Image Source: Time via Flavorwire.
By now, anyone who follows generational issues will have heard about Joel Stein's Time cover article (here) on how the Millennials will save the world. Joel Stein is a Gen Xer, and he should know better than to indulge in the same generational stereotyping that Time magazine used to condemn his own age group. Did his bosses put him up to it? For an overview of how Time cover articles have perpetuated generational myths, see JenX67's response to Stein here. This is the worst kind of social propaganda and it deserves full condemnation.
If Stein had made broad generalizations about races instead of age groups in his Time article, there would be outcry across the MSM. Even when the message is positive, age stereotyping is no different than racism. Stein's article depends on two Boomer-generated narratives which depend on one another: 'Gen X is the anti-Boomer generation that failed'; 'Gen Y is the generation that will bear the Boomer mantle and save us.' This shows that Boomers, in their quest to build an immortal legacy, made age stereotyping and discrimination socially and professionally acceptable. The fact that Boomers now suffer from age discrimination themselves does not change the origin of the labels and their negative effects.
We need a new language to discuss generational matters and a new way to understand society that bridges age differences. Mr. Stein's unfortunate example aside, Generation X has become known (or rather: not known) for communicating about social experience in non-collective way. As a result, Boomers and Millennials often seem to think that Generation X has not accomplished, and is not accomplishing, anything. Where are Gen Xers, anyway? Why can't you google 'generation X' and come across ten national and international lobby groups and central hubs belching forth Propaganda on the Generation X Self? Where are the trumpeted announcements? Where are the big high profile articles in national magazines? Where are the Gurus and Big Leaders who associate themselves publicly with Gen X? Have you seen a Gen-X-labeled TV show lately? Where are the signposts which point to what Jeff Gordinier called the generational "kitsch" known as 'GENERATION X'? Gen X does not often speak the same language that Boomers and Millennials do. Like the so-called 'Silent Generation,' Gen Xers do not associate their successes with their generational identity. But that does not mean their successes do not exist.
Boomers and Gen Y cannot and will not 'change the world' until they abandon the mass-marketed illusions of ego-enclosed micro-societies and consider the behaviour of the Silent Generation and of Generation X. There are ways of functioning in society other than through self-definition and advancement at the expense of other age groups. The problems we face require consensus, cooperation, mutual respect and humility - and the smashing of generational stereotypes. We must abandon the promotion of the 'ego' as the ultimate source of virtue, power, strength, prosperity and success.
Consider what Millennials would be 'expecting' now, what they would be saying about themselves, and how they would be behaving, if they had been fed a different story from birth, a story that did not involve a grand manifest destiny for their collective Self. What if that story had simply said that they are all different, even though they share some cultural experiences with others their age? What if it had said that they have something to contribute, just as other people of other age groups do. Nor will their contributions constitute the sum total of success or accomplishment of civilization. It will be just another brick in the wall, another drop in the bucket. And yes, they have to defer to those with greater knowledge and experience, usually (but not always) a function of age. Similarly, those who follow them will have to defer to them, because in time, Millennials will know more than their successors.
For decades, youth-oriented marketing has peddled the idea that an explosive, 'fresh outlook' is the silver bullet in every circumstance, that brand new approaches are the best way to solve age-old problems. Usually, technology is mentioned as the game-changer. High tech has transformed age old problems into completely different issues, and Millennial brains are needed to grasp uniquely novel circumstances. It simply is not true.
Millennials who cling to the myths they were sold as children and teens in the 1990s will discover that they have been duped into supporting a very old school power structure. In that structure, the will not only not be leaders, they will be at the bottom of the pile. This Boomer-led establishment will tell Millennials any flattering lie about Gen Y's identity in order to retain power. If members of Gen Y continue to believe mistakenly in the marketing labels they are fed - and even if they believe anti-marketing which is supposed to be more credible but delivers the same myth in different packaging - they will find that their real world circumstances continually and increasingly do not match the world they were told they would find. That discrepancy should be their biggest warning sign to wake up. The last thing in the world they should do is get on that train, and start labeling others and themselves.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the most vocal of the Boomers fostered inter-generational conflict and intra-generational consensus. They forged their collective identity (and felt that a 'collective identity' was necessary at all!) around alienation from other generations. It is amazing that they are shocked by deep hostility they now face from other age groups, especially Generation X, but also members of the Silent Generation and Millennials.
A terrible fake history has been created, primarily by Baby Boomer sociological theorists over the past 40 years. This fake history was constructed to offer 'lifestyle choices' in marketing campaigns in the 1970s to a new kind of consumer (see my related post here). Fake generational histories also provided predictable voter demographics stats for politicians, pioneered in the same time period (notably with the election of Ronald Reagan, when millions of left-wing Baby Boomers voted Republican in the 1980s). These demographic marketing myths were bad ideas, made for the purposes of social profit, exploitation and control. They falsely rationalized and re-rationalized society. Did those marketing myths reflect Boomers' real lives? No. In the same way today, apple-cheeked silver-haired actors bouncing through Viagra ads do not portray the whole Boomer reality. But we live in times when pictures generated in the popular media are often mistaken as real life truths.
