Sunday, September 17, 2006

Every generation is given a name by which they are eternally recognized; a name that echoes into the future carrying the zeitgeist of that time. The Baby Boomer generation is the most recognized today, conjuring up images of the influential young men and women of the 1970's, the affluent, compassionate, and liberal youth who ushered in the civil rights movement, stood united against war, corruption, and greed, and went on to bring about the biggest economic boom in recent times. There is no question that the connotation of a generation is contained in its nickname.

Pedants and the media squibble over what to call the current generation. Generation I, Generation Internet, Generation iPod, Generation MySpace; all of these and more have been suggested to describe the rapidly evolving and tech-savvy kids, who are growing up fast to make the future inseparable from advancing and emerging technologies. These kids use tools their parents do not understand; the growing group of computer-illiterate mothers and fathers are left in the dust as their children blog, instant message, video chat, hack, shop online, mmpog, and quite literally live in a virtual world for many hours a day. This world is difficult to regulate, the few rules that exist are more like guidelines, and the freedom to create one's own identity and work towards one's own ends are what define this virtual world, and its vast appeal. This is uncharted territory, and its cultural and economic leaders are the current generation, who boldly go forth into cyberspace to leave their marks. This is not the generation of the internet; the internet was created long before it emerged as the social landmark it is today. This is the generation of explorers intent on reaching their ends; this is a generation of pirates.

The term "pirate", thanks largely to an internet phenomenon, which is ironic in itself, has no negative connotation among the current youth; in fact, a positive one, as evidenced by the unparalleled success of movies glorifying pirates.

There are several obvious reasons one could point to in favor of naming this Generation: Pirates. Besides the widespread appeal of pirates in film, the dilemma familiar to anyone aware of internet cultural phenomena has finally resolved itself in the eventual victory of pirates over ninjas, with ninja-supporting looked down at as representing the out-of-touch, ex-internet socialite, desperate to return things to the way they were ten or more years ago.

There is also the incredible rise of file-sharing; peer-to-peer networks have made software, audio, and video piracy into one of the biggest international economic and legal concerns of our time.

But this generation has far, far more to do with pirates than the simple literal interpretation; the very spirit of the rising social, economic, and intellectual leaders embodies what it means to be the fabled "benevolent pirate". Their attitude of self-service combined with a code of ethics reached through pure intellectual questioning characterizes this generation more than any; shunning religion, the emphasis of today's techno-youth lies in self-determination of right and wrong, not faith in some predefined moral system. Socially and philosophically, this generation is churning out atheists and agnostics in huge numbers, swelling the ranks of the intellectual elites. By leaving behind the moral color-by-number of organized religion, this generation takes on new risks and responsibilities associated with moral self-government.

Pirates are, in a manner of speaking, the ultimate capitalists; the death of socialism and the growing support for the free market among America's youth signify this trend. The ability of most capitalists to support a certain level of regulation for the greater good of society allows them to still act like heroes, instead of the unredeemably cutthroat pirates of legend.

With current events being thrown at the new generation from every mass media orifice, the painful events of 9/11, the uncertainty over war in Iraq, disputes over family values and definitions of morality, and high levels of distrust for those accused profit-seeking in government, cannot easily be ignored by these impressionable youth. This generation, who grew up watching The Matrix, and questioning the morality of those in authority, would much rather seek its own definition of what should and should not be done, than listen to what has been pre-ordained. Children are closer to their parents, reporting lower levels of discontent and fights with their families than ever, but less likely to register in the same political party, or belong to the same religion, as dear old mum and dad. This is stands juxtaposed to all previously polled generations, who didn't get along as well personally, but did not greatly differ in beliefs, from their parents. What does this mean? What is changing?

Perhaps this generation is realizing the importance of close family bonds and social ties, emphasizing the trust that can only exist in a relationship between parent and child, while at the same time recognizing the essential nature of ideological questioning, and taking their brave steps alone in that direction instead.

This is what it means to be a pirate, a pioneer with no respect for authority; who has the right to tell the world what is right? Who can govern a generation with untestable ideas? Intellectual pirates, that's the essence of the new generation. An uncharted world constantly being created, ideas mercilessly being questioned, people promoting themselves and the people they love. The new social and economic frontier is in cyberspace now, with the full force of the ensuing intellectual revolution yet to come.

**Note: International Talk Like a Pirate Day is this Tuesday, September 19th.


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At 7:01:00 PM , Blogger Pascale Mackey said...

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