In the 1970s and 1980s, the slogan â€œQuestion Authorityâ€ became a marching order for youth to bond over and evoked a generation of rebellious pride. It was an anthem for a time when â€œbecause I said soâ€ was no longer a sufficient reply to the age old adolescent incessant â€œWhy? But why?â€
Maybe this is what we should have expected after the spread of the existentialism encouraging us to question reality; it was only logical to question the authority that created the accepted reality.
I wager that these ideas are what gave way to the â€œquestion everythingâ€ I first encountered as a youth in the 1990s. But what is behind all this questioning? And where has it gone? After nearly three decades of questioning this and questioning that, what is the current generation questioning with its ubiquitously synchronized valley-girl speech impediment?
I had dinner with some folks from out of town who spent nearly ten minutes prodding and making fun of how the valley-girl speech pattern has become the anthem of the current generation across the nation. They were from Indiana, so like all things fashionable, they were grateful and praying their corn-field buffer zones would protect them from external encroachment.
Their point resonated with me in a different context, though: the lack of questioning among young people. Everyone is so accepting. Weâ€™re more accepting of other cultures, other people and other peopleâ€™s rights than ever before.
It seems like weâ€™re more accepting of everything and everything is acceptable â€“â€“ even the information we receive, especially if its from the Internet â€“â€“ and even more so if it came from one of those old â€œbook things.â€
Is that what weâ€™re going to be remembered as: The generation of unexceptional acceptance?
It has been a rare occasion that Iâ€™ve heard many people in the 18 to 25 range push the envelope on what we are fed by pop culture or policy makers. Maybe being a traditionally liberal group, weâ€™re still on a post-Bush extravaganza and now that dad is away, the kids just play.
Dare I say our media outlets have also failed us? Have the traditional media sources been ineffective at reaching us in the new media frenzy that barrages us daily? Are we in the process of changing over from an iTunes nation to an iTune-out compilation?
I think the following generations of youth have a lot to live up to. The 1960s rocked, the 1970s rolled, the 1980s â€œJust said, noâ€ (while quietly saying yes), the 1990s hip-hopped. Then suddenly, in a losing, hedge-fund expecting Y2K, its as if the new millennium lost its gut to switch the 8-track or flip the tape, someone turned down the volume.
But maybe itâ€™s not all bad, and I shouldnâ€™t paint us as second-rate slackers. I mean, really, the low hanging fruit has already been taken: Flight, space, internal combustion, human rights, awesome weaponry and ponzi-schemes.
I recall a conversation with the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles, UK explorer Robert Swan: He remarked he would hate to have to be in the current youth generation, â€œAll I had to do is walk a bloody long way for a few months.â€
Our generation is now tasked not only with maintaining past accomplishments but doing it faster, better, more efficiently and more fairly.
So maybe it isnâ€™t our destiny to ask another rendition of why? Maybe our collective duty is to answer the question within a free, open-source, digitized, multilingual, downloadable, Mac-and-PC compatible manual called â€œHowâ€ (with matching audio-podcast).
Phoenix Mourning-Star is a graduate student in environmental health. His column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.