Following is Editor, Robert Fogarty’s editorial in the current issue of The Antioch Review.
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
The Yale University Press has just published a first-rate study of what the authors Howard Gardner and Katie Davis call The App Generation. It is the latest in series of generational sets (Millennials, Gen X & Y, Boomers) that have engaged not only researchers like Harvard’s Gardner, the author of the much acclaimed work on multiple intelligences, but a generation of op-ed writers who lament (usually) the passing of the torch or the dropping of the baton due to ignorance, inattention, or, most likely, narcissism. This, historically, all harkens back to Karl Mannheim’s famous 1923 essay “The Problem of Generations,” which was the first systematic effort to
Antioch Review editor, Robert Fogarty
construct a sociology of generations. Mannheim let the cat out of the bag and since then it has been hard to rein in the speculations. See David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd for example.
This generation tends to forget that there was a lost generation (“Une Generation Perdue” according to Gertrude Stein) in the 1920s or that a whole region—the South—was dismissed by the historian Henry Adams in a page wherein he talks about how some of his Virginia-bred classmates at Harvard did poorly at both school and warfare. Hemingway thought, “all generations were lost by something and always had been and would be.” Now it seems that the talk is all about the current batch of generations who commentators muse about in columns on the right hand page of your local paper or are reported about in well-financed research studies funded by the major foundations.
In The App Generation Gardner and Davis assert that the changes (new technologies, social upheaval) are coming so fast that the standard twenty-year span that characterizes a “generation” may be reduced to a mere five years, only to be quickly overtaken by another cohort raised and nurtured in a hothouse culture driven by even more changes. Whatever happened to Tina Brown?
Our essays have no statistical validity other than our authors’ own memories, as in Steffan Hruby’s “New Age Atheist,” which chronicles his father’s immersion in the “men’s movement” that was sparked, in part, by the poet Robert Bly in Minneapolis, the capital of the twelve step program. It is followed by Suruchi Mohan’s “Visiting Mother” that lays bare—in emotional terms—the lack of inter-generational understanding. Tomasz Kamusella takes us to Japan’s northern coast to assess the impact of an American modernizer on generations of citizens in Hokkaido. Luis Francia’s essay on José Rizal, the George Washington of the Philippines, who over time shaped the direction of his country that few outside it know. Jeffrey Meyers whom we have published on an almost yearly basis since 2003 once again graces our pages. Most these writers are new to our pages and their ages are unknown to me.
All of our fiction writers (Benbow, Brown, Gordon, Rooke) are seasoned veterans of these pages and are known to several generations of readers for their excellent stories. We close with an essay by John Taylor on Turkish poets. Taylor is a native of Iowa, lives in France, and will spend next year at the American Academy in Rome translating the works of a Florentine poet for future generations.
Sometimes we use quotations to preface our editorials; yet it seems appropriate to end this one with the famous lines from William Butler Yeats Sailing to Byzantium published in 1928:
That is no country for old men.The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
© 2014 The Antioch Review