Thursday, February 20, 2020

Generation Green

Things don't always change, at least not in obvious ways. However, generation gaps exist because of what parents give to children and children take from parents. When it comes to passing on tradition one bad apple can really spoil the whole bunch. It really does take a village to raise a child, but if you can't trust the village then it doesn't do the child any good.

Last week I published a short fragment to the blog in lieu of a full-on post like I always do. It was even shorter than my Story Sheet entries. The reason I did this was because I wanted to put it out there on its own to establish Generation Y. I needed to do this before talking about the why of it all.

It's no secret that one of the biggest problems we are living with today is a split among those younger than Gen X age but older than the just-graduating High School kids of Gen Z. Right now, they are the ones making the biggest noise.

The divide is between those who mindlessly chant "Future!" and "Progress!" as if we are marching towards some sort of paradise on Earth that hasn't changed definitions at least twenty times in my lifetime. The other side are those who try to escape the din of this aggressive chant by hiding in their concocted man caves and choose to remember a time where things were less overbearing than they are now. These are two very different sets. This second group is the one I want to talk about today.

I wish to bring it up partially because I am technically part of it. The majority of those in this second group are in my age bracket, and are the ones currently being pandered to the most by every industry that has something to sell. Because we will spend everything to reclaim our long forgotten youth.

The story I shared last week, Why Not: A Gen Y Fragment, is based on those in this very group. I grew up with them. None of those in the fragment from back then are around anymore, but of the ones I do get to talk to from those days they have little to say about their past other than to mention products they grew up on. That's all they have to share.

From 2001

I had recently been enjoying posts from authors Brian Niemeier and David V Stewart about Generation Y. They nailed the description of eras they clearly are from. Another post that hit a mark was this one by author Clawson Smith. The topic has been hot for some time now. Nostalgia has always been around, but it has never been as aggressive as the period we are currently in. So where did this very obvious fracture in culture come from?

Well, first is that Generation Y and Millennials were originally refereed to as separate groups. Gen Y were advertised and catered to as the little brothers of Gen X. If you weren't around during the late 80s into the 90s then I suggest looking up some commercials from the time. They are weird, abrasive, loud, and sarcastic.

From 1994. This wasn't aimed at college aged Gen X.

From 1996. No Millennial was old enough for this yet.

From 1998. All character is gone. What happened?

Around 1997 or so Madison Avenue saw 2000 coming and wanted to make a shift. They began to advertise for a completely new group (their own words) and changed things accordingly. It happened almost over night. By this time the Political Correctness movement was in full swing and it reflected in the change in entertainment for kids. No longer were kids getting series like Rocko's Modern Life or Gargoyles, but were getting sanitized fare like The Wild Thornberrys.

Television alone was an entirely different beast between 1997 and 1998, and was unrecognizable for those who grew up in the '90s by the time the '00s hit. Madison Avenue and Baby Boomers wanted to court this new upcoming crop of kids and shape them into their own pet projects that would bring their progressive, forward looking utopia to reality.

At the same time, in 1999, an event at Columbine High School, where a couple of mentally ill teenage boys killed 12 innocent students and a teacher, changed the public school system overnight. It wasn't even the first major school shooting of the decade. Just two years earlier in 1997, a boy went into his school and murdered 3 students and wounded 7 others as part of a Satanic Cult called The Kroth. This was never really covered by the mainstream media, probably because it went against a lot of the narratives of those that wanted to change the culture. I highly recommend the book Child's Prey by Jon Bellini if you want the details on this case. It will make you see canards about the "Satanic Panic" in a new light.

Ask yourself why you never heard about this, but heard constantly of Columbine.

Nonetheless, this event was used as a way to sew distrust among students and teachers and to implement new stricter rules that have done nothing to improve the state of education even decades later. The only solution is taking away their access to weapons and entertainment without questioning why a child would become so empty in the first place that they would kill their fellow peers. Decades later and the question still hasn't been asked by those in charge. It won't ever be asked.

The school system that Gen Y grew up in changed overnight and is a distant memory now.

That wasn't the only thing that changed.

In 2001, twin planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York altered common discourse. Those on political divides became more aggressive towards each other, demanding instant changes and stricter guidelines, and mistrust flowered from this. Late night shows began taking nasty shots at those they disagreed with under the guise of "jokes" and humor became weaponized. Religion soon became a target of a certain crowd, spreading even more impotent rage. All this contributed to a poisonous atmosphere we have yet to escape from even two decades removed.

By the '00s the internet had taken over every facet of life, and smart phones were quickly becoming a reality. Instant communication meant no more need for down time or quiet. Gen Y were slow to adapt, but had already lived their formative years without it. Millennials grew up with these things in their pockets as they were escorted through the metal detector at kindergarten. This was a very different world from the one of only a few years before.

This all happened within the span of less than a decade, and this is the only world the Millennials knew growing up. They only knew this bleak world that arrived fully formed out of the void, for all they knew. This is what the world was to them. They were fashioned to be warriors for causes they don't understand but subconsciously react to as if they're programmed to. And considering the world they grew up in, injustice is all they know. This isn't meant as mockery, it just is what it is. This is why no other age bracket can quite understand them and why they are constantly stuck in an aggressive state snapping at everything their teachers informed them was bad. No one else is like this demographic: that is why the "snowflake" insult became so popular to refer to them a few years back.

