2011 Year in Review
Blue Whales
Christmas Carol
Duty to Object
Evenhanded Pursuit of Truth
Flood and Bush
Never There or Here
Review: Sufjan Stevens' Age of Adz
Space Flight
Success With Values
Terrible Kids Music
The Nineties
Year in Review

You know you’re old when…

You can get a discussion together about a decade that began twenty years ago.

Note: This is a new format for us, but hopefully it will be more accurate to the discussions that we all have off line. We hope you like it.

Recently, my wife found an oldies station that plays her kind of music–Nineties Pop Mix. And of course this is another way you know you’re old. But the Nineties seem to be experiencing a revisitation. And given this, we decided to discuss our memories of this wonderful decade. So get out that old flannel shirt and grab a Clearly Canadian as the Basiks present: The Nineties.

Wheat: What about the 90s do you miss?
This is "The Jump" →

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Yep, We’re Still Old

Note: This post is a continuation of our discussion about the nineties. If you missed part one, click here. You lazy bum.

Leaven: So now that rip Van Leaven has awoken from a deep, deep slumber, I’ll get back to the conversation on our disaffected youth …or was it the 90’s? I think Water struck a chord with me on the whole, “recursive cycle of cynicism.” It seemed that the 90’s had an integrity to it, but one that was steeped in teen angst. Of course I agree that the world, and probably more so the youth of the world, are couched or maybe crouched in cynicism. While I want to say this has to do with the internet and the degradation of our society’s very moral fabric, it is most likely the fact that we were teenagers during the 90’s. During the 70’s you had the teenage wasteland, rebellious youth, in the 80’s you had Alex P. Keaton (who reminds me of Wheat for some reason) rebelling from his parents by being a Young Republican, and then in the 90’s you had grunge, the anti-glam, anti-hair bands.

Speaking of being ahead of the curve, I’m reminded of the great movie Heathers, which was about finding one’s identity while wading through dark comedy, irony and cynicism. So many of the quotes from the movie are classic and really ahead of the curve. When the writer was asked about the script he said something to the effect of, “There was no way I could try to capture the lingo kids were using, because it would be out of date by the time the movie was released.” and this was in 1988!! Who had the Internet then?

“I don’t know what the Internet is, but if I did, I would hate it.”

Erik Erikson says that this stage of life is all about the developmental challenge of formulating identity or having role confusion. Kids don’t want their identity thrust upon them by their parents, so they criticize everyone and everything in an effort to find who they are while simultaneously trying to be like everyone else with their bellbottoms, or tight-rolled jeans, or parachute pants.

Sure you might be thinking, “What’s your damage Leaven?” “Why the dark tone?” But truth be told, I have hope for the next group of kids. I think they’ll take up Water’s clarion call and declare an end to fake as soon as they drift away from the Beiber of the moment and the Pokemon of the masses and decide to take a divergent, and maybe fractured path toward accepting their own genuine, real, cynicism-free individual identity.

Water: Is Erik Erikson related to Kris Kristofferson? I’ve always wondered about that.

“Erik Erikson would have never made it in the Highwaymen.”

Wheat: I think you have correctly hit upon something there with the teen angst angle.

I listened to NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast about Nineties music. Bob Bolien (host of NPR’s aforementioned show) spent the decade where we are now—young, married professional beginning his own family. He said that the music of the 90s did not hold the same resonance to him as the other commentators (from our generation) expressed.

I wish I could look outside my own perspective to actually evaluate the time in relation to American culture as a whole, but it is difficult to see past my own experience during the time. Too many of the personal details inform my perception. Teen angst is just really easy to identify with while a teenager.

However, I think that we should be careful to absolve the decade of its influence in our current cynicism. Let me suggest that much of the distrust of today is informed by big things that happened during that time. Three big players that come to mind: Rodney King, OJ Simpson and Monica Lewinsky.

Am I off base with this assertion?

“Your honor, at no time did I intentionally cause a generation to lose its innocence.”

Leaven: Great thoughts, Wheat, that are spelled out well, whereas a second look-see at my comments shows that my spelling sucks (ed. note: Wheat’s spelling did suck before it was cleaned up.)

You pointing out King, the Juice, and the… Well, what I’m thinking is that maybe we could and/or should find some older, old-world, hard, crusty, extra-generational loafers to contribute to the conversation about their particular era’s triumvirate of disillusionment, to see if this too spans generations.

Only after Water gushes though, I wouldn’t want to blog out turn.

Water: I’m not sure how comfortable I am with being asked to gush, particularly in the context of Monica Lewinsky.

I guess every generation has its events that generate cynicism or disillusionment. I’ve often heard Watergate cited as a “loss of innocence” moment. Dropping the atomic bomb lead to the dark and brilliant humor of Dr. Strangelove. World War 1 gave us the “lost generation.” Erikson (or maybe Freud . . . or Sophocles) is probably right; it’s a part of the coming-of-age process for everyone to try to define themselves against the previous generation. Test things out. Decide what it is you really stand for.

Only our generation seems to have decided to stand for . . . not standing for anything.* We want to feel things deeply and authentically, while all along we know that whatever we are feeling or experiencing is really illusory or ephemeral. Isn’t that the hipster aesthetic? Somehow being totally “in the moment” while simultaneously distancing yourself from that moment so you don’t have to actually commit to it?

*Standard gross overgeneralization disclaimer. Yes, I know many of us have passionate beliefs and things we will stand up for. Just trying to make a general observation. Settle down.

Actually believing in something is that much riskier and more open to criticism. If you commit to something intellectually, you have to draw lines and say that someone else is wrong. If you commit to something meaningful, that means you are drawing lines about core issues and saying that someone else is wrong about fundamental questions. Better to base your belief system on how great Firefly* is or to eschew a belief system altogether.

“I’ll get around to being the foundation of your belief system as soon as I kill these Reavers.”
*Don’t get me wrong. Firefly is totally great! And up to date! “Look at Water with his 8-year-old TV references. Just the most cutting-edge guy!”

So, will the next group of kids find a “genuine, real, cynicism-free individual identity”? I guess, maybe. But will it be of any value if it’s radically individual to each of those kids, with no common ground other than an appreciation for how stylish Apple products are? I don’t know. If we can’t all currently agree on something as simple as the fact that being $14 trillion in debt is bad, then what will we be able to agree on in the future?

Sorry, no gushing, just wet blankets today. Anyone care to talk me off the ledge?*

*Metaphorical ledge. Settle down.

Wheat: Slow down there Glen Beck.

Remember that cynicism betrays a believer’s heart. A heart that wants for something pure and true. This should offer us hope for the future.

Our generation is less racist, less ignorant, more self-aware and more free than perhaps any one that came before it. The current rush to Randian philosophy aside, a plurality want what is best for the whole. The quiet majority remains intact and influential.

This is far from the most perilous time in our nation’s history regardless of what the news says. We are in the point of the cycle where we see all the problems, but do not have the power to fix them. Wait a moment, this will change.

Water: Yikes! Just called Glenn Beck. If you’ll excuse me, I need to take a shower. Feel . . . dirty somehow.

Wait, does Water take a shower to get clean? Do I need a charcoal filter or something? Has this metaphor been beaten to death? Yes? Good.

Thank you, though, for the wise words. We just passed the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, and that was a considerably darker time in our nation’s history.

I’m fascinated and moderately terrified by the weird Ayn Rand thing among our elected officials. Probably best to save that for another thread. Particularly since any knowledge I have of Rand is strictly hearsay.

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