Friday, November 30, 2007


One thing that's great about my recent unemployment? Time to read. And reading means exposure to new ideas. And new ideas mean inspiration. Hurray.

Take two articles, the first David Brook's article "The Organization Kid", from way back in April, 2001 (remember when that was the science fiction future?) and another, Andrew Keen's article "Web 2.0 The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think." from February, 2006. Isn't it great when information converges over time?

First, credit where credit's due. These came to my attention from two blogs I read regularly (thanks to RSS!), the penny for your thoughts blog "1cent talk on nptech" and "Urban Community". They are two great reasons to keep browsing the blogosphere!

"The Organization Kid" paints a frightening picture of a new generation so conformist and content that they have become complacent, obedient even bland. Compared to the generation before who questioned authority, the organization kid isn't disturbed by authority. The key? An underlying belief that life is just.

They are responsible. They are generous. They are bright. They are good-natured. ...Evil is seen as something that can be cured with better education, or therapy, or Prozac. Instead of virtue (they) about accomplishment.
I find this fascinating because so much of my life has been devoted to a pursuit of justice. In other words, I have a belief that life is not just. I always figured it to be part of a gloomy personality type and that if only I had been blessed with a more cheerful basic life view, that I'd find the world more just. Hmmm. That's a whole 'nother can of worms.

What I'm thinking is that, hey, maybe a bit of skepticism ain't a bad thing after all.

Brooks gave us this outline of a new type back in 2001, and even though he was studying the completely non representative group of Princeton students, his portrait rings true. War protests (and other forms of social protest) seem more the territory of the 60's generation than todays college students and "under 30's".

Now, on the other hand, take Andrew Keen's article "Web 2.0: The second generation of the Internet has arrived. It's worse than you think." Keen keenly observes (sorry couldn't resist):

Buzzwords from the old era--like "cool," "eyeballs," or "burn-rate"--have been replaced in Web 2.0 by language which is simultaneously more militant and absurd: Empowering citizen media, radically democratize, smash elitism, content redistribution, authentic community . . . . This sociological jargon, once the preserve of the hippie counterculture, has now become the lexicon of new media capitalism.
So, is there a rebirth of the new conformist? or the hippie counterculture? Let's make up our minds. Want the truth? Think twice, it's scary. The truth (according to Pam) is that the young hip marketing folks must have discovered how sexy and marketable "radical" is. I haven't heard anything about the "radical chic" since my old dog-eared copy of Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers". It's not what he was talking about exactly, but same principle.

You know all the talk about the impending "leadership crisis" in nonprofits. OK, so if you don't, the basic idea is that the boomers will all being retiring and then who will run today's nonprofits? I don't think there will even be blip, those jobs will be filled chop-chop. All I can say is this... let's hope the sexiness of radicalism rubs off on our new conformists.

An Aside:

Keene's article really held a quite different premise, that:

(in)the Web 2.0 world ... the nightmare is not the scarcity, but the over-abundance of authors. Since everyone will use digital media to express themselves, the only decisive act will be to not mark the paper. Not writing as rebellion sounds bizarre--like a piece of fiction authored by Franz Kafka. But one of the unintended consequences of the Web 2.0 future may well be that everyone is an author, while there is no longer any audience.
The threat doesn't give me pause. I say the more the merrier. After all, where would I have had the chance to read these two articles written six years apart, and then brought to me via nonprofit bloggers, were it not for all this information overload?

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janet said...

I remember this great cartoon in Mad Magazine from about 1964 that graphically illustrated the inevitable dialectic of generational identity. The gist of this was that Fred and Ginger were a black leather clad motor cycle riding couple who gave birth to Elvis and Gidget later seen in preppy splendor when they grew up.

This 'strange' new passive acceptance you describe matches perfectly the description of 1950's Cold War driven conformism my generation rebelled against during the epic 60's.
We were the true Baby Boomers born between 1945 and 1950 and were named after WWII cultural icons like Ingrid and the Duke.

Following on our heels was the Reagan 'Me' generation. Those aren't our kids (of course not, those were Little Elvis and Gidget grown up,) because we waited until we were ten years older than our mothers to start families.

My generation's little Simone and Jack and Angela, and Mario and Joan and Bruce
(named after deBeauvoir, Kerouac, Davis, Savio, Baez and Springsteen respectively) have gone to Law School and Business School.

Little Ginger and Fred's moms and dads (Scott and Zelda) were the conservative children of Jazz age flappers. Although I am certain all those 'new' leaders who will take our places might well be registered Republicans, I promise you the pendulum will swing back. There is only one absolute certainty in all of this and that is the fact each generation pushes against the one that preceded it.

It is helpful in moments like this when one is inclined to think the sky might be falling to remember just which cultural icon George W appears to most closely resemble.

1cent NPTech said...


Nice comparison of the two articles and thanks for the small credit, it was actually passed to me from a friend also.

One of the thoughts that intrigued me with the Keen article was the fact that with so many authors, the internet allows or even encourages us to only read things we agree with. With so much to look at and with RSS filters and such we could spend all of our time only looking at things we already know and agree with. While at the same time the opposite is true, with so many authors it is easy to find and read things that completely contradict each other to encourage thought and debate, BUT only if you allow that information through your firewall.

but anyway...