Archive for September, 2008

Michael Fallon, from The Chronicle of Artistic Failure, has an interesting post at mnartists.org about the new generation of artists emerging and their reactions to critics and to just about anything that questions their artistic authority.

I thought his observations were interesting, albeit slightly inflammatory at times:

“First, it was odd that these students from blink-and-miss-it Carleton were, for the most part, calmer and more relaxed—smug almost—than any twenty-year-old has a right to be in front of such a large audience. This is especially true considering the event, a notable international film festival, was older—at 26 years—than these kids were. But then, this may not be so unusual after all, given the numerous reports from those in-the-know which suggest that most kids of this age—those of the so-called Generation Y, born after about 1980—have come to believe that attention and fame is their very due. According to a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center, 51% of 18- to 25-year-olds identified “to be famous” as one of their top two goals. This was above “to help people who need help” (30%), “to be leaders in their community” (22%), and “to become more spiritual” (10%), but behind the number one choice (“to get rich,” 81%).

Finally, it was clear to me that the abundant self-confidence on display by these kids wasn’t necessarily evidence of skill or achievement. The film they made was actually not all that good; it was not revealing, not at all introspective, and it made little logical sense.”.

He brings up many valid points and confesses that on occasions, he has found himself at the receiving end of unjust irate reactions from those artists whose works he criticizes.

From the article:

““Young people today,” writes Twenge, “have been consistently taught to put their own needs first and to focus on feeling good about themselves.” She further claims that, despite what you might expect, such self-pampering has done the group nothing but harm. Twenge cites numerous studies which offer evidence for a host of problems among her generational cohorts: a decline in manners and regard for social rules; a disengagement with civic concerns; a tendency toward cheating and an antipathy toward authority; a strong sense of entitlement and inability to take criticism; high levels of drug use; loss of faith in the rewards of responsibility and hard work; increasing sense of loneliness and an inclination toward shorter relationships and sexual promiscuity; rising levels of depression, anxiety, panic, and nervous breakdown; and suicide rates twice what they were in 1950.

Despite its myriad problems, this young generation also has—tellingly, and incongruously—a remarkably high sense of self-regard, or what Twenge calls a “cotton candy sense of self with no basis.” In psychological terms, according to Twenge, her generation is afflicted by abnormally high rates of “clinical narcissism,” a pathology with numerous manifestations (many of which are listed above)”.

I immediately remembered another article I read this week, in “Psychology Today” about The Plight of the Little Emperors, on the subject of China’s “only child” culture. These Chinese children who are now coming of age and, in the author’s words, “expect the world”.

“Chinese parents bemoan their only child’s desire for instant gratification, excessive consumption, and a life free of hardship, but such complaints are just proof that the policy worked: The children are like little Americans.


“Since the policy’s inception, the Chinese have worried that the extreme combination of discipline and indulgence would result in maladjusted kids, self-centered brats who can’t take criticism and don’t understand sharing. Asked if he wished he’d had siblings, one 22-year-old from Sichuan province replied, “Does this mean everything I have would have to be cut in half or shared? No, I don’t want that.””

These two articles, discussing two seemingly opposite cultures, actually highlight rather similar phenomenons within the same generation, namely the apparent sense of entitlement, hedonistic approach to life, difficultly dealing with criticism, etc. I cannot help but wonder if this is the result of globalization and the marketing approach we’ve seen for the past 20 years or so. Generation “Me” is not the result of a vacuum, an isolated development but rather, the result of many external influences, amongst which might be consumerism and the social aspiration of consumption as a defining factor of our personalities. Such trend has not emerged only in the western world, but on a global basis, with brands released everywhere simultaneously and campaigns only slightly tailored to local cultures. Also, worth noting, is fame as a social aspiration. Is this related to small/ local communities losing appeal and the appearance of the “global stage”? When we grow up with the impression that the whole world is a village, how could we possible aspire to less than global recognition?

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next decade or two, as this generation matures and actually exercises leadership and drives the decision making process.


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