In discovering that there were numerous sites that used her name in sexual and pornographic contexts, Ms. Eve Fairbanks, in the February 6, 2006 issue of The New Republic, commented on her generation's indifference to reputation or finesse, and admitted her own pleasure in discovering her "porn identity."
It is the conceit of every generation that they are the ‘first’ to experience or develop some new understanding of life; and also the arrogance of most that in their 1-15 years of adult life they know all they need to know, and 5,000 years of human history have little or nothing to teach them about how to live a good life. Ms. Eve Fairbanks’ generation is no different.
The phenomenon she accurately describes as one where young people see the online universe (and in a way, most of their social relationships), as a place “where anything goes, where there is neither consequences nor shame, and where concerns about protecting your reputation are less, not more important” has only an incidental correlation to the rise of the Internet, and is not a result of it as she seems to think.
The fact is that discussion on personal sexual matters has become increasingly blunt and clinical, and even personally derogatory, in an unabated trend since the early 1960’s. And, even more graphic self-depictions than the ones she notes as common in the online personal profiles and blogs of her generation can be found in the literature of a falling Rome (and that is saying a lot – just check out myspace.com). So, there is nothing new in the degree of coarseness either. Thus, from the Old Testament to the Analects of Confucius, mankind has been counseled against it.
That she and her fellow Y generation friends have little regard for what at another time would have been called personal dignity is simply part of a larger trend that began decades before the Internet, a trend that is itself part of a larger cycle that has been repeating itself since the dawn of human history, in mini-cycles (the 1920’s, 1960’s) as well as in macro-cycles (the fall of Babylon, the fall of Rome, the overall trend since the 1860’s). The pressures of an impoverished and harsh existence focus the human mind on the needs of survival, internalizing the lack of room for indulgence, or for pursuits that do not enhance the prospects for survival. This leads to the development of work ethics and norms of restraint that make it possible to grow a more prosperous society. The rise of a prosperous society in turn begins to free people to pursue pleasures, sporadically and even ennobling at first; but, eventually to indulge in them in excess, as they no longer see the importance of the norms and values that gave rise to their prosperity in the first place. We see this same phenomenon on a smaller, yet exaggerated scale with the proverbial father who rose from poverty to build a financial empire, and his playboy son. Not everyone is affected this way by prosperity, but most humans seem to be, hence the naming of such unrestrained behavior as “common” or “vulgar” (which also means “common”). It is also why in many languages including English, such behavior is associated with words meaning “decay.”
This is not a defense of every established norm. There is a difference between a reform of social norms or the forgiveness of an occasional indiscretion, and the total abandonment of those norms.
The Internet may facilitate thoughtless communication, but eventually you come to know the person you are talking to. Some blame the Internet for the explosion of pedophile predation. But, as shown on a recent sting broadcast by ABC, the real problem is men who care not about the consequences, nor have shame, when they ultimately meet their prey: another human person. In other words, they do not value their personal dignity in relationship to that person.
There is not much point here in explaining the value of personal dignity. If its value is not already engrained in one’s makeup as an adult, decent, civilized human being, little can be said to change that – and, the effort would take volumes. But, let us say this: It has to do with the recognition of the value of others; that their opinions of you matter because they matter as persons. This does not mean that you do what they want (in fact, it often requires precisely the opposite), but that you take into consideration their thoughts of this world, and their experience of you in it.
But, we argue against the tide of history. Before this is over, the Z generation will shock the Y. The current trend will run its course until history undergoes another convulsion, and then the cycle will start anew. Our only hope - and history does offer some encouragement – is that for each step backward taken, we take two forward, so that over the ages we do advance.
So, there is nothing special about Ms. Fairbanks' generation. She said that “like many a cowboy famed for villainies he never committed” she was “kind of proud” of being assumed to be some pornographic star, and that none of her friends saw that as a problem, and were even jealous. As you can see, the term “common” does apply.
If you wish to read the original article in The New Republic, click here: The Porn Identity by Eve Fairbanks
Copyright 2006, The Ultrapolis Project - May be used freely with proper attribution. All other rights reserved.