The Promised Generation

Finally I see signs of the re-emergence of a generation promised everything but lost in the shadow of the silent majorities. Once called “generation x” I prefer to call us (since I am one) the Promised Generation. The lost generation seemed fitting to me originally but since it was already taken by Hemingway, the promised generation appeared to convey that idea and even more specifically reflect what I consider the dilemma. The promised generation was born in the 60s and 70s during a “golden age”: the height and culmination of modernist individuation, experimentation, creativity, and desire. So many times I asked my friends and colleagues who were born in the “baby boom” generation why they had let that period slip away into the conservatism and post-modern cynicism of the 80s and beyond. One day I realized that they had been born into a still conservative time. Since they had the wealth of the baby boom economy to allow them the freedom to explore (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) it was their youth that had taken modernism over the edge into the 60s and 70s. The vital desire, joy, and sex of youth that had flourished under the baby boom exploded the 60s but by the 80s they had rediscovered the conservatism of their ancestors’ generations – and the effects on their psyches – in their own aging process.

We of the promised generation were born into a different world and it was what we had come to expect as the norm, the future, and the inevitable – a promised world. Of course the promised generation conveys the idea of the promised land – both religious and utopian – and the American dream of the frontier. Cynicism and sarcasm withstanding, I will not dismiss this as idealism. Or if it be idealism let it be Idea-lism: a Neo-Platonic vision of Eidos that takes us on a journey from the Drive to the Idea or Concept: as in conceptual and abstract art, a dialectical Platonism in which we play in the laboratory and studio of earth and the human – only in order to invent something new from these archetypes and forms we have been born under. For this the drive is absolutely necessary. And the workshop or playground from which to forge a new earth not encumbered by cynical dismissal – a worse fate than a rigid superego, a resignation of ressentiment(Nietzsche) existing entre deux morts (Lacan).

Dormant so long, with so many untimely deaths, this generation I see now rises from under the weight of the bloated baby-boomer generation which has accumulated so much and will not give way to re-generation. No wonder their own children (who are not the promised generation but the millenials to come – or what Brett Easton Ellis calls “generation wuss”) are marked by obsessionally more than hysteria. Yet as Lacan proclaimed, let hysteria (and psychosis) emerge as a result of this psychoanalysis we perform upon ourselves and our generation so that our symptom can flourish into something still alive in a society of control – between two deaths. The nascent movements of sovereignty, surrealism, situationism, autonomy, psychedelia, and accelerationism are born again.

The society without state goes back millennia as shown by anthropologist Pierre Clastres, and George Dumezil demonstrates a corollary – that even in those civilizations that came to have a state, there was a built in process of sacred disorder that guaranteed regeneration and resisted rigidity. In recent times, Sade, Nietzsche, and Bataille sought to draw on this lineage and restore the sacred chaos of invention and creative destruction in the autonomy of a self-organizing politics of sovereignty. For Bataille and his friends this was the “unavowable community,” the community with no common phantasm – a community demonstrated more clearly by the acid jazz band or fluxus art performance. Despite the possibilities to extend this 20th century project through the internet, social media has only lead to a reinforced superego of non-dissent. Lost in relativism, bordering on nihilism, unable to take up the responsibility of freedom in what I term “maturity” as opposed to “adulthood,” the young have persisted in the jouissance of “childhood,” submitting to those few who are only too happy to play the role of daddy, or now mommy. The goal of Deleuze & Guattari’s project in “Capitalism and Schizophrenia” was not only to explode the Oedipal structure of mommy-daddy-me and the holy family, but to give birth to a new impossible community of nomads and autonomists – an “orphan drift.” We can only hope that this time is here.