Personally, I hate the thought of a generation being named before they come of age. It’s not very fair to an entire age group to be criticized before they have the power to change the world around them.
Was “The Greatest Generation,” (The GI Generation) called as such prior to them fighting the Second World War? Not a chance. Were sociologists lining up in the early 1930’s to coin a phrase for the now-called “Greatest Generation”?
Nope. They got the chance to prove themselves with a half-century of history before their name stuck. That’s a rather unbelievable advantage when you consider that Americans born between 1995-2015 are ALREADY being called “The Next Silent Generation.”
Come on, people. The oldest members aren’t even 8 years old yet. Are people seriously under such a blanket of ignorance that they’re now naming UNBORN generations, let alone generations that have yet to come of age?
No. There’s actually an explanation of that habit of naming generations before their time.
Getting back to the topic of X vs. Y…culturally, I’d rather be an X than a Y. There’s quite a bit of dispute about the generational “borders”; some claim that the X’ers last birth-year was 1975, some place them as being born as late as 1984.
Well, it turns out that generations come not from a linear set of dates, but instead by the cultural and political experiences and memories collectively held by an age group.
For instance, early Y’s may remember the Berlin Wall falling, but they really didn’t get a picture of what life was like before that event.
One of the single biggest “X” to “Y” markers is that X’ers came of age prior to the internet revolution. X’ers remember the end of the cold war clearly and recall the Challenger explosion.
I was a little taller than our television when the Challenger shuttle exploded. It was lunchtime, and I remember sitting in the living room with Mom. “Oh my god,” she said, “It exploded! Look, Joey…the spaceship blew up!”
Not even three years old yet. Imagine that. Again, I remember seeing it, but I had no understanding of what it meant. I knew a spaceship blew up and that a lot of people were sad. I remember seeing the video of the disintegration again and again. The repetition burned the image into my head, especially at such a young age.
While I try to edge myself into Generation X by recalling their major turning points, the case can be made that my generation is truly defined by the proliferation of the information age after the newly unified internet took on a flashy new label–the World Wide Web.
While I remember the Challenger and the Berlin Wall, the early incarnation of MTV and the Reagan years, these events weren’t developmental coming-of-age changes for me–they were normalized and categorized memory from the earliest reaches of defined neural capacity.
While I hate the label “Y,” the truth remains–I came of age at the same time the internet did. Being 16 in 1989 was far different from being 16 in 1999.
What I fear, though, is the generation succeeding “Y”. So as not to be a hypocrite for naming a generation before they’re even a decade old, let me put it this way:
Anyone born after 1991 would have been ten years old or younger during the 9/11 attacks, meaning that their picture of “normalcy” in their coming-of-age is a nation of fear…a nation of declining constitutional freedom, education, prosperity, and healthy political debate.
This is how we label generations “before they’re hatched”, so to speak…we take their cultural experience and try and find their perception of normalcy.
If their perception of a nation in normalcy is one in
which rights are exchanged for false security, one in which the power of our executive leaders goes unquestioned and unchecked by the greater part of the governing body, then what exactly are we teaching them?
Innovation and Dissent are treacherous, even treasonous. Follow the leader.
The way I see it, if the X’ers and Y’ers don’t get off their asses in the next decade or so, what are we passing on the the Millennial generation?
If we sit by the wayside, idling our political engines until we’re 30 years old, then we’re already too late. We’ve just passed the message onto our successors that it’s alright to be silent, it’s okay to be scared, and that Papa President knows best, even if he’s a man who gives a crude smile and sneer when he’s asked about our nation’s gutter war-du-jour.
Keep this in mind: when someone says something absolutely clichÃ©d like “The children are our future,” there’s more meaning to that than a reprise of “We are the World.”
If, by example, we allow ourselves to succumb to the same cynicism that X’ers defend themselves against now, then what ideals do we leave to the Millennials?
I have two words in an equally clichÃ©d and unforgivably awful pun: American Idle.