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Your ennui is not your own
On generational labels, "Office Space", and why it's best to know your history before falling into nihilism
Given the memes and mixing that arise from communication via social networks, perhaps the very notion of "the voice of a generation" has met its end. With a comment that strikes the right chord, anyone can become the voice of their generation for a fleeting moment; but when anyone can be a thing, then nobody is special for being that thing.
■ The value of generational labels is easy to overstate, but that doesn't stop people from trying to stake out their claims. And with every new day bringing new people into adulthood, it's no surprise that young adults are angst-ridden over the mundane functions of work.
■ Yet today's complaint on social media doesn't really reveal anything that wasn't already covered by Mike Judge's 1999 movie "Office Space". And that scarcely explored any concepts that hadn't been uncovered in 1956 by "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit".
■ One of the greatest modern pieces on the struggle for meaning and existence within a culture obsessed with business and commerce was "Babbitt", written in '22. (Just don't tell the kids it was 1922.)
■ It takes some wisdom -- and more than a little bit of humility -- to realize that most of our feelings aren't new. The particular triggers and circumstances may vary, but when you're wondering about the purpose of showing up at a cubicle for 40 hours a week, you're going through something scarcely different from when a philosopher like Lucius Seneca weighed the meaning of work 2,000 years ago: "The much occupied man has no time for wantonness, and it is an obvious commonplace that the evils of leisure can be shaken off by hard work."
■ The more time we spend immersed in digital interactions, the greater the risk that we'll miss the deep continuity of human life. The generations who came before us aren't the ones hurt if we ignore their experiences and the notes they left behind. It only hurts us (and maybe our younger brothers and sisters).