BemTalks™: The Pivot in Culture

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I sat down with Bem Joiner at Barnes and Noble. Interesting discussions filled with generational questions were presented as we got to know each other. A couple of common denominators sprung to the forefront of our discussions; the pivot of creative movement between generations and the friction between Generation X versus the children of the information age.

As we all know, Atlanta is in a cultural Renaissance of sorts. Whether it’s film, fashion, music, or art, Atlanta has produced influential players. But has this dramatic “pivot” in generations empowered the youth or merely gave them a false sense of entitlement?
Let me begin by explaining what he means by this “pivot.”

We all know that the internet and mass media changed the world dramatically. Rather than an artist knocking on doors and begging for someone to listen to their track, they can post it online and market it themselves to create a fan base prior to ever being heard by a major label. That is only a small example of a much grander scheme. From social media to having any answer a simple Google search away, my generation (the Millennials) are far more privileged than generations before us.

Due to this privilege, it’s safe to say that many older creatives feel a sense of ignorance on behalf of the Millennials to pay homage to the ground work drafted by Generation X.

So as I expressed to him how I feel about this false sense of entitlement that my generations seems to let off, he merely replied with, “Yeah, some may feel entitled, but many more feel empowered.”

That stark point was one that I could not argue against. Of course, we feel empowered! We have a world ripe with opportunities and many new ways to make a living outside of the conventional avenues that generations before us felt obligated to pursue.

“There was no gratification in being different,” he said, “women didn’t want to fuck with it.”

He continued on to explain this in more detail as he discribed how different it was back then. A young black male only had a handful of options to make something of himself and worse yet, the opportunities out there were

“They say I have Peter Pan Syndrome,” Bem stated jokingly as we discussed the fact that many creatives from his generation gave up their creative passions to pursue more financially stable or (as the average person likes to call it) realistic aspirations. At a certain age, everyone is looking for stability,” he continued. All I could do is nod and say, “life happens.”

Luckily for us youngsters, we found that we’re not necessarily obligated to follow the paths of our parents. Being completely yourself and living as you see fit is more acceptable and even respected in this day and age. We praise the weirdos and unique. We embrace the innovation of our culture. As I previously noted, music is a perfect scope to study the changes between generations.

“Kanye’s College Dropout was a pivotal point in culture,” Bem said, “never before was there someone rapping about dropping out of college because it wasn’t for them.”

He makes a valid point. Kanye West being one of the most influential rappers out today definitely made a statement for the alternative thinking culture of the time. Growing up I was taught the procedure was simple; go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job, work hard, retire, die. The system that was built to “simplify” our lives only deprived us our individuality. Of course we talked about how some people fit in the system and that’s why the system works. On the other hand, there are the people like Bem, who don’t quite fit in those boxes. Many get lost in the looming approval of the system, but now more than ever, there are options. You can find your niche in society and customize your life to fit your individual ideals, an option Generation X created for us Information Children.

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