Saturday, May 07, 2011

Hey Gen-X, remember free-floating societal anxiety?

Hey, remember when we were in our twenties, in the early 80s [I'm addressing the grown-ups in the class right now...], and we never really knew what the hell was going on?

Remember when we were that age when we relied on radio songs to express what we were worried about? And a bunch of them were about this kind of free-range anxiety we all felt but no one really knew how to pinpoint? And remember when we realised that our parents 60s hippie-songs had all turned into a kind of horrible sick, black, ironic joke and that the joke was on us?

Remember when the world and our lives looked like they were on the edge of some huge change and we all sort of had an idea that everything was going to be different, but no one really thought it was going to be different-good? We were all more or less anticipating it would be something horrible?

Remember when we all thought the future was going to be kind of Blade-Runnery? Remember we all thought that there was going to be a lot more technology in twenty or thirty years, but that the gap between people who got to have it and people who didn't was going to become uncrossable, and the price of all that high-tech flying cars and video phones and stuff was going to be a world that no one could stand to live in?

And remember when we thought that everything was more or less out of our control and even though we all felt like we had been pretty much strapped to an out-of-control freight train, there wasn't anything any real person could do to stop it and none of the people in charge gave a damn?

Remember when we, having been raised in the doom-saying, Soylent-Greeny, Mad-Maxian 60s' and 70s, all thought that we didn't really have much of a future, so there wasn't much point in participating in the life of the world? So we kind of just didn't do very much and sort of thought we'd get to just entertain ourselves until it was all going to end in either of the bang-or-whimper scenarios and it didn't really matter which one?

Remember when we used to debate in the back of the cafeteria when we were supposed to be in English class about whether it was going to be a good thing or a bad thing to survive past our thirties?

Remember when we were kids and our parents and teachers convinced us that "society" was all screwed up and that the 60s had been the Good Time when the Young People had tried to fix everything? Remember how they never said it out loud, but that the obvious conclusion was that they'd failed and that there was now no way to do anything about anything and that really nihilism was the only answer... and an SUV?

Remember how we all thought our parents' generation had gone collectively nuts?

And have you noticed that a lot of those things we were worried about have kind of come true?

Did anyone do anything about any of that? Or did we just give up?

Day after day, all that anxiety I remember from that time reappears. And night after night my heartbeat shows the fear. Ghosts appear in my memory and fade away. I do worry about the implications, especially at night. And I worry about situations.

I know I'll be all right. I'm sure it's just overkill.



Anonymous said...

Hilary, you are a woman at work.


bernadette said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Comment removed due to excessive saccharine God-talk, which bursts the top of my irritation-o'meter.

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary,

Interestingly, I am of your mother's generation, and I took the anxiety about the future so seriously that my then husband and I moved to Nova Scotia and bought an old run-down little farm to live off the land.

But, as my grandmother used to say, after having experienced being a refugee, "being poor is very interestink for a while, but then it becomes very borink."


Aaron Traas said...


I'm a little younger than you, but was also raised by hippies. They kept telling me how awesome it was to live back then, and how I'd have been so much happier growing up in the 60's. My dad turned into a total anti-human, animal rights type who believes that 1969 was the absolute apex of human civilization, and because of that, it's better now thtat the human race just dies off. But yeah, the unspoken subtext that the hippies failed permeated everything.

The one thing that you mentioned that absolutely didn't come true was the technology gap -- if anything, it's the opposite. I'm typing this on a handheld device that has more computing power than all the computers in the world in 1970. Technology is cheap, available to the masses, and ubiquitous. Sure, no flying cars, but that's more of a fuel issue than a tech issue.

In every other way, yeah the world pretty much sucks, and is going to get far worse before it gets better. The church will endure, and shrink, and grow stronger as the world starts to overtly persecute her. I imagine practicing the faith will become illegal in the west in my lifetime. But so be it; 'tis ours to fight the long defeat.

Bill White said...

Thanks for this post. Mr Hay's suddenly gorgeous song has been going through my head all day.

I turned 20 in 1986, having had the great good fortune to grow up in a tiny farm town on the prairie. Now all these years later we're sorting through the wreckage of society, salvaging the Old, the Good and the Real, and trying to show our kids the way through the smoldering remains, often over the objections of that older generation. I suspect our children will see even worse things in their time.

Mrs McLean said...

I remember it well. What Kids Today don't realize is that before the Berlin Wall fell, we all thought there was at least a 50:50 chance the Russians were going to drop the Bomb on us tomorrow. At 11 or so I was singing along to "99 Red Balloons" and at 13 or so to "Forever Young", a fine ditty that asks the grown-ups if they're "gonna drop the Bomb or not".

Therefore, until about 1989 or 1990 (because who could really tell about those pesky Russians) we were unsure if it was worthwhile making plans, just like the gay guys with HIV who ran up huge credit card bills, thinking they would die before they could pay them off. (80s, yes. 90s, no.) This was echoed by the idiot who told my class on graduation day that we would probably have seven career changes. Her generation got job security; mine wouldn't. Best of luck, girls!

Meanwhile the whole damn show was run for the Baby Boomers because they had all the buying power and when they started turning 40, there was a huge wave of 1960s nostalgia, so just like my Mum I wore a miniskirt to dances and listened to "Twist and Shout." Meanwhile, there was a smug chorus of "You kids don't have the activist spirit we did in the Sixties", which may have contributed to me being thrown in a holding tank with Operation Rescue. Good times.

Anyway, the Russians never did drop the Bomb and when they invaded it wasn't to rape and pillage but to buy the house next door, let the pool go green and stand on their patios late at night yelling into their mobile phones, as if that would make it easier for the folks back in Odessa to hear them.

There's a lesson in that somewhere. Meanwhile, how are the newts? Still wiggly?

Barbara said...

Hi Hilary,

Until I read this post I didn't really appreciate how lucky I was to miss the 70's, 80's and 90's because I was just trying to survive "life". I always considered it sad that I was so busy raising a kid on my own while struggling with the Evil/Good Real, panic and anxiety (which my kid inherited - poor sod). Now I feel truly blessed that I missed all the stupidity.

In the last few years, I have become a practicing Catholic and increasingly convinced the solution to the mess the world is perpetually in will come through the Church.

Sounds dreadfully Quixotic, especially with the mess the Church is in and the increasing persecution we face, but I'm a "Benedict Catholic" and am trying to follow his teachings, esp. regarding Hope in place of easy task but God is supposed to be capable of anything and we have to keep believing in the power of prayer.

At the same time, thank God we have thinkers and talented writers like you. You constantly amaze me.

Hope I haven't shared too much or strayed into excessive, irritating God talk.

Banshee said...

I thought most of the songs were


incomprehensible verse you can only make out if you have a stereo with both speakers working


Men at Work were kinda unique in that they sang understandably most of the time... except the bit about vegemite, which I always thought was "bite of my sandwich".

You have a very awesome name, btw, and belong in a steampunk novel. Except not trashy and depressing, but shiny and full of fun and banter. (Not as shiny as the creepy future in the last bit of The Phoenix and the Carpet, though.)