Ah, yes. Heard a song today by a neo-neo punk band called "The Offspring." (Not new -- came out in '94 - but I just heard it, OK?) Title: Self-Esteem. Nice hook, rather catchy, bit commercial. As may be, it's a statement of intent by a pussy-whipped dude with no self-respect (or self-esteem) who endures all manner of personal humiliation, faithlessness and ego assault from his non-girlfriend girlfriend in exchange for, well, you know, personal benefits.
This got me thinking as to the current wave of dark shit the current generation of young'ns (which would be my youngest son, Andrew's generation) is surfing. Marilyn Manson, with his sickass routine (and implied sickass portmanteau collapsing Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Manson); South Park, with its mocking after school special lesson, "I learned something today" at the end of every show; Korn with its implications of child abuse and self-loathing. So it goes. Why so fucking dark?
It occurs to me my g-g-generation left the current generation with nothing left to rebel against but self-esteem.
The hippies attacked their parents as robotic, militaristic, anti-life repressed tools of the Man. The punks attacked the hippies as fucking hippies -- but the punks weren't self-hating. They hated YOU, man. (Truth is the punks and hippies are two sides of the same coin. Country freak, city freak. 'Nuff said.) What's left to rebel against?
Well, uh, us. Specifically, the value system of self-actualization based on self-esteem the Boomers imposed on successive generations. I.e.: if you like yourself and feel good about yourself, you can be the best that you can be. The notion being, if you applaud the runner BEFORE the race, they're more likely to win. In retrospect, it's a stupid notion. But there it is.
On top of that, if you (all you Baby Boomers parents or authority figures) promise you have nothing but the self-actualization of your offspring -- and in fact give them (worse case scenario) physical or sexual abuse or (typical scenario) neglect, benign indifference or second rate attention -- your promise of a higher standard (based on love for what's best for the kid) makes your child's bitterness of your failure to meet that standard sting more.
We tried to be our kids' best friends. At the same time, we tried to BE kids, forever. This is the result.
The WWII generation of parents was more like George Liquor in the banned Ren and Stimpy episode. They told their kids to, "Shut up, do what you're told, work hard and don't embarrass me. You think I OWE you something? You gotta another think coming. Clean your !@#$ room!" Our generation told our kids, "We want a family where everyone's free to be, you and me! We want what's best for you; we want to listen to you; we want you to grow; we want to treat you as persons in your own right; we want you to feel good about yourself!" Talk is cheap. We set an impossibly high standard for ourselves. We failed. Now our kids hate us. To get back at us, they hate themselves.
Yep. The only thing the kids have to rebel against is the one standard we tried to impose on them: self-esteem.
They express their rebellion against us as self-hatred. They listen to music that's as dark as a suicide note; their comedy makes George Heller look like Bozo the Clown.
It's a damn fucking shame.
And pretty bad for my self-esteem.