Kerouac’s Beat Generation resurfaces in China

your say January 02, 2018 01:00

Re: “Be average: What China’s millennials want to be”,  Opinion & Analysis, December 31.



The nickname “Buddhist youth”,  applied to a subculture of turned-off young Chinese millennials, is a misnomer. The article describes the members of the subculture as “largely irreligious”,  passive, unmotivated, and indifferent, regarding any kind of effort as “too tiring”. It portrays them as burnt out before they ever got fired up, ready to give up on life before they’ve even given it a fair try.

This doesn’t sound like Buddhism to me. Neither does it sound anything like Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream”.  It does sound eerily reminiscent of another, much earlier subculture, the Beat Generation of the United States in the 1950s. So called because they felt “beaten down”, this generation of disillusioned dropouts, with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg as their avatars, rejected the values of middle-class America but had pretensions to spirituality and produced some memorable literature. It would be ironic if the beat culture, which faded out in the 1960s, were to resurface in China 50-odd years later in somewhat altered but still recognisable form. 

Whatever the case, the Chinese would do well to give this subculture a more accurate name. “Chinese Beatniks” comes to mind.

Ye Olde Pedant