The First Generation

Builds Upon: The Anthropology of Nerd Societies: The Formation of New Group Identities Within Industrial Civilization

Every generation in human history until now has had access to a large body of relevant information from the previous generation.  Now, in post-industrial societies, change is so rapid that the older generation can provide little in the way of skills and experiences that are meaningful to the young.  Add to that:

-Coherent extended families are oftentimes absent and there is also a high likelihood of growing up with just one parent or being traded back and forth between separated parents.  There are fewer sources of knowledge from the previous generation.

-Children spend their youths principally in schools being raised by one another rather than with their families.  Their role models become their contemporaries rather than their elders.  There is little desire or opportunity to reach for past knowledge.

-Children for the most part are no longer given critical survival skills by elders.  Since the time they have been able to walk, they have easily mastered technologies that confound their elders.  They have less reason than previous generations to absorb knowledge from elders.

-Both parents are constantly working.  And even when adults are in the home, they are usually sitting in front of the television.  There are few opportunities for cultural transmission to take place.  In fact, corporate advertising has more opportunity to form a child’s world concept than do any actual people.

-Indeed, a gigantic mass culture is shared by countless millions regardless of ethnic group or economic status.  This dynamic popular culture supercedes traditional cultures in importance.

The result as this trend grows larger, is that each subsequent generation grows up with less and less of an idea of past and tradition.  This a trend that only grows as each new set of parents has less to pass on than the last.  Knowledge passed through multiple generations eventually begins to disappear for good.

In short past, roots, and traditions are quickly fading from existence in post-modern societies.  Each new generation comes into the world as if it were the first generation in human history.  The result is a vacuum that mass culture tries to fill.  But a culture that is for everyone is for no one.  A critical need goes unmet.  Millions struggle with lack of identity and loneliness.

A vacuum cannot remain empty for long.  Systems tend to settle into equilibrium.  The birth of first generations, millions thrust into the world without a meaningful past or cultural identity will result in great searches.  Since these searches can yield nothing that is meaningful in the post-industrial world, invention must ensue.

If a group of children were to grow up without any input at all from a previous generation, they would have to make up a new language, a new culture, a new code of values, a new corpus of shared stories.  Everything would have to rebuilt from scratch, a new city would arise on top of old and forgotten ruins.

Today’s children will one day have to pursue exactly this approach.  In the absence of fertile soil to grow in, they will have to provide it for themselves.  They will inevitably reinvent history, culture, and even language and religion.

When civilization fails to civilize its children, the children must civilize themselves.  In a time when society is the largest it’s ever been, when every corner of the map has been accounted for, it still is not safe.  There is a new dark continent, a new outland from which waves of threatening unknown peoples come.  Ironically, a civilization that fails to transmit itself creates its own barbarians.


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