Thursday, March 18, 2004

Harry Brighouse on Generation X

Over at Crooked Timber, Anglo/US academic Harry Brighouse has angrily gone into bat to defend the the deprivations faced by hisWWII-era grandparents, against comparison with the fallout faced by his, and my, own generation – GenX – from September 11. He writes:

[W]hile my generation . . . cheerfully rides around in its SUVs, gorges itself on fast food, sends a volunteer army to a war that has nothing to do with terrorism, and continues with life as normal (except in airports) it might do well to reflect on the real experience our grandparents faced in a society completely geared up to fight a war against the worst threat civilization has ever faced.

Brighouse, to say the least, is not your usual Xer. I wasn’t aware that driving 4WDs/SUVs and over-eating fast food were particular attributes of 24-40 year-olds. In fact, from anecdotal evidence, the exact opposite seems to be the case, certainly regarding 4WDs/SUVs – which seem to be boomer vehicles par excellence. I also don’t understand how WWII can be considered “the worst threat civilization has ever faced”, given that the real prospect of global nuclear annihilation has existed continuously since the early 1960s. But presumably because such an event would not involve the hardship of living (long) under rationing (that food thing again!), Brighouse prefers outright death to five years of life without copious supplies of lard.

At least he is consistent. Not only does he sledge his own generation as spoilt little shits (speak for youself, you tenured (I’m assuming) mediocrity), he is happy to write-off the “character” relevance of boomer George Bush’s dubious Vietnam War record:

[T]he Vietnam War was an unjust war, unjustly carried out, and I have no animus to my elders who tried to avoid fighting in it. People make odd decisions in the [sic] youth, and these do not have to be brought up against them later in life.

Your “elders”, eh? Someone pass me a bucket, please. Quite apart from everything else this demographic locust-plague have done, the young (“Never trust anyone over 30”) boomers were a high-point of ageist attitudes in Western in society. Now Brighouse thinks that they somehow merit respect as “elders”, just because they’re, well, older? Get fucked boomers – you lived and rebelled by youth-narcissist ageism, and you can now die by it too.

As for “People make odd decisions in the [sic] youth”, again we can safely assume that Brighouse is speaking personally here. Career-wise, he seems to have crawled under a cosy little tenured rock in remote Wisconsin, circa 1992, straight from 20 years (K-to-PhD) of continuous education. Perhaps your first real car, bought with you first real paycheck, wasn’t a SUV, eh Harry? A youthful indiscretion for which you still kick yourself about, to this very day?

Speaking for myself, the only “odd decision” of my youth that I’m far from proud of is my decision to go to university. Having been (equal) top of the state in Year 12 English, I foolishly thought that either that a uni education would be valuable for its own sake, or at least that it would mean a lot more moolah over my lifetime. Wrong and wrong. Like the majority of GenXers, I suspect, going to uni – as opposed to going straight from school into a reasonably-paid blue-collar job – has already cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But you’re all right, Harry – and that’s what’s important, isn’t it? Not sure if the UK and US university systems were systemically gutted, from the late 1980s (up to the present day) to the same extent Australia’s has been, but I suspect that something similar went on. In which case, it sure looks like you got in in a nick of time, Harry. I was also a freshly-minted academic in the year you started (1992), but this year I’m still a sessional (“adjunct”). And in your language, that’s a lot of foregone lard.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?