During WWII, young adults formed the “Greatest Generation,” saving the world from fascism.  The ‘60s generation also played a part in history, breaking down the mythic American Dream to reveal – and fight – racism, poverty and war-mongering.

What about young people today? They too face earth-shaking crises, yet they have been labeled the “Me Generation,” portrayed as narcissistic and indifferent to the world beyond themselves.

ReGENERATION – The Politics of Apathy & Activism, which opens the Salem Progressive Film Series 2013-14 season on September 12, begins with just such impressions of disengagement and self-centeredness.

Rather than probing the psyches of millenials to find the source of apathy, ReGENERATION digs deep into the culture of post-industrial capitalism and the institutions that embody and deliver that culture. Courtney Dillard, a Communications and Media Studies Instructor at Willamette University, who will speak following the film, says that, “ReGeneration offers a strong and substantiated critique of the forces in our everyday lives that make activism difficult for all of us, but particularly difficult for young people. The filmmakers do an admirable job of highlighting key factors such as media over-saturation, a culture of debt and a tendency towards individualism that contribute to the problem.”

Voices as diverse as MIT professor Noam Chomsky, Adbusters founder Kalle Lasn, and hip-hop artist Talib Kweli describe how young people today are saturated with messages and images that both inflate their self-image and shred their connection to any purpose larger than themselves. George W. Bush’s call to “go to Disney World” in the wake of 9/11 is symptomatic of the combination of self-indulgence and diminished expectations the current generation grew up with.

Libertarian conservative media commentator Tucker Carlson take the self-esteem movement to task for encouraging the belief that, “[Y]our value is innate….you’re a wonderful person no matter what you do.”  There is no need to suffer consequences, no need to take responsibility.” Individualism in service to self alone leaves people isolated, unable to confront society’s problems. The film maintains, this is no accident, and Chomsky claims, it’s not even new.

Nineteenth century workers “complained bitterly about the industrial system that was being imposed on them….what they called ‘the new spirit of the age, gain wealth forgetting all but self.’” Atomization of the many serves the interests of the few who use the media and mass culture as instruments of social control.

Members of the band STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9), whose music provides the soundtrack to the film, demonstrate an alternative way of shaping culture. They talk about their choice to do things their own way rather than sell out to a major recording label. Based on her experience with students and young activists Willamette’s Dillard believes “young people want to and will get involved if there is someone in their lives who offers a specific course of action they can see a tangible outcome associated with….Older people who care about the next generation have to help young people cut through the clutter and find the particular issues which will be at the center of their future civic lives.”

Although Dillard would have liked more time spent on concrete solutions in the film, ReGENERATION ends with images of Occupy Wall Street stirring to life.


Salem Progressive Film Series
Guest speakers & audience discussion follow

Thursday September 12  7 pm
Grand Theater  191 High St. NE