Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Defense of the Silly

Earlier this week I read the always-stuffy Thomas Friedman's finger-wagging op-ed accusing the Q-for-quiet generation (his term, not mine), the current twenty-somethings, of being too politically apathetic while grudgingly acknowledging how world savvy and well-informed they are. And then I read this young lady's poised response and thought how what she touched on could've been attributed to even the generation before her, i.e., my generation X. This was how we disaffected, cynical Gen Xers (aka slackers) were described by Time Magazine in 1990:

". . .They possess only a hazy sense of their own identity but a monumental preoccupation with all the problems the preceding generation will leave for them to fix . . . This is the twenty-something generation, those 48 million young Americans ages 18 through 29 who fall between the famous baby boomers and the boomlet of children the baby boomers are producing... By and large, the 18-to-29 group scornfully rejects the habits and values of the baby boomers, viewing that group as self-centered, fickle and impractical. While the baby boomers had a placid childhood in the 1950s, which helped inspire them to start their revolution, today's twenty-something generation grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain. . .They feel paralyzed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits…"

Take all that and add to it the flattening of the world (to borrow from Friedman himself), a tragically wrong and expensive war that makes the first Gulf War look like child’s play, and the current unrelenting glut of virtual info--not to mention, tech toys!--I am amaaazed any twenty-something can maintain any kind of political stamina. It is absolutely true that in this day and age, all of us (not just the whippersnappers) are faced with too many causes to support and indignities to battle and so we are overwhelmed into neutral. (Just sign this online petition to make it all go away!)

I remember being reduced to tears by the first Gulf War--I never had any stamina myself--vowing to escape my government by moving overseas some day, feeling hopelessly marginalized in being anti-war (and this was the day before Freedom Fries were even around). Then some 12 years later, I joined others on the streets of LA--spawn in tow--to protest the Iraq Invasion, fully mired in my apathy yet thinking I owed it to him to keep my game face on. Because let's face it: The world can be so fucking depressing and kicks you in the ass in so many ways. Some days I can barely stand to glance at the headlines, let alone read it, so instead I dive straight for the Entertainment section. Perhaps that's why The Daily Show is so appealing--it parcels out bad news in bite-sized portions with enough humor and verve to balm any residual angst. You don't feel crippled with helplessness overload. You feel you are exercising that crucial right to dissent en masse and with a live audience. You can even watch it while updating your Facebook.

I titled this post thusly because I'm glad silly distractions exist to help us cope. This younger generation may have their iPod and HBO, but my gen also has...well, iPod and HBO too (and maybe even an iPhone because we make more money). The silly and the shallow are necessary to allow us to come up for that gulp of fresh air before we are dragged under again by thoughts of rebel suicides and Darfur.

So go ahead, have another laugh at Britney, the poster child for anti-gravitas. And have you been to lately? If not, get thee on over for some good old-fashioned fashion snark.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Let's not forget that Thomas Friedman was a big cheerleader for this current war. As one of the most credible pundits available (noted for his expertise on the Middle East), he made it clear that after 9/11 the U.S. had to kick some ass. Now he sees himself as an equal expert on young people today. That he might be completely wrong about this (as he was about Iraq), I'm sure would never occur to him. Sorry to ramble. Just my way of saying that I greatly respect the wisdom of your post and embrace of the silly!