A A few years ago I went to a morning rave: exactly what it sounds like, like a rave, at a classic rave venue – the Ministry of Sound in Elephant and Castle – except at 6am. There were a few hardened veterans, but most of the people probably weren’t born in the club’s heyday of the 1990s, or if they were, they weren’t ready for the rave. There was a water station, but most people drank green juice; There’s a limit to how much hydration you need if you only dance when you’re not intoxicated. Conversely, you can never have too much kale.
I’d been there many times, but this was the first time I really observed the place, having previously — to drop a technical 1990s term — crushed my tits. The dancing was very determined and efficient, like an exercise class. People were very toned and trimmed, what we called hardbodies (we didn’t mean that as a compliment). There was a lot of face glitter, which I think is more like a performance of morning fun than actual fun. My core observation is: Dear Generation Z – try not to maximize yourself the whole time.
Look, no one wants to be an ambassador for MDMA or cheap session lager in plastic cups that squirt. So let’s stick to the specifics and keep it very general: it’s important to make the wrong decisions sometimes; Doing things so unfortunate that 30 years later you still laugh with shame. The reason it matters isn’t some nebulous topic about letting your hair down, it’s very specific; You can make any good choice, practice self-care and sleep hygiene, exercise, meditate, reflect, be thankful, eat clean, and things will still go wrong. Relationships will still crumble, careers will still not take off, you will still be in your own head. If you’re constantly striving to be your best self, the obvious solution is to just try harder. You’ll end up like a New Labor government of your own mind and body, constantly setting goals, measuring things, going back to recalibrate key performance indicators, and wondering why when all the boxes were ticked, why didn’t the result come about – Then go back to add more fields.
But many of the problems lie outside of you: your pay isn’t high enough because of your employer, not because your alignment is out of whack and your hustle is disruptive. Sure, hangovers scare you, but so does the rent. It is sensible to bring serious thought to these grave times, but self-discipline is a lonely creed and solidarity is more fruitful.
I think a lot about the intense hedonism of the long 1990s and if there’s a connection between that and the failure of Generation X to make a difference politically; all the gains we could slip through our fingers; the sheer thinness of talent in the Cameron/Clegg/Miliband age group. I guess you could plausibly argue that not being drunk all the time has already made you more politically effective, challenging, radical, and seeking. Realistically, however, the social fabric was under attack from late capitalism throughout the century, and I’m not sure Gen X drinking less snakebite would have made much of a difference.
We are entering a time of great material need, and no one knows this better than Generation Z: all the joy in life, all the beauty, will come from sex, community, revolution, and the life of the spirit. Do you know where all these things start? You start in a pub.