As for those born in the '80s? Gen Y's childhood wasn't a misery mire. It was in fact, not really similar to the Millennials' at all. This is what their childhood was like:

Read by David V Stewart

There was no helicopter parenting. There was no unbridgeable gap between political opinions or religious beliefs. There were no anxieties over school shooters. There was no fear that a terrorist attack could kill you at any moment. There was no worry for a kid who grew up at this time. A kid could just be a kid. Everything was fine.

Until it wasn't anymore.

You might think my story was a praise of Gen Y, but there's a reason I didn't call it an ode. There is more to the story than just remembering the good times, but remembering what we didn't understand at the time. It's because we were just ignorant kids who didn't have to worry about anything that we didn't know what we were missing. We were not prepared for the changes to come, mostly because we were ditched and the world we knew was dismantled seemingly overnight.

Our Baby Boomer parents had everything set up. Think back and you'll remember how simple it was, and how much they knew. After all, they were the adults! You can always trust adults. Their job is to raise their children and prepare them for the world ahead. Anything less is a failure. This isn't just about Baby Boomers, this is standard parenting. But they did have it all laid out, and you can even see it in entertainment they produced in the 1990s.

Just go to school, graduate college, get a job, and you can ride out this life in style. It's simple stuff, Stupid. Sure they didn't really teach us religion, and we didn't really get to know our extended family, and we didn't think about anything at all beyond the here and now. So we dove into toys, trinkets, and baubles instead of thinking about the future.

Why would we? It was set in stone. Just do what you were told and all would work out. It worked for the Boomers, and they were successful, so why wouldn't you trust them?

That was before everything mentioned above occurred. By the 2000s, while the Millennials were having the correct thoughts pumped into their heads about how to fix a broken world that had been jack-hammered overnight, Gen Y was learning that everything they learned turned out to be half-truths at best or outright lies at worst. While Millennials were becoming Good Citizens, Gen Y was falling apart and being left behind.

The '00s were a lousy decade overall, colorless and miserable, so bad that there will not be any movement for nostalgia over it, just as there wasn't for the 1970s. By decade's end the 1980s returned, at least in spirit. Retrowave synth music appeared, '80s aesthetic made a comeback online, and old properties were getting movie and TV reboots. The best part of the 2010s ended up being this oddball retro aesthetic, as it had no character itself, just as the '00s didn't.

That this 1980s trend has lasted far longer than any previous nostalgia boom should say something. I'm brave enough to say that it will probably never go away. Because there is nothing to replace it with. The best parts of the 1990s was 1980s hangover that was scrubbed out, as established above, by 1997 or so. There is nothing else after that but grey gruel.

So who was this nostalgia meant for? We just established that Millennials are only forward looking. They despise the past and hate old things, and ween't around in the 1980s nor remember the early '90s. Gen X haven't been given any attention since the late '70s and don't have much in the way of fond memories of their youth. Baby Boomers lionize the 1960s and loathe anything after it. There's no one left. That's right, this was all aimed at Gen Y.

And it worked. It worked because Gen Y only has their past.

I know people who went to see that forgettable Ghostbusters reboot because of the brand name alone. It didn't matter that no one behind it had anything to do with what made the original movie(s) and spin-off projects great back in the day. It had the name and the name gave them fuzzy feelings. It reminded them of sunny times, better days, when the world wasn't on fire and everyone wasn't screaming at each other for using a word that they've been using their whole lives that had now been deemed unacceptable. They had nothing but those memories, so those memories are what they turned to. What else could they do? They have nothing else to believe in. Everything they were told broke down and died. It all turned out to be lies.

They want to be left alone in their bubble of happier times and they need these scraps of communion wafers to satiate that constant need. They have no hope for a good future and, to be honest, they have no reason to think one is coming. Memories are all they have.

The reason the nostalgia plague is around and reuses to die, the reason Hollywood can't make anything new anymore, and the reason Gen Y needs to be reminded of their youth, is because they are empty inside and have nothing else to them aside from remembering when they were not as miserable. They don't know anything else, because everything they were taught turned out to be wrong, and everything around now was made for those other than them--those that are now taking a sledgehammer to the foundations of what bore them to begin with. Gen Y are eternally green, unprepared for what lays before them. They have no safety net, no wider relationships, and have receded into a shell of recycled memories.

Ironically, it is their green that funds those who hate them. Boomers who forgot them overnight have handed over industries to their handpicked successors who detest everything Gen Y grew up on. It is why every reboot or relaunch of an old property deliberately subverts everything Gen Y loved about it to begin with. The above Ghostbusters reboot was exactly this. Thus even their shallow childhood is hollowed out just a bit more every time it is soiled. These others wish Gen Y would die so they could finally gut this old junk and make their own subversive slop meant for propaganda purposes instead. So what you have is a homeless wanderer generation pestered by those passing them on the shoulder of the road and spitting on them as they speed by.

