I vividly recall the moment I became aware of the concept of generations. It was about 15 years ago, at the very dawn of Wikipedia. I came across it after I watched Band of Brothers and did some research online about the generation who fought World War II. Tom Brokaw had coined the term “Greatest Generation” just a few years earlier. Greatest? If they were the greatest, what are we? What am I?
My friends were not so excited about my newfound fascination. Even then I wondered, are we Generation X? Generation Y? What is that? “Fucking stupid,” was their reply. As always, this did not stop me, but they were correct. It is fucking stupid. It’s also all we hear about these days.
I really wish I had stayed on that boat while I worked towards my sociology degree (which I later abandoned to get my bullshit bargain basement degree in absolutely nothing).
By now I could have a Ph.D. with my thesis in generational theory. I’d be the leading authority, often referenced, when the discussion of whatever we call all these shiftless fucks, I mean Millennials, arises. Willennials? Ha-haaa (hey there 90s kids).
I don’t have a time machine (anymore) so wedging this into the current debate may be an insurmountable task. Nonetheless, I offer here, Bob Talbot’s Generational Unified Nomenclature Theory, or GUNT.
Unicorns: These are the people so fucking old that they shouldn’t really be alive, but they are, through science or curse. They’re the ones who croak, “I guess the Lord forgot me,” and talk about how they’re ready to fucking die any minute. Can you even comprehend being ready to die? No one is ready to die. People who are 88 with no legs and a dick that hasn’t worked in 30 years aren’t ready to die. These people are even older. This generational classification shifts ever forward, engulfing the one after it. Someday, if you are very lucky, or unlucky, you will be a Unicorn. #squadgoals.
The Expendables: What Brokaw refers to as The Greatest, these folks were born in the early 20th century, and they are old as shit. At this point they are definitely Unicorns but how could I fail to mention the generation who literally punched Hitler in the face? I don’t have the sack. If you’re lucky you can find one of them to stand in front of a auditorium of teenagers and rattle on about the Bataan Death March. This is a great idea for your high school Veteran’s or Memorial Day celebration. Prop up an elderly traumatized dude in front of a bunch of young sociopaths who think that American Sniper isn’t a propaganda film about a proud child murderer. You’ll probably give them ideas.
The Expendables II: These are the younger dudes who fought the Dubyah Dubyah Aye Aye and Ko-Rea. If they were too young to enlist they collected scrap metal for the war effort or ran around screaming about airplanes. Why is everything about war? Chalk this up to my Southern education and upbringing. Fuck 4,00o years of European history, guys, we need to talk about the War of Northern Aggression and skip WWI because that shit is boring. Nukes and Nazis! It’s Friday and I don’t have a lesson plan so today our guest lecturer is John Wayne, but I digress. These were the beatniks, the old hippies, some of the first people who thought maybe public racism wasn’t cool.
The Motherfuckers Who Ruined Everything: Otherwise known as “Those Fucks” or “Goddamned Bastards” or Dad/Mom/Grandpa/Grandma. Apparently everyone was really horny after surviving WWII and they decided not to pull out, which was, in retrospect, a tremendous error. We’ve all been there. Back in their day you could dance in the park on LSD, shit your way through college, get a job sweeping floors at a major corporation, and have your own office and company car by the time you were 30. Livin’ the dream! Squatting on the shoulders of giants and shitting down their backs. Their parents died in the fields and the factories so they could have a two car garage and shitty, coddled navel-gazing children. Which brings me to-
The Smiths: Oh boy, John Cusack. Watch every 80s film. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It will be about as accurate as judging Expendables by watching The Longest Day and Look Who’s Coming to Dinner but all you need is a general idea. Guys, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you don’t possibly have time to learn everything. You don’t even have time to read this, which is why you aren’t, so take all the provided shortcuts. Anyway, these fuckers are getting grey and they’re still way too cool for you. No one can ever decide when this generation ends.
At this point, the generational classification starts speeding up for some reason. I blame technology. The old standard 20 year setting (allowing 5 years for fuzzy grey area, of course) falls by the wayside and we’ve got shit like this one starting in 1963, or 1966, or some other time in the fucking Sixties, and ending at 1978, 1979, 1982, or whatever other random year the next hip blogger/sociologist/Rolling Stone columnist chooses. What the fuck? Not to mention that these, the pre-beard pre-manbun hipsters, will tell you that you aren’t a Smith even if you were born in 1977. You were a pants shitting baby, what do you know? Which is why-
Ewoks: So named because you represent the bright line between people who hated those fuzzy little buggers and the ones who couldn’t get enough of ’em. You were born too late to be an extra in Platoon, too soon to own anything more powerful than a Tandy 1000, but just in time to taste the sweet fruits of Eighties culture. You were raised by it. If you loved Muppet Babies, you’re a fucking Ewok. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a goddamned Millennial. You have Smith blood running through your veins, and while you were raised on John Williams, MTV, HBO, and the specter of nuclear holocaust, they still won’t let you swim in the big kids’ pool and yell Revenge of the Nerds references so this is all you have.
