I want to introduce you to a young writer whose perspective on his generation is well worth sharing, particularly with those convinced “nothing good happened after (fill in the blank)”… usually the years they grew up!
We are a world that loves to categorize its inhabitants… by ethnicity, nationality, politics, sexual orientation, age; even the years in which we were born. “Generations” are given actual names and defining characteristics and we rumble like Sharks and Jets over which one did what to the next and who gets to be called “the greatest” and it’s silliness, really. Whether aggrandizing or bashing a generic group based on their birth year (God knows I hate the never-ending anti-Boomer screeds!), the absurdity is in the fact that any group’s commonalities can be contradicted by its many exceptions. But still…
There’s no denying that all of us are – were – influenced by the life and times in which we grew up. We can’t help but be. The air we breath, the events we experience, the sense and sensibilities of the world we encounter affects us in those general, generational ways and, frankly, it behooves us all to pay attention to – and attempt to understand – the influences of those who came before and after.
Meet Jessiah Mellott. He’s 22-years-old, a smart, articulate English major with strong family ties who stands in sharp contrast to many of the curmudgeonly opinions of “kids today.” The Millennials – Jessiah’s generation – get everything from, “they’re all apathetic, lazy tech-addicts” to “they wouldn’t know good music if it hit them on their pot-addled heads,” but as with every cliché of every generation there are, oh, so many exceptions. Jessiah is certainly one of them.
Most of us tend to pay attention to our own peer groups, seldom extending that interest to what younger people have to say about life as they see it. Which is to our detriment. So when I read Jessiah’s very compelling essay about his Millennial era, one which he nicknames “the Silver Generation” for reasons he explains, I was so impressed by his sharp, analytical perspective I thought it would be educational – certainly illuminating – to share it with my readers, most of whom are a good deal older than Jessiah.
Because it’s one thing to allow media to define a generation; it’s another to get beyond stereotypes and preconceived ideas to avail oneself of the actual words and unfiltered views of someone from that generation. So take a few moments, if you would, to read the very thoughtful, humble, and insightful views of one young man who represents the best of what his generation has to offer:
My Generation: Postmodernism, Grey Morality and the Internet Age
by Jessiah Mellott
Grey is the most self-conscious color. It doesn’t know if it wants to absorb all the colors of the world or reject them completely. Grey is the color of indecision. My generation is the grey generation. Actually, we’re the Silver Generation. Silver’s more reflective. My generation is full of reflective indecision. Or indecisive reflection… Or. Whatever. We still speak in absolutes and hyperbole, like totally, but we are the most self-conscious generation in the history of the world. Trust me; I’m 22, I know everything. Or nothing. What did Socrates say again?
The Internet age and social media have taught us that there is no right and wrong, no good and bad. YouTube videos filled with cuddly kittens get thousands of “dislikes” and people like Soulja Boy and Lil B actually have fans. It’s not that my generation is stupid. Well… maybe a little. But every generation has bitter pundits and bad musicians. The difference is that they’re all visible now. Everyone gets to experience and voice their opinion on everything. The Internet age has forced the perspective of the subjective on us. Even writing this, I’m getting an uncomfortable, self-conscious itch. What if somebody who reads this actually likes Soulja Boy? Why do I think his music sucks? Who am I to judge? I guess I need to be more open-minded.
My generation depends on this insecurity because we grew up in a world where postmodernism was already established. In order to understand my generation, we need to talk about its dependence on the generations that came before it. Our grandparents were the Baby Boomers, the most entitled, consumer-crazy generation in history. They grew up in a world full of change, and their modern Renaissance attitudes made it happen. But the Boomer’s growth went unchecked; they were too sure of themselves. They brought the world magical ATM’s and cell phones, and an unhealthy dose of technological dependency and mass pollution. Generation X, as my parents have been called, developed a conscience. They started to realize that what is right for the individual might not be right for the world. Once they questioned this whole notion of the progress of civilization, then the postmodern discourse really came into effect.
There’s no alternative for the Silvers. We are the combination of egocentric and self-conscious that our families raised us to be. We question everything, because everything is subjective. An advertisement selling us “The Perfect Shave” or an “Insanely Healthy Energy Drink” makes us laugh. We scorn the kid who comes out of the movie theater saying simply, “It was good.” Nothing is ever black or white in our world anymore. I saw Inception in theatres and came out thinking that it might be my second favorite movie of all time, and I didn’t give myself ten seconds to enjoy it. All I could do was pick at its flaws. Was it really good enough to deserve that much excitement?
If we are the generation of the self-conscious, the insecure, the postmodern, and the grey, then I think we’re also the generation of the empathetic. This is a tough argument to make, unfortunately. A lot of the Boomers and Xers would say the opposite. All our slacktivism and smiley face emoticons are cute, but they don’t actually involve real face-to-face emotional connections. We get mad when people call us when they could have just texted and we break up over Facebook because we’re too awkward to do it in person. This is a valid argument and I’m not going to deny that a small chunk of my generation is somewhat hopeless. One reason I’m studying to be an English teacher is my frustration at how socially acceptable semi-literacy has become. Outside of a college campus, reading a book has become a strange activity. We’re wasting the information superhighway on memes and Angry Birds, and our attention spans can only tolerate two and a half seconds of video buffering.
On the other hand, being globally connected has its benefits. The Silver Generation can’t help but be citizens of the world. Our grandparents were nationalists, and now we’re globalists. We travel more, consume more world culture, learn more about different lifestyles. My uncle emailed me about an African rap group (Daara J) and I got to check them out instantly. We are more accepting of race, religion, and sexual preference. We were a huge factor in getting the first black president elected, twice. According to USA Today, young people are volunteering for organizations like Teach For America and The Peace Corps in record numbers (Walton). We look at stories from multiple sources with the click of a button. We are in the middle of the golden age of documentary and there is not a single important global discourse that we don’t have access to (O’Hagan). The best part, though, is …
Jessiah Mellott is from Mendocino, California. He is about to receive his degree in English from Humboldt State University. Post graduation he plans on teaching in South Korea for a period of time, after which he’ll return home to earn his teaching certificate. His plan beyond that is to teach high school English, coach basketball, and follow in his dad’s footsteps by being the kind of teacher who inspires young people to work towards becoming better every day.
Group photo by Michelle Yates
“Millennials In Action” photo provided by JM
Jessiah Mellott photo provided by JM
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Follow Lorraine Devon Wilke on Twitter, Facebook, and Huffington Post. Her article archive can be found at Contently, her photos at Fine Art America; details and links to her other work @ www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.
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