March 4th, 2014

A Generation Lost In Space

A couple of weeks ago I got into an ill-advised Facebook argument. Quick summary - someone said something to the effect of "I found this Tumblr and this girl told people at the top not to look at her Tumblr, read her Tumblr or share anything on her Tumblr. Then there were all these sexy type photos of herself and posts about her fooling around with her boyfriend. WTF?"

I replied that I thought the girl/woman was looking for attention and that the combination of "don't look at this" followed by sexy shots was a clear way of trying to get more views.

I got pummeled by women saying things to the effect of "a woman can display her body and talk about sex without seeking attention you patriarchal pervert bastard."

Now, my first thought was these people had never heard the story about not throwing that rabbit in the briar patch.

But, over the course of the last few days I've started thinking that maybe they were right. Perhaps this generation really believes that simply posting words can protect them from things they don't want. Maybe helicopter parenting has turned into helicopter world.

When I was growing up words were very rarely used to warn people about things they were about to consume. I can remember when they started putting warning labels on cigarettes and everyone laughed - because who the fuck thinks cigarettes are healthy? But nobody got too upset about it - what harm could those warning labels have?

Then, a few year later the Parents Music Resource Center came along and went ape shit demanding warnings on record covers if bad language or drug or sex references were in the songs or album art. Many artists - among them Jello Biafra and Dee Snyder - got super pissed non only arguing that it would lead to censorship but also that it would lead to a culture where people expected to be protected against anything that might offend them.

Not a lot of people took them seriously.

Next came ratings and warnings on television shows. Then on video games. Anything that could possibly not be completely safe and appropriate for a child was labeled that way.

This never really bothered people my age who just ignored it. We'd grown up in a time when we weren't warned about shit and expected to be shocked or offended from time to time and simply used our own judgement about what to consume.

But, the current generation grew up with warning labels on everything. Being told that something might bother them or might not be right for them right on the packaging was the new normal.

Could this be why today we have "trigger warnings" on things? Has this generation simply been trained that anything that could bother them is supposed to be labeled in such a way? And do they think that warnings and labels have value and will be respected? Do they want to live in a world where they will never be shocked or outraged or surprised by something unexpected that may be challenging to their comfort zone?

I hope not. If they have come to believe that then the future is in trouble - because things that shock and offend you are also the things that may one day awe you and lead you to challenge things and make a difference.

I pray that by trying to protect the children, this generation's parents didn't accidentally create people who will need to be protected from ideas for the rest of their lives.