There is a “we” – did you know this? It’s true. We’re out there, pretty much everywhere. Minneapolis. Saint Paul. Chicago. San Francisco. Brooklyn. Chapel Hill and Iowa City and Las Cruces and Portland and beyond.
We’re not a generation. We can’t be defined by our age. Or the fact that we’re the children of a previous “we.” To tell you the truth, we’re a hard group to describe.
We live in old, warped mansions and shoe factories, carved into misshapen sets of three or four or eighty-four. We sit under sagging power lines. We ride bike. We drink tallboys. We smoke cigarettes. We traverse in alleyways that suture the city’s ancient and bloody wounds. We congregate in backyards, porches and stoops—lightly sweated, hoods down, backpacks full of warm six-packs, ears open. We don’t have landlines. We don’t pay for the internet. We don’t call our moms enough. We have too many student loans. We have unsavory debt-to-asset ratios. We have restless legs and arms and hearts and minds. We have things inside us that have to come out.
So we draw. We design. We write. We compose. We rap. We blog. But we’re not attempting to communicate. No, no, not at all. We are trying to stay alive.
We know the score—our own destruction is around the bend. We recognize that life is short, wild, fleeting, a precious and delicate bird just passing through. To waste even one minute of it letting ourselves be defined by the world rather than defining it ourselves is tantamount to death. To lose control of your destiny is death. To just be along for the ride is death. To answer to the whims of others is death. To simply trade time for money is death. Our friends become our new families because they understand this truth more than anyone else on earth. Our friends are everything we have, and they are our only chance for survival. Our friends are our last, best hope of staving off death for one more day.
And if this at all sounds macabre or overdramatic, then you’re probably not one of us.
So we fight, together, to carve out grand ambitions and larger-than-life dreams. We have to. We have to because the simple and important truth is that if we don’t do something massive and epic and powerful and fucking monumental and if we don’t do it right fucking now as soon as humanly fucking possible—well, then we die. We wither and we rust and we die. We’ll be dead by all measures that really matter and, and, and, and…
And this is what defines us, unities us, draws us to each other inexorably. We’ve each had our eyes opened to harsh truths: life is brief, mediocrity is tragic, and the status quo is a shallow grave. If you understand this, everything else is irrelevant. Creation is not a medium of expression, but a desperate attempt to survive. Medium and genre and message aren’t sacrosanct—they’re simply means to an end, tools to participate and prevent your one fleeting time in this universe from being a colossal and tragic waste.
So rappers are illustrators. Bloggers are composers. Photographers are designers. Sculptors are rappers. Architects are painters. Writers are bloggers. Designers are illustrators. Since creation is a tool and not an expression, it’s all a part of the same family. Empathy is king. We recognize the symmetry of desperation across boundaries. Collaboration becomes a necessity rather than an obligation. Combining forces makes us all stronger, more powerful, more effective in the struggle to survive.
But this isn’t a movement. There’s no ideology, no edicts, no rallying cries, no worldwide zeitgeist. We’ve seen that before and we hold it in respect and regard. But what we’re doing is different. This isn’t about creating a better future, a safer and cleaner world, a fair and equitable and just utopia. No, no, no, not at all.
This is a fight to save our very lives. This is survival. And we do it every day, everywhere, all the time. From coast to coast. From border to border. From hardland to heartland. And we can’t stop. Not ever. This is a fight to the death.
Jeff Allen, 2006