The Big Issue : Edition 489
culture police Fiona Scott-Norman THE BIG ISSUE 24 JULY – 6 AUG 2015 29 ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH IT’S TIME FOR A GENERATION OF INDIVIDUALS TO DO SOMETHING. Gen Xers, Unite party had erupted, and to join FB’s virtual mardi gras parade all you needed was Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughtfully provided one-click rainbow filter. It was cheesy and amazing. A tsunami of solidarity and celebration that moved many of my GLBTI friends to tears. And yet I resisted, as did many of my totally gay-friendly acquaintances, even though inside we were all jumping up and down with joy like toddlers in a bouncy castle. Partly because no one likes to be manipulated by FB, which is, actually, a ridiculous stance if you’re already on FB. No, mainly it was just the usual, visceral, aversion to being part of the herd. To being seen as compliant. I got around it by painting a rainbow on my face, and making that my profile picture (individuality high five!) Others reiterated their philosophy of Not Joining In, or rainbowed up late and grudgingly. Which is all fine. Except if we can’t bring ourselves to leap on board a lovely gesture celebrating something we deeply believe in, if we can’t commit to that, we are of no use in the battle. And a battle is, I suspect, upon us, because we’re watching some frankly surreal shit going down in Australia at the moment. In the same week that the government approved the Shenhua coalmine on agricultural land in NSW, it withdrew funding for renewable energy. Doctors and teachers have been gagged from speaking out about conditions in refugee detention centres, even as ‘The Forgotten Children’ report tabled instances of hundreds of children being assaulted in detention. Tony Abbott wants to prescribe who can appear on the ABC, and how Q&A is produced, because of bias. Yet as of 25 June, federal parliament Speaker Bronwyn Bishop had ejected 393 Labor to seven Coalition MPs. And gay marriage in Australia? We don’t look to America for a precedent. So, this is a call to arms, Gen Xers. It’s time to place our individuality and ego to one side, join an organisation or party, and door knock. Agitate. Do something. Because our biological clock is ticking, and the alarm is ringing on our ovaries. RARELY DOES A work of fiction shoot the zeitgeist so unnervingly through the eye socket as Generation X, Douglas Coupland’s 1991 anthropological harpoon of a novel. McJobs. Ironic detachment. Op-shop clothes from mismatched eras. Sure, now it’s all ‘Der Fred. So what?’, but back then it had a hallucinatory quality, like reading your own obituary. Coupland’s portrait of sarcastic, emotionally disconnected slackers pinned our post-Boomer wings to a specimen board. Gen X – those born between 1961 and 1979 – was the first generation, let’s face it, ever, who were freed from traditional expectations. Marriage? Kids? God? Full-time work? Underwear? All optional and to be treated with suspicion. Seriously, it was nuts, and growing up an Xer is essentially why I’m an unmarried childfree atheist, with a career that would make a good patchwork quilt and ditto for my knickers. The irony – and boy did we love irony – was that the defining feature of Generation X was that we refused to be defined. Death before allegiance. I remember calling my best friend, a deeply cynical writer who lived on white bread cheese sandwiches, and telling him I’d read this terrific book, it was unnervingly us, and that we were Gen Xers. He sputtered like pig fat in a furnace; he most certainly was not part of any ‘demographic’. He could not be labelled. He was, thankyouverymuch, an individual. Sure you are tiger. Exactly like the rest of us. Free as a bird caught in a powerful updraught. Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and we’re still reluctant to join. Wary of being categorised. Of course there are multiple issues in play, but it tallies that in the past three decades membership of political parties has fallen off a cliff, and the age of first-time mothers has ratcheted upwards. A lot of Gen X women woke abruptly from the freedom-of- choice fog in their late thirties and realised they’d better get a move on as their ovaries didn’t give a rat’s ring about ideology. Ah, Generation X. From our cold, dead, highly individual hands you will prise our disinclination to bow to the dominant paradigm. I noticed this playing out on social media, just after the US Supreme Court decision in June that made marriage equality legal throughout America. My Facebook feed lit up with candy colours like an explosion in a My Little Pony factory. A victory » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.