I found a blog I had started when I had just started university or maybe just before that. Way back in December 2013. I wrote it when on holiday with my family in Jamaica and it was influenced by another blog by a friend. It looked to address the fact that “young people” are often lumped together as this useless group of apathetic and sarcastic brats who will ironically call each other niggers and demand that bitches better get into the kitchen.
For some reason I felt that the opinion of a young person on this matter was necessary. Whilst I don’t espouse the virtues of ironic racism or sexism, I wanted to question whether being nostalgic for past subculture movements is negative and if labelling an entire generation with limiting and negative attributes is just ridiculous and lazy writing.
Give it a read.
Original title: Irony, Apathy and Millenials.
I think that my generation, specifically the offspring based in Western Anglophone countries, is typified as cynical and caustic. Irony and apathy has come together with their fingers entwined, almost as easily as sneezing and peeing at the same time. This has been criticised, and those of us who employ irony heavily in our lives come under scrutiny, because mocking the serious and the ridiculous is something to be ashamed of. Because grunge was a serious movement, politicians were believed in and culture died in 2001.
Irony is a fantastic thing, when I learned of its existence I best tried to understand it by consulting the adults who surrounded me of its meaning, and when they failed to aptly do so I was confounded and curious. Now, I look back to my younger and more innocent self, the one who became offended when confronted with sarcastic remarks and I chuckle thinking it ironic that I am considered Ms. Sarcastic by friends and often reprimanded for my apparently condescending tone by my mother.
Moreover, most of my favourite comedies and comedians employ irony, take the American TV series It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. An episode focusing on the abortion debate features a main character who claims to be Catholic (in his belief this is a fear of fiery Hell, refusing to use condoms, and apparently despising those who support the legality of abortions) however when a woman tricks him into believing he has impregnated her he promptly tells her to get an abortion. Another episode finds the gang of main characters renovating an immigrant Mexican family’s home, believing it to be a good deed but instead coming off as racist, nationalistic kidnappers destroying their place of living – the ironic twist is that they lose out on their inherited mansion when it is given to the family by court ruling.
Yet irony seems not to be confined to fictional settings, recently a group of global warming scientists became trapped in Antarctic ice when whipping winds pushed sea ice around their ship and froze it into place. Need I say more? Ever heard of Joe Francis? He created Girls Gone Wild and also is incredibly pissed that his sex tape gotleaked without his consent. And of course there’s more because if there’s something our society is made for is to be mocked by the great Ironic overlord: Law and Order Special Victims Unit (the spin-off which focuses on sexual-abuse crimes) actor Richard Belzer made a rape joke; the Catholic Church canonised a nun (who was excommunicated for outing a child-molester priest) as the patronsaint of sexual-abuse victims; and Tory MP James Clappison asserted thatEngland is becoming too overcrowded without feeling any shame in his ownershipof 28 houses.
However, if all I am doing here is pointing out irony with my big judgemental and self-righteous index finger I fail to address my first point. The apparent irony-loving of my generation (which I admit is something of a generalisation) has been criticised as a characteristic of the much hated Hipster. If most people struggle to define irony, nearly every struggles to define the Hipster. I have mocked this subculture which apparently supports the accusation that I am one and then the contradictions only continue to swim in the cyclical way. A Hipster is typically a white youth who hates the mainstream, wears ironic clothing or lusts after an era before theirs nostalgically and spends hours on the interweb researching in all their might so that they may stay above and in front of the mainstream. Did I mention they love irony – yes, okay, well yeah. Anyway, they love it so much that they write in grammatically incorrect discourse and make sexist/racist jokes IRONICALLY! They are awkward and self-conscious ironically. Lest we forget, a love of vintage and charity shopping is seen as something growing in popularity amongst these well-hipped youngsters, perhaps it is a counter to the franchised consumerism that monopolises much of the Western world, or perhaps it is just a stupid trend that grinds on the nerves of older people who care too much about the actions of the youth these days. They like Art Garfunkel ironically (okay, I can’t back that fact up at all). Most of all they are cynical because what else can you be when there is so much information swimming around and thus so much awareness of the hypocrisy and cruelty in the world.
It’s difficult to not scoff and mock everything sincere around you once the knowledge that little has changed and that our so called democracy is more a corporative plutocracy. When one googles the definition of “corporative” it states “relating to or denoting a state, typically a fascist one, organized into corporations representing employers and employees in various trades or professions.” And what’s ironic is that I wrote “google” instead of web-search or some other phrase that would best define this action thus exemplifying that indeed we are a people dominated by corporations and brands.
Let’s consider the former, that it is a counter to the commercialisation and commodification of Western culture. Girl Power was co-opted from the rrriot girl movement and the first and second wave feminism movements of the eighties and nineties. Hippies can now find a way to live in the mainstream with the supposed ethical fair-trade mark and abundance of organic and free range goodies on the market as well as business groups such as The Cooperative making it easier on the conscience to supermarket shop, bank and bury your dead. We’ve witnessed the aftermath of Ben Elton going from critical left-wing comedian to selling out as a corporate tool. In fact we’ve witnessed everything known as free and for the people become money-making machines for the economic elite. We’re in a generation that is seeing the privatisation of the NHS, Police and pretty much any part of the Welfare State and then being told that the legacy of British democracy is something not to be mocked. How can we not when the two parties that were once seen as polar opposites on the political horseshoe are mere steps away from each other on the centre of the spectrum. Yes, irony may be a defence mechanism for my generation but it’s only because every movement and ideology has failed those before us that we can only believe in the tragic coincidence that is our continued existence.
From there I want to address the fact that the Millennials (as we’re lamely being referred to) seems to lack any sincere movement like grunge and the nineties, or punk and the seventies/eighties or hippies and the sixties/seventies, or beatnicks and the fifties and the list can continue. Perhaps it’s because these movements were co-opted as everything is as a marketing strategy. Businesses are always concerned with appealing to the youth, in support of the government being a business we can look back to David Cameron’s stupid “Hug-a-Hoodie” campaign and how fucking irritating that was. People can fall into the trap of idealisation and although the Hipster is characterised as having naïve nostalgia for times before them, this nostalgia tends to highlight the best parts of that culture and rejects the many flaws and reasons as to why those movements dissipated. However as a blog entry by a friend addresses, the Hipster culture or the trend of vintage and nostalgia is already one of these corporative tools with vintage t-shirts selling at £44, this has only caused my generation to mock its own commodification (as her blog proves). We see the irony in that we are not that different from the generations before us. And maybe we need to remind our critics of this as they seem to fall into the same old trend that kids these days are getting worse and worser every bleeding day.
Yes, we are apathetic and revel in irony only because we are confronted with so much fake, commercials shoved down our throats, photoshop altering reality and brand-names taking the place of traditional vocabulary. What’s more is that when legitimate informations sources waste time criticising youth culture they’re not focusing on the culture that has led to global warming scientists being trapped by drifting ice in the ever-increasingly melting Antarctic icecaps, that has bred entitled politicians who are oblivious to the hypocrisy of owning twenty-eight houses when claiming population-crowding, that has legitimised misogyny and homophobia, it is no wonder that we mock it all by pointing out the irony. I guess being insulting towards us is a defence mechanism too.