404: Generation Not Found
It was about three o’clock on a cold November morning when I first noticed it. I was in the midst of an ‘abandoned mansion party’: a gathering of students fuelled by questionable pills and a universal hunger for breakbeats and bottled water. At first everything seemed fine, we were in an abandoned mansion, there was a party, and yet there was something fundamentally wrong with the whole thing, everything took an ominous tint: the graffitied walls, which minutes ago seemed to be the product of some chemically inspired, creative binge suddenly looked forced, as if it was done by the promoters themselves. Dismissing my uneasy feelings as habitual cynicism, I focused on the crowd around me: the smiling, slack jawed faces heightened my spirits. And then they didn’t. Like the painted walls the people around me slowly began to take on a terrifying form: instead an oddly dressed, mismatched group of music lovers there in front of me was an endless sea of colorful nylon jackets. Confused as to how the circles of house music and fluorescent hiking intertwined I questioned a friend.
“It’s vintage so, you know, cheap and stuff,” he told me whilst using his iPhone to tweet a photo of his Air Max.
The next day it happened again: I was approached on Campus by a girl brandishing a clipboard. “Sign this if you agree Israel should be held accountable for their actions,” she said. “Okay”, I thought, “I can get into this”, with ideas of mass marches and nationwide political action, I put my name down. Seemingly satisfied she walked away, cornering the next clearly middle class white student without so much mention of a march. I stood there, unsure of what to do. A feeling of absolute unimportance hit me, a sickness that made me stare at every urban outfitter’s wearing, child labour opposing, online petition signing cunts that surrounded me. Shaken, I walked to the nearest coffee outlet. Sitting down I attempted to quench the sickness I was feeling, unfortunately I was behind two students: one wore a white t-shirt with a black and white image of John Lennon on it, the words ‘Working Class Hero’ under the image, the other sported a Harrington jacket covering a Fred Perry polo. “It’s just like, you know, I feel like the sixties were so much better,” the former propositioned. “I totally get you, it’s just, like, no one understands me here, things were simpler back then” the latter replied, sipping a pumpkin spice latte. I left, making sure to cover my Velvet Underground shirt with my jacket.
You see, it occurred to me that our generation – one that has been credited with having an unparalleled sense of moral and political awareness – is completely devoid of any identity. Sure we try to get involved with far off conflicts, tweeting about the injustice from our three storey town houses, we try to embrace any culture that isn’t immediately adopted and smothered by the media but there is an evident, intoxicating lack of movement, a stagnation of culture, a generation where the only seemingly original and natural subculture we can claim ownership of is the insufferable ‘lad bible’ generation.
Though the solution is not simply to claim we were #BornInTheWrongGeneration, in fact who wouldn’t want to be part of a youth that has the entire recorded knowledge of the human race at their disposal, a mere few mouse clicks away. No. Instead of reminiscing over past times of social collapse, racial inequality and morally ambiguous wars, just because Quadrophenia and This Is England had cool costumes, we should be finding our own identity, our own culture. And yet we must be weary of these fickle faux cultural movements which promise an initiation into the ‘underground scene’ to private school undergrads for the price of a gram of MDMA and a pretend interest in house music. We are stuck between an idealistic past and a carefully orchestrated, corporately sponsored present and our only option is to form something new, something natural, something we can finally say is ours.