I’m at a bar in Atlanta. To anyone who lives here little else needs to be said, as most bars are identical no matter the location and who frequents them. But the circumstances surrounding a visit are always different and that ultimately vindicates visiting them on a regular basis. As for myself I am splayed across a booth saving the table for my friends. They are off in the mess of people jostling to order drinks, hoping for the best. One of my friends, Andrew, has graciously offered to buy my beer in return for saving the table. I of course offer to return the favor but opt to buy chicken fingers instead. I’ll return the favor one day, but not soon.
This place is my usual tromping grounds, a place where I come to seek the comforts of a woman’s touch (always unsuccessful) and to while away my weekends in a drunken fog (always successful). The only reason I return is because my good friend has a home here, making it easy to get to the bars without the risk of going to jail. Assuming, of course, I don’t pull one of my usual stunts and start some form of confrontation.
I have a couple stories that I could tell, none too outlandish but worth telling none the less. I am one of those totally confused individuals, at least socially, who for a time thought that acting against propriety was profound. Perhaps there is some form of deep, social criticism in behaving in ways that go against the norm, but when the norm involves plaid and polo wearing dudes accompanied by girls wearing those onesie dresses, there isn’t much profundity available. Despite the homogeneity of my immediate surroundings there is a much more varied world around me. But this generation of ours is so varied that all “unique” inspiration is immediately absorbed into the culture of personal branding. So no matter what you do it’s all old news.
With that in mind it becomes apparent how difficult it is to really define who you are, if you are about defining yourself independently of the rest of society. I say this in light of the great minds of the counter cultural movement, those who lived during the grand decades of the 60’s and 70’s and helped define who we are today. They were the pathfinders, the trailblazers, the conquistadors of the absurd and the unknown. But they set us up for who we are today. I see our generation as being what the 50’s were to the Beats; stiff, complacent, and uninspired. That is a harsh view and admittedly unwarranted considering the creative minds behind social media and the silicon revolution. But if you think of it the vast majority of us are cruising on the achievements of a grand few. We are simply taking advantage of their innovations and trying to make them our own through our own meager and domestic endeavors.
But I wonder if each cultural phase is not defined by the masses but rather by the individuals, the ones who choose to challenge all that we hold as truth, as unquestionable. If that is the case, what does it say about us, the many living day to day on the customs established by the innovators from before? Are we just automatons grinding away with our petty ideals of independence? Are we just slaves to the establishment?