For The Record | Issue 18
iThink Therefore iAm
I don’t like decade-themed parties. I’ve never understood the novelty of playing historical dress-up. But more than that, these “retro” parties beg the question: how will we be remembered?
From the 1950s up to the new millennium, each decade brought with it a new and unique cultural aesthetic. The Sixties had “Free Love”, the Eighties had MJ and the Brat Pack. Hell, even the Nineties can claim grunge. But what about us? How will our current epoch be simplified, taxonomised, and ultimately commercialised?
I fear that we’ve become too sceptical to buy into mass culture. Our aggressive individualism makes an overarching generational style impossible. We don’t want cultural ubiquity, and we seem uninterested in solidarity.
Our cynicism keeps us from wholeheartedly embracing a mainstream identity. Our self-aware irony makes us choose to regurgitate “retro” fittings instead of adopting “now” fashions: our style is nothing more than historical bricolage. We like stealing from the past, and love to imagine how simple life was way back then…
But faux-nostalgia is a cultural black hole. It stops us from progressing, and keeps us in a sepia-toned Instagram past. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone complain, “Man, I was born in the wrong decade,” I would almost have enough money to shop at Slick Willy’s.
The fact is, we couldn’t handle living in the past. Our lives are so dependent on technology that we simply couldn’t cope. Last semester, when the Otago network was down, people panicked at the thought of an entire day without the Internet.
We like to think of ourselves as superior to past generations; we’re an arrogant bunch. That smug look of technological superiority dances across our faces whenever we watch a pre-90s film, see someone with a Walkman, or hear someone talk about MySpace. We want the latest and the fastest, and we want it now. We seem to have put cultural evolution on hold in favor of technological innovation. We are happy to recycle trends from the past so long as our laptops keep getting smaller. Apple would sell us a soul if they could market it, and we would buy it, brushed steel, shiny glass and all.
I admit that this is a pessimistic view of our current era, but the first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem. We need to put down our iPods and go to a concert; stop streaming that movie online and go to the cinema. Otherwise we might be remembered as the generation that stopped cultural progression.
For the record, if you need your faith in our generation’s musical output restored, have a spin of Beach House’s latest, Bloom. It’s nothing short of hypnotic.