Buy the sky and sell the sky
OKLAHOMA CITY – Were you born between 1961 and 1981? If so, then like me (born smack dab in the middle, in ’72), you are part of Generation X.
But you probably already knew that. But Gen Xers don’t get much in the way of attention or props or really anything at all, even if we are assuming power (in the guise of nerdlings like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio - egad!)
I think it's because those two generations, that booked us, are ganging up on us and not giving us our due.
After all our generation experienced a pretty dramatic shift, while Millennials, know little about Cold War fears, rapid changes in technology or living in the shadow of the Boomers, who really fucked up a lot of things for the rest of us, as they scoot on down to Boca Del Vista to spend the kids' inheritance.
Not that we're bitter. We just want to work with one another, regardless of their generation.
But I digress ...
Fifty-seven year old R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe (born 1960) and fifty-five year old Douglas Coupland (born 1961) were featured in a photo in The New York Times this past weekend, at an event called “In Defense of the Arts” (photo by Rebecca Smeyne pictured below). Seeing these two Gen X icons together was very interesting and made a lot of sense. Both men are peculiar in their own ways, but use their art (listen to the melancholy beauty of R.E.M.'s "Fall On Me," and tell me that Stipe doesn't care ...) to inform and, hopefully, improve life here on Earth. I mean, listen to Stipe sing "Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky don't fall on me ..." I think seeing guys like Stipe and Coupland, a couple of our generation's spokesdudes, out and about and getting increasingly vocal in this spooky, Trumpian time, is important, because it means our generation still has time to really get it right, no matter how much the Millennials and the Boomers might dismiss us as a bunch of slackers, or one-dimensional characters in Reality Bites.
Writing for Britain’s Guardian newspaper in September 2014, Stipe (who is on the ass-end of the Boomer generation) wrote a very powerful piece about some September 11th-inspired artwork created by Coupland, who coined the term “Generation X” after spending time in the Mojave Desert in the late 1980’s and writing what would become Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Interestingly, Stipe and Coupland first met at the inauguration of Boomer president Bill Clinton, back in early 1993, and they have remained friends. One wonders what they think of the failures of Clinton and his policies with 20/20 hindsight and the horrors that have followed those years in brittle America.
Writes Stipe, while reminding us to cue up Gang of Four’s “At Home He’s a Tourist”: “Where do we locate home inside ourselves? What images go so incredibly deep that, like it or not, they define our world, our inescapable home? With a small, powerful set of images, Douglas Coupland actually manages to playfully (how did he pull that off?) remind us of our collective 9/11 moment – the act that unzippered the 21st century in most of the world, and changed my notion of home and safety forever.”
Later, in Stipe’s fascinating piece, he wrote: “Someone asked me, “Do you think children born after, say, 1994, will ever feel the same things about 9/11 that people born before then feel?” More and more, what we “feel” about collective history seems like something manufactured, and kind of pumped into us, rather than a real emotion. It’s all so framed by the sense that reality doesn’t exist any more, or at least not in a way that is alterable or questioning. Coupland’s images of jumpers and of the ultimate boogeyman, Bin Laden, remind us of how deep inside us those images are lodged, how they can never be removed, and how, as time passes, their meanings remain as potent as ever, even though we can’t fully decode them. By evoking memories that can’t be deleted by wilful ignorance or overabstraction, Coupland reminds us that we all share a set of uncloseable doors in our minds, and through these opened doors, in an almost cartoon-like way, now march the NSA, Google, spooks, shadow governments, a lost, pathetic fourth estate, squandered militaristic might and rampant, terrifying nationalism.”
And nearly three years after Michael Stipe wrote that,
From Sarah Dunn's 1994 book on Generation X "slacker culture" - The Official Slacker Handbook (Warner Books)
I probably identified with the eighth guy on the page - "The Conspiracy Theorist." But that's because I raided used bookstores, read everything and tried to put the patterns together. I love, love, love Richard Linklater's Slacker film, because it shows how my generation was struggling to get it right, back in the late 1980's and early 1990's - the last period of true activism amongst folks of Gen X - while embracing found art, castoff ideas, post-punk, offbeat poetry and writing (Hey Coupland!) and embracing all cultures and views and people. We were really the Dumpster-diving generation and living on the Island of Misfit Toys. It's true that we never fit in, but that was our strength!
And while the hard-right Boomers praise Trump and the Millennials turn downward and inward, GenXers are still out there, trying to fight the dehumanization policies of a fearful world. What should be happening is that all three generations should band together to improve the planet - for everyone, not just that Elysium elite at the top.
Again, in a recent New York Times article headlined "Deforestation roars back," it notes how "Cargill and other food giants" are moving deeper and deeper into the Amazon rainforest to make way for soybean plantations and so forth. And this, in the middle of a key part of the planet, where that ecology is very important.
The article notes: "A decade after the 'Save the Rainforest' movement forced changes tha tdramaticaly slowed deforestation across the Amazon basin, activity is roaring back in sme of the biggest expanses of forests in the world. That resurgence, driven by the world's growing appetite for soy and other agricultural crops, i sraising the specter of a backward slide in efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change."
I think we are being given one more chance before things really begin to spiral out of control here on Earth. That is why whether you are in your 20's or your 50's you need to drop everything and do whatever you can to stop the bulldozing of the planet and the destruction of natural habitats.
With U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, having been born at the tail-end of GenX, I think we have some hope. She has been consistently standing up to Trumpism and recently stated the following, after Trump announced his newly-revised travel ban: “True to our history and values as a nation, we have served as a place of refuge to the most vulnerable in the world. We should not be putting in place a blanket ban of refugees, especially when we have actively been fueling the counterproductive regime change wars that have caused them to flee their homes. These people would much rather stay in their homes and live in peace. That’s why we must address the cause of this refugee crisis and end the destructive U.S. policy of counterproductive regime-change wars, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq, Libya and now in Syria.”
Tulsi Gabbard, with her good sense, and genuine love of people, is a name you will definitely be hearing more of in coming months and years, as she sets an example for all of us, regardless of the generation we were born in. Although I'm proud, as a GenXer, to call her one of our own.
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