Anti-Demographic Thought(s)

Anti-Demographic Thought(s) (historicality not historicism)

            The most insignificant generation of the twentieth century I call my own. Popularly known as ‘Generation X’, was, and perhaps yet is, aside from Tiger Woods, unnoticeable. Its meager size alone speaks volumes. How was it that I myself became its foremost thinker, with more breadth and mass than any other kindred author? Only due to the paucity of available talent between the years 1963 and 1981 could this unlikely event have occurred, and more this than whatever I may have brought to the discursive table. But the key for me, as a writer hailing from this demographic group, was the compelling need to think outside of generational thought and even experience. History has traditionally been the venue of all who seek perspective. History is the antidote to parochiality, the slayer of morality, the pinion of modernity. And just as travel geographically remains a fair measure of one’s own customary attitudes towards all things, this spatial dislocation has its temporal sibling in historical journey.

            Unlike preceding and successive generations, there was no way for mine to dominate, either in culture high or low, in commerce or the labor market, or yet in celebrity. The pop bands we listened to were staffed by baby-boomers, our ‘big event’ the assassination of a boomer icon. Though Lennon’s needless death moved me, even haunted me for a while, in the end, it was nothing of my own. I do recall to this day exactly what I was doing at the moment the news broke in over CBC radio in that evening. Playing guitar in the front room with my parents listening in fits and snatches to both audio sources; odd, looking back upon it. I had just lost my first serious girlfriend, and was about to lose my mother, and thence my family, within months. Lennon’s death was thus felt as an ominous omen, a sign of losses to come. It took a full quarter-century of nonsense on my part to recover from this wakeful interregnum, a chasm between the bliss of childhood and the remaining rationality of more mature being.

            Even so, none of these crises were specific to anyone in my generation, let alone myself. The nearest to us is shared by all, the farthest from us by none. What do we know of the vast bulk of human history? Our generational memories are overshadowed by those personal, and these latter are what link us across demographic groups, and mostly those ethno-cultural as well. None choose to be born; none choose to die. The work I have done to date connects me with, and within, the 2500-year-old tradition of consciousness, and my nominal contribution to the history of thought can only be judged in that wider context. I have no generational peers; I have few living sources of inspiration. The only response is to conjure a form of anti-demographic thinking, which at once participates in what Gadamer called ‘historical consciousness’, while avoiding historicism per se. Historicity is a term that has been used, even historicality, which I personally prefer. The keenly felt query, ‘what is it that links me with these others?’, ‘what can I possibly achieve without them, let alone outside of their ambit?’.

            And I am more discursively dim-witted than I used to be, mirroring the general trend I suppose. Not having taught a class for eight years might do that, but more than this, reading sparsely due to eyesight, engaging in no serious long-term dialogue, and forsaking the company of ‘the intellectuals’ who are obsessed with fashion refashioned into a tepid tempest of pseudo-ideology. From the villains who proffer the censored book lists, which ironically reflect their defenders’ equally shallow concerns for what amounts to window-dressing – genders, ethnicities – or very much passing phases of life – childhood and adolescence – to the ‘concerned’ parents groups, shockingly populated by those younger than myself – where did the much vaunted revolution of values vanish, I wonder from time to time – my demographic viewpoint is disarmed by their sheer frenzy of frenetic fractiousness. Framing this ‘value’ conflict is an effort at once of a compulsive ennui – Edmund Leach would chide us, for at least butterflies are beautiful – as well as self-gratification; ‘look at all those poor fools’, which at least sounds like a British social anthropologist.

            Utterly ignored, X’ers oft like to claim for themselves a kind of holier-than-thou status in relation to their observations. I noted this when I was but fifteen, for goodness’ sake, another, this time sanctimonious, sign of things to come. The smirk of the girls, the smite of the boys, the sense that all was already lost, we had no idea that our minor fin de siècle was but a repeat of 1900, or a retake of 1950 – David Riesman’s ‘The Lonely Crowd’ might as well have been written for Gen-X, for instance – or indeed a distant echo of Goethe’s Werther. Nothing, in other words, genuine about our whine. We fought amongst ourselves, we mended our own fences, we together built smallish walls to blot out the overweening views of the boomers, all the while listening intently to their own sages:

            Get away old man, you don’t fool me.

            You and your history won’t rule me.

            You might have been a fighter but admit you’ve failed.

            I’m not affected by your blackmail;

            You won’t blackmail, me.

            Pete Townsend wrote these lyrics in 1975, when I was but nine years old. And certainly, he wrote them against the Churchillian generations, but it was our tune too. And I also recall, almost as vividly as with the Lennon moment, in that same year of 1975 when the Viet Nam War ended, I came to school full of the news to be greeted by a surly ‘who cares!’ from my playground peers. World historical events were snubbed because world history had passed us by. We never believed in a future – the day-long debriefing at all the schools the morning after ‘The Day After’ had aired on television was considered at best, unconvincing, at worst, more propaganda – and so we doomed ourselves to inaction from the beginning. My campus student union boasted of a store of cyanide pills in case the made-for-TV film became all the more real. Placards and strikes and demonstrations and critique in general were nowhere to be seen. Shamefully, even though the ‘big chill’ had already hobbled the boomers, it was we who truly institutionalized the neo-conservative retreat. And that is exactly what it was, and remains to this day; a retreat from reality, from the world, from the other and from otherness, from compassion, from consciousness historical and cultural, and most dismally, from conscience.

            And thus our paltry legacy. Thus the ease by which almost sixty books, but that’s all, sails the undersea ocean of discourse, breathing its own closed atmosphere and heard by the pilgrim as perhaps a series of broken sirens, faint and amorphic. And so, I have adopted another life, prompted by the digital revolution, that is, the one that mattered after all. I haven’t given up, but I have given in. Look for my shadow on any horizon which warns of lands unknown. Look for me there and you’ll see a silhouette unidentified, then a chiaroscuro undertaking itself, that is, before the current plague of sickened yet fastidious youth finishes me for good.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is currently hard at work on his 58th book, a major health and wellness digital app, an RPG gaming series, and the odd essay in banality. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.