We live with our parents, act more politely and abuse fewer drugs. Is this Generation Zzzz?

To be a rebel you need a society to rebel against - but we adore the hell-raisers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Let me tell you what I got up to last Saturday night. At 8:30 pm - in front a roaring fire - I was plonked on a sofa with a glass of un-spiked red wine and a good book. And I was in Wales. As so often with seminal moments like this, it was only the morning after I realised – bingo! – some part of my youth had died.

Probably I should have seen it coming. The openness to “going on walks”. The heavily ironic talk of finding a Welsh drug-dealer. The puddings. All clear signs that what was sold as a ‘weekend getaway’ for friends might well turn out a one-way trip to planet boring.

Forgive me, but I’ve reason to overshare like this because - although a bunch of things make me an unrepresentative member of Britain's youth (not the least being I'm no longer really that young) -  it seems I'm not alone.

This week the Economist revealed that 16- to 24- year-olds are abusing less drugs, being more polite, and getting less pregnant than in previous decades.

In many real and important ways this is good news. But should you take “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” as the yardstick for self-expression, or even just a rollicking weekend, it also begs the question – are we getting dull prematurely? Will the class of 2012 go down in history as Generation Zzzz?

The Economist submits that austerity has shackled youthful spirits. Since fewer young people can afford to move out of their childhood home, there’s quite literally less space to experiment: it's hard to do tantra, or tranquilisers, with your parents watching Downton Abbey in the room next door.

But socio-economic factors aren't the only important ones here.

This generation knows the archetypal rebel icons –  those hula-hipped lovers from the 60s and 70s – mostly as fogeys, eulogised endlessly in TV documentaries and hardback biographies.

Even more recent incarnations like Oasis or eternal-6th-former Pete Doherty styled themselves throwbacks at the height of their notoriety.

To be a rebel you need a society to rebel against, a Man to kick in the nuts, and - as Doherty found - the figure of the drug-taking, hell-raising star isn't so much counter-cultural these days as a vital source of mainstream entertainment. (That singer’s passed out again? Wonderful! Google it pronto!).

Briefly, Tyler the Creator's rap collective Odd Future made rebellion work, giving parents Stateside a serious case of the willies. But who's next? Frankie Cocozza?

You could blame corporate forces. Nothing sells quite like a spritz of rebellion, and youth movements last hardly a moment these days before their stars are plucked by the advertising industry and plied with energy drinks and wristwatches.

Can youth strike back? Maybe. More likely the culture is evolving, away from a celebration of hedonism and towards less superficial thrills.

Or maybe I'm just missing out.