In honor of Michael Jackson's musical contributions, a quick poll here
to vote on his best song.
There were those clips of the Dukakis-Bush presidential debates. In "Donnie Darko." And directly after, the spheres of authority and coercion and bitterness and profanities among the members of the family. The tensions of different types, and gendered types, of authority versus the mute, unexpressible selfhood of the adolescent identity-into-being.
Theory, and multiculturalism, in our time has laid bare the social and political structures within which we are held in an ideologized, constructed selfhood. We understand the pain of it. The pain of adolescence. The pain of not being heard, of understood. Of being able to express none of the idealized, unencumbered selfhood of which we believe we are capable. In adolescence, we can succeed in a conventional sense by becoming part of a group which may be an American invention, the exceptional average. An exceptional example of the mass media's broadcast exampling of "America." Or we attempt to construct an identity directly based upon the media's idea of the teenage American. Or we adopt the identity of a subculture or gang or posse which itself has had its own stereotypes created for it, and individuality often even more stamped down because of the threat that the solidity of the original identity of the subculture, so hard-won, might be compromised.
That is important, but not central. The point is that Theory, understanding the pain of constricting structures, wishes them to be known, to be laid bare, so that one can break these shackles binding individuality. But because Theory understands the shackles it shies from creating any binding force. Theory unbuilds. But it won't build, or it can't build, because the pervading pessimism toward the constructs of the past makes newer architects cower in fear.
Contemporary Republicanism has learned Theory up and down. The triumph of Liberalism in the Culture Wars was a gift to it. For they understand the structures but have no problems using them, especially for self-gain. (Perhaps theirs is an object-lesson in reduced government despite themselves: power corrupts and therefore very few should be wielding it -- a proposition that immediately deconstructs itself.)
Which is a very roundabout and through-the-guts way of saying that the Democrats have no fuckin' backbone.
The inability of a multicultural Democratic party to structure itself...
Republicans have stridently adhered to the principal idea of America as a "melting pot," that late-19th and early 20th-century phrase immediately conjuring up the huddled masses in Ellis Island, the melting of cultural identities into a unified substance which has come to search for a "better life," meaning -- to them -- economic advancement. One's culture, therefore, is one you leave behind, in the Old Country. Your Old Country is nothing but one in which you faced persecution and/or poverty. Here you can be "free" (meaning: not persecuted by the government because of your religion or ethnic European background -- in theory this largely true but still mythical definition) and have a "better life" (owning your own property -- something Jews were pointedly unable to do throughout much of the time and space of the European Diaspora) -- feed your family, and educate your children for an even better phase of the "better life" which was then defined as "a car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot" and now probably amounts to "an Ivy-League education, a 64" plasma television, a Lexus in the driveway, and a pick of finely toned members of the opposite sex to choose from.") This period, the late 19th and early 20th-century period of European immigration and attendant mythical status, was founded in the necessity to create a singular myth of American identity after the Civil War.
This concept obviously fails for the modern Left since the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement with their attendant Theories -- and their injustices broadcast throughout the US and the World with newer and newer modes of information technology -- and the standards of living in the First World having increased, since the Second World War, to encompass more than the basic necessities of peace, income, shelter, and sustenance for most individuals -- have plainly exposed, for all to see, that the "Melting Pot" is a largely obsolete term, dated in its application.
Beginning in the 1950s, when middle-class prosperity was achieved for a white majority (and its parts codified within this white majority) the expression of black soul began to be broadcast across the racial divide, in the jazz and blues clubs, with Little Richard and Chuck Berry on tv. Soul. The inner life of pain and longing and want -- sociopolitical pain and longing and want "sublimated" into musical expressions of sexual desire? With basic middle-class desires fulfilled following four decades or more of Depression deprivation and unified national purpose of a two-front World War, the door had now finally been opened toward the true fulfillment of that entirely neglected part of the American freedom to pursue happiness": the psychosocial. Soul was desired now, not just the freedom of existence and "prosperity." Soul: the expression of consciousness as a human. Soul: the expression of individuality and cultural identity. Culture: that thing of the Old Country that should have been dissolved in the Melting Pot, but couldn't be, now that the Melting Pot was seen -- partially, at least -- as that system of structures which had bound souls and cultures.
In the times that have followed, we have in fact done extremely well at the voicing of soul, until extremely recently, when we are now grousing at its lack among the televised America we, forced by the capitalistic market, have to see. But so much outgrowth of soul was accomplished until the last ten years, that our multiplicity of accepted cultures and subcultures no longer bears a strong resemblance to the Melting Pot America our grandfathers wanted us to be embraced by. We are adolescents at 18, perhaps 19, perhaps 20 -- held back a generational year or two because of 9/11 and the Bush administration -- and desperate to redefine how America sees itself, because the nation it has the potential to become and is becoming in its cities is something superior to the mere myth of the melting pot,
(How good does anything taste in the melting pot? Except for cheese. Cheeeeeese. Cheese! Kitsch! Situated in the very heart of the melting pot, cheese tastes good. But on the lip of the pot it's crusty.)
