For years, there have been warning signs that the younger generations are slowly losing their capacity for taking the world seriously. As time marches on, the media decays, and social discourse degenerates into a discussion of which cell phone is the best, which pop star is the most attractive, and which television show is more entertaining, the young are losing their ability to connect with or take seriously anything in their world.
I began to notice this a few years back, when I was in high school. As I rose through the ranks, from freshman, to sophomore, to junior, to senior, I gained the ability to “look back” as it were, at the younger students, to see just what the new generation of freshmen were like. I was appalled.
Something went wrong somewhere between my generation and the one three or four years younger. While I don’t claim that my generation had many noble qualities, it certainly seems that, on average, the younger one is much worse. For one thing, they all think so highly of themselves. Their egos are more inflated even than some of the athletes and pop artists that they idolize. They stride around in faddish, popular, and ludicrously expensive clothes, as if somehow their participation in mainstream consumer culture has given them the right to whatever they ask for.
The second thing I noticed about these young whippersnappers was the increasing proportion of “class clown” types among them. These are young people who not only can take a joke, but can take it so well that they don’t seem to be capable of anything else. Nothing they say can be taken seriously, and they walk around talking jokingly about everything, in their annoyingly sarcastic and matter-of-fact tones of voice.
Now, normally, I’d welcome such levity; I think that my generation and the older ones are, on the whole, in serious need of such levity. I’d welcome the refreshing lack of gravity in everything they talk about, if it did not betray such a rapidly degrading society. These youngsters don’t take anything seriously because everything is a fantasy to them. They’ve bought into, in a big way, the delusion that if they fix their hair properly, buy the perfect clothes, drive the best car, and date the most popular person, that their life will gain meaning and purpose immediately, and that everything will work out. While many in my generation have been permeated for much of their lives by the lies and false promises of the media, these younger folks have been basted in it for their entire lives. Not one waking moment has been spent without a talking box in the room challenging independent thought. Not one waking moment has been spent asking the question “Does the media really portray the world as it is?” Not one moment. This is not innocent capitalism. This is indoctrination.
Take a look at your average television commercial. Look at its gauzy, glossy, rococco illusions. Watch unrealistically proportioned, silicone-fortified, cosmetically-enhanced, over-dressed, superficial drones milling around, promoting low-quality, overpriced garbage that nobody would buy if the artificial need were not created. Look at how many of them are trying to create a need for products that nobody wants, nobody needs, and that are actually often dangerous. With all this in mind, consider this horrifying idea: the young people just a generation behind me see these commercials, and believe in them. They believe that the world should actually be like this: superficial and meaningless, based on transient consumer commodities with no real value. It’s no wonder they don’t take anything seriously.