Forever young

The last decade of the 20th century will go down in cultural history as the age of a youth cult. The youth, fitness, and body cult is constantly fueled by brand advertising and special interest newspapers. This youth cult has long had obsessive qualities. We believe in eternal beauty, eternal radiance, unending fitness and lust, in transformation and new beginning. We expect total availability and invincibility from life – we want to effortlessly channel-hop from one experiential option to another. We dream of a digital life without painful entanglements, decay, aging, and death.

However, right before the turn of the millennium people also feel the price of such a digital life. They miss the depth and intensity that results from constant pursuit of a meaning in life. Life seems more and more predictable, plannable, formalized, without risks – it has lost something of its monstrous yet fascinating fatefulness. People are trying to regain the lost, adventurous thrill of life by playing the stock market, through extreme events, TV eroticism, dramatic seconds of sleep at the wheel of a car, disaster films, Star Wars spectacles, and daily talk shows.

But with the turn of the millennium a change is in the offing. A new enjoyment of fate, a longing for a lasting general meaning to life is emerging. People are starting to ask themselves elementary questions again. What do I live for? What is the sense of all my efforts? What do I convey to my children as a life goal? At present, however, this desire for a radical new beginning is stunted by fears of losing established rights and trusted positions. As a result, people talk about change but delay reforms in both small and large frameworks.

The desires for changes are currently being channeled into the upcoming New Year’s Eve happening. The hope is that by being ecstatic during this transition, the future will be better. But when the party is over, people will fall back again into their long-felt meaning void. Their latent longing for fate will then vehemently break through. They will then expect politicians, media, and brands to convey meaningful messages that grip and thrill them, and for which they are prepared to suffer, endure setbacks, and make sacrifices.

© 2015 rheingold