We of the next generation are the Culinary School of the Boulliabaise. It is a more sophisticated school than your basic "Joy of Cooking" melting pot recipe. You need to be fearless when you set out to make a good boulliabaise.
We need a new cook.
The community's been rather too quiet for my liking, and I'm trying to make it a better place. Finally changed the layout to something a little more...readable, although I'm open to suggestions/contributions about layouts and icons. For now, it'll have to do.
An interesting thing I've noticed on the community is how we all seem to have different definitions both of what a generation is as well as what the current generations can be defined as. I know that some of my ideas are very different than some of the other folks here, for example.
So to promote discussion, what are some of your theories? What is a generation? How do you define the current generations?
I'll probably make a separate post with my own views at another time. For now, let's get some talk going!
Did I really sign on to a group with its discussion page posted in YELLOW on ORANGE?? If somebody who can do it doesn't turn it into something more readable, I am going to check out of it.
But while I'm here, and writing, let me say that I am still waiting to see why the current generation, by which I mean those in their under-21 years, thinks they are going to change the world, or any useful part of it, when they seem to be buying into all the celebrity crap that is regularly flung around on the media. Don't you know it's all hype, designed to suck you away from being yourselves? Haven't you figured out, yet, that we live in a society/culture vastly distorted, for the sake of getting you to keep buying and buying, spending and spending? By the time you ever get any time for YOURSELF, there is less and less of yourself left. If you don't 'get this' soon, it is going to be too late. By age 30, or younger, you will have sold yourself down the same river, and be a part of the same stream of sludge. Laugh if you want, but that time is not far off.
I've been thinking a lot my and my age group's position on the generational cusp. Thinking- I've been kind of obsessed. Lately I relate so much in my life to the exact years I grew up and in particular what pop culture I remember.
It started this summer, but the spark was planted when I entered Antioch over 3 years ago. I was talking to a fellow student, one day my senior, about how I was finding how little i could relate to the other 1st years, 3 years my junior. I said that maybe it was the just-out-of-high-school thing, but it seemed more that than- after all, I'd related to just-out-of-high-school kids at City Year for the past 2 years- they who were 1 and 2 years younger than me. This gap seemed to specifically be with people born in or after 1984.
The fellow student said that the generational shift occured in 1984, that kids born that year technically came from the generation after us. These '84 babies (strange irony of "1984" intended or not, I don't know, but it can hardly be ignored) were the children of '80s yuppies or faux-hippies, and grew up with the Internet much more than me (I got online in '95, when I was 14, and that was early for kids my age). She said that she felt that bridge with the '84 babies more than with other younger students herself. I always meant to look more into it but never did. I kind of got used to it, being the older one, when in most other places I was (and still am) the baby.
Fast forward to this summer, the term before I returned to campus to greet a group of 1st years now 6 years younger than me. My mom had cable and I got addicted to all those VH1 and E! list shows on the '90s, child stars of the '80s, etc. Not to mention the whole Anthony Michael Hall thing
and rediscovery (or in some cases, discovery) of the John Hughes films that I so remarkably did not really grow up with.
The day I spent watching "I Love The '90s"
on VH1 was the beginning and in many ways the most telling and significant. Each year was given its own hour- I did not leave that couch except to occasionally get food or check my email during the commercial breaks for most of the day. I was quite vocal about it, reminiscing about things I hadn't thought about in years, singing along to songs I thought I'd forgotten, frightening my mother who came and went several times during my stationery pilgrimage (gone for several hours and then: "You're still here? It's only on 1994?").
The telling part was how I began to lost interest starting in 1996 or so. It wasn't because I was bored or sore (my backside can handle sitting on a couch all day on occasion, as Adrian LeDuc so eloquently put it), it was because the pop culture items covered were now bringing me back to high school years which, though a fair chunk of my life behind me, failed to offer the enchanting nostalgia of a forgotten childhood. Sometime during 1997- which also marked the time period I began to opt out of pop culture almost entirely- the TV was turned off.
So it was these early years that, fascinatingly, I was fascinated by. And these are the years when even a few years' age difference- say, 3- make a huge difference in one's consciousness of the environment and particularly- my particular area of fascination- the entertainment directed at one. And so it naturally stands that while the New Kids On The Block do not necessarily continue to influence my life and my character (if they ever did to a substantial degree), I will feel somewhat alienated from people who do not remember them- them that I have taken for granted as an unequivocal part of the formative years of myself and them who I have traditionally thought of as my peers. Forget something like "The X-Files", which, though was certainly on long enough to catch younger kids later on, they will not remember when it premiered. "The X-Files" was hugely significant in my life, and I bet it helped to shape my character, and a big part of that was as my self-given title as one of the original X-philes (if not the
original- it was, after all, infamously, my favorite show even before it came out- which is another story entirely. But it's true).
