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Guest Writer

All that glorious freedom ...
Doing our parents proud
by Steven C. Benjamin

remember reading an article about how my generation feels irritated by the fact that our parents also listened to rock and roll, also explored the sexually explicit, also achieved that status of drug addicts, slobs and general failures at making either the world or their life a better place.

The article was a call to arms, a manifesto, to step beyond this. It said we had to find new venues for rebellion, that it would never be enough to follow in the footsteps of our parents.

And I dug it then. I agreed with the man, totally. We had to step beyond.

Then I saw "The Doom Generation," a god-awful b-movie from the mid '90s. I’ve spent years mulling over exactly why I hate that movie so much. It’s got violence, sex, drugs – nothing out of the ordinary in that. But something about it was just so ... blatant.

My father recognized his lifestyle in "The Outsiders," an older film based on the 1967 book by S. E. Hinton. That wasn’t the life he lived, exactly, but it was one he recognized and knew well through friends, stereotypes, associations.

This is what I saw in "The Doom Generation." Nothing in that movie identified with me as an individual, but I remember so much of that in my past. I imagined friends of mine, places I went, people I ran into throughout the late '80s and early '90s behaving just like that, exactly.

We are the masters of self-mastication. Our parents opened all the doors, taught us not to fear our own self-destruction, and we took them seriously.

The devices, electronic and otherwise, physical and otherwise, that have been developed in my lifetime, these advances toward our own destruction, constitute a new era in technology. Foucault would have called it a technology of the self.

Having watched personally, first hand, so many end results of this dabbling, I can only conclude that it is, in truth, a technology for destruction of the self; both inside and out.

In my grandfather’s day they needed to destroy others: manifest destiny finally reaching its necessary climax. So our parents protested. They insisted on “peace” and “love.” But these concepts are too fantastic, too complex or even perhaps too simple for this great American nation.

Us, we children, those of us at or near my age, have compromised by choosing, instead, to destroy ourselves. And being the products of this modern computer era, growing up in the midst of so many incredible technological advances (what writer of horror could have predicted a microwave in every home?), we can’t help but to try and excel, to do our absolute damnedest at becoming the most flamboyant and artistic destructionists history has ever seen.

We are not a subtle generation. Our parents had a less structured education than had been typical before their time, and they themselves had little enough in the art of subtlety to teach us with.

Besides, we of the Doom Generation scoff at subtle. Pills are a wuss way to die. If you’re going to overdose, do it all the way. Then leave yourself just able enough to make some noise while you’re dying.

None of that hotel room bullshit for us. We leap off freeways (we are the first generation that’s been allowed to practice this first, with bungee cords, before committing to the real thing). We blow up schools, then we blow up ourselves to prove we’re serious about it. Hell, we thought "Heathers" was autobiographical.

It’s never been enough for us to dress down, as so many of our parents still do. If it doesn’t offend someone, it’s not worthwhile. What use letting your hair down, burning a bra? It’s all been done.

Instead, we burn holes in our nipples. When that’s not enough, we go straight for the genitals. What are tattoos to us? You haven’t got a real tattoo until you’ve got a picture of Santa laughing on the head of your dick.

We try and save the world while succeeding at destroying ourselves. And to what effect? The world is thicker and more crowded, with just as much, if not more, hate, poverty and general all-around suffering.

We are so cocky and proud. We have ventured beyond everyone’s expectations into the realms our parents worked up such a fuss about. What more can be done with sex after ramming a tube up your ass and dropping a clipped gerbil down the chute?

We have done it all, and we are proud. How brave we children have become after our parents taught us to fear nothing except a camaraderie with our elders.

But what, after all, has our bravery gotten us? We have nothing left now, and we can’t blame our parents this time. It was our parents who said, “You can have anything,” while at the same time saying, “You don’t have to have anything.”

In the midst of all that glorious freedom, there is no one left to blame but ourselves.

Blaming ourselves, of course, has never been an acceptable answer – not for any generation in the last 200 years. Freud, damn his soul, gave us that. He taught us to blame society, to blame oppression.

Then Foucault, that belligerent ass, taught us the reality of institutions, that we are they and that we cannot escape the Panopticon because it is bigger than any of us, and because it is a malleable beast that adapts to our every strategy (he says we created this monster that we are now so impotent to destroy).

So we are the Doom Generation. We are both narcissist and nihilist. It’s not that we have passively accepted our doom and choose not to fight it, but rather that we bring about our own doom, and it makes us feel special to have this small amount of control over our lives.

None of us are comfortable with Freud, who says repression is necessary for humans to live together, or with Foucault, who says we bring it on ourselves because we are a product of our environment. None of us likes to hear that bullshit.

We hate it all the more knowing full well, through experience, that neither is absolute bullshit.

We children whose first word was “no” cannot accept repression as an answer. We young men and women, now in our 20s and 30s, cannot be satisfied believing we are a product that cannot ever once step outside the all-seeing prison.

Better to stab ourselves saying, “There, see? Didn’t expect that now, did you!”

E-mail Steven at nyn@prodigy.net, and find more of his work in our archives.

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