We’ve lived through a decade of war. It’s hard to believe that Afghanistan is only now drawing to a close.
But we also live in a time where it’s hard to know which kids to pick on in school anymore. When Mark Zuckerberg is the wealthiest and one of the most famous people on the planet in his twenties, how can the term “nerd” even be pejorative? The Black Keys sell out arenas, and they are about as dorky as it gets. In junior high, I was known as the “boy who likes computers,” but today it is the popular girl who logs the most online time.
We’ve lived through a time in which mass shooting at schools and malls are part of the annual news cycle.
But we also live in a time where coming out of the closet is the perfect way to catalyze a mega popular hip-hop album, if Frank Ocean is any indication. When I was in junior high listening to Snoop Dog, it would have seemed inconceivable that an openly gay person could inherit such a musical legacy. Honestly, it was inconceivable five years ago.
We’ve lived through a decade of political gridlock — Ted Kennedy is dead, and John McCain has given up on bipartisanship. The House is a theater.
But we also live at a time where being skinny is no longer an ideal, let alone a success requirement. I’m not sure that I need to see her topless quite so often, but Lena Dunham has won a lot of fans through “unmarketable” skills like writing interesting dialogue. Young pop stars like Adele are topping charts based on their voices, not their poster potential. And Bar Rafaelli is making out with this guy.
We’ve lived through one bubble and recession after another. The last decade’s Dow Jones chart looks like a Ceder Point roller coast.
But we don’t need to rebel against nothing anymore. We listened to Nirvana in order to rebel against, well, nothing at all. Then Eminem showed up and helped us do it even better. Parents and politicians just didn’t get it, whatever it was. The unbridled desire to tear down the system has been distilled into efficient lines of Ruby code that actually solve problems while fighting oppressive bureaucracy. Protests still exist, but the difference-makers are doing it with software and online organizing.
We’ve lived through a decade of unemployment.
But considering how much their parents screwed them over, I give lots of credit to the young job searchers out there. Yes, they are working unpaid internships in writing, music, and marketing — but what do you expect from them? What kid hasn’t been warned against the hopelessness of a career in journalism, medicine, teaching, banking, or law? One thing they aren’t doing in their idle time is committing crimes, considering that the crime rate is down 80 percent on their watch… the most under-appreciated miracle of the millennium so far.
Housing prices have wrecked a generation of portfolios and forced parents to work several years longer than they had hoped.
But people can also live in cities again. Historians will look back at the second half of the 20th century as an exception — not the rule — when all those white folk ran away from urban life, chased out by those scary minorities and their scary jazz/rock/hip-hop music. Suburbs are great, and I liked having a yard as a kid, but I don’t know how the hell I’m ever going to return to that lifestyle.
The last 10 years have been about terrorism, war, excess, mass shootings, political gridlock, and recession.
And growing up.