Letter to NPR • 8 March 2007

I just read a nice new working paper by UC Irvine’s David Meyer, who researches peace movements (including the current one) in the United States. It got me thinking about responding to John Mayer, the famous musician I hope none of you know, who got a huge piece of Morning Edition air time today on NPR.


Dear NPR,


John Mayer (age 29) claims to speak to, and for, his generation.

In Thursday’s interview, he ridiculed war protest songs and championed a new “political” music about “waiting on the world to change” rather than taking action. Forget old-school music that intends to wake up a listener to “making a change”: Mayer sings to express his helplessness and inability to commit to any particular path of action.

Well, in the terminology of his generation, John Mayer’s a wuss.

We are the generation who began Teach for America, vitalized the ethical globalization movement that altered the exclusionary course of the WTO, and empowered a new progressivism in the Democratic party by championing Howard Dean. Though we graduated college amid the dot-com boom, more of us opted for the Peace Corps than for Pets.com. We are teachers, hybrid-drivers, and yoga practitioners. We hailed Neil Young’s Living With War without a freaking drop of irony (listen free), and are still streaming it and letting it make us cry. And if you think 9-11 killed our spirits, then wait a few years until it’s us at the helms of organizations and running the Congress.

If Mayer thinks that everyone else his age is spineless, shallow and arrogantly self-centered, it’s not because he’s channeling the zeitgeist. Instead, he’s probably only listening to himself.

Our generation has a term for that too. It’s megalomaniac.