Even though generational stereotyping is constructed and imagined, it has become normalized in the media. It has created false realities which won't go away. Therefore, even taking a critical stance on generational labels, as I have tried to do on this blog, involves the use of said labels, rendering one's own argument seemingly hypocritical. To clarify to readers who might think I am generalizing about them: I am using these terms as they exist in media-fied realities, not as individuals exist in real life. That is the whole point.
Where once ageing was regarded as a natural process, and each stage had challenges and rewards, today the process is artificially perceived, its meaning ruined, its flow is no longer respected.
A recent sampling of articles on generations shows the Boomer legacy of generational conflict; there are almost no articles on how to solve problems through mutual respect and cooperation, or how to come up with a new vocabulary and new modes of behaviour in relation to age differences:
- Quiz: How Millennial Are You?: "Age isn't the only thing that makes you millennial—habits do too. Find out how truly millennial you are here."
- Every every every Generation has been the Me Me Me Generation: "Sometimes you get the sense that these magazines' cultural writers have very little experience with the entire American culture, and prefer to make their grand analyses based on what people they know in the gentrified parts of cities like New York and Los Angeles were talking about at brunch last weekend. The type of young person that magazine writers come across most frequently are magazine interns. Because the media industry is high-status, but, at least early on, very low pay in a very expensive city, it attracts a lot of rich kids. Entitled, arrogant, spoiled, preening — those are the alleged signature traits of Millennials, as diagnosed by countless magazine writers."
- Time Magazine's 'Millennials' Cover: A History of Millennials in the Media: "Time is hardly the only publication to devote significant space to the plight of 'millennials,' broadly defined as the Americans born between the early-to-mid 1980s to the early 2000s and thus into the worst job market in generations. (The colloquial meaning of 'millennials,' as Time’s cover image and text shows, is 'wealthy white people who live with their parents because they’re lazy!')'"
- Why Time's Millennials Cover Story Says More About Joel Stein Than It Does About Millennials: "Joel Stein, maybe millennials (and your other readers) are not all narcissistic attention hogs prepared to make tiresome generalizations about 16 million people we’ve never met. Maybe it’s just you."
- Let Me Tell You All About My Narcissism: "are young adults today actually more narcissistic than their elders, or is young adulthood a generally selfish stage of human development?"
Gen Y recent online searches include "What is Great Gatsby about?" Well, it is about - creating a fake reality to get what you want? Making yourself into something you are not to please others and fulfill a tarnished ideal? In F. Scott Fitzgerald's story, the social barrier was wealth, not age. Posts on Gatsby: here and here. Image Source: Mashable.
- Top 10 Questions Millennials Ask the Internet [I find some of these hard to believe - is Mashable sure about this?]: "What is a meme?; How do I use Pinterest?; How to boil an egg?; What is hummus?; What is twerking?; What is 401K?; What is The Great Gatsby about?; What is a hashtag?; What is a narcissist?; How to Tie a Tie?"
- What Does the Exploding Rate of Boomer Suicide Say About Us?: "most distressing was the demographic where the greatest spike [in suicide] occurred: baby boomers. For men 50 to 54, the increase was 49.4 percent, and 47.8 percent for those 55 to 59. Rates for women increased with age, with a truly disturbing uptick among those 60 to 64 years: That number had jumped 59.7 percent. ... 'Baby Boomers grew up in an America that had traditional values and decency that today are just buzzwords used by the advertising industry to part us with our hard earned cash. We were idealists, we wanted to make the world a better place. The world we live in now is monopolized by greed, legal fraud and moral decay. We spend our lives working long hours only to find no satisfaction, peace or reward at the end of the day. The cost of everything from housing to medical to food has exploded in the last 20 years, yet our earnings are stagnant, and that's the lucky ones who haven't been hustled into bad home loans, or lost their jobs, or had a loved one become seriously ill. We, the working class [!], find little reason to have hope for a happy calm retirement. Why do so many give up? It's pretty obvious.'” [Interestingly, the Boomers wash their hands of all responsibility for the way the world is now. Who, exactly, do they think is running things, other than members of their own generation? And if the Boomers running things are not 'real Boomers,' then maybe that is because the generational label never held water in the first place. If you don't like the way the world is now Boomers, stop calling yourselves 'Boomers.']
