Parker County Today October 2016 - Page 6

A Letter From The Editor Are  Millennials* the new “Lost Generation?” M ention of the Lost Generation brings to mind creators of great works of literature like The Great Gatsby and timeless musical compositions by the Gershwins and Cole Porter. To members of their parents’ generation, mention of the reference probably brought to mind silliness like the Charleston, Boyish Bob haircuts (urgh!) on women smoking cigarettes with foot-long holders, both men and women wearing ridiculous clothes and worst of all, a vast wave of promiscuity (double urgh!). What comes to the minds of Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures when they hear the phrase, “Millennial Generation?” Usually it’s narcissism, a tidal wave of selfies, Pokemon, and worst of all (yikes!), a preoccupation with that ghastly gaggle of poor taste also known as the Kardashians (tragic). Probably a big influence on the original Lost Generation was watching their security go suddenly up in the smoke of the Great War (later known as World War II). Many young men went to war and never came back. Other members of the Lost Generation had only pictures in black and white in newspapers to tell them what was happening, but they felt the effects.  Other catastrophes rocked the world for the Lost Generation, including the Great Influenza Epidemic and a great economic panic that followed the Great War and eventually The Great Depression. These frightening, negative developments more than likely fueled the vast creativity of that generation. What may drive a number of social trends of Millennials is the fact that, as children, Millennials watched the security of their world vanish before their eyes, (played over and over again on television) as two jets hit the Twin Towers in New York City, and two more planes went down that same day, one in D.C. and another in Pennsylvania. Two long, exhausting, wars ensued, followed by Hurricane Katrina. Once again, the scenes were played over and over on television of people floating past rooftops on chunks of debris, dogs left abandoned on roofs, followed by looting and violence. Will all these frightening negative developments fuel the creativity of Millennials, spurring them on to greatness? Probably, but I’m waiting for the greatness to emerge. The phrase “Lost Generation” was originally coined to describe the generation that came of age during World War I. No one knows who came up with it first but the phrase was popularized by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway used it as an epigraph to The Sun Also Rises (1926), a novel that captures the attitudes of a harddrinking, fast-living set of disillusioned, albeit gifted young expatriates living in postwar Paris. Hemingway once wrote that his mentor Gertrude Stein (also living in Paris at the time) heard the phrase from a garage owner to whom Stein had taken her car to be serviced. When a young mechanic didn’t repair the car quickly enough, the garage owner shouted at the boy, “You are all a génération perdue.” Stein, in telling Hemingway the story, added, “That is what you are. That’s what you all are ... You are a lost generation.” Today, most Millennials seem a bit lost, as if they’re just waiting for the next big disaster to hit. Oh, don’t get me wrong  — many of them are bright and talented, but they tend to be cynical beyond their years. And many of them like to bash the Baby Boom generation, just as members of the Lost Generation tended to bash the generation that raised them. The generation was “lost” in the sense that they saw its inherited values as no longer relevant in the post-war world and because of its spiritual alienation from a U.S. that, basking under Pres. Warren G. Harding’s “back to normalcy” policy, seemed to its members to be hopelessly provincial, materialistic, and emotionally barren. The term embraced Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, E.E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish, Hart Crane, and many other writers who made Paris the centre of their literary activities in the ’20s. In the 1930s, as these writers turned in different directions, their works lost the distinctive stamp of the postwar period. Some of the most memorable representative works of the era were Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night and The Great Gatsby, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and Dos Passos’ The Big Money. If they all have a common theme, it’s probably the demise of the American dream. The Lost Generation lost that great hope very early in life. “Lost means, not vanished but disoriented, wandering, directionless — a recognition that there was great confusion and aimlessness among the war’s survivors in the early post-war years.” Hemingway once said to his editor Max Perkins that the point of The Sun Also Rises  was not so much about a generation being lost, but that “the earth abideth forever.” Hemingway felt that his characters in The Sun Also Rises were actually “battered,” rather than lost entirely. I see a parallel between Millennials and the Lost Generation. This generation of bright, talented young people  also  have been battered. They’ve been battered by too much information from 24-hour newsfeeds, from too many visions of war, terrorism, government corruption and nasty politics. It’s no surprise that, as the Pew Research Center reported, the Millennial Generation is skeptical of institutions — whether it’s political, educational, commercial, or religious. Millennials are a generation of people that prefer to improvise, to find their own solutions to the challenges life throws at them. They’re not content to simply make a living. They want to pursue a career that they’re passionate about. They want to make a difference, as did the Lost Generation. Millennials tend to show disdain for the materialism manifested by the Baby Boomers — their parents’ generation, just as The Lost Generation (the wellheeled members) did for their parents’ preoccupation with amassing wealth. According to the Pugh Report, twothirds of Millennials polled said they’d rather make $40,000 a year doing something they loved than six figures working at a job that bores them or that they don’t believe in. This may change once most of them move out from under their parents’ wings and fly on their own. I’ve