Although I usually try to avoid reading the opinion articles on the Guardian’s website, I ended up reading this really fascinating one by David Harvie (et al) a few weeks ago.
Although the first part of the article is about the hilarious irony of conservative politicians going to historically “countercultural” music festivals, the really fascinating part of the article appears slightly later when it describes how the youth of the 1960s-90s were responsible for creating a lot of what we now consider to be modern culture and about how there isn’t really an equivalent of this today.
Since this is a blog about art and writing, it made me think about whether we (as artists and writers) should try to be “the voice of our generation” – whichever generation that might be in your case (eg: for me, it would be “Generation Y“).
I’m going to start by talking about myself for a few paragraphs. Don’t worry, there’s a point to all of this (and there’s also a cartoon in the middle of it to break up my introspective waffling too).
Anyway, I’m not really someone who feels a gigantic cultural connection to my own generation. Even when I was a teenager in the early-mid 2000s, most of my favourite music was almost exclusively from the 1980s and 90s, my favourite films were also from the 1980s and 90s, most of my favourite novels were from the 1960s-90s and many of my favourite computer and video games were (and still are) from the 1990s.
Even now, I’m generally at least a good few years behind current culture and technology because….
So, in my case at least, trying to be “the voice of my generation” in my art and/or writing would not only be difficult for me to do, but it’d probably be hilariously terrible too.
Why? Because, culturally at least, I’m something of an old fogey. Again, this has been a theme throughout my life and I was once described by one of my friends as “sixteen going on sixty” when I was a teenager.
In short, if I ever end up becoming the voice of my generation – then we’re completely screwed!
So, my first point about whether you should try to be “the voice of your generation” is to take a good look at yourself first. You can only really be the voice of your generation if you actually feel a strong personal and cultural connection to your generation. If you understand the general psyche of your generation enough to be able to channel in into art and/or writing, then go for it. But, if you don’t – then don’t.
But, saying all of this, we’re all still members of our own generations and this has probably had at least some kind of subconscious effect on us. We’ve all grown up around people of our own generation, we’re all affected by the things that affect our generation (eg: the baby boomers screwing up the economy) and we’re also all products of the culture that the previous generation has created or maintained.
I mean, I might call myself an “old fogey” because of the music, games and fiction that I like. But, in terms of how I see the world, I’ve probably been heavily influenced by the simple fact that I grew up as part of a particular generation at a particular time in history.
To give you a really obvious example, I’m posting this article (and you’re reading it) on the internet rather than in a magazine or anything like that.
And, well, this is probably going to filter through into my creative work whether I want it to or not. The same is probably true for you too.
So, I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that you probably shouldn’t try to be “the voice of your generation”. Just create the things that are interesting and/or meaningful to you and – if you have a strong connection to your own generation – then you’ll probably end up speaking for them whether you want to or not.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂 And, for the sake of irony, I’ll post a cartoon about modern computer/video gaming culture here later tonight. So, watch this space….