Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Beat generation to Bleat generation

I watched "Howl" a few days ago. The 2010 Rob Epstein mish-mash of surrealist animation, docu-drama and James Franco as Allan Ginsburg (Franco was hovering around brilliant, btw). Anyway, it's an okay movie, but parts about the obscenity trial got me to thinking.

The so-called "Beat Generation" was a sort of reactionary art form against the tide of conservatism and enforced normal of American culture after WWII. My perception of it (removed, as I am, by a couple of generations) is that while the mainstream of society was running around sort of manically going, "Everything's fine! We're all great! See how normal we are with our little Johnny and Suzie and Fido and our spiffy new Chrysler," there was this seething mass "This ain't right" grumbling under the surface. And yeah, every generation has that element, but put in the context of post war years, with parents who had grown up hungry and come back from Europe or the Pacific dead... you can see how an entire generation of young people would go - "Um, no." How they would fidget and whine and sulk in the childhood of the counter-culture, until they busted out in the full on rebellion of the 1960's.

The reason this got me to thinking is because Ro's generation is to the Iraq & Afghanistan wars what the beat generation was to WWII. I hold out a ridiculously optimistic hope that those wars will be over (that's a subjective goal and one better defined in another post, but for now insert your own definition) as she and her peers come into their own after high school and I can't help but wonder - what kind of counter culture will they embrace?

I suppose that all depends on what we insist on teaching them is "normal" now, doesn't it? And I'm not just talking about aquamarine hair-dos courtesy of Lady Gaga, or the inherent selfishness of politicians and pro-sports figures. Yes, media is more prevalent in our lives than ever before, but I still believe that kids take their cues from their parents. It's not Congressman Weiner's uh... weiner that will make an impression on kids, it's how their parents react to it. It's not the repeal of the gay ban in the military that will shape young minds, it's what they hear at home about it.

This isn't to say that kids automatically perpetuate their parent's attitudes into adulthood. Of course not. But whether or not their own life experience diverges from the values they were taught will determine how pissed off they get as they try to find their own way.

A military community is an interesting microcosm of American parenting. It seems sort of equally divided into Whatevers and Control Freaks. The children of Whatevers have no experience with self-discipline or the civic benefits of social conformity while the children of Control Freaks don't learn to think for themselves or navigate situations outside their parents' comfort zone. What will they bring to the table, collectively, ten years from now?

I think it's safe to say obscenity trials are a thing of past. At least, in the legal sense. While we no longer take poets to task for using the word "fuck," we still castigate our public figures for having the sexual sensibility of a 13 year old. In an age of portable internet access, digital manipulation and 24 hour news - what will Ro's generation rebel against?

1 comment:

  1. With any luck, they'll rebel against the pervasiveness of the technological party line invading every corner of their lives. With media and social media filling our time like an IV fills a bloodstream, our children will hopefully grow to demand some peace and quiet, some stability and a chance to define themselves by something OTHER than what people post on their "wall".