I've got this shirt that looks like someone put all the coloured swirls and fluro patterns from the title sequence of Saved by the Bell onto one glorious piece of attire. On its own merit it looks horrendous, but I bought it because it so accurately captured a design style that I hate - that early 90's fluro swirl pattern thing that hit its apex with this Saved by the Bell intro. Seeing the shirt hit me with a wave of nostalgia - so I bought and wear it often.
I was thinking about why I wear it though, it's not as if on an aesthetic level I like the look of it - it's almost that I enjoy it as a cultural reference, a homage to the mistakes of the past, like a really subtle joke t-shirt that only 90's kids will get. At the heart I think it's pure irony, and it's not just a fashion thing. We're in a culture of irony, where sincerity is scarce - everything from that status to that snapchat to that bucket hat can be twisted into (or overtly) a cultural reference or a self depreciating joke. There's an article by the New York Times about just how ironic our generation is. I love this quote from it:
"It stems in part from the belief that this generation has little to offer in terms of culture, that everything has already been done, or that serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst. This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action."
Previous generations believed they were on the cusp of new, fresh cultural developments. New styles of music, new ways of dressing and new causes to get behind fuelled the excitement that they were changing things. But where is that belief for us? Sure we like what's new but it's certainly not groundbreaking. Taking up turntables, typewriters and old-school shaving are almost a protest to the technological advancements of our generation. So that belief that as young people we have nothing really new to offer takes form in this closing in of self, this apathetic irony that gives us no cause, no united voice, no cultural shifts to our name.
It's kind of scary how pervasive this culture of irony is in our generation. Although it is scary, I kind of love it, it means I have this constant shield of irony wherever I go, this escape clause from embarrassment or failure. I just wonder if that runs away from our call to be vulnerable - when we ditch sincerity for irony, when we take our heart off our sleeve and put wrap it in an enigma of lol's and meta jokes.
As a Church we have such a gift of sincerity that maybe our generation is desperate for, I remember on my Year 12 retreat doing sincere affirmations with people. So many tears. It's a beautiful thing to break down the walls that we spend so much time putting up - and that's what happens when we partake in the sacraments. All this time we spend hiding our insecurities is smashed away before the Eucharist and at Reconciliation. I don't think these walls are particularly generational, however I think the way it plays out with our generation is with this culture of irony. And with that irony comes this cry out for sincerity, for genuine love, for authentic likes and dislikes, for tangible relationships built on love and trust - not on inside jokes and pop culture references.
Liam has a passion for all things visual, aural and tactile. As a regional assistant for Marist Youth Ministry, his role involves real-world youth ministry as well as graphic design, videography and web-stuff. Finding a home in the Church has pushed him to move other young people into a place where they can encounter Jesus Christ. When he's not making a sweet multimedia he enjoys bush-walking, swimming and all manner of nature related activities. He also digs good mobster films, bad Kung-Fu movies and kind-of-all-right Westerns.