Children

Generations

A young man I know recently posted this quote I’ve seen a few times:

“I am a millennial. Generation Y; born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11, give or take. They call us the global generation. We are known for our entitlement and narcissism. Some say it’s because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for all the world to see. But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.”

While this is technically untrue (Gen Y is defined as being born in the early 80s and the virus that causes AIDS in 1983), the fact that he would feel the need to post this in reference to he and his era made me think a little.

Being born in 1979, I’m technically a member of Generation X but I fall into the grey area on that is the area between the end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y (one ends and the other begins in the early 80s.)  According to the internet (the authority on all things true…) Generation X is described as:

“People born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xers are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions. Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

Oh John, you romantic slacker you...

Oh John, you romantic slacker you…

Pretty good right?  Well it would be, if it were entirely true.  Let’s look at some of the pop culture that reflects that generation (X): Movies like The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Empire Records and even Kevin Smith’s Clerks defined Gen X young adults growing up over two decades.  What did they really say about us?  All were essentially young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing and falling in love than actually settling with a long-term career and family.  Sure it’s fiction, but that still sounds a little more accurate when I recall my high school environment and the years after.  It’s a generalization of course, and the majority of us have turned into functional, comfortable members of society on some level.  But generally speaking generation X was whimsical growing up, and eventually they got really good at it.  So good, in fact, that they brought the rebel, non-suit, out-of-box mentality to corporate America (and the White House…) and created some of the more innovative and successful companies ever, many of which specialized in consumer technology and quite literally paved the way for the very traits that defined the following generation.

But what’s important to remember here is that generation X had a pretty slow start.  They started in the shadow of the post WWII baby boomers in an era where space travel was a magical, advanced reality from a distance, but beyond that their worlds were very small.  They lived in communities and had long-developed routines from the generations that came before them.  They rebelled against this by really not doing anything for a long time.  They slacked off, and they dreamed of doing something different, and easier than what was always done. Only years later as they came into their prime and felt the desire to leave their mark on the world, did they focus their mental abilities on developing better ways to productively do less. That’s right kids, modern technology was developed and advanced by Generation X to make it easier to get by while being lazier.  At work, at home, for entertainment, the Gen X folks created more ways to get things done without really doing anything.  Naturally, the whole world adopted these revolutionary ideas, and the world that once was vast and localized became much, much smaller and connected.  So the stage was set, for Generation Y.

They call us the global generation.” 

Well... it's gotten a lot smaller...

Well… it’s gotten a lot smaller…

 Yes indeed, that’s more accurate than it’s ever been.  With the world (excluding those at least directly walled off) now connected, any person, anywhere is literally a few button pushes away.  With that comes information some people never ever dreamed existed as well as realities about the planet and the people that inhabit it that many could not imagine and would rather have not known.  The world is small now and it’s innocence is lost.  For anyone that is connected, the bliss of ignorance is essentially destroyed.

“We are known for our entitlement and narcissism.”

What they should really be known for, is being born to a world that nobody else ever has been.  Do you think people were never entitled before you?  Far more so.  And narcissism has also existed since people discovered their reflection.  For somebody to suggest that generation Y is any worse is just silly.  One look at the class-based societal structure that dominated much of the world throughout the history of civilization will show you a great deal of very obvious entitlement and narcissism.  The only difference Generation Y has shown, is that they accept it as a flaw, and don’t care to hide it. They are the first generation born with the ability to broadcast everything they are to the world, their perfections and flaws and celebrate it.  In short, they give zero fucks about the labels anyone places on their humanity.  Gen Xers started it by rebelling against what was always traditionally “proper” on a massive scale, and generation Y is simply taking it another step further.  Humanity is, and always has been flawed.  Generation Y is just not buying in to pretending it’s not.  They are the most real generation we’ve yet encountered.

“Some say it’s because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for all the world to see.”

Don't worry humanity, a little visine should clear that right up!

Don’t worry humanity, a little visine should clear that right up!

