Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Generation Waste: Coupland Redux

“When I get up in the morning, my daily prayer is, grant me today my illusion, my daily illusion. Due to the fact that illusions are necessary, have become necessary for a life in a world completely devoid of a utopian conscience and utopian presentiment.” ~ Ernst Bloch
My god, was there ever a more sickening bunch of neanderthals than the cretins moping around in Douglas Coupland's first novel, Generation X? At least I was too young to be sucked up into their demographic - apparently 1959-1965 is the window of inclusion. I never cottoned on to the slacker ennui aesthetic this novel embodies, and I'm pretty sure neither did Coupland. He went on to do much greater things, but unfortunately for him this cultural milestone will forever be hanging from his scrawny neck. I mean, what idiot travels to Palm Springs to find the meaning of life?

What can be done “in a world completely devoid of utopian conscience,” as the great Ernst Bloch asked? First, Coupland’s Gen X’ers would need to wake up to the possibility of radical difference before realizing that they do have a future that can be partially determined (at the very least) by actions they commit to in the present. If this level of awareness could be obtained, they might understand that culture is a malleable construct that can be subjected to pressures and alterations.

(Coupland, 1992)
But what Coupland's Gen X'ers settle for is something far from any utopia:
We live small lives on the periphery; we are marginalized and there’s a great deal in which we choose not to participate. We wanted silence and we have that silence now…We had compulsions that made us confuse shopping with creativity, to take downers and assume that merely renting a video on a Saturday night was enough. But now that we live here in the desert, things are much, much better.”
Their goals are modest, “small” even, and they avoid participating in “a great deal.” They also dislike noise and desire “silence." Sounds a bit like a cemetery to me. Nevertheless, they still hang on, even in Palm Springs, to the forces that caused them to leave in the first place. They lack the ability or desire to go all the way and imagine a real alternative outside of the natural flows of apathy or fear. Instead they succumb to a life of futurelessness, a dystopia where nostalgia is the only true respite.


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