Maybe they really are the younger siblings of Gen X.

Author Brian Niemeier wrote a story, much longer than my own, about this phenomenon among the generations. Buckle in for this one. His is called "A Gen Y Tale":

Also read by David V Stewart

It is funny that it was Gen X who used to call themselves the Zero, EmpTV, and Blank, Generation, when they have more of an identity to them than those in my own. We don't have an identity beyond what we don't have anymore and will never have again. We are the true Blank Generation. There is nothing deeper than the shell.

So we spend our green to give us something to get excited about instead of facing what we lost instead. We can't move on. We hide our heads in the sand and hope one day those lost days will return. If they don't came back then maybe we can at least pretend they will. We can always dream, right?

But they will never return. They're gone.

This is why we live in a landscape of endless rehash punctuated by a half-cocked new product swimming in college classroom cliches. The former is all we are capable of consuming, and the latter is all Millennials are capable of producing. It's an Ouroboros that isn't likely to be finished eating itself anytime soon. Meanwhile the younger ones in Gen Z sit by wondering what the deal is with this chaotic mess. It doesn't make much sense to an outsider. At this rate, there might not be anything left of the corporate entertainment world by the time this war is over. Those in the younger generations that have no nostalgic attachment have already walked away. They don't read Marvel comics. They don't go to the cinema. They have never seen a record store in their lives. Once they seize control, this will all go the way of the dinosaur.

So be it. If the best those in charge can do is reheated Gen Y product and heavy-handed woke garbage then they deserve their demise. They get what is coming to them. No one will mourn their death, and no options will spring up in their places.

As for those in Gen Y who are trapped in the endless cycle of consuming product? They merely need to let go. In this case it isn't a matter of just buying a better product, it is first finding a better and higher thing to put all your energy towards. Your youth is not a religion. No one can desecrate your memories except you. They were fun times, they might even have been good, but they are over. Hiding behind them only prevents you from seeing better days ahead or asking for more than what you are given. The cycle needs to be broken.

I'm saying this because I am a member of Gen Y. We need to hear this. There is nothing compassionate about letting a friend harm themselves, and sometimes we need to be told to stop waiting by the door for Dad to come home with that pack of cigarettes. It's not going to happen. Those days are gone, and you need to move on. It might be hard, but it must be done.

Here is one last snapshot of your youth, this time by author David V Stewart:

Written and read by David V Stewart

That was fun, wasn't it? It's nice to remember. It's good to take what worked in the past and bring it forward. That's what it's for. We live and we, hopefully, learn.

But things need to be put in their proper place. Those are only memories. They are lightning in a bottle. It will never be the same again. The past is not a refuge.

Until we either die off and are replaced with another generation or get over the world that left us behind, nothing will change. Thankfully with so many reboots and the like bombing that looks to be changing, at least a little bit. Gen Y is getting older and, hopefully, wiser.

That hollow attachment needs to be put to something bigger than corporate product. Find connections, and cherish them. Put things in their place. You only have a limited time on this world to do this. Don't waste it enamored with your dead youth.

One day we won't be here anymore and all we leave behind will become nothing when the sun scorches out. Why cling to the temporary? It's going to go away one day, whether you want it to or not. Your ancestors knew this, and that is why they were a lot happier than we are. It is also why Millennials, who can only reject the past for an impossible future, are so miserable. Neither of us is putting the past where it needs to be, and we have yet to figure out why. We all have our own hurdles to leap over.

Just look to the past as a guide, not something to hide in, and not something to despise and destroy. Eventually we can get back on track to where we need to be.

One day we will and hopefully by then we won't be so green anymore.

I write stories that won't pander to or mock the past, but are informed by it. Check out my most recent work of magic and superpowered noir adventures here. There is absolutely nothing else like it.


  1. An unqualified tour de force, sir! Something finally clicked into place while I was reading this. As we all know, chronological snobbery is one of the Cult's most cherished tenets. They're always tarring infidels as "backward, outdated knuckle draggers."

    The epiphany you gave me is that this dynamic has a core generational component.

    Most of the Cultists decrying retrograde cavemen are Millennials who've been conditioned to hate the past.

    Their targets, who draw abuse for disliking subversions of 80s IPs, are mostly Gen Y nostalgia addicts.

    1 generation lost in the past.

    1 generation with a Pavlovian hatred of the past.

    Xers were wrong after all. The Grifter phase of the culture war (Sad Puppies, #GG, #CG, etc.) wasn't a battle between Gen X and the Boomers. It was a conflict between Millennials and Ys.

    1. There is another weird quirk whenever you hear anyone talk about nostalgia. They always refer to that group as "Older Millennials" to distinguish it.

      But they never do that for any other group. There are never "Older" Boomers, Xers, Silents, Jones, or Zs. It's always "Older" Millennials.

      Perhaps if they have to keep making that distinction they should probably question if they are the same generation after all. The fact is that Millennials have no nostalgia at all, because they grew up in the '00s, and the '00s are a garbage dump of nothing. That's why you will never see successful nostalgia movement beyond the early '90s. There's no one who wants it.

      Thanks for reading!