Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Kids These Days

"Kids these days, am I right? They keep doing stupid things," Your Facebook friend says in a post, "Somewhere down the line we must have failed in raising our children, because if we did well enough they wouldn't have started eating Tide Pods, snorting condoms, or whatever dabbing is. We survived childhood with spankings and playing outside! Gen Z is going to be the end of us."

There are probably thousands of posts along that vein; kids nowadays are dumb, and they do dumb things because they're dumb. Maybe it's just because I'm a part of the Millennial generation, but I don't think that's a fair assessment. Don't get me wrong, Gen Z eating laundry detergent packets isn't the brightest move by a long shot, and my generation spearheading "The Cinnamon Challenge" and planking doesn't help matters either, but to say that Gen Z-- or Millennials, for that matter-- are comparatively dumb ignores the past in an egregious way.

My favorite example of older generations doing stupid shit stems from the 1970s. As told in the Harvard Chronicle on May 7, 1973, some students got into eating light bulbs. One Harvard glass eater described coughing up blood "for a few days after swallowing an insufficiently chewed piece of a whiskey bottle" but had no trouble when eating the thinner glass of light bulbs. Keep in mind, of course, that these are Harvard University students I'm talking about here. Some of what were considered the best minds in the nation defended their hobby of eating glass by saying "At UMass they get into clothes dryers, turn them on, and see how many times they can go around without throwing up." The article states the record was 100 times.

There was phonebooth stuffing in the 1950s, where people would see how many college students could be squeezed into a phone box, like if the TARDIS from Doctor Who wasn't larger on the inside. Though, after that fad came hunkerin', which is essentially the mid-century equivalent of the "Slav Squat" meme of today:
It's like an alternate history of The Cold War
(left photo from Life, right image from Hint)
Hunkerin' was such a fad that, according to a Time Magazine article in 1959, people were suggesting US President Eisenhower and Secretary Khrushchev of the USSR to hunker together to set aside their differences and end the Cold War. That's basically like telling Trump and Kim Jong Un to dab for peace. It's just as ridiculous, but it was the in-thing back in the day. 

Goldfish eating was a thing that happened in the 1930s since they didn't have Tide Pods yet. Starting in Harvard (true innovators, really) in 1939, students across the US decided it would be hilarious and fun to swallow live goldfish, making them at least irresponsible pet owners and at most puking messes wasting college tuition. The challenge was to see how many they could eat, with schools competing to see who would win what essentially was a really fresh but cheap sushi eating contest. 

The 1920s had flagpole sitting, which is more than a song from the late 90s: it was people sitting on flagpoles for long periods of time, which is pretty stupid and the grandfather of planking. Though, if you want to dive in to the ancient ancestor of planking, there's the stylites that lived, fasted, and preached on top of pillars. In their regard it's more akin to chaining ones self to a tree to protest logging, but it's still someone on top of a post for attention. 

Kids do dumb things, but they've always done dumb things. What sets Gen Z apart from the rest of history is that they have the largest global platform to display their stupid trends. If people in previous decades had the internet as we know it today there would absolutely be YouTube videos of kids eating glass as a prank or Facebook posts of Harvard guys taking goldfish shots, but they didn't have those platforms. We look at the stupid, reckless behavior of kids today because it's everywhere. You don't have to be in an Ivy League school to see people do dumb shit anymore. Previous generations aren't as infallible as they like to think; they're just forgetful. Probably from eating all that glass or for having all those toothaches.

Cures your toothache and helps you understand why the 70s and 80s were how they were
Next time you start to shit on Gen Z for being stupid, remember that the ones broadcasting stupid behavior aren't representative of the whole generation. Don't be the asshole who thinks your generation was perfect either. If Mozart's canon "Leck Mich Im Arsch" about eating ass can teach us anything, it's that people have done and enjoyed silly and stupid shit forever and will do and enjoy it forever. Get off your high horse; this generation is just as doomed as the rest.