I suppose yet another reason I don’t consider myself a “conservative” in the political, or other, sense is that I am not opposed to change. The status quo will never stay the same forever, nor should it, especially if said status quo is not profitable for the majority of the people. Typically, those who wish to preserve the status quo benefit from it. However, even if one benefits from a given state of affairs, if the majority of people do not benefit, I contend it is immoral for said state of affairs to continue.
This applies to the big as well as the small as well. Small, relatively unimportant things like personal tastes. For example, rock n’ roll is not important as a cultural force anymore, and hasn’t been for almost three decades. The last guy with a guitar who mattered blew his own brains out in 1994. Kids nowadays do not dream of becoming rock stars anymore. When I was a young man, it seemed like most young men wanted to learn how to play the electric guitar to get girls, mostly, but also to rock out. Play bitchin’ guitar solos, or at least crank out some high-volume power chords. You have not truly known catharsis if you’ve never played a note that makes the entire room thrum, makes eardrums bleed, makes you feel the music at the cellular level, people cheering you on as you make a glorious racket.
Everything changes. Younger generations need to have their own things. Do I force my son to like the same music, books, clothes, styles, or games that I liked as a kid and like now? Heaven forbid! I’ll expose him to some things I think are cool, but he can take them or leave them. He likes some, doesn’t care for others, and that’s okay. He’s an individual human being with his own likes, needs, wants, and desires. He, and his generation, are going to grow up some day and run the world while I’m a geriatric case reminiscing about the good old days to anybody who will listen. They’ll indulge old man Alexander with polite nods and kind words and then go on and do what they do. This is normal.
Always hopeful yet discontent
He knows changes aren’t permanent
But change isRush, “Tom Sawyer”
Enforced prolonging of the status quo does nobody any good except for the older generations who benefit. We all know that Boomer guy—no, this isn’t an anti-Boomer post, but some stereotypes are true for a reason—who refuses to admit that any music, literally anything at all, made after 1974 or whatever is actually “music” in even the technical sense, and is affronted when anybody born after the year, say, 1970, dares enjoy *shudder* eighties music. How dare they? Don’t they know we went to the moon? Etc. and so on.
What this has done, writ large, is artificially prolong the Boomer epoch in the realm of music. When this generational cohort found itself in control of the levers of cultural power, say by owning radio stations and record labels and stuff like that, instead of doing what generations older than them did, which was cater to them, as the younger generation, they decided to cater to themselves. Other scenes and musical movements were derided and not given room to breathe. Any cultural space they took up had to be fought for and faced with ridicule and scorn. I suppose they were better for it. But then media consolidation took hold and you know the rest.
Rock is dead, etc. and so on.
But time has a funny habit of marching on. Culture has a way of surviving under these harsh circumstances, adapting in new and exciting ways. They may seem odd to us middle-aged people (I’m 41, so I can say things like this with a straight face) but they matter to the young as much as what we cared deeply about when we were young mattered to us.
As a member of a generational cohort frozen out of power, I am a little bitter, but I also want to help provide what guidance and support as I can to the people who will be running our shared world in short order. Sure, my bosses have all been older than me and will soon be younger than me. In all of my adult life I have never had a member of my generation be in charge of anything. But that’s the hand we’ve been dealt. And there are really only two ways of dealing with such a state of affairs: whining about it or rolling with it.
I’m going to roll with it.
* * *
I recently saw a family member’s high school yearbook, class of 1986. It’s easy to snicker at the hairstyles, the sartorial fashions, the quotes and other stuff written below each graduate’s headshot. But remember, at that time this was it. The present, with a bright future ahead. Every generation has the same reaction to high school yearbooks of days gone by. The class of 1986 surely had some good chuckles at their parents’ yearbooks, and their parents at theirs, and so on. We all think our own era was the best, with past and future being, obviously, super-lame.
This is normal, even if it’s a little unfair.
We were all young once, with older generations dumping all over us. Remember this.
But I remember 1986. I was but a young lad, but I was alive then. And let me tell you, mid-80s high-school fashion, mid-80s culture, hits hard for me. Relics of that era seem so different from relics of my high school era. For example, the graduating seniors in 1986 looked so old, so mature, so fully grown, very different from my baby-fat covered face in my senior year headshot, class of 2000 (oh, the high hopes our teachers had for us, the high hopes we had for ourselves)! Did the class of 1986 think the class of 1974, or whenever, looked so mature compared to themselves?
In the Cracker Barrel in our town, late 19th and early 20th century memorabilia adorn the walls. If you’ve ever been to a Cracker Barrel, you know what I’m talking about. It’s Americana overload, which I like. Anyway, the last time the family went to breakfast there—probably the last time since I’m not that big a fan of their food—on the wall by our table was a framed photo of Springfield, Massachusetts high school class of 1911 or something like that and, brother, those graduating seniors, those boys and girls, looked like men and women in ways the class of 1986 most certainly did not.
Constant change is here to stay.
* * *
I am too old to rock and roll but too young to die. I am too cool to be a stick-in-the-mud but too lame to be trendy. It’s an odd sort of mid-life adolescence, an awkward phase in my fourth decade, and a very strange place to be in. I like to think this has given me a little bit of wisdom, but who am I kidding? I do know, however, mistakes I have made and things I would do differently. These are the types of things I would pass on to my children, and any young people who would listen.
So here goes. Read this in a Grandpa Simpson voice if you must:
- Do what you enjoy. It’s amazing how hard you will work at something you enjoy, and how little you will work at something you don’t.
- Think of others. This isn’t hippy-dippy nonsense—it turns out that some of that hippy-dippy stuff was right, but I think it wasn’t practiced as hard as it was preached by those particular people.
- Embrace change. Nothing will last forever, and if a culture remained frozen in metaphorical amber, it is dying.
- Don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm. Everybody’s got to elevate from the norm!
- The norm isn’t always bad. It’s okay to respect tradition; indeed you should. But changes don’t have to clash with tradition.
- If you think a tradition is “outdated” or otherwise inimical to something you want to do, examine your own motivations, and examine why that tradition exists in the first place. Look up “Chesterton’s Fence.”
- Respect your elders. Respect your peers. And respect the young. Respect everyone.
- You don’t have to respect people who hate you, but you should still pray for them.
And now I will turn off my Internet-enabled faux megaphone and slink off into the long night of middle-age, awaiting the day when I can well and truly tell all of you to get off my lawn.
Unless you’re here for the cookout. In that case, you can stay (yes, you’re invited).
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