As proud member of GenX, I see our generation’s most enduring cultural trait being our ability to deconstruct and reconstruct almost everything we touch. From media, to science, to politics, it seems that our creative leaders can pull the engines of thought apart and recreate them as smarter, faster, and often meaner creatures.
And while we Xers aren’t as young as we used to be, it confuses me a bit to see a generation of re-creators beginning to become afflicted with conservative* attitudes as we age. Not that I thought we were better than that, exactly, but it seems a bit hypocritical to say the least.
What seems to lie at the core of this idea is the belief that the natives of the new new future (the one that will live on after us) have been afflicted with problems that are uniquely terrible, and can ultimately only be solved by not doing them, or doing things the way they used to be done, otherwise they will turn out wrong. And this is because (in no particular order) the internet, music, dating, sex, and politics are somehow worse due to the technologies that have fallen into the hands of these new young savages, and we figured it out and they haven’t yet, which means that they’re doing it wrong in a way that will harm them as humans and ruin everything forever.
I naturally tend to doubt that given the arc of human history. Like it or not, the very nature of society is that if enough of you are doing the same thing then you’re doing it right. (With the notable exception of sex, because even though everyone is doing basically the same thing, it’s really doing it at all that’s totally unacceptable.)
As we age, and accumulate a history, the past starts to looks better. Not only is our hindsight 20/20, but it is endlessly mineable. It is our museum of thought, where we can walk around an old idea until we find a perspective that we like, and then tell everyone that our viewpoint is the one true vision of the way things were, and the way it ought to be.
It’s an aspect of human nature that I find that to be a bit sad, honestly. To me the future remains exciting even if less and less of it is going to be my future. I’m not against the ideas of channeling our new technologies and giving them a philosophical spin, but this instinct to magnify the problems with the new and put them into doomsday scenarios is always a bit puzzling to me, as if somehow one of the goals of life is dodging the apocalypse.
As I say when that I use when try and sell me on their version of doomsday:
The problem with the apocalypse is that there’s no precedent for it.
* In this case I mean it in the truest sense of the word: that things should remain as they are, or recently were.