It works the other way too, obviously. But not getting the references of my older friends is nothing new to me. When I was 17 my best friend was 25 and so not relating to her relationship to '80s alternative music was a given. More recently, one of my closest friends is 4 years older than me- and though the age gap has narrowed, many of the references remain foreign. Even more recently, this year in fact, a 28-year-old friend- in reference to my blog post about "I Love The '90s"
, went on about how hooked he was on "I Love The '80s". Four years and yet our cultural identity is divided by a decade.
But again- that is nothing new. The other day I was talking to a friend who was born in 1985. She did not remember the New Kids On The Block. Or even later things like Sublime which brought me through high school. She told me that instead, her NKOTB was The Spice Girls and her Sublime was Britney Spears. Musical tastes aside, it's the fact that I was too old to consider her things anything more than teenybopper stuff that we found interesting.
I'm sure it's to do largely with my having older friends growing up, but not many younger ones. I have often been friends with '82 babies, but my first (and only) friend any younger than that before entering college was when I was in 11th grade ('97-'98) and she was in 9th. I never did ask her if she knew the New Kids On The Block, but maybe I should have.
This was all reinforced by my purchase and reading voraciously of "Generation Ecch!"
, which all happened during my holiday in between these past summer and fall terms. I remember when the whole Gen-X thing was happening, though I knew I was too young for it and my attempts to identify with college-aged and college-graduated people at the age of 14 was futile.
But this book made me refine my relationship with the "twentysomething" "slackers" of the '90s (after all, I loved OK soda and called 1-800-I-FEEL-OK daily): I was the kid sister of Gen-X. I was an only child with a single parent who intentionally did not bring me up with any particular ideology because she wanted me to "just be myself"- so naturally I had to look into the world-at-large for influence, especially when compounded with being such a loner and moving too much to have much steady influence in my immediate environment. So it was all about TV. And movies. And music. And magazines. And these were filled with the phenomenon of the Gen-X'ers. They were it, they were making it, but I was being nursed on and raised by it. It was that that ultimately shaped my life and my character. This is something that proper Gen-Y'ers cannot say.
These is no consensus about when Generation X ends. I have seen the years 1978 through 1984 given as the "official" end. But most commonly I see the year right in the middle- 1981- which also happens to be the year I was born.
Hello. I just joined. I'm interested in analyzing society in terms of generations and making predictions of the future based on the characteristics of generations - especially my generation, which might be arbitrarily defined as anyone born roughly between 1980 and 1992. I really like my generation and think we will revolutionize society for the better in ways the baby boomers can't even dream of. I'm interested in ways in which the Millenial Generation or whatever we should be called are different from the baby-boomers.
Lately I've been trying very hard to notice when the public eye is being dominated by the trivial and cynical. There's always
something important in the world that ought to be top-of-mind, so when politicians and their pet mainstream media institutions start devoting lots of attention to something of no real consequence, I want to step back and see what it is they're trying to distract me from.
This week Congress and the "press" would have us believe the two most important stories in the world are:
Also, we learned what Scott Peterson had for lunch his first day on death row. Bits and snatches of Michael Jackson coverage. Condi Rice's new fashion sense. America learned for the first time this week of the existence of a faraway land that its natives refer to as "Northern Ireland" and something called the "IRA," which apparently is not
part of Bush's solution for "fixing" Social Security (although casual followers of world events can be forgiven if they're a bit confused on this point). And so on.
Hunh. See, none of that seems
like the stuff that intelligent folks would see as real
news. So what is it that the power elite doesn't
want us to look at?
asked me the other day if I had noticed that Bush was backpeddling on Social Security. Errr, hey, wait - no, I hadn't
noticed that, actually. But I hit CNN.com and from what you can tell about what's news from the top page and the top of the jump pages, you'd have no way of knowing that Social Security is an issue at all. Ditto Google News (the term "social security" does not currently appear anywhere on their rather expansive splash page) and Yahoo! News (same thing). Where the hell did the story go? Sumbitch was the only
story for awhile there.
I was told this morning by the happy news reporter that Dubya is flying back to Washington from his Crawford ranch so that he'll be ready to sign any law Congress passes to "save" Terri Schiavo. That explains it - saving a brain-dead (in this case I mean that literally and not in the more common Congressional or media personality senses) woman so that she can be "rehabilitated" is obviously a lot more important than the economic futures of all Americans. Could it be that Terri Schiavo is this week's gay marriage?
