Increasingly, my misanthropy is finding a younger target.
I think my ever-escalating hatred of the modern teenager is worth exploring. Because I wonder if it says more about me than it does about them.
In my own reviled youth, I feel our (I’m assuming you clock ing around my own mid-30ish age-bracket here) generation was judged harshly but understandably by the nation’s elders. The oft-heard epithet of the newspaper letters page or radio phone-in being ‘I didn’t go to war so these children could….. break windows/ruin football matches/wear mohawks/burn flags/etc, etc.’ The irony, of course, is that is exactly what they went to war for – the preservation of freedom – doesn’t that sound like a dirty word now? But with the benefit of hindsight and a sorely-missed interesting and intelligent grandmother, I understand where that sentiment was coming from. They had spent their teens in, if not actual combat, a wartime existence. They were watching their friends and family die at home and abroad, living under the very real threat of air-raids in which lots of bombs were dropped directly onto their houses (kind of makes this whole ‘threat of terror’ thing look like a big girly wussfest, doesn’t it?) . Their teenage kind of sucked and having to watch two successive generations have it so much easier and take for granted all that they had fought to preserve must have been infuriating.
It was kind of their own fault, though. Kind of. They created both the best and worst thing to happen to the world. The Baby Boomers. Named, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, after the ‘baby boom’ that occured directly after the war. This generation was treasured, cherished and spoiled. I imagine they will go down in history as the luckiest generation. It seems in retrospect like there was nothing but opportunity for them. They climbed the class ranks, brought about great social change, completely redefined culture and once they were done making the world a better place, they conspired to own as much of it as they possibly could. The huge rise in greed, corporatism and materialism is their real legacy. The baby boomers have no right to moan and – to their credit – outside of the Daily Mail, they don’t much seem to. They really have nothing to moan about. Mortgages paid, holidays booked, children educated, Beatles remastered CDs due out in a week or so. Thank you, world.
My generation has not seen war either. Not really. Apart from the soldiers. But we’ve not had it so easy economically. Education is no longer free, opportunity is far less prevelant and we live in a world where the price of things is set according to what the baby boomer is prepared to pay. When we should have been buying our first homes and starting families, we found that our parents and their friends were buying up those affordable houses as investments which they could rent to us at an insanely high premium.
So the actual baby boomers – my parents generation are now in their mid sixties with kids in their mid thirties. There is another couple of generations up to bat still. Those in-between. The parents in their mid-forties to mid-fifties with the kids in their teens/early twenties. This parental generation got a bunch of the benefits of the baby boomers. They certainly got caught up in the greed and good living of the 80s. (there’s no point in beating around the bush here, I’m talking generally about the middle class, right) they’ve had a rocky time but have had the benefits of having one foot in the last frontier of culture (being the late 70s/early 80s) and the other in the modern day. I rather like this generation. Your Stephen Frys, your Rik Mayalls,. your Alexei Sayles, your Billy Braggs. They’re old enough to understand the value of individuality but young enough to get excited about an ipod. They APPRECIATE the modern world. I think my generation has the tail end of that, we’re old enough to remember when nobody had a mobile phone and the internet was not just unimaginable but completely non-understandable (‘you kind of look at things people have written… on a computer…. there’s some porn but it takes ages to load’) but our generation didn’t really create anything brilliant. Grunge and britpop were fun and all but they felt like the first movements that were purely derivative, just with an inflection.
I was in Sainsburys yesterday. It must be the summer holidays from school because it just seemed like the middle-aged, middle-class women were out in full force with their horrible spawn trailing behind them. It has been tradition since the birth of the tenager in the fifties for teens to be aloof and truculant but traditionally this has been backed up by a feeling of social injustice or rebellion. These kids (and I’m perfectly comfortable generalising because I saw NO exceptions) seem to resent the very act of breathing. They ooze along (without the joie de vivre of their younger siblings who cheerfully glide on those odd trainers with built in wheels) alternating their attention between their Nintendo DS’s and their mobile phones raising their eyes only to stare at the world with a sense of beleagured disgust and confusion. Their culture is lazily ransacked from whatever is within reach a sickly blend of every willfully compartmented 80s tribe – the goth penchant for black clothing and eyeliner disrespectfully underscored by the preppy leg-warmers/tight jeans, new wave or heavy metal hair, all finished off with flourescent acid house accessories. Like scarecrows draped in anything ‘cool vintage’ purely because of it’s cool cachet and it’s vintage rather than as a reflection of social or philosophical stances these garments were born from.
I’m guilty of propogating this. We stock T-shirts at Videosyncratic and about a year ago I realised that a new trend had completely swept in for for your ‘film/comic tie-in clothing’. It comes ‘distressed’. Meaning that the actual print – the picture on the t-shirt is DESIGNED to look faded and tattered and washed out. Initially, almost understandably (although… come on, think about it) some customers complained about the quality. We had to explain to them that the current generation are too fucking impatient for their clothes to actually get worn. What a huge expenditure of effort – to wear a t-shirt regularly enough that it look like you wear it regularly. Of course, this also leads to the frankly hilarious effect where genuine vintage 80s metal t-shirts go for an obscene amount on ebay (roll up, roll up, here’s a 20 year old t-shirt that has been worn to the point of disintegration by some unhygenic old bastard).
They were born into the kind of basic privelidge that no other generation has ever known. The internet has made redundant all of the basic trappings of life – libraries, books, going to the shops, going to the cinema, playing with friends, gathering round the tv with your family. It has even removed all of the mystery from the world. With google street view, you will never again journey to an unfamiliar place. Even the proliferation with porn must have robbed them of the experience of locating old jazz mags in the local forest or staring with wide-eyed confusion at a random bunch swiped by one of your mates from his dad’s bedside table. Communications technology means they are ALWAYS in touch with their friends and endlessly documenting their uninteresting lives. There’s a lot to be said about only getting 24 pictures out of your camera and having to pay to have them printed. Digital technology has essentially turned these kids lives into flickbooks.
Think of the magic when you find some artifact from your great-grandparents – a handwritten letter or wedding photo then cast your mind forward to these kids great grandkids who rather than having a posed photo and maybe a brief journal to cherish will be faced of thousands of hours of footage and terrabytes of photos of their great-grandparents in various poses (maily naked or doing the ‘metal’ thing with their hands whilst sticking their tongue out. Rather than being touched by a letter of love, maybe this future generation will plug in an ancient sim card and trace their own existence back to a text message reading ‘U R SXY WNNA FK’.
Their music is swill, their art is apparently restricted to fucking rubbish tattoos and they say ‘oh my god’ as if they have some form of Friends-induced Tourettes. As I watched them return to their enormous vehicles (the most suitable transport for a family of mum, dad plus two kids is apparently some form of luxury van which could easily hold triple the number of occupants) and flick on their in-car dvd players, I finally worked out why they need their cars to be so big. They have to transport not just their children, but their children’s enormous sense of entitlement.
You know what we need? ANOTHER WAR! Give the litle shits something to actually draw from.
Louis CK says it better than I ever possibly could…..