From Sarah’s LJ:
we’re part of a generation, a suffering generation, with insufficient outlets, the past can no longer help us, we need to help ourselves. I mean, I guess that goes for every generation — you need to find your own anthems and bibles and whatever.
I keep thinking the same thing. And I keep wanting to give voice to that, through my writing, only it’s such a big task and I don’t know where to start.
3 responses to “Finding our voice”
Kristan, I’ve been periodically following your blog since I found it a few months ago (and, if you remember, left a comment about Houston), but I have to say – speaking as someone who’s older – that I don’t entirely buy the idea of a “suffering generation.” There’s something false about it, as if it’s equating a feeling of detachment to starvation, illness, the death of a child. It almost has a touch of arrogance about it – as if you could speak of suffering to a survivor of say, the Nazi or Rwandan Holocausts or Darfur.
And what is considered suffering changes over time. Now that I’m a mother, suffering is what I would experience if my children were hurt (the big stuff – not cuts, scrapes, bumps), not what happens to me unless it’s something that would keep me from caring for them.
That said, I understand the context in which the remark was made, and thought Gretel Ehrlich spoke to a similar feeling in this passage from The Solace of Open Spaces:
“So much in American life has had a corrupting influence on our requirements for social order. We live in a culture that has lost its memory. Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents’ pasts instructs us how to live today, or tells us who we are or what demands will be made on us as members of society. The shrill estrangement many of us felt in our twenties has been replaced a decade or so later by a hangdog, collective blues. With our burgeoning careers and families, we want to join up, but it’s difficult to know how or where. The changing conditions of life are no longer assimilated back into a common watering trough. Now, with our senses enlivened – because that’s the only context we have to go by – we hook change onto change ad nauseam.”
I haven’t been able to find out her age, but suspect Ehrlich’s in her late 50’s or early 60’s.
Margie, yes, I remember! Thank you for commenting again. :)
I agree with you, that calling ourselves a “suffering” generation seems arrogant since, in the larger scheme of things, our problems are really not so terrible. But problems are problems, and I think (or would like to think) that a cancer survivor would be as sympathetic to a young teen suffering from depression as vice versa. Or an Indian orphan to a CEO whose wife cheats on him and is hated by his children, and vice versa. At the end of the day, I think all parties could “objectively” evaluate whose problem was the worst, but they would probably all agree they have problems that deserve attention.
And I actually think that all their problems are related, that “our generation” encompasses many different types and degrees of suffering around the world. Of course I didn’t make that clear in the post, because (as my boyfriend will tell you) I never make myself as clear as I should. :P
So anyway, I just want to give some attention to the problems that my generation faces. As Ehrlich said (and thank you for sharing that quote with me!), “Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents’ pasts instructs us how to live today, or tells us who we are or what demands will be made on us as members of society.” Meaning that someone, some voice does need to help guide us. And I’d like to be a part of that.
I hope that is more clear and less false or offensive! I appreciate your feedback and the discussion!