2009: Making Things Real Again
Jeffrey Luppino-Esposito EDITOR
It’s 2009. We are 3 years away from our supposed destruction on Earth. We are 9 years past our last supposed destruction on Earth. We are in transition, I suppose. Yet, allow me to say this again. It’s 2009. Why does it still feel like the year 2000? How has it been 9 years?
It couldn’t be my personal place in time—the jump from age 10 to 19 is prime meat for some coming-of-age paperback. It sure as hell isn’t the lack of excitement on the larger scale… did I say excitement, I meant bloodshed. Same thing I guess. So what is missing? Are we disappointed? Is this what happens when you survive what you shouldn’t have and are just floating in time and space until your next chance to end… or start over?
Dear friends. Wait, can I call you that? I hope so. Dear friends, I’ve been thinking about all this a lot lately, and believe it or not, I’m pretty sure that we, you and I, may actually be able to figure this out, together.
1990 was nearly 20 years ago. Just had to say that again so we’re all on the same page. You remember the 90’s though, right? Pretty clearly, I bet. You remember the things. The solid things that you could hold in your hand and buy and trade and hoard because you believed that one day they’d be worth something. But, where are those things now?
No, I don’t mean the physical items; I’m sure the beanie babies are in your basement with the pogs and the power rangers and the everything else that meant the world to you or your son or daughter. I mean where are the physical items today.
Think about what you heard in the news this holiday season. Or rather, what you didn’t hear. No reports of parents brawling in Toys R Us over the last action figure in stock. Was there a popular doll, or true toy of any kind? The answer is simply ‘no’.
What were the gifts this year instead? Iphones, definitely. But that’s for the ‘grown ups’, what about the kids? The Wii? Yes, it sold well, but who is that for? More parents find themselves playing the mindless recreations of reality on that system than kids anyway. Or they try to make it a ‘family’ occasion, ha.
Regardless of their intended market, these aren’t even highly accessible products. They are wildly expensive, and even if they are purchased, they can’t be ‘played with’ or imagined upon in the way that the fads of the 90s and the toys of the past could.
Can kids not be ‘kids’ anymore because the simple pleasures and unimpressive little toys don’t exist? More importantly, is this what modern parent wants? A leap out of childhood and into the big boy world since it’s going to happen eventually anyway?
I think of the kids today because when I imagine the 90’s it comes with the weight of my own childhood. It’s a light load. One filled with insignificant physical items that I could hold and buy and trade and hoard. They were items that we could all afford in some capacity, and they were celebrated for what they were on an extremely basic level.
I’m not asking you to throw away technology. I’m asking you to consider the effects that a lack of ‘things’ can have on a people. I don’t think I’m being bias either. I know, I know you’re thinking—of course you’re bias, you’re nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ that you’ve convinced yourself of having actually existed in your pigeon hole of the living experience. No no, my dear friend (if I can still call you that), the kids are saying it too. The kids who never even knew these days of yore are saying it subconsciously.
Go to YouTube or some other popular website (go ahead, use your iphone, that’s probably what they’re using too). See how many young children have accounts. A lot, right? Ok, well, that’s not the problem, but we’re almost there. Now go look to see their comments on other videos or articles or whatever it is that the website offers. Pretty harsh, huh? If you look close enough you’ll see some ridiculously high expectations and remarkably critical comments out of 12 year olds.
Is it that these kids are just so much more advanced than I was 10 years ago that they require incredibly high quality entertainment when I could be pleased by just tooling around with some Ninja Turtles action figures? I highly doubt that. What I do believe, however, is that they are telling us something.
The youth of this decade are showing us very clearly that they are aware that something is missing. The world of the internet and virtual reality demands higher expectations out of kids at ages that once required only a basic piece of molded plastic to keep them pleasantly distracted. They demand more because they instinctively distrust and are underwhelmed by the invisible world that they are being forced to grow up (quickly) into.
At some level, I believe, they are mindful of the fact that the intangible is not nearly as satisfying as the physical. They don’t need to know if these physical items ever existed or what they were or could be. They just feel the absence. For those of us observing, we become keenly aware of it because we once held (and bought and traded and hoarded) the items that they unknowingly lack.
We are between two supposed ends of the world. If we are a people in transition, then it is all the more necessary that we find things to hold onto again. At the very least, for the sake of the kids. We are an extremely demanding body of internet users because we too know that we are missing something as we float around in this invisible abyss. The worst part, unlike the kids, is that we actually know what it is we’re missing. Or maybe, just maybe, that’s the best part—because we can do something about it.
In the year 2000 we thought the world was going to end because all the computers were going to get confused and lead to our demise. It’s as if we knew what was coming in the next decade. Even if the world didn’t end, we were right to be afraid. Let’s not allow the 0’s and 1’s scare us so damn much anymore.
In 2009, make an effort to find something physical in your life that means something to you. That’s right, I’m asking you to be materialistic this year. Print out some of your favorite photos off of Facebook, frame them. Go buy some toys for yourself. Hell, a board game, I don’t care, just do it. Put down the guitar hero, go buy a real guitar. Most importantly, for you parents out there, put back the Wii. Go outside and have a catch—with a real ball and a real glove with your real child, simply because you can, and because it will make a real difference.
Happy New Year, my dear friends.
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