WEDNESDAY 10AM: We must defeat the US trade deal | Nick Dearden
Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

Moment of Truth: Microgenerations

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Imagine a world with so many TV shows you didn't know what to watch, who was watching what, or when you'd ever have time to become somewhat culturally literate. Was that show about the dead people returning but not as flesh-eating zombies on last year or six years ago? And what about the one that was similar to that one, but you just couldn't get through episode four? If you were to begin watching it again, would Netflix remember where in the episode you left off? Sometimes it does that. What about that show about a murder in Sweden? Or was that the American version? Is Jessica Jones still relevant? Did they ever say how he met your mother? What about that show that was a montage of every ethnicity and sexuality engaged in a mental orgy across time and space because they were somehow related to Daryl Hannah? Or did I dream that?

Imagine a world with a century's worth of content packed into a decade and a half. Well, that world is this one we're in now. I think, unless I'm thinking of a TV show about a world like that.

Cultural touchstones are following each other so rapidly, they've created microgenerations. I can't even give examples because, although 50 is the new 30, culturally it's the new 130. I'm culturally a hundred fifty-five years old, and that's by conservative estimates. At least I'm young for a vampire.

The world of sitcoms would have ended for me with the era of "All in the Family," the world of comedians, the era of Richard Pryor, but even olds like Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis weren't entirely of the past. Later it was only by dating younger women that I learned to be conversant in the Powerpuff Girls, Missy Elliott, and Chris Rock. And then being briefly married to a middle-school teacher caught me up on Sean Paul, hot chips, and Dave Chappelle.
The young people these days are no help, though. They're even more at sea than their myriad strata of elders. A friend of mine in the movie and music industries said she'd overheard some millennials complaining about being unfamiliar with the artists at this year's Video Music Awards. My friend has a pretty panoramic eye on the popular arts, so she was astounded to hear that these kids had never heard of Ariana Grande, and whoever else the new crop of, I guess, post-millennials were up on.

Microgenerations. I came up with the brand, and I regret it, but the genie's out of the bottle. We're not even halfway to adulthood before a new generation starts. A generation used to last 40 to 70 years. Last year it was, like, 7.7 years and you'd have to master a whole new array of cultural code. This year it's been sliced down to 3.35 years. A generation is irrelevant every 3.35 years. Your five-year-old is an over-the-hill stroker of the chin, wistful rememberer-of-when, longing for the good old days by the age of 8 and a half. Early onset senescent delirium begins at your bar mitzvah. Think how disturbing that kind of acceleration can be to a society we're all supposed to be creating together.

Now, I'm old. To me, Lorde and Sia are new artists. I don't even know if the artists and eras I mentioned earlier match up in chronology, or really are contemporaneous with the relationships and the marriage I vaguely associate them with. I'm in the same boat as these millennials and post-millennials, whom time is passing by. Except I have more layers of temporal trivia to get lost in. And the starmaker machinery keeps pumping out more kids, who turn into adults, who make new songs I can't get stuck in my head, they're too slippery and too small (my memory is big, it's the songs that got small), songs without melodies that all sound the same, and new standup comics with new comedy that's not funny cuz it's not supposed to be, and new romcoms that aren't funny in the same way romcoms never are funny, but with new stars barely distinguishable from the slightly older ones, whose facial features also haven't even developed yet out of the porcelain fetal putty they lie latent within.

And I think they're doing it on purpose. The big They. Not the Alex Jones They, but a related They, like, Illuminati adjacent. Think about it. They killed Bowie, Prince and Aretha, the only three artists we all, of any age, could agree on. Now we're lost in this semiotic labyrinth, blown around like confetti by currents of a commercial maelstrom howling through its corridors. Sometimes I have to listen to Sly and the Family Stone for an hour or two just to keep from putting my own eyes out so no more product gets into my head.

I find classic 70s funk is a solid anchor amid the storm. But these poor old-and-in-the- way post-millennials already getting long in the tooth, what will they have? Does Lana Del Rey count as a memory? Will they hearken back to her? Is Katy Perry riding a lion at Superbowl halftime an anchor in a storm, or is it too dreamlike to steady them on the sea- battered barque of the present moment? Li'l Uzi, Kendrick Lamar, are the old youngsters down with them? Will those artists constitute future conduits to a soothing nostalgia? Or will this time be remembered as an era of instability, and looking back on it no more grounding to a troubled soul than the memory of combat to a veteran with PTSD?

The third season of Twin Peaks is turning out, in away, to be the perfect artistic product of our time. And there are millennials who were way into it. The show's continuous undercurrent of violence against women, casting its shadow on all activity, the grasping for identity in a technological landscape at once decayed, rusted, yet unfathomably magic in its newness, the FBI reliant on Buddhist mysticism, never certain who they themselves are or whom they can trust to remain human, the persistence of past nuclear devastation into the future, the frightening echoes of arcane nursery rhymes and childhood trauma, the madness of repetition and addiction. But as appropriate as it may be as an artifact of our situation, what the hell kind of twisted anchor is it? We want a rock to cling to. But resting your weary soul on Twin Peaks can be as restful as trying to climb a mountain of non-Newtonian spaghetti.

In the 17th century, the nostalgic got to sit back and say, "Remember that play we saw about the Danish prince who suspected his mother and uncle of murdering his father?" They might even have remarked on the psychological depth of the characters Shakespeare, that bold new author, had created. "Yeah, that really stayed with me. How Hamlet needed more certainty, but in his search for certainty all he created was more doubt and despair. That was pretty cool," they might have said. Albeit erected on a foundation of indecision, that Elsinore is a rock. Compared to our era of shuffling identities, time out of sequence, unfocused anxiety, and eternal evil – mere indecision sounds like bliss.

You guys do know who Shakespeare was, right?

This goes back to something I discussed way back in 2009: the long view versus imbecilical time. Here I quote myself:

"In imbecilical time, noses need to be blown, petty arguments must be hashed out, dogs must be walked, lost keys must be found, strange smells must be dealt with, on top of which all the great, ambiguous, complex and long wisdom of the ages is, of course, strangled by ideology, bowdlerized and oversimplified, and crammed into bottles for contemporary consumption."

We struggle to maintain our footing on the shifting ice of multiple zeitgeists. It's important to have something bigger than your imbecilical time to hold onto, a solid place to stand. What is that thing? The Illuminati adjacent and their client billionaires have been chipping away at our foundation bit by bit. I'm happy see people of all ages returning to that old-time revolution, and I hear the desire to use it, not as a way back to the past, but as a way to explore and fashion the future. The future, though, is getting harder and harder to believe in. No future for you, for us. We need the future to have something to aim at. But, jeez, it's so butt-ugly.

But that old-time revolution. Prying loose the grip of the cruel, the heartless, the greedy, making them give the world back. Okay, forget the butt-ugly future. This is the long now. We have to keep our eye on the ongoing project, because it's not finished. It may never be finished. Because, unlike a series binge, nothing real is ever finished.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth

 

Share Tweet Send