Sunday, July 5, 2009

What It's Like to Be Alive Now

Some things people in their 20s don't usually say but often think about, from Belladonna* #121, #4 in the Elders Series, which you should buy if you care about feminism or poetry or art or young people or what Marjorie Perloff thinks of your college major. This book contains a tragedy but is itself a victory:


We are spiritually and economically much poorer than our parents. Upper middle class kids plot their careers as early as middle school, then graduate from college to immediately jump on the vertical ladder. Middle and working class kids, whose families can't afford the blooming tuition rates, are drowning in debt, struggling just to keep their head above water. We are in the middle of a recession, where salaries are stagnating, a master's degree is the new BA, and unpaid internships are replacing entry-level jobs. Stable union work in factories and construction sites are a thing of the past. The cost of living has skyrocketed everywhere, and it is now nearly impossible to pursue causes separate from our jobs like our parents did. [...] Generational identity is an outdated paradigm; we are too busy worrying about our personal survival to care. [...] Many of us no longer are given a chance to make moves in life that aren't documented, that don't only function as a stepping stone to something else. We couldn't even think of taking this road trip unless it took the form of an ambitious project!

--Emma Bee Bernstein, "Introduction"

***

Emma Bee Bernstein: It always enraged me in college when people would say, I would say oh I'm an art major, art history, and they'd say oh that's practical!

Marjorie Perloff: Yeah, I hate that too, I get furious too.

EBB: So what do you say?

MP: You say, "I'm proud to be an art history major. I'm sure it will help me whatever I decide to do." [...]

Nona Willis Aronowitz: I think that it's a generational thing, to graduate with a degree and not to know what career to go into, and both men and women our age are like...

MP: That was always true. I came from a generation where they were all being psychoanalysed, the men too. And they'd go to New York and they'd get some job.

--from "An Interview with Marjorie Perloff"

***

In her introduction to this volume, Emma raises critical and urgent questions through her vivid, pointed expression of the dire effects the speeding up of time and the narrowing of space (despite the expanding virtual field) have had on her own generation. There is no time to merely take a road trip and tool around post-graduation, even to linger over a conversation without turning it into a book, conference, panel, film production, what have you. By now, we all know this--dromocratic revolution is won, we do the best we can, constantly milling toward our next obligation, to our next job. We have little time to talk to each other, and when we do, the computer is the perennial intermediary. In a time in which the option 'dropping out' is long lost, and grass-roots leftist resistance has been siphoned into a happily branded big-tent presidency, we'd like to find the time in which to explore an alternative space through the publication of this book and the conversations that it will engender. We hope that this volume will provide a way to pick up the challenging matters Emma testifies to--of continuity and disruption, speed and anxiety, and the communal limits of virtual life.

--Emily Beall, HR Hegnauer, Erica Kaufman, Rachel Levitsky
[who I hope won't mind me excerpting at such length in order to convince you to get your hands on this book] [since you are reading a blog entry and I am writing one I thought it might apply to us]

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