And now ten years after, I'm starting to realize... the reason why older folks got so annoyed with us is that... we hadn't *earned* our irony. We hadn't *earned* our detachment and world-weariness. The true cynic is an optimist who's had his rose-colored glasses crushed under the stomping boot of the world's reality; our ersatz cynicism was given to us upon a silver platter by MTV and Rolling Stone and all the tiny little incestuous "scenes" that sprouted like mushrooms around movies or bands. What we honestly thought was our refusal to not get suckered in by the lies of the world, they saw for what it was-- a pose. A self-aggrandizing pose, built on the assumption that we knew it all.
Which is a joke, because I remember being just as confused and clueless about the world and its workings even ten years ago.
The hip, self-referential, and ironic pose isn't the problem in and of itself, though. Rather, the problem is that we snark the wrong things. We snark the earnest idealism of the anti-war protesters, snickering at their trustafarian lifestyles, their luxury to take their principled stands because they rest on a foundation of Daddy's money. But we don't snark the blatant emotional manipulation that the government and its bootlicks engage in constantly. We point and laugh at Michael Moore's fat body, but we don't dare point and laugh at James Lileks when he mentions the names and ages of all the children under the age of seven who died on 9/11. (Really, the closest thing in the mass-culture that I've seen that comes close to this was that one episode of South Park with Alan Jackson singing a song where all the lyrics are just "Nine-Eleven" repeated over and over again, and everyone's sobbing and saying "That's so inspirational!") We point and laugh at Al Gore when he shows An Inconvenient Truth, saying "hurf durf, go back to Woodstock you hippie," but we don't dare snark a business-run culture that has literally made life without fossil fuels unimaginable. We point and laugh at those who want to change the term "retard" to "developmentally disabled," but we don't dare snark the idea that being malicious in your speech automatically makes you interesting and intelligent.
I'll probably write more about this in the future. Hopefully. If I don't get too distracted by other stuff.