Generations

VerseDay: Less Human Than Human

Detachment. Disassociation. Ennui. Call it what you want, but Generation X has been steeped in a post-Boomer loss of identity that has lingered for so long now that it’s being unceremoniously shoved aside by Generation Xtreme, the under-30’s that find boredom too boring. Begone, middle-aged punks, shoegazers, headbangers, OGs and goths… make way for the emos and the BDSM-liters.

Yet we’ll remain, even if we’re not sure where we’re going, or what the point of it all is. GenX’s distinct apathy has its deepest roots in the 1970’s, when parents dealt with the long hangover from the previous decade by drowning themselves in the hair of the dog. “Broken homes” became the norm. Harsh music (punk, techno, metal, gangsta rap, industrial, grunge), harsh film (‘Alien,’ ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Brazil,’ ‘Terminator’) and harsh literature (slam poetry, freestyling, zines, underground comics, graphic novels)–not to mention the rise of violent video games–served more to sever GenX’ers at last from their resented roots than shore up any sense of identity. Hence our moniker.

Yet beauty and light abounds in our dark generational ether, like a diffuse universe of souls. Philip K. Dick, Douglas Coupland, Kurt Cobain, Chris Rock, Robert Smith, Anne Rice, Chuck D, Bill Hicks, Björk, Tim Burton, Madonna: these are among our heroes and inspirations, for better or for worse. Our distinct electromagnetic aesthetic, our biochemical zeitgeist, is not for everyone… and may not be the kind of art that lasts, should humanity’s hope survive the retrogressive morasse it finds itself languishing in. But I dig it.

As for GenX poetry, the pickings are slim if you’re looking for classic form or meter. Much of the best work of the last 2-3 decades is free verse, freestyle, prose poetry… typically shapeless, impulsive and impressionistic, not unlike our generation’s aloof perception of things. Then there are myriad song lyrics, the last avenue of expression that still adheres stubbornly to the dictum of rhyme. In fact, I’ll start off with a lyric (for “Static Acts” from the album ‘Perfect Symmetry’) written by composer/guitarist Jim Matheos of prog metal pioneers Fates Warning.

 

Air currents grind, monotony.

Image defined, static scene.

Adherents bent opinionless

following scent of commonness.

 

Fit the latest rage,

whatever stains the page.

Then fears allayed

of lonely shade.

 

Wheels, they grind… industry.

Insipid finds, out of key.

Opinions bent toward standard waves,

bleaching out divergent shades.

 

Mock integrity.

Veiled hypocrisy.

Ironic finds,

when selves decried.

 

Ban expressiveness.

Bold repressiveness

dictated by minds closed tight

and walls that shut out light,

and so we have static acts.

 

 

This is my own piece, “Subconscious Flotsam,” which I wrote over a decade ago.

 

I labor for a fish flake

kiss a replay of your face

watch a minute’s worth of world

eat from a chemical cornucopia

drink a broken thermometer

read copyrights and trademarks

sleep under alarm

breathe in borrowed time

taste pus and punctures

have sex in separation

seek love in desperation

kiss a replay of your face…

© 1996 MAS

 

The last piece is a prose monologue (“A Modern Man”) by the one and only George Carlin, which he performed on his most recent stand-up special, ‘Life Is Worth Losing.’ Although Carlin, still relevant and caustic at 70, was born and raised in a decidedly different era than many of his fans, he clearly rues the excesses of the Boomers and through his dark comedy (of late) he has tried to warn subsequent generations not to fall into the same traps. Here he goes off on a whimsical, satirical diatribe that’s essentially his first crack at Generation Y, who are not only falling into the very same traps, they’re doing it at 100mph on snowboards and skateboards and motocross bikes with smiles on their lips, piercings on their faces, and tats on their asses.

 

I’m a modern man
digital and smoke free;
a man for the millenium.

A diversified, multi-cultural,
post-modern deconstructionist;
politically, anatomically and ecologically incorrect.

I’ve been uplinked and downloaded,
I’ve been inputted and outsourced.
I know the upside of downsizing,
I know the downside of upgrading.

I’m a high-tech low-life.
A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art,
bi-coastal multi-tasker,
and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.

I’m new-wave, but I’m old-school;
and my inner child is outward-bound.

I’m a hot-wired, heat seeking,
warm-hearted cool customer;
voice-activated and bio-degradable.

I interface with my database;
my database is in cyberspace;
so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive,
and from time to time I’m radioactive.

Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve,
ridin’ the wave, dodgin’ the bullet,
pushin’ the envelope.

I’m on point, on task, on message,
and off drugs.

I’ve got no need for coke and speed;
I’ve got no urge to binge and purge.

I’m in the moment, on the edge,
over the top, but under the radar.

A high-concept, low-profile,
medium-range ballistic missionary.

A street-wise smart bomb.
A top-gun bottom-feeder.

I wear power ties, I tell power lies,
I take power naps, I run victory laps.

I’m a totally ongoing, big-foot, slam-dunk
rainmaker with a pro-active outreach.

A raging workaholic, a working rageaholic;
out of rehab and in denial.

