Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, “You’re all a lost generation.” That got around to certain people and we all said, Whee! We’re lost. Perhaps it suddenly brought us to the sense of change. Or irresponsibility. But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time.
– Dorothy Parker, qtd. in The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 1
It seems to me like every generation is intent on blaming the problems of the world on its youngest members. Stein swung a literary lasso around a group of talented writers, artists, and creators, and branded them with a label that is still used almost a century later. The label affixed to the collective forehead of my generation is “selfie.” Instead of lost, we are selfish. Instead of a literary collective, we are junkies looking for our next fix of internet glory.
Never mind the fact that, as Parker tells us, the “Lost Generation” worked hard to create something worth keeping. Never mind that they are still read and loved today. Never mind that my generation is stuck in economic quicksand handed down by the generation that mocks them, and that we are building up our own forms of communication, interaction, and acceptance through an internet that the last generation still struggles to comprehend.
I am not an optimist. I do not know that I believe that one day we will have a world where people work together to build instead of tearing each other down. But I do believe in hope. So next time someone harasses you for taking a picture of yourself or using “lol” in a text message, forgive him. Forgive him for being blind to culture, to freedom, to the inevitability of progress. Remember that the “Lost Generation” was no more and no less lost than you–and no one is remembering their failures. When we think of Hemingway, we think of modern, crisp prose. When we think of Fitzgerald, we think of love and longing and high school English. When we think of Parker, we remember her witticisms.
Let them remember us that way. Let the kids growing up in 2114 remember our penchant for snapchat, our ability to marathon entire television series, let them remember our fanart, and our glorious ability to build a life on the internet regardless of our circumstances in the world outside the door. We are a generation born of a world no one predicted. Let them remember that.