Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Talking About My Generation...

The other day I saw myself described as a Gen Y writer. This disturbed me because I always thought I was Gen X. I mean, I was a big fan of Grunge music, wore flannel and affected the proper attitude of detached angst. I even had a goatee and grew out my hair.

Looking into the matter, I was relieved to discover that the generally accepted bounds of Gen X extend until at least 1976, while Gen Y is considered to have begun absolutely no earlier than the same year. My birth in ’74 puts me right towards the end of Gen X.

So I’m glad to know I haven’t been a generational poseur all these years. But all this got me to thinking, what is my real generation? The one not constructed by marketers. The answer, I think, is that I belong to a generation born after Nixon’s reelection and before Reagan’s first election, when all politics centered on the trifecta of government failings: a corrupt office of the President, a lost war and a suffering economy.

Those of us born in that eight year span have lived our lives completely connected and yet utterly disconnected from the 1970s, a decade that saw both the baby boomer’s idealism and the American machine of progress become bogged down and nearly suffocate in the quicksand of reality and human weakness. And while my memories of the 70’s consist mainly of The Muppet Show and Star Wars, I’ve always wondered what effect growing up in those times has had on my worldview and perception of our nation.

In some ways, I think my generation is an experiment, the cultural wars fought out through the raising of children, some indoctrinated in the 1970s liberal vision and some indoctrinated in the conservative counterpunch to that vision. The baby boomers have never been united and their children, I think, are less so. We boomer children play out our mother’s and father’s battles—only unlike our parents, we didn’t grow into these belief systems, we were born with them like one is born with a religion. As such, I find many in my generation to be less engaged in their views and yet more sure in the rightness of those views than are (or were) their parents.

Maybe it’s because of this, or maybe it’s because of reasons I have not uncovered, but my generation has never gone through a great awakening as the baby boomers did in the 1960s through the struggle for equal rights or as the WWII generation did during and after their struggle to preserve the free world. My generation convinced a lot of y’all to invest in spurious Internet ventures but, culturally speaking, we haven’t yet had our moment.

I hope we do. I hope we soon climb out from beneath the imposing shadow of the baby boomers, embrace the many great ideas and causes of that generation but discard the divisiveness and end the “culture war.” Call me an idealist, but I think we can do just that.

9 Comments:

Blogger cakreiz said...

You're making me feel a tad aged, Alan. I was 22 years old in '74 when the Watergate hearings were peaking. Ask Mr. Rouse- very interesting times. (And what of this new band, Nirvana....?)

2:22 PM  
Anonymous middleman said...

I was born right around the same time, and I have never associated myself with the Gen-X crowd.

Sure, I liked Nirvana, but I there was a good chance that the next song was going to be some candy-ass pop song on my mix tape!

I like to call my generation the "Cosby Generation."

Great aricle, by the way. I am really enjoying your blog.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

All subsequent generations owe a great deal of gratitude toward the Baby Boomers. We were the first generation to decide not to live inside the boundries that were typically set up. We found that we liked living the life of a kid. The vast majority of us still think of ourselves as young. Although I was in the USN when Richard Nixon resigned, I still find myself attempting to keep up with technology, pop culture, and life in general.

That's the main reason the Boomers are still so imposing. we didn't just fade to the side like previous generations. We have cast a pretty wide shadow that may live on long past the standard expiration date.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born in 77 but consider myself an Xer. I had hoped 9/11 would be that moment to help "define" us, or get us motivated. But, alas, the boomers stole 9/11 as their call to arms rather than admitting it was the result of decades of their childlike actions.

Gen X needs idealistic (born of ancient angst?) leadership to kick the boomers out of the way and establish a less-self-centric US.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

The baby boomers should certainly not be cast aside. They have a lot to teach us younger folk and we should never forget the many great contributions they've given and continue to give our nation.

But we do need to find our own voice...or rather, help the entire nation find a new voice. Us youngin's are more likely to lead the charge because young people tend to see the world in fresher ways. But any change will have to be a partnership between all generations. The nice thing about boomers is even as they age, most are still very open to change.

Of course, at 31, it may too late for me to do any good. I understand we can't trust anyone over 30.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Clint Carrens said...

I think the youthful image obssesed upon by baby boomers may be part of the problem. Don't get me wrong, I think they are a great and interesting generation. Nevertheless, they refuse to pass the torch to the next generation and move on to the status of wise elders. Instead, they continue to hold on to the spotlight they have enjoyed since they were young.

At some point the boomers will have to trust Gen X to take the reins of leadership. The Gen Y'ers (I hate that label, by the way; I much prefer the Net Generation) are coming up.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Clint, I think you may misunderstand the Boomers. We're not so much image obsessed as concerned about seeing our legacy stand. While some of us continue to hold the torch of the strides we made (civil rights, peace, etc.) others decided to "grow up" and become part of the very problem they used to to disdain. Many of us see the right trying to roll back the changes that occured in the '60s and '70s and we don't see the younger generations doing their parts.

We believed the last presidential election would bring the youth vote out in droves, and while there were slight surges in the youth vote, the overwhelming majority of them decided they had better things to do than waste their time at the polls.

This past September, I attended a peace rally n Washington, DC. I was pleased to see a lot of Gen-X and "Gen-Net" in attendence, but I was extremely proud of the vast numbers of Boomers and even older citizens letting their voices be heard. We take this country seriously and would be happy to pass on the reins of leadership - but someone has to be willing to grab it. But even if we do pass on the torch, we won't go quietly out to pasture. Our voice is massive and it will be heard!

8:44 AM  
Blogger cakreiz said...

I always think of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" (much to the musical chagrin of some.) Overall, we've been a mixed bag. We've changed some things for the better. But we've also been a pretty self-absorbed bunch. Put it this way, Alan. Just because your generation wasn't around for JFK's assasination or the Beatle's tv debut doesn't relegate you to second-class citizenship. Boomers need to keep that in mind. Besides, despite our belief to the contrary, the immutable laws of Nature will take care of us eventually.

9:42 AM  
Blogger M. Takhallus. said...

I'm actually Generation Hieroglyphic.

2:45 PM  

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