There were, of course, visions of other worlds. No one would dream of this world, the real world, the one you and I live in, where I wrote this and you read it off a screen. I mean this simply and literally: This is not beautiful or ugly enough to be dreamt of, either as dream or nightmare. It isn’t even a world the most pragmatic or prone to compromise would envision.
It’s easy to write off things that share sentiments like this. I get that.
I wonder sometimes about my generation’s obsession with irony and seemingly blase acceptance of our doom in a post-9/11, post-climate change world. Our elders, the generations even one or two before us who could have made substantial change to these structures, failed. I don’t know why they failed. They failed, though. And briefly my generation seemed poised to strike with fire at some of these issues, in that boldly activist-y manner of youth. Then it seems we realized, or perhaps remembered, that humanity is a cruel and brutish beast that dreams bigger than it can deliver, and we learned as all generations learn why “dreamer” and “idealist” are empowering as a child and demeaning as an adult.
I wonder, though.
I don’t think I’m above it. I’m a failed object. I’m 27 and I am the shift leader of a sandwich shop. I’m not even a manager. I have a college degree, I’m reading Sartre, I’ve read… more philosophy and theory than I care to list. And this is what my life is. Single white man, failed intellectual, angry on the internet. Yawn. Part of the problem. I don’t even mean that ironically. Though I’m not always sure what to do about it.
It’s very difficult not to feel doomed. I think acknowledging that angst is good, and being honest with angst and pain and frustration and the negative is good. I think we fetishize the positive in a way that I understand, but in a way that also makes it unobtainable, because we envision the only worthwhile positive is the positive bereft of the negative, and that the only joy worth having is one unsullied by pain. But this unwillingness to feel pain, this unwillingness to suffer, is precisely the barrier that… leads people, step by well-meaning step, into banal, fruitless lives, where the NSA goes unchecked, school shootings become the new norm, climate change swells to a problem we can only hope to lessen and not stop now, and ironic detachment and disaffection is the only real defense against a seemingly-increasingly insoluble world.
I can’t tell whether it is stupid to dream or stupid to give up dreaming. I know that “stupid” is the right word, because it feels like a slap to the jaw.
I see friends embrace new positivity where before they were brave in voicing the contours of their pain. I know for a fact from talking to them that this pain has not lessened, and that some of them still cry every day. Some of them got tired of being an open wound or the… undesirable effects, social and personal, from being so vulnerable all of the time. But I know for a fact that replicating that mechanics of the world before us, which was emotionally stultified and dead and generated precisely our pain because it is the world we were born from and raised in, is wrong. I don’t know the solution.
This is a problem I run into a lot. Obvious problems, no obvious solutions.
This generates a lot of angst.
But we’re also told that angst is bad, and uncool, and doesn’t get us anywhere, and is uncool, and can make us act really shitty to each other, and is uncool.
No matter what, we’re all obsessed with being cool. I am, too. (You don’t make art if you don’t think about ‘cool,’ and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or unaware of this thing within themselves.)
The anger and angst I feel toward my peers and myself is different and more intense than what I feel towards those that came before me. By preexisting me, those older generations, as vile as some of them are, became eidolons, emblems of the world that is. Myself, my peers — We felt like the vehicles and instruments of change, and though we’re hovering closer to 30 now we still possess the ability to be that change. But it feels… It feels like the fire has gone out, and the wind has died, and the communal mass movement has petered out to absolutely nothing.
I don’t blame the bad ones. I blame the good ones who weren’t good enough, and who failed. It doesn’t matter if I’m among the ones I blame or not. The failure is still there.
Our world is so boringly bad it’s not even the kind of bad world you’d have a nightmare about.
I don’t know whether I want to keep writing or burn down my house.