I don’t hate my generation

By Claire Cummings

The quest for identity is a cliché preoccupation for Canadians. Having an unfortunate combination of Canadian malaise and 21st century malaise, you’d think most members of Generation Duh would stop questing and just give up. Some have. The media philosophizes endlessly about our apathy, cynicism and detachment, and are mystified by our refusal to be pinned down to any one set of ideals or values.

What will become of the children of TV? Are we simply going to live out our days in front of Jerry Springer, treating our lives with the same detachment as everything else? Or are we going to experience something different from our parents?

Let’s hope so. The modernist values espoused for the past half century have proved themselves unreliable. Science and Reason, the supposed saviours of humankind, have come up short. Science fails us; cancer and aids continue to devastate the planet. Wealthy nations use their capacity for reason to rationalize turning their backs on unbelievable atrocities like the annihilation of the East Timorese, and other people groups the world over–not to mention the quiet destruction of aboriginal culture in our own backyard. Black and white truths, as comforting as they seem, simply don’t add up to anything.

We have grown up in a media-driven culture, to the point that we are sentimental about our favourite processed foods and sit-com characters. There isn’t a lot we see in the world that can’t be written off to special effects or good public relations. But our "been there, done that" attitude can have a flip-side.

We can use our cynicism to criticize what’s going on around us, to quit buying in to the assumptions of our society and really look beneath the surface. Major civil protests like those in Seattle during the World Trade Organization conference show the growing influence of this ability to be critical. The participating groups were all there for different reasons, but were all convinced that the influence of multinational corporations on world governments were threatening and chose to do something about it. Because we don’t buy in to slick sales pitches, we are free to challenge the status quo.

The sterile world of science is too flat for the people of this age. We accept the mystical and magical, and recognize they have a place in our experience. Life needs to be more than acquiring stuff; our stressed-out workaholic parents are proof enough that materialism is a philosophy full of holes.

Our generation is comprised of many paradoxes, and the irony isn’t lost on us. In fact, we should laugh at ourselves just as quickly as we laugh at other people. One needs a good sense of humour to live in this age; an age without happy endings or pat answers. All we can hope to do is sort through all the objects and information of the 21st century and find something to live by.

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