I can’t say that I’ve seen the best minds of my generation do much of anything. The baby Gen-X/Millennial 1.0 crossover demographic whom for the sake of brevity I will refer to as “X/Mers” (born ~1978-1982) has done little but be ironic and try to throwback everything in hopes of breathing life into a youth that their largely divorced parents all but snuffed out. Sure, some are funny. Many think they’re clever – even I did at one point until I backed out of tennis-style text messaging – and social media gives plenty of platforms. A lost generation with a college education and a NINJA (No Income, No Job or Assets) state of mind. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is an op-ed, not an anthropological thesis.
Now I’m not speaking about the easy target that are overt hipsters; flannels and undercuts and pithy tattoos and a mind blowing collection of shitty art and MP3s. No the overt hipster has long since ridden the fixed gear of mediocrity into marginal society. A lower caste of specters that no one of importance cares about. What I’m talking about is the new parents. The new homeowners (or aspiring homeowners, the folks that studied art history in college and whose parents are retired. The comedy writers and mid to upper-mid managers, the people that should know better. The growing new batch of “average folks,” the insurance salesmen of middle America, the machinists; my comrades that once aspired to larger things and now, to unapologetically borrow from C.P. “won’t fuck to save their species.” They have kids, sure, but they don’t innovate. They’ll write someday or do that thing they always wanted. The successful ones (if they can be called that) might work in T.V. before fading to obscurity or in some meaningless tech position or write jokes or blog about bacon.
Momentarily returning to the hipsters, the difference between X/Mers and hipsters is that hipsters don’t actually do anything. The folks I’m talking about do. They do lots of things all the time. They go on hikes and trips to Asia and rack up credit and buy Subarus and try new restaurants, but aside from basic economic consumption few do anything thing that matters. Perhaps it’s where I live. Perhaps it’s the protracted adolescence, an indictment of myself, my friends and my surroundings. I don’t know. Calls to action seldom result in anything and I frankly don’t have the passion (see irony above) to rally anyone into anything. Ah, so perhaps this is more of a personal indictment than I initially thought.
The result: over time Millennials will break into two camps. The first camp will be the replacement to the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers have always been obsessed with the zeitgeist going back to when they were a part of it themselves. The richest “Me” generation is pumping money into their youngest children/oldest grandchildren with the supreme confidence of the dying that youth is the solution to everything. Tech, business, charity, education; if you are over twenty five, you need not apply as your ideas are old and therefore irrelevant. The Baby Boomers don’t have to acknowledge the irony, because they don’t care. It’s all about ROI and then cash in and then go to Eagles and nag champa heaven in an awesome ’57 Chevy convertible and a Tommy Bahama shirt. Subsidized by these assholes, this first group of Millennials will be fine.
The second Millennial camp – the majority – will form the solid foundation of poverty and failure. Unable to ever crawl out of debt, their parents will leave them with nothing, yet they will reproduce and along with many of the X/Mers boost the ever increasing population of sickly and obese children that are for the first time in American history projected to have a shorter life span than their parents. This majority group of Millennials along with the X/Mers will continue to populate and consume and rack up debt as the Boomers die and a small handful of Chinese, Indian and Russian kids (with a sprinkling of other ethnicities for good measure) will take their tech/innovation billions and effectively rule the world with an economic stranglehold that won’t be shaken lightly.
Gloom and doom projections yes, but consider this: these future oligarchs have never been hungry. They don’t care about cars or designer clothes or government or war. All they care about is curating their virtual life experiences, fast paced entertainment and consumerism. The concept of currency to them being an intangible, readily available thing of little consequence as it’s inexhaustible. It’s simply a thing you use as you please. Currency for them will be akin to how most Americans view running water today. Now, whereas in the past the downtrodden everyman had a fire in their soul that would cause them to unionize, revolt, overthrow, put their foot down and stand up for themselves when pushed to the brink, we now have the fattest and stupidest – also living curated virtual lives – with no sense of community, country, duty or justice. The “me” generation all over, only without the power, education or conviction.
This is why I have so much vitriol towards the X/Mers. This is a generation that grew up under the Baby Boomers and saw the flipside to their selfish dreams. Most of us had access to early computers either at home or in school. We grew up with video games and pre fucked-up Star Wars and really cool physical toys (look at old G.I. Joes, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, Barbie Dolls, My Little Ponies, etc. compared to today’s reboots)that showed industrial craftsmanship; most of us had either nothing or pagers by the end of high school. If your friend wasn’t home you’d wait. If you couldn’t find a public phone, too bad. Cell phones and MySpace were a college thing. There are tubs full of CDs and VHS tapes and DVDs with nowhere to go. You can now download your favorite games to your console for a fraction of the allowance that once had to be saved up. Divorce used to hurt, not be taken for granted.
The X/Mers bridged the gap of tech and brick and mortar and what have we done? Drunk History and opening offal-centric restaurants. We spend money we can’t afford to buy shit from our youth. We dress like teenagers well into gray hair (myself included, sans the gray hair), not as artists or entrepreneurs, but because it’s all we know. As X/Mers stop wagging their fingers at the increasingly marginalized hipster while hiding behind their aging sense of irony, I wonder if it will ever be time to grow up? The core of Gen X are all in their forties and fifties now. The ones that stood for something made music when making music was hard and succeeding mattered. Many formed careers and many faded away, but there was a fire that somehow got quenched in the transition. Not quite kids, not quite adults and seen as nothing but varying degree purchase power to the big picture. They go back to school racking up debt for Masters’ programs that mean as little as their undergrad education. The world is growing smaller and never before has being so young mattered so much off of a battlefield.
And so I reach the end of another rant. Certainly not a new one, and I wish I had a meaningful call to action, but there is nothing innovative and new to preach. Boomers are dying, Gen X is aging, X/Mers floating in the ether, Millennials enjoying their time in the sun, and the future – that generation that knew nothing analog and is rumored to perhaps never drive a car – is still in its infancy. What it means to the world, I cannot say. I’m a pessimist, so I deal in my milieu. We can hope for the often whispered Darwinian Flush, though save some terrible holocaust I don’t see how that might transpire. Fanaticism isn’t going to bring about long term change, no this is something more subtle and fast-moving. In the interim I can’t promise I won’t complain and try to do what I can as one might do when seeing a busted pipe in the midst of a drought.