There must be little doubt that these are desperate times. We are fighting a futile world war of attrition with an idea, an idea that is perpetuated with each of its followers’ deaths. Corporations, on a daily basis, assassinate our Individualism (both collective and personal) with slogans, logos, and facades of perfection and luxury. All the while this present generation is reaching its Youthful Harvest. We are graduating from universities and academies. with a spirited hope of the future.I do not believe it would be too treacherous to confess that, with hope, we stand still in fear.
There have been two generations in the last century to react to global conflicts, The Lost Generation and the Beat Generation.
The Lost Generation was disillusioned by the First World War, and was cynical of Victorian mores. They were doubtful of gods (whether Jesus Christ or Reason). The question that plagued them collectively was “Why are we living?”
The Beat Generation, some years removed from the horrors of the Second World War were as disillusioned; however, where the Lost Generation wallowed in the confusion brought by war, the Beat [Generation] harnessed spontaneity and chaos – they looked towards spirituality as a solution. The question in their unconscious seemed to be “How do we live?”
Both generations rekindled the joie de vivre in American society.
Our generation, with young, attractive eyes sits on a pedestal unprecedented in history; we’ve wealth, technology and knowledge. We live in comfort and with, unfortunately, distractions. It seems collectively that we have opted for the value of entertainment over inspiration.
The two roads diverged in yellow wood, of the Frost’s poem, are now paved over with the bleak gray of concrete. One road boasts a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Starbucks, the cacophony of traffic and the other: the void of the future, the restless potential of the present.
Where do we go from here? Ever-present in our lives lurks the dichotomy that “nothing is sacred” and “everything has been done.” We are constantly filling vacuums, “the next Bob aDylan, Beatles, FDR, Hemingway, Kubrick, Dr. King, Woody Allen, et al.” have come and gone, and yet we look to these figures still.
We are the Last Generation.
That is, we will continue the species. But we were the last to see the World Trade Center, to know life before that infamous day, to know what life was like before cellular phones and the Internet, to smoke in public places or indoors, to witness this American Empire at its apex (and inevitably we will have to provide as it declines), to hear wheat whispering to the wind and the last who have grown up in the Twentieth Century. We were the first to live in a “post-modern” world.
We are the Last Generation, and with us comes the burden of both past generations: Why do we live? How do we live? But, with this struggle, there is a sun, static, forever setting in Beauty and Hope on the horizon at which we marvel: the American Dream.
Are we the last to experience this? To behold its red glow? I hope we are not.
But it is up to us to continue that Dream. If it is lost for us, it will be lost for our children and grandchildren.
We have no choice but to be brave, to question, to hope and forgive, to do battle with the enemies on our land. To create with passion for the aesthetic, not the material, so that we may “secure the blessings for ourselves and our posterity.”
Adam Franz is a student at West Chester University.