The ‘war’ of the generations

Greece’s teenagers have again found themselves in the cross hairs of social criticism. For the music that they listen to, their manner of dress and behavior, their reactions, they are seen as threats to public order. For many, the years of youth are tantamount to the years of transgression. In some Western countries, a rise in birth rates one year presages a rise in crime rates a few years down the road. Teenagers, as a social group, not as the individual children of a family, are seen as «adversaries.» Everything about them is viewed as irksome. Their fiery spirit and their nonchalance, their misery and laziness, their being spaced out and their being addicted to computers. As the MySpace generation, they are open to criticism because they air their dirty laundry on the Internet, they have Internet buddies, they want everything served to them on a silver platter and they prefer to lounge around rather than struggle for improvement. As emos (emotional, a term used in the 1980s to describe a sub-genre of hardcore punk and now a sub-group of the Goths), they are pathetic in their self-destructiveness, their mopey faces, melodrama, blank eyes and melancholic look. Yet, teenagers feel the same as everyone else about art through new trends and the music they listen to. Even when the latter expresses the dissolution of society, individualism and confusion, they see something of themselves in it. Teenagers are the social group that poses most of the questions that everyone else just asks themselves. They wonder about the beginning and the end, the meaning and value of existence. Suspended in time (because youth offers a feeling of immortality) between what’s real and what’s not, they ponder, vacillate, give up, revolt, get confused and dream. They grow up like «protagonists,» but in society they only get a role as extras. In Europe, they come out of university in debt (at least in Greece, the family unit still holds strong) and have to choose between unemployment or uninsured work. They call themselves the boomerang generation because after an unsuccessful foray into the job market, many invariably end up back at their parents’ home. They also call themselves the IPOD generation, meaning insecure, pressured, overtaxed and debt-ridden. Is this generation any different from previous ones? Probably not. The string of generations, with their conflicts and contrasts, is nothing more than the dialectical continuity of life. If teens did not react, did not create waves, they would not be teens and society would be maimed. It would be a society without a counterbalance, without freshness, without a conscience.