Peeking into the (gen Y) rabbithole…

Growing up, I received with wide eyed faith a child-safe culture full of optimism and certainty about the triumph of good over evil and the immovable natural order of things. This is in no way an original experience; it is in fact the opposite, it is universal, whether you happen to be child studying the Koran in a dusty tumbledown school perched on the side of the side of the Karakoram mountains or like me; perched on my own elbows in western capitalist luxury city Sydney with my big eyes glued to Captain Planet and my future filled with privilege. And, like my parents and my parents’ parents, I wrenched and struggled for idealistic supremacy with the dawning realisation that justice is often no more than an idea to aspire to. But there is something particular about the experience of growing up in my Wilderness Society generation that seems to have whittled away with absolute subtlety any remnants of 20th century optimism about the future of the world.

Raised in a world of wealth and spin, we lost our adolescent innocence in an awkward seduction by the sensual, pathological genius of consumerism. Her (and it must be a her, because she is sex and sex sells) lies are beautiful, her perfection crafted meticulously by millions of artists, economists and psychologists whose careers have mysteriously steered them reluctant but complicit into advertising. We were tentative at first, but driven by desire and insecurity we threw all thoughts of consequence into the wind. And finally, in the unfortunate manner of some virgin sexual encounters we have emerged afterwards blinking in the daylight, ipad in hand, unsure how much we enjoyed the experience and with a creeping sensation that we’ve been used. In a testament to the meem power of the environmental movement, Gen Y has grown up knowing that we humans are destroying the planet. The problem is, there are so many sexy ways to put our bejewelled fingers in our ears and sing ‘nah nah nah nah nah’ while everything around us starts to burn. The consequence is this oily, ambiguous feeling of collective shame that lurks in the corner, hiding itself ineffectively behind a blanket of glossy magazines. The sun is dawning on the morning after, bringing with it a sobering perspective. Some of us have launched ourselves into the struggle for a new beginning, but for most it has spawned in us this cynicism we are notorious for, us, generation Radiohead, generation Donnie Darko.

There is an intuitive understanding of the current state of our world and our species shared amongst the apathetic generation Y that is delicate and deep and almost inexplicable. It a complex form of inherited knowledge, the result of several hundred years of millions of minds creating, thinking, recording, rejecting, progressing, debating, hundreds of years of conversations in millions of different forms from art to violence to industry. We stand in a room of ghosts who whisper to us their contradictions. Voltaire and Ricardo push us forward, call us onwards to our glorious destiny, yelling  ‘economic growth’, ‘development’, ‘progress’. But somewhere twisting through this clamour of apparitions there is a thread of doubt which has begun to unravel all of our assumptions. It is the final culmination of millions of dashed African hopes, suburban smiles ungiven, ruined rainforests, clever advertising slogans, empty preachers, shameless politicians and futile endeavours. It is a complete rejection of the idealistic fervour that characterised the youth movements of C20th, from the Hitler youth to the Russian Red Scarves to the 70s student anti war coalitions. It is the exhausted end point for a society that has clawed its way out of polio and urban starvation, abandoned colonial tyranny, given women the vote and finally reached a long anticipated pinnacle of wealth and modernity only to be subject to the holy scripture of Coca Cola. We’re losing our sense of community under the veneer of manufactured identity, while Ronald Macdonald soothes us by stroking us softly under the chin and telling us we’ve made it to the top, folks. This generations’ cynicism speaks in the collective human tongue, which moves so slowly you have to live a whole lifetime to hear it say one word. My cynical generation is telling us that our most sacred inheritance, our relentless assertion that we’re living out our enlightenment idea of linear progress may just well be the biggest and most compelling lie in human history because somewhere along the way, we have really fundamentally fucked things up.

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