I'm no expert, but if Social Security has all of a sudden dropped off the radar screen, that can only mean that Dubya has hit some significant resistance among Congressional Republicans, America's Corporate Elite, or both. So right now VP Dick is probably brokering a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiating to get everybody on the same page - just a guess. What was Dubya really up to in Crawford, anyway? Hmmmm.
We also seem not have the insurgency quite finished off in Iraq. If I were Syria or Iran I'd still be nervous. And so on. But rest assured, if Bush and Congress wanted us paying attention to Social Security, we would
be. Instead, we get the amoral equivalent of a test pattern, circa 2005. We are experiencing technical difficulty - please stand by.
That sort of thing. Only these days, test patterns are far more entertaining and compelling, so much so that for a moment even somebody as cynical as me briefly got sucked into the Dog/Pony Spectacular®.
Shame on me. Shame on all of us. Quit paying attention to the damned Media Magic Show and start looking around. With all due respect to the game of baseball and its very real steroids problem, let's keep our eye on the ball, shall we?
- Music:"Portions for Foxes" by Rilo Kiley
A few days ago Oprah did a show on the Peterson case (here
are a couple relevant snippets). The ostensible purpose of the show was "why did Scott do it?" and the answer, best I can tell, is that "he's a sociopath." Glad we could clear that up.
However, the show inadvertently raised a deeper question for me. First, I hadn't realized that the leading cause of death among pregnant women in the US is murder by their husbands or partners
Among all murders of women across the country in 2000—the most recent yearly statistics available from the U.S. Department of Justice—more than 33 percent were killed by an intimate partner.
That's nothing short of horrifying, if you think about it, and it suggests that pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting is currently being attended by some sort of critical social pathology. Further, we're talking about something that's an aberration from the normal track of human history. At a basic, elementary level, natural selection would predict that the tendency to murder the woman carrying your child is the sort of trait that would be selected out of the gene pool posthaste, right?
So what's up? Well, if you read what the shrink in the two links above is saying, the indication is that men are freaking out about the impending shift that fatherhood represents in their lives. Well, okay, but men have been becoming fathers since, I don't know, the dawn of time? Has murder always
been the leading cause of death among pregnant women? I haven't seen anything pointing to this yet, but maybe that's the case.
It occurs to me that there's been a dramatic social shift in recent decades that might be a contributor to this phenomenon. Just theorizing here - treat this as a hypothesis to be examined and not as a statement of fact, please.
We know that gender roles have been evolving steadily since the '60s. Women have more power and autonomy in relationships, more career opportunities, more political weight, etc. At the same time women have been expanding the scope of their personal and professional possibilities, men have found themselves being asked to assume more in the way of domestic responsibilities (after all, the need for these traditionally female functions didn't disappear just because Mommy landed a job as CEO, right?)
One of the key areas of expanding male responsibility lies with the domestic side of parenting, and it starts well before the kid is born. Historically the culture and practice surrounding pregnancy was exclusively female, with the archetypal example being childbirth itself. Whether surrounded by the women of the village and attended by a midwife in earlier eras or wheeled off into the birthing room at the local hospital in more recent times, the mother gave birth in the absence of the father. The birthing place was female domain, while the male ritual required the father to keep vigil with other men nearby.
Now, though, men are routinely enlisted in Lamaze classes and are expected to be in the room
helping the mother through the ordeal. In cultural terms, I cannot state too strongly how radical a change this represents. We're talking about roles and rituals that have evolved over thousands of years being turned upside down in the space of a generation, and it is simply ridiculous to think that a society can change so significantly in such a short period of time without massive upheavals.
So, it's safe to assume that a percentage of men throughout history have been less suited to the demands of fatherhood than others. However, in cultures that provide ample buffers and ritualized support structures, we'd probably expect fewer instances of what we saw in the Peterson case (if we assume that the postmortem on Scott's motivation is accurate, anyway). Society has provided ways of lessening the shock traditionally, and that ought to provide ill-suited men with a safer, easier way into their new lives as parents.
Contemporary society has, in this view, rapidly stripped away all the safeguards that have evolved over the past 10+ millennia and flung these ill-suited men headlong and unarmed into a situation that is threatening, and for some, perhaps even terrifying.
None of this excuses murdering the mother of your child - duh - but if I'm right, it does mean we need to start looking hard at ways of creating new buffers and support processes for men who are about to become fathers.
- Music:"Stranger in My Skin" by Fiction 8
Dear god. Thanks to Jim Jonas for guaranteeing that I won't be able to sleep for a week....EPIC
- Music:"6 Underground [Nellee Hooper Edit]" by Sneaker Pimps