I am a man of the ripe old age of twenty-three, and while my generation may lack some of the experiences of past generations, we carry an interesting perspective on life that must be acknowledged for its importance. We have always been a generation at war.
The realization that our generation has always been in war is not a solemn one for me, it's actually quite a trivial matter; statements like: "We've always been at war," or "My father, brother, husband, or myself may deploy and not return [the same]" have become facts of life. I say them with the same emotion and conviction that I would tell a child that the Earth revolves around the Moon, or that there aren't monsters under his bed. There is no trepidation, anxiety, or fear in my affirmation of these simple truths; they merely exist.
They exist in the same purgatory as this perpetually never ending conflict exists. This purgatory we find ourselves in is one of our own creation and its one that thousands every year seek to escape. We find ourselves in a limbo that we know nothing outside of, because it's all that we have ever been taught. We grew up in a post 9/11 world, where terrorism has surpassed communism as the 'big bad boogie man' and regulation for safety at the expense of freedom has become the status-quo.
Most of us capable of reading this today know exactly where we were on September 11, 2001. Some of us were on our commute to work, enjoying our lunch break, or nursing a hang-over, but myself? I was in Introduction to Algebra, at Conway Middle School. The reasons why my school was suddenly full of children without fathers to go home to, and several of my friends moved away was explained with the same conviction and emotion that you tell a child that there are monsters under his bed.
We grew up watching scenes from CNN which, to a child, were so surreal and fantastically deadly that we simply associated them with the only other things we could understand: media. Whether our particular media was games or movies, we had to associate it with something that we understood and trusted, so we did. This association would later compound itself as publishers began capitalizing on our war orientated society.
Our most popular video games? War
Our most popular movies? War
Our role models at war, our nation in conflict, and our society associating war with the things we trust; we were left with one hopeful avenue of escape. Our education. The problem with our education is that we were never taught to question, we were taught to be obedient. The era of standardized tests, and No Child Left Behind caused a wave of unimaginative teachers printing out standardized students who leave the academic complex without the tools needed to succeed leaving us wandering the job market without much guidance.
Much like the Storm Troopers depicted below, academics taught us not to think individually, but to think how we were supposed to; fear for the all might GPA (and, by extension, scholarships) had bred us to give the answers we thought were expected, not the answers we thought were correct. We left our high schools having only learned one thing, how to cheat the system.
From here, our generation split into several factions. There are those of us who followed the upbringing we had at the expense of our movies, and we joined the military to "do what's right" by our country. There are those of us who had figured out the game of academics and pushed forward to attend prestigious universities with or without the help of a crushing student loan burden. Then there are those of us who tried to entered the job market to jump start our careers in a once great economy.
What we're noticing though, is as more and more of my generation start breaking the mold and asking the important questions, we're finding more people rebelling against that status-quo. Obama, for better or worse, was elected by my generation under the campaign mantra of change. Bradley Manning, as poor as his choice was, thought to act out against a culture of war. The academics protested rising student loan costs and poor education practices, and the workers cried foul at a struggling economy and divergent allocation of wealth.
To what avail? Obama is nothing more than a "dirty Muslim," Manning is a traitorous bastard, the academics were pepper sprayed, and the 99% movement was brushed off as nothing but dirty hippies who hated corporations. Not many people stopped to consider that these movements had merit in-spite of their faults; and even fewer took a moment of self reflection to take a moment to see the generation that their society had raised.
We live in a time of great turmoil and on the precipice of great change, but this change will only occur if we allow it. Societal evolution, much like evolution itself, is the culmination of changes over a large period of time. The thing is, these changes are often brought about by necessity; and the paradox of the human existence is that our consciousness allows us to ignore these needs through complacency, limiting our ability to evolve as a society.
We have always been a generation at war. We're only just starting to realize that our target isn't the monsters under our bed, but rather the politicians atop the pulpits, the teachers in our classrooms, and the bankers at our backs; in a word, our target is the status-quo. I'm not here to promote a cause or a politician, but I challenge -- no, I demand -- my fellow plussers to ask the important questions. Question everything, or we'll always be a generation at war.