Last week my father and I went to see Penny Arcade’s final performance of her piece, “Longing Lasts Longer,” which she states was not a monologue, not a comedy show, and not performance art; which was her own special way of saying that it was not one, but a combination of all three.
It was funny, insightful, but most of all: loud.
Penny Arcade is a familiar character of the downtown art scene, and her style of writing and performing has long been talked about as one of the most unique of her era. It is unquestioningly true that there is no artist quite like her.
The set began as a critique of the modern world which is, as we all know, overrun by technology, social media, and consumerism. She contends that since the 1950’s, the waters of materialism have gotten deeper and deeper, resulting in a new generation of people born completely underwater.
And who are those alien water forms?
Millennials, and now Generation Z.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this all before. Millennials suck and Gen X rules, but the thing that has been starting to creep under my skin is, why do people hate us so much, even though there’s a new generation of kids to hate?
It’s no secret that older generations love to diss young people for being lazy, selfish, immature, and rash, and this trend generally stems from the fact that no one likes to get old, and most people don’t really like change. But the issue with America’s hate for Millennials stems deeper than that. It stems toward a dismissal of the world that Millennials have been given, that pushes them toward the bottom at every rung.
One of the things Penny Arcade said about Millennials was that they are so focused on buying new things that they forget that your 20’s used to be a time in your life to travel and explore, to try different things and to find yourself.
And to that I say, ever heard of student debt?
Upon graduation, students who took out loans to attend college have 6 months to find a job before their grace period ends, which sounds like a lot of time until you’re the one with a Bachelor’s degree in English or Biology trying to find a job in an economy that has no jobs for the likes of you.
And to that end, Penny Arcade was correct. We’ve been convinced to get degrees in specialized industries that have no job at the end of the tunnel, specifically a “Masters in Choreography” or “an MFA in Poetry.”
But the point I’m trying to make is, how does someone with $100,000 in debt with an interest rate of 4% (on average), who has 6 months to start paying them back, have any time to fuck around and find herself?
We don’t. We need money, and we need it fast.
Millennials have been handed the worst situation in history. Not only are we in debt from the age of 18, but we are the most educated generation in history, which has not lead us to a promised land of opportunity, but to depression, anxiety, and jobs which are entirely below our qualifications and experience. Do you know what it feels like to have two masters degrees and to be clawing your way to a salary of $40 grand? I bet you don’t.
But getting back to the set, another thing Penny Arcade talked about was the commodification of the East Village, which is a topic I write about often. The grungy lifestyle that so many artists had to endure has now become a characakture of itself.
It’s true, just look around.
The Bowery, which was once a place for poor musicians and junkies to live, now has a mural of Blondie amongst posh restaurants and fitness clubs. Avenues A, B, and C, which used to be dangerous up until the turn of the century, is now crowded, every single night, with party-goers in short skirts and douchey polos.
So the New York of the past is gone, and in large part, so is the lifestyle, since the people who made it so can no longer afford the neighborhood. And in that same vein, the life of the individual has also changed, and the effects of modern technology and globalization are for a large part, irreversible.
So, where does that leave us?
At a table at Joe’s Pub, with expensive cocktails and a two drink minimum, and two East Village natives stuck sitting with a view obstructed by pillars.