other writers in the 90s represented the way they saw the fracturing of reality in their prose and instead fell into a trap of over-simplified expounding. Oh well. Here’s a picture of a cat expressing his appreciation for indie-turned-dad-rock sensations The National to make up for it.
Until next time.
Dylan – Edmonton, AB