In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.” What can you learn from the generation immediately in front of you or the one immediately in back of you
Generation “Haven’t A Clue!”
I really do not know what name was given to my generation. Someone born into a small town in the forties was more or less protected from being classified into any generation, at least for their first eighteen years. The mass-education and pasteurization of the internet had not yet happened. We didn’t have television until I was eleven–when the first transfer station was built in my part of South Dakota. Even then, the programs were idealized. Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, The Danny Thomas Show , Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show presented squeaky-clean prototypes of the American family for us to gauge ourselves against.
Drugs had not yet worked their way into the American mainstream. The first time I even knew about pot was in college, when a few kids of California opened up a network, via the post office, for educating the naive plains states kids about the glories of escaping the pressures of homework, exams and pecking order by escaping on a cloud. Crystal meth had not yet been invented, nor crack cocaine, nor any of the other drugs that have since given so much of the developed world society a total escape–and in the offing, created huge social problems.
All-in-all, I’m grateful that i was born into the generation I was born into. Although the world of computers, texting and social networking have reached out and grabbed us, we nonetheless have a memory of a time without–when books were held in the hand and messages were delivered mouth-to-ear with a hand held in front to prevent information leakage. Today’s world with instant texting with a camera attached is just an invitation for bullying and the sharing of private information and acts that should never have occurred in the first place. Every bully becomes his own broadcasting network and increasingly violent programs on the television and both big and tiny screens have desensitized the world.
Witnessing act after act of violence and cruelty and a world obsessed by “reality” shows makes us numb to reality–as though it is not enough. We crave sensationalism even as we tsk tsk and shake our heads at it. I am truly afraid for the generations that continue to be exposed to this widespread compulsion to view each violent act–be it on the news, via YouTube or on the fictional screen of choice.
Screens get ever larger or ever smaller, so they fill the wall in our media room or get lost in our pockets; but whatever the side of our viewing device, our brains slowly fill with depravity that rivals the Colosseum, the gulags or the German concentration camps. This wholesale violence is the real lethal drug unleashed upon our world, and I don’t know a way out of it. It is no longer of influence primarily in the big cities, for with the advent of the internet, the entire world has become one colossal city. We know of the most violent act of the flogging of bloggers in the Mideast or the stoning of homosexuals in Iran or raped women in Africa. We know of senseless and seemingly motiveless mass murders in churches and schools and fast food restaurants, beheadings in Mexico, suicides of bullied teens and murders of children by their mothers–but all of them occur too far away to be influenced by any action we might take.
We know too much about a world where we have no influence, and so all that happens is more hate, disgust and a further drawing away and warlike attitude toward societies that we don’t understand enough to judge. And so we hate an entire society instead of hating the violent part of that society that, as in our own society, commits the violent acts that we judge the entire society guilty of.
In the meantime, our politicians are drawn ever more into judging their actions according to economic results rather than humanistic or ecological considerations. So our cars get fancier, our kitchens are turned into little museums of opulence, our TV screens turn into movie screens and our hand held devices fit on our wrists. Yet we increasingly turn to takeout and what we watch either warps us, disillusions us or totally removes us from a world of performance and action. Technology has made it possible to wage wars without leaving the control room–to spy with drones and mount combat with missiles. We find romance by watching staged reality shows, watch others plan their weddings and pick their wedding dresses, watch million dollar staged weddings and then day-to-day reports of the divorce a few months later.
Yes, the world is crazy, and growing crazier with each technological advance. So you might have surmised that I would not have chosen to have been born at a later date than my 1947 birth. And in spite of my yearning to be out in the wider world for most of my earlier life, I am not sorry that my explorations began in my twenties. I saw the world with new eyes–not having seen The Wild Kingdom, The Discovery Channel or any of the other programs that show us idealized views of far off worlds. All of my shocks of discovery were purely my own and many of the countries I visited were undeveloped. I took ferries across rivers now bridged, strolled the dirt paths of towns now paved over and filled with tourists. I lived in countries I knew nothing about before I lived there, formed my opinions according to my own experience. I was naive, uninformed, ignorant and young. What better way to see the world?
So, long story short, I would not have chosen to be in any generation but my own. I did not participate in demonstrations until my fifties when I was an expat living in Mexico. I was not a flower child, didn’t live in a commune or go vegan. I was too ignorant to protest the Vietnam war until it was over. But neither was I exposed to crystal meth, heroin or crack cocaine. My mode of escape in college was bridge, not texting, and in my youth it was Monopoly, Cops and Robbers and Drop the Handkerchief! Perhaps it is pure nostalgia that makes me say I prefer my generation to all others, but I don’t think so. I think it is the realization that I’ve lived in two worlds and appreciate the perspective this gives me. Perhaps this is true of every generation, but if so, I wonder what horrible future will render the events of this generation a patina of nostalgia.