I’ve got a personal trainer,
a personal shopper,
a personal assistant,
and a personal agenda.

You can’t shut me up;
you can’t dumb me down.

‘Cause I’m tireless, and I’m wireless.
I’m an alpha-male on beta-blockers.

I’m a non-believer,
I’m an over-achiever;
Laid-back and fashion-forward.
Up-front, down-home;
low-rent, high-maintenance.

I’m super-sized, long lasting,
high-definition, fast-acting,
over-ready and built to last.

A hands-on, foot-loose, knee-jerk head case;
prematurely post-traumatic,
and I have a love child who sends me hate-mail.

But I’m feeling, I’m caring,
I’m healing, I’m sharing.
A supportive, bonding, nurturing
primary-care giver.

My output is down, but my income is up.
I take a short position on the long bond,
and my revenue stream has its own cash flow.

I read junk mail, I eat junk food,
I buy junk bonds, I watch trash sports.

I’m gender-specific, capital-intensive,
user-friendly and lactose-intolerant.

I like rough sex; I like tough love.
I use the f-word in my e-mail.
And the software on my hard drive
is hard core–no soft porn.

I bought a microwave at a mini-mall.
I bought a mini-van at a mega-store.
I eat fast food in the slow lane.

I’m toll free, bite-size, ready-to-wear,
and I come in all sizes.

A fully equipped, factory-authorized,
hospital-tested, clinically-proven,
scientifically formulated medical miracle.

I’ve been pre-washed, pre-cooked, pre-heated,
pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged,
post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped
and vacuum-packed.

And … I have unlimited broadband capacity.

I’m a rude dude, but I’m the real deal.
Lean and mean.
Cocked, locked and ready to rock;
rough, tough, and hard to bluff.

I take it slow, I go with the flow;
I ride with the tide, I’ve got glide in my stride.

Drivin’ and movin’, sailin’ and spinnin’;
jivin’ and groovin’, wailin’ and winnin’.

I don’t snooze, so I don’t lose.
I keep the pedal to the metal
and the rubber on the road.
I party hearty, and lunchtime is crunch time.

I’m hangin’ in, there ain’t no doubt;
and I’m hangin’ tough.
Over and out.

 

6 replies »

  1. Great post. Thanks for articulating some important elements of the Xer generational character….

    I was driving somewhere yesterday, Mike, and had on the “Xer rock” channel on my XM (I am as spoiled a Boomer as there is). The Cure’s “In Between Days” came on and I listened to it carefully – something I don’t always do with The Cure because they can feel a little whiny to a hard core Boomer rock star like me… 😉

    It hit me then – “Man, this is a perfect Xer statement about life.”

    Then the lines from Ben Folds cames to me:

    “well this should cheer you up for sure
    see, I’ve got your old I.D.
    and you’re all dressed up like The Cure ”

    If I could wish anything for Xers, it’s that they’d stop being so hard on themselves. I don’t mind if you’re hard on Boomers or Millenials – hell, we’re hard on you (you all didn’t name yourselves slackers). But it would make me happy to see you all be kinder to you all.

    But maybe that’s asking too much – maybe it’s like asking Boomers not to be so self-congratulatory….

    Well, as I said, great post…. 🙂

  2. As a Gen x who thinks she isn’t I stopped being hard on myself when I realised I could be just as self centred as my boomer father. 🙂

  3. Great take, Mike. And you raise an interesting question – are rock lyrics poetry? I’ve been thinking about that idea for a long time. I think the answer is that they can be, but rarely are, and I say this as a poet who has, in the past three or four years, started writing lyrics (I have stuff on past and upcoming records by Fiction 8 and Paul Lewis, and hope to be writing for Britney Spears in the future….) 🙂

    You hear people tossing the word poetry around pretty casually with respect to lyricists, but in truth even the most fantastic lyrics might be very bad poetry. Lyrics have to integrate with this other thing – the music – while poetry has to stand on its own, and writing something that’s effective on its own AND with a particular tune, well, that’s damned near impossible. I know that I’ve never written lyrics that were also good poetry (although there are things I’ve written that have lyric and poetry versions – start with one, then adapt for the demands of the other).

    (Also, that rhyme/meter thing is even older – it’s been eroding for the better part of a century, and in many ways it’s been to the good for poetry. It has induced some laziness, as you’d expect, but as your own examples indicate, we’re in a period where great work is possible.)

  4. One of mine that qualifies as “Xer” in style/content:

    How does one rage
    Against the dying of the light
    When the light casts none
    When the light is something
    So nebulous, so diffuse
    As a dream?

    Rage against death
    Will to live
    Grasp and cling to life

    But what dream has lines
    Which may be clung to?
    What dream has handles
    Which may be grasped?
    What dream shall remain
    when Will can only frighten it?
    And what dream, worth dreaming,
    Shall ever respond to rage?

    But wrap your heart and soul
    Around the dream as a cloak.
    Care for it, remember it
    Love it
    For what no hand can hold
    No Will can entice
    No rage can force to stay
    A cloak of love
    And hope
    And caring

    May convince it to remain
    And help bring itself
    Out of the realm of dreams
    Into being.

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