If you know what the telephone with wires and a funny dial is and you’ve actually had to use one, you’re not a goddamned Millennial. They aren’t VINYLS they’re records or albums you sick fucks! Which brings me to-
Generation Y/Millennials/Willennials/90s Kids/Cultural Death/Edgelords/Memeclowns/#Hashtags: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re one of these. Pick a title, you fucking snowflake.
I’m glad we have hot little computers we can shove into our faces all day instead of newspapers or books or the teats of a slave. Our ancestors spent long hours jamming their dirty noses into everything they could hold down so don’t feel bad that you have a lithium grenade next to your eyeballs for most of your waking hours. The Smiths and the Ewoks do it too. It’s a disease, a virus. The cancer is inside us all now and if I’d known then, when I watched Jean-Luc Picard tap around on his PADD, I’d have yelled at Old Baldy to blow that shit out the airlock before it was too late.
But you have to check your notifications. You have to because of the despair. You’re unemployed or underemployed and you spend your day listening to everyone tell you how shitty you are. I mean, you are a bit shitty but here’s the kicker: so is everyone else. The greybeards have invented all these reasons that you’ve ruined the Earth, but blame shifting is a human tradition since time immemorial. Rest assured, the people with millions and billions of dollars are probably the ones literally raping this godforsaken rock but you’re just wrecking shit behind that counter at Starbucks, right.
Instead of real accomplishment you’re going to have to settle for the dopamine spike that comes from hits, likes, shares, comments, “achievements”, retweets, karma, swipes, sexts, trending, and the hugbox. The fucking hugbox where you can huff your own farts until you suffocate in bliss. You guys call this “punching down.” I calls ’em as I sees ’em.
Remember, though, it’s not just you. It’s retroactive. It’s farting its way back through the generations until it reaches the wall of people who thought that ENIAC was cutting edge. You’ve got those too set in their ways to adapt, and they’re playing bridge and eating pills for breakfast. Everyone else is playing Pokemon Go and eating pills for breakfast.
The Old Ladies on Mad Max – Fury Road: After the recent world summit on climate change, John Kerry said something to the effect of (and I am paraphrasing), “Shit is fucked, yo. To reverse or even halt anything it would take a global initiative somewhere on the scale of a worldwide Manhattan or Apollo Project and so far all we have is a bunch of chucklefucks literally burning the Earth and laughing while they do cocaine off sex slaves in their Learjet so smoke ’em while you got ’em, I guess.”
Your kids, if you get your shit together and have any (doesn’t matter) are probably going to die horribly, depending on who you are and where you live. We might eke out some Elysium shit where Fortress America sits pretty while the rest of the world dies of widespread famine at the end of the 21st century, but I kinda doubt it. We’re going to feel it.
And I know. I know. People have been calling doom down for all of human history. In the Seventies you had the ecologists screaming that pesticides were going to end civilization and overpopulation was going to have us all standing on top of each other by now. Remember Peak Oil? We solved it by coming up with new and exciting ways to violate Mother Earth. However, this time there’s real evidence that, man-made or not, the global temperature is approaching something which will not support agriculture in the way and shape it’s currently practiced. Human ingenuity is what gives me some hope, though. It may end up being more Blade Runner or Dredd than Mad Max, if we don’t go Terminator and end up in Vault 13, but the future’s not so bright that I have to wear shades. Plus I own these nifty photochromic lenses.
You know all those dystopian young adult novels? We’re the prequel. This is what happened first, so at least our zeitgeist is pop culture psychological preparation for what’s to come. Welcome to the Dystopian Present, baby.
This is as far into the future as I care to take these shenanigans. It’s probably best that I’m Bob Talbot Retail Manager instead of Dr. Bob Talbot, Doomsayer. I know that I know nothing, but I’d bet that I’m at least as close to the mark as the French artist who predicted the Roomba.
Thing is, humans love heuristics. It’s our jam. We’ve got a world full of categories and if something doesn’t fit we’ll hammer it until it does. The dark is too frightening, the mess too gooey, and if it looks like a shark we assume it’s a shark. This must have benefited us in the past, natural selection and all, but maybe it’s time to rethink the approach.
I’m not going to say we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. It’s been suggested. No, what I have is even better. I say we all stand on a hill, late in the day, and sing. We lift our voices and sing, and perhaps enjoy a cold beverage. A nice, refreshing Coca-Cola. Our sugary savior.
I think you’ve always known it. I have too. Ask anyone on this list, from the mud of Bougainville to the dust of Fallujah (because again, war, it’s all we have), what they wanted to snap into after a long day of killin’. What was sitting beside our favorite actor in the pivotal scene? What was painted on the side of the drug store, who supplied the scoreboards, who invented Santa Claus and polar bears? Pepsi? Fuck Pepsi and the Joan Crawford it rode in on.
It’s the Real Thing. Someday we’ll get off this rock, in rockets red and white. Systems will fall under our syrupy boots. This will not be our grave. The surveyor drones will construct our habitats first. Then, the billboards. It’s not the most efficient practice, but who needs efficiency?
We have a universe to devour.