To be a child of my generation meant growing up sandwiched between hyper-sensitivity and stone cold avarice, page where “free to be you and me” made a jagged transition into “greed is good.” Trapped in the long demographic shadow of boomer generation, symptoms we had to listen to our immediate elders boast about the Summer of Love as they marched to the ballot box to vote for Reagan in droves.
While lip service continued to be paid to “traditional” values and expectations, empirical evidence abounded to the contrary — skyrocketing divorce rates, culture wars, diminished expectations, and an economic decline masked by the fleeting pseudo-prosperity of capital concentrating upwards.
It’s no wonder that an apathetic “whatever” became the signature catchphrase of the so-called “slacker” generation, an imposed tag but one affected with willing collusion by so many of my peers. Nothing meant anything anymore, and the cultural topography took on the characteristics of a massive landfill of artifacts awaiting appropriation. Even the “Gen X” designation was secondhand goods, pilfered from Robert Capa’s description of the children of post-WW2 prosperity (i.e. those motherfucking Boomers) and used as the name of the punk band Billy Idol fronted before his solo days.
While some — such as the hip hop and electronic dance scenes — turned this dumpster driving toward innovative ends, it mostly played out as a hollow form of gnosticism where symbolic worth was measured in units of nostalgic familiarity and ironic detachment. It was retro for retro’s sake, with facile references serving as ends in themselves. (“Hey, that comedian mentioned Lidsville! I remember that show! This guy is brilliant!”)
It’s a plague that persists to the present day and no one — including yours truly — is completely immune.