Unfortunately, being real is not all fun and games.  While Generation Y has produced some of the most brilliant and revolutionary minds possibly ever, the flip side is that they are rapidly dismantling the curtain that so much of humanity had pulled over themselves in the previous generations.  When that curtain is pulled back and that light is cast, the reality of humanity, possibly even the majority of it, is ugly.  With the world connected, there is nowhere to hide, so the ignorance, lies, brutality and utterly pointless evil of humanity is exposed over and over again, every day.  Many ignore it by focusing on that “fart” or “sandwich” that was posted instead.  Some recognize and passionately speak out against it.  Some actually do something.  But the reality that Generation Y has to face more than any generation before it is the constant reminder that humans generally suck, and there’s no simple way to fix it. No longer is it the good guys vs the bad guys like the Allies and Axis.  Now it’s “our ideas vs your ideas, and we’re both wrong, but let’s see who is less wrong.”  It’s no different than it ever was throughout history, but now it is seen and cannot be unseen.  Now it stares Generation Y in the face.  

“But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.”

This is also nothing new.  Before perhaps, a great deal of blissful ignorance took the place of numbness or indifference.  But what really happened is that Generation X created the tools to remove the pretty wrapping, and Generation Y cut it away.  What faces them was an ugly, festering wound that had always been there and they realized they (like all the generations before them) were causing it.  It isn’t numbness or indifference to the suffering, it’s more like hopelessness.  It’s more like “Oh jesus christ.. it’s everywhere.. it’s the whole world.. it’s ME.. how the hell can I possibly fix THIS!?” This realization is quite literally paralyzing.  It forces people to just keep doing what they were doing, or following who they were following, because if they don’t find something to do in order to distract themselves or feel like they are helping, they risk falling into fear, despair and depression.  It’s not the first time people have discovered humanity’s penchant for terrible things, but it’s the first time it’s been a forced global awareness.  That, is what Generation Y has to face.

Like THAT guy.  He knows what he's doing.

Like THAT guy. He knows what he’s doing.

So, how do we fix it?  God? Though many still attend and have their faith, religion is no longer the blind fix-all it oncechampioned itself as, and the more progressive religions admit that outright.  Our “leaders”?  Well American politics is questionable at it’s absolute best because even a good person at the top has to listen to what represents “the majority”.  We have to face that said majority is more often than not controlled by a majority of people that are part of the problem.  At the same time though, we’re well past the point of no return in terms of society.  Without outside intervention (ie: catastrophe or act of god) there is no way to “reset” the rules of the game.  No, there is no clear way to fix it.  Thankfully though, more and more people from Generation X and Generation Y (and even those before them) are trying.  I think the best way any individual can do anything at this point is find the people who have learned the rules of the game, are doing what they believe are the right things the right way, and then follow them.  

But first things first.  The feelings that spawn the quote from the beginning of this article are the challenge that Generation Y must overcome.  What the quote said is not the problem, where it came from is.  What I mean is that nothing rings more true for Generation Y, the aware generation, than the need to face themselves.  Before you can be a part of any solution, you have to be certain you’re not a part of the problem.  It may sound cliche’ and zen-like, but when a huge amount of individuals learn to be all the things so much of humanity has not traditionally been: straightforward, peaceful and especially honest.. then the world will notice and just maybe the world will change.  Maybe it is a little narcissistic, but you have to fix you first, end of story.  Perhaps that will be the legacy passed on to the next generation.

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The Holiday Magic – Version 2.0

Notes:  Most of the graphics in the post come from one of my favorite comic cartoonists: The Oatmeal.  To go see the full version of his work and much more, click here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/christmas  I have absolutely zero to do with him and take NO credit for any of his work.

So, I had already completed a post of over 1500 words for you guys about my holiday experiences, but while attempting to upload supporting graphics, an error of some sort occurred, and I reloaded to find only 200 of them remaining.  No auto-saves, no reversions, nothing.  Just the first paragraph.  Needless to say, especially because it’s supposed to be Christmas (and therefore illogically special or something…) I’m feeling a bit unmotivated to write again.  However, I’m going to go, relax, take a shower, and give this another shot.  Fortunately I’m stubborn.  

A few hours later… *ahem* let’s try this again… Version 2.0  

This may or may not have been me at recent holiday party... I won't tell you which one...

