I identify very strongly as a member of Generation X, even though I was born at the tail end of it in 1977. Compared to the baby boomers, Gen X has been hit very hard by a collapsing infrastructure and social fabric. From what I understand, the main issues facing the boomers were the Vietnam War and the stagflation of the 1970s. Today we have the Long War in the middle east and inept politicians doing everything they can to devaluate the dollar. My how things have changed…
If you haven’t heard of it yet, let me introduce you to one of the primary motivators of Gen X, the notion of “Fuck You Money.” That’s when you have so much money, that you can finally tell all of the people who have stood in your way your entire life to fuck off, and then you get to do whatever you want.
I must admit that the allure of fuck you money has been a driving force in my own life. Teased as a teenager and adolescent for being a geek and feeling dejected after my parent’s divorce, I set off for college with big dreams of becoming a computer engineer and changing the world like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Everything was going great as I got my degree and returned to Idaho in 1999 to get to work on my startup, Z Sculpt Entertainment. I lived with my dad for a year in 2000 and really got to know him again, and then took a part time job moving furniture to pay the bills while our business ramped up.
Everything was going great until 2001, and you know the rest of the story, and if you don’t, you’ve been living under a rock.
But let’s talk about the present. My generation is suffering under some seemingly insurmountable odds, summed up nicely in this article (although it draws some different conclusions than I do). The gist of it is that Gen X is now under so much debt, with so few prospects for advancement, that it’s starting to look like the sun is setting on our generation. We missed out, case closed.
Or is it?
Anybody remember the Matrix? Fight Club? Hell even the Breakfast Club? Have you noticed what’s going on here? Welcome to high school. The world is run by the people despised by Gen X.
I say, if we want to be free, we need to flip things around. Let me introduce you to another concept:
Fuck You… Money!
Money (or more likely the lack thereof and hence lifelong pursuit of it) is a trap. It’s a carrot and stick. It will make you do things you don’t want to do, for all the wrong reasons. It will make you get divorced, and stick your parents in a rest home. It will send you to war and cause people to die because they don’t have healthcare.
Worst of all, it will have you live the life you weren’t meant to live. Gen X is beginning to look like the most manipulatable generation ever. A third of Gen X workers have bachelor’s degrees, yet we haven’t learned how to make it in the business world? What the hell is going on here?
I’ll tell you where it went wrong for me. It was when I began to unravel who I was, to reshape myself into something more palatable for the business world, somebody who girls might like and who knew how to play the game. I’ve done this since the late 90s, when bands like 311 walked a fine line between underground and mainstream. Unwittingly, as much as I talked up a big game about being nonconformist, I went mainstream.
In the 2000s I went to the gym. And got lines of credit (a LOT of them). And drank a lot of cocktails. And got jobs. Lots of shitty, shitty jobs.
For me, the entire 2000s was like the period of limbo as Odysseus struggled to return home in the Odyssey. But even though we lost ground on our climb through life, we have some horrific stories to tell our grandchildren. As John Lennon said: “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So I suppose that not all was lost, because we did learn what NOT to do. I, for one, will never let myself fall back into the pit of despair that exemplified that era. I know now what I don’t want. And that was an important lesson to learn, because before that I was an idealistic basket case who had absolutely no idea how the world really works. That’s why I call that decade the Nothings. The decade of negative reinforcement, of shattered dreams, of hopelessness.
But since November of last year, I’ve been trying something a little different. I quit my job doing Mac repair and have been freelancing now, fixing old computers and selling them on the web. The thing is, companies charge such outrageous money for everything they do ($100/hr or more) that there is a huge opportunity there to find your niche. Even if it’s not apparent to you, and you don’t see it in your everyday life, money pours through America like a sieve. We are still the richest country in the world.
So where is all the money?
