By Max Warren
In his weekly blog series The Last Generation—really more of a highly flirtatious conversation, littered with innuendo—Max Warren discusses matters of general interest to our generation, frequently quotes things, and spills out the addled contents of a deviant mind.
My name is Max Warren. As a former Gator (class of ’10 and, of course, an English major) currently self-exiled to the frigid north at Harvard Law, I’ll be your guide—or a whimsical psychopomp, perhaps — on this blog journey we’re about to begin. This blog will update weekly, so I implore you to keep coming back because, if you don’t, I may actually have to go and study law.
So, why title this thing of ours The Last Generation? Well, I assume most of you are passingly familiar with The Lost Generation, but for anyone who wants a refresher, I’ll try to break it down for you old-school without sounding like a 20th Century American Lit professor.
The phrase comes from something crazy old Gertrude “Rose is a rose is a rose” Stein said to Ernest Hemingway, describing his rough-and-tumble band of hard-drinking writers and artists in 1920s Paris. They lacked direction, in a very pressing sense, and pounded back the highballs and the absinthe to make up for it. They also gave us Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Picasso’s oeuvre and lots more. They had lived through the horror of WWI. They bore witness to the birth of mechanized war — many firsthand. The world was changing fast around them and the old ideals of honor and bravery didn’t hold their place in this colder, more modern world. What good was a Washington or a Wellington in the face of machine gun fire? They were a generation who had spent years in trenches, waiting to be ordered over the top for a cause they barely understood. Alienation was the hallmark of the times.
And now to us, The Last Generation. I think we share more in common with those forebears than my brilliant play on the name. I think, in the same sense, we lack direction. The world is changing again, and doing it fast. And if we’re not going to be ordered out of the trenches, to be gunned down in No Man’s Land, then at the very least we live under threat as well—more metaphysical, perhaps, but just as unrelenting. The disconnect and the alienation within this colder, more modern world of ours, if not understood, if not used as a catalyst for renaissance, could destroy whatever potential we have to create beautiful things and build a better world.
I believe we occupy what will be a very special place in our cultural history. Those just a bit older than us still don’t understand how all of this new, world-shrinking technology works, and those just a bit younger than us don’t remember a time before it — a time when, in order to hang out with a friend you had to actually leave your house — a time, dare I say it, before Angry Birds. And so that makes us possibly the last chance—and it’s something to be hopeful about, rather than sad about. Because I think we have what it would take to rise to the occasion, if we play it right. And I think we’re the last chance, the last generation that can bring about an intellectual, creative renaissance before we’re all swallowed under. Après nous, le déluge!
There is, as I said, a danger, and it can be seen with the right kind of eyes. We risk losing both the interest in the world around us and the soul with which to make it better. Let me say, before I explain further, that it’s not technology that I’m against (as I compose a blog on my MacBook) and it’s not even technology that I intend to write about. But, I think that the way we use our newest toys is a symptom of this culture and worth considering.
The other day, I saw a seven-year-old girl texting in a way that I can only describe as aggressive—she played that smartphone like a virtuoso. Now please, tell me, who is a 7-year-old texting and–if you can answer that–what can she possibly be texting about? “Hey! Let’s play later!” Is that really worth a texting plan?
Or, more chillingly, there was this conversation I overheard between two girls outside of Library West during my last trip to the homeland.
Girl 1: Well, what do you think? How’re things going with him?
Girl 2: I’m not sure. I mean, I know his parents really like his ex but…you know…they were never Facebook official, so it doesn’t really count.
Honest to God, has it come to this? We all live plugged into our ear-buds and glued to our iPhones and some of that’s fine – the great wonders of technology and all that. But we’ve come to a point where it functions as a barrier between the outside world and ourselves — a time where a relationship obviously had no substance if it wasn’t Facebook official. I’ll bet any taker my first-edition This Side of Paradise that this 7-year-old will never, of her own volition, make a lasting piece of art, read a great book or contribute something of value to the human soul.
This is not a Call to Arms. This is not a neo-Luddite, Tyler Durden rant. And this is not boy-meets-girl and the rest is history, nor murder mystery, nor comeback story. It’s more like a flaming Viking ship, where we all have to get our jollies in before we die. Or maybe it’s a lone voice, echoing on an empty battlefield, with just one bullet in the gun. Maybe it’s me typing on my computer. Whatever. In this first entry, anyway, I just wanted to extend a greeting to all you wonderful readers out there and lay out the barest of bones regarding what the hell I intend to talk about.
I’m going to sign off now because I’m sure your attention span is starting to get depleted (I know mine is) but let me leave you with one little gem. This is brought to you courtesy of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. (Film-based-on-the-book is in theaters now. Go see it.)
Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top.
At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles—a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other—that kept me going.
Words to consider, at the very least. And now I’m off. I invite any who have thoughts, criticisms or even compliments to utilize the comment section. Particularly vicious hate mail, offers to buy the writer a drink, or requests for specific topics can be sent to Max.Z.Warren@gmail.com.
Here’s looking at you, kids.