- Generation Gap: Gen X, Boomers Hate Each Other: "The battle is on between two realms of thought. Two cagey and savvy generations are bidding for your vote in 2016. On one hand, baby boomers are marketing themselves as the nice professors that gave you your first A+ grade. But in their rearview mirror is Generation X, a generation that lived in a world of hard knocks and wants you to buy the real world experience it is selling. If you're keeping score, the battle at halftime tied at 2010 Generation X and 2012 baby boomer."
- It's Tough Being A Servant: Generation X perspective on an up-and-coming Millennial whose raw ambition and lack of respect reveals Millennials' assumption that they will immediately or nearly-immediately displace Gen Xers from their positions: "So you do tell her, “Look. I can see that you like to be in control. Guess what? So do I. But here’s the thing. I will not allow you to snatch control from me, okay? If your performance warrants, I will give you control. But if you try and force me, the result won’t be pretty. Are we clear?” And she seems to get that, because hey, you don’t hire dummies. And through all this, you learn the true meaning of “servant leadership,” and at times it kind of sucks, but other times it feels pretty good."
- How Generation X Is Shaping Government: "A couple of months ago, the city of San Mateo, Calif., finished a small experiment. Planning to renovate the playground at one of its most popular community parks, it put a set of proposed designs online for a month and invited public comments. Some 130 people from around the city batted ideas back and forth, remarked on what they liked and didn’t like in the designs, and made suggestions. The playground needed shade, they agreed, and water fountains reachable by little kids.The city’s Parks and Recreation Department was thrilled. Before trying the online approach, it had convened a public meeting to solicit feedback. Eight people had bothered to show up.What stood out most in the online forum was who the participants turned out to be. Almost 60 percent of them were between the ages of 35 and 45. The average age was just shy of 42 -- noticeably younger than the demographic typically drawn by public hearings in San Mateo. 'This was the target audience we’d been trying to get but were not getting' through conventional hearings, says Abby Veeser, a senior management analyst in the parks department. In other words, Generation X was checking in."
- Generations X and Y Start to Rule Politics: "Many members of X and Y
also don't trust the formal political system to get much done. This is
not because the political system betrayed them, the sentiment felt by
the Baby Boomers, but because it literally doesn't seem to work.
The kind of intense partisan polarization that so many older Americans lament as being different from what they experienced in their youth is the only kind of politics that these generations have ever seen. In the 1990s and early 2000s, they have watched as the parties failed to reach agreement on almost every issue, and the nation's leaders have constantly engaged in a vicious style of combat that leaves all sides injured. The result is that many of them look to other forms of activity to solve public problems, whether through startups or nonprofits. The nation's political leaders will not only have to reach these generations but will have to win back their trust that politics can work at all."
- Like a Boss: How Millennials Are Changing the Workplace: "By the year 2025, an incredible 70% of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of Millennials, people born between 1980 and 2000. Given their coming dominance, this generation will have a huge impact on business and the workplace. But if you look closel,y you can see that their presence is already being felt today. Here’s how: Leadership. Most people think of Millennial workers as the interns, junior staffers and hackers that populate companies like ad agencies and startups. But some have already moved into senior management roles." The comments section displays Millennial stereotypes; the first commenter betrays Generation Y's fabled arrogance: "Thanks, and I think the one thing I would add would be that they also are seeking meaning in their work. They aren't willing to put up with pointless jobs and endless hours. They like to blend work and play, and won't tolerate companies that don't understand that." Second commenter: "As the parent and sounding board for more than 100 members of 'demographic of destiny,' I can tell you that these 20 somethings are more immature and dependent than any group I've witnessed. The reason 40% of them say they want to own their own companies is that they have no clue how it's done. The truth is that an alarming percentage of this group (especially males) is incapable of carrying any societal or business responsibility. Boomers will continue to do most of the work over the next 20 years, while they decide which jobs are good enough for them and their collective self esteem."
- The Silent Generation's Separate Peace (a response to Kate Sherrod's review of Jeff Gordinier's X Saves the World)
- Subliminal Slavery of the Subconscious Self
- Go Back to 1968 with the Situationists
- 1968 On the Way to 2019
- Time Landscape
- The Unabomber's Trojan Horse
- Your Time is Limited
- Farewell and Hello, Commodore
- Generational Snapshots
- Time Lapses: Ageing Backwards
- Everything You Know is Wrong
- Attitudes toward Age, Ageing and the Elderly
- Generation X: To Be Or Not To Be
- Generation X Goes Back to Future 8: The Space Shuttle Generation
- Generation X Goes Back to the Future 10: On Declaring Moral Bankruptcy
- The 99 Per Cent, Generation Catalano, and Why Generational Labels are Fake
- Recession, Apocalypse and Hipster Futures
- Gen Y: The Anonymous Generation
- Generation Y: Real World Praise, Virtual Control
- Generation Z's Revenge