The Years of Living Dangerously
When speaking in sweeping generalizations about a general contemporary mindset, there is no better blanket term to have as a starting point than Zeitgeist. Commonly defined as “the spirit of the time,” it is much more than just that. The German zeit translates as “time” or “age,” and the geist as “spirit.” Geist’s translation as “spirit” also implies an otherworldly quality. And when speaking of a generation’s ideology, it is in accord with Jungian archetypical relationships. So do we, as a generation, possess a binding consciousness? And, if so, there is but one simple question – what are we thinking about?
Buddhism claims that all human beings have an unnatural attachment to the future and the past and that everyone needs to do their best to focus on the present. Siddharta Guatama must be rolling over in his - well - reincarnated form, because my generation is particularly awful at living in the now. We mismanage our zeit: our minds are completely focused on what just happened and what is going to happen, not what is happening. When we don’t want to think about it anymore, that’s when we get completely fucked up. It runs the gamut. Rich, white college kids with trust funds are thinking about what area of investment banking they want to get into and poor, black high-school dropouts are thinking about how to make their next dollar. One is thinking about how he could’ve done better in his squash tournament and the other is pissed about his last game of Cee-lo1. To escape time, white boy’s gonna rail some remis2 and aspiring 50 Cent is gonna drink a forty3 (I prefer the latter).
This is not to say that the only way our generation escapes is through drugs and alcohol, but we are quite proficient in our usage. Religion, partisan politics, sex, and money are all vices when abused and are all part of our modern day escapism. We, as a generation, are utterly confused. And when we are confused we escape. Take the last election, for example. I so wanted Bush out of office that I wrote some articles for my college newspaper that were, in retrospect, not considerate of the other side. The College Republicans brought Anne Coulter to campus, a person who defeats her own arguments by being so unabashedly malicious towards people who don’t think like her. Both sides are guilty of escaping the moment by not listening. Truth be told, anyone who really championed either of the douchebags4 running last time was really just mad at the other side or was/is a deuchebag, too. As for those caught between the political tug-of-war, there is a growing majority that checks “apathetic” under the “political views” section of The Facebook5.
But can you blame the confusion and the escapism?
Certainly, the blame does not rest solely on the shoulders of the giants. But, as we saw with the recent Katrina events, there is something to be said for looking to the top for answers and working our way on down. My “blame game” follows a Bush-Blanco-Nagin three-tiered approach as well: First of all, we have to look at the bureaucratic branch. These aforementioned deuchebags are the ones who, as of recently, rob from the poor to give to the rich. Secondly, we have to look at what I like to call the great celeb mindfuck. US Weekly weakens; it’s cliché to say, but the women of this country have been completely robbed of their self worth and the men are paying ten bucks to watch their future governors splatter alien brains.
The third level is the most important. I think there’s an age old adage that goes something like, “If your friends and family are fucked up chances are you will be, too.” I have to qualify this, though. The religious right has been talking about “values” forever, but they don’t really know what true values are. Jesus really knew what he was talking about, but his message has been so perverted that we’ve got Pat Robertson ordering hits out on people. What I mean to say is if your parent(s) and friends are good people, if they like to help others out, if they like to smile and have a laugh, and if they love you, then chances are you’re going to be alright. If your parents are money-grubbing assholes then chances are you’re going to be a money-grubbing asshole, too. My parents are divorced and my dad’s gay, but they love me and are great people; I think I turned out alright. Take that “Christians.”
But, of course, there is the little talked about fourth tier. Surely we can’t blame/give total credit to others completely for who we are. We must be responsible, too. And, I don’t think we need to totally on the defensive, either. There are plenty of reasons to see good in my peers. I think we dealt well with the 9/11 catastrophe, we were the first to jump into cars to go down to
There is reason to measure ourselves against what Brokaw and many others call “the greatest generation.” My grandfathers both grew up modestly, went to
The most important lesson we can learn from this generation praise is that they were not heralded until after the fact. And it rings true with us, too. We will not be complete until we are looked back upon and reflected upon. And what’s on our minds and who we are will not be fully realized for years to come. What’s most important, though, is that we are ourselves, that we are original, and that we have spirit. I don’t want our generation to be lumped into one; I don’t think we should have a binding consciousness. That’s so…boring. If we’re being held down by the powers that be, we have to fight against them, not stand idly. A lot of us have had it easy and a lot of us have had it hard, but it’s time now that we step out from the shadows and think for ourselves.
Tomorrow I’m moving from
For – believe me – the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is – to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! Soon the time will be past in which you had to be content living in forests like shy deer! Finally the search for knowledge will reach for its due; it will want to rule and possess, and you with it! (161)
Word is bond7.
Glossary of terms for old people:
1Cee-lo – a popular dice game usually involving betting
2Rail some remis – pull a Kate Moss
3A Forty – one forty-ounce bottle of malt liquor
4Douchebag(s) – anybody and everybody you voted for
5The Facebook – www.facebook.com, an online directory connecting most major colleges
6Shitfaced – your son on a Saturday night (and usually Sunday morning)
7Word is bond – You are correct, sir
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science.
Zinn, Howard. “The Greatest Generation?” Progressive Magazine. Oct 2001.