Remember that asshole in high school, that guy who had a trust fund and drove a brand new Mustang (before Mustangs got cool again)? The guy who didn’t even pay attention to politics because he was too busy getting invited to parties with other rich kids? That guy has your money. Now he works for a financial institution or HMO making more money in a year than you’ll see in a decade. He buys off the politicians. He outsources jobs. He gets the inheritance of the billionaire who left all his money to his daughter.
He is money, and you are not.
Fuck that kind of money. Do you think Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google to become that guy? Hell no! They are Gen X. THEY are US. We have more potential between our ears than the people in power could ever dream of. Because they are vampires. Just look at Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. Vampires. Fuck those guys, and everything they stand for.
I’m beginning to think that the answer is right before our eyes. Own who you are. Stop letting the ghouls run your life. Start phasing out the bad things around you. Quit your job and collect unemployment if you have to (I haven’t by the way, because it was my choice to quit, but you’ve paid into it your entire life so don’t feel guilty if you need it). Call in some favors, especially to any rich fucks you have ever helped. You might be surprised when they help you out, partly because they feel a need to make up for the travesty that is their life. We have more leeway to change our lives this very moment than we’ve ever had before. The ultra wealthy are overextended and can’t handle any more defaults. They will work with you on your debt, because they are insolvent if they lose even one more security. But they will never tell you that.
You know what this country needs? Some good old fashioned civilization. Gen X needs to remember that all those times they were down and out, it was other Gen Xers who let them crash on the couch, offered them beer and nintendo and bong hits and then helped them get a job at the mall. We are a social generation, and our lives are fucking awesome when you remove all the bullshit that other generations put us through. I would not trade my childhood in the awesome 80s and witnessing the birth of the internet and the fall of the Soviet Union for anything. We are the Star Wars generation. Can you imagine being any other generation? God it has to suck!
So my plan over the next year or so is to find reinforcements. I’m starting in my own backyard, getting to know more people, actually talking with them about big ideas instead of idle banter. I’m thinking that politics is well, too political, so I’m going to talk simply about the need to be able to rely on each other. I want the America our parents had, with big open public spaces and free stuff that didn’t suck, like good public schools and affordable college and being able to pay the bills by working at a burger joint, and hot chicks that cared more about love, escapism and music than shopping.
Fuck all the shit that’s been happening to us since Reagan went senile: the military industrial complex, AIDS, terrorism, credit card companies, aspartame, genetically modified food, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, nuclear meltdowns, oil spills, the ozone hole and global warming. Fuck texting and social networking and all the other second rate crap that can’t compare to boarding and sneaking into parties and making out with someone new at a show in a basement somewhere.
I want to go back to 1979, my favorite song. Hell I’d settle for the wages of 1979 at this point. But really I want a world before MTV stopped playing music videos and record companies started suing their customers.
We have a constituency that just needs a way to be heard. We are a critical part of the system and it seems to me that if the system sees no need for us, then maybe they can try living without us. If we reserve our talents for ourselves, the irony is that they’ll pay us more to be us. We are the ones selling ourselves short!
My biggest fear is to wake up in a world where the people who made Angry Birds and Minecraft didn’t change the world with their money. Where they just started yet another big company that makes money from distraction and hoards the wealth.
I’ll tell you what, I will probably never make a million dollars because if I do, the world changes. I make a million dollars, solar power becomes an order of magnitude more affordable. I get rich, so do a thousand other people when we form a debtor’s union. I make any money at all, and I help form a programmer’s commune, kind of like an artist’s colony, where the disenfranchised can work on disruptive technology even though nobody else would hire them. The thing is, I don’t need money to do these things. I’m putting all of my focus on doing them right now.
I think if every Gen Xer starts living the life they are meant to live, people might someday look back at us as the greatest comeback of all time. Because we were the beginning of the end of capitalistic imperialism. We helped destroy the Matrix. I would be proud to tell that story to my grandchildren. Imagine a world free of artificial scarcity, where each person is able to contribute in ways a thousand times more beneficial than working in a cubicle somewhere. Imagine what you would be doing right now if it weren’t for money, and then just go out and do it.