This may or may not have been me at recent holiday party… I won’t tell you which one…

So, even before WordPress decided to wipe out my previous holiday post, I was really close to not doing a “Christmas” or “Holiday” post anyway because, to be honest, it’s not really that special in my life right now.  I’ve been alone all day, and as I sit here drinking scotch and listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra on Pandora, I know that for now, this is it.  Any family I speak to is far away, the majority of my friends won’t be getting anything for me and likewise I’m not concerned about them.  The very few people that have made themselves important parts of my life will probably exchange gifts with me at some point (though to be honest, I would give regardless of receiving.. I kinda suck at receiving… but only in regards to gifts from those I care about… I mean.. yeah.. let’s just leave that there. )  Anyway, the holiday season for me is more about a little time off (it IS a miracle I have time to write finally!), parties and giving somebody as selfish as I am a little excuse to be giving (similar to Ramadan I suppose… and ironically the two are often compared.)

With all that said it wasn’t always like this for me, I’m grown now but when I was young there was magic.  In “the lost Christmas post” (that’s what we shall call it now) I shared some of my Christmas morning memories; things like my father always getting “Soap on a Rope” or my love of the original Transformers action figures before the advent of video games.  Of course there were always the big things like bicycles, big wheels or air hockey tables (yeah.. my brother got one I think…) that eventually gave way to game consoles as I grew older and the magic faded.  It was less about the time and more about how expensive your item was.

Ohh the magic!

Ohh the magic!

But what was the magic when I was little?  Was it the happy, fat man that supposedly brought me new things? The anticipation when I got up that morning and raced to the tree to see the newly appeared presents glimmering in the tree lights?  The two days of feasts back when my family did it’s best to pretend it was a cohesive unit?  It was all of it.  The magic of Christmas has never had anything to do with Jesus for me, they did their best to try and educate me, but he was always an afterthought at most.  The magic of Christmas was having a day when everything was right with the world.  When everyone seemed happy and there were no strings.  No school, no work, new things, happy family and an abundance of food.  It didn’t matter that it was chaos or messy because nobody was stressing about it (or rather, if they were I was not made aware of it) and everyone was happy.

Naturally, as an adult, I’m fully aware that these are both embellished memories and that there were many underlying things that I didn’t see then.  But the magic was there because I was a kid at Christmas and everyone was on the same page: That Christmas should be a good day, especially for the kids.  So for one day my whole family seemed to set aside bills, drama and whatever stresses they had, and focus on making Christmas… Christmas.  It was all about trying to live up to the ideal, and it worked for us, or for me anyway.

Even I try harder than this though.  I love trick-wrapping!

Even I try harder than this though. I love trick-wrapping!

Now, the one part I can feel a little is what I mentioned earlier: giving.  I only got presents for a couple of people this year, but I enjoyed shopping for them and giving to them.  It seems like maybe some of them where underwhelmed by what I got them, but the process was worth it anyway.  I even tipped the folks where I normally eat lunch a $20 because they were bored, and slow and had to work on Christmas Eve.  But that was worth it simply by the genuine reactions I got.  I guess maybe it’s the unexpected giving that really breeds gratitude.  For adults I think that genuine gratitude from each other is the reward, especially when you can get somebody just what you know they want.  The surprise.  Maybe that’s a little of the magic when you’re a kid too.

That’s what it comes down to.  If anything will ever bring back the holiday magic, it’s the children.  Children are innocent and excited and not yet disillusioned by the realities of this world.  They are pure, and with that innocence they create the magic of Christmas that we can all feel.  Some people really do celebrate in the name of Jesus, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.  But when I celebrate with my family it will be to help create and feel that magic again.  It will be to be woken up at 6 AM after two hours of sleep because the kid(s) couldn’t wait any longer.  It will be to stumble out to the kitchen for the coffee needed to make it through the morning.  It will be to watch their faces light up as they unwrap their skillfully trick-wrapped presents and realize Santa got them exactly what they wanted (because Santa’s a boss.)  It will be the mid-afternoon nap (if we’re lucky) and the prepping of the evening feast before we get dressed nicely and come together to celebrate this day.  Christmas day is one of the few days of the year when we try just a little harder to make it good for ourselves, and especially for the little ones. Whether it be religion, tradition or decision, as long as it’s all going in the same direction it’s a good thing.  I think that’s what makes the holiday magic on this or any day.

And that was V1...

And that was Version 1…

Merry Christmas.