There Is No “Before” and “After”

In “What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet,” author Michael Harris posits this:

“If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.

To his credit, the author doesn’t rail against an Internet Demon or anything like that. He’s more anxious about his own plugged-in behavior.

But that premise, quoted above, is false.

It’s also why I get impatient with the “Well, I wasn’t born when that came out, so how could I possibly know about it?” wail.


–I wasn’t born when cylinder records came out, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t figure out how to make them work, how to immerse myself in their operation, and how to enjoy their rather awesome sound quality (and make recordings thereof).

–I wasn’t born when Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake made “This Gun For Hire,” but that didn’t mean I wasn’t able to exercise choice and watch it when it came on TV.

–I also missed pockets of music that were made before I was hatched, but hey, we’ve had YouTube for awhile now, if we don’t have the good fortune to have parents and grandparents with record collections, or the wherewithal to go exploring in record shops on our own (just don’t pay the exorbitant prices for the new “old” vinyl out in bookstores and the like).

I get that there’s a difference between being actually brought up in an era and learning about it rerun-style, but so what?

Time is not a straightforward, linear entity. It’s a mushy-gushy, cyclical, spiral-ly gunk, and the more we try to control it and assign it values, the more we seem to understand it less–and the more we run out of it.

And the more we try to claim that we of <insert-generation-here> are the ONLY ones to do or understand X, Y, or Z, the more ridiculous it sounds, especially since opportunities to learn about everyone’s X, Y, and Zs have always been around!

The means just change, that’s all. It’s always been up to us to look beyond ourselves.

We all want to feel special. Deluding yourself that your generation is a self-sustaining island is not the best way to go about it.

Do you feel, like the author does, that generations born after 1985 are unable to grasp what came before them?