“All across the pop culture spectrum, the emphasis on sincerity and authenticity that has arisen has made it un-ironically cool to care about spirituality, family, neighbors, the environment, and the country. And pollsters find this same trend in the up-and-coming generation from which Wampole culls her hipsters, Millennials. A recent Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll survey found that among Millennials, six out of 10 prioritized being close to God and having a good family life above anything else. For those in Generation X, family was still important, but the second priority was not spirituality—it was making a lot of money. Clearly, a change has been underway.”
I know we’ve done variations on this theme before, but I there was a search query for this topic over the weekend and I aim to please. As you might know, I consider search queries the blogging equivalent of Letterman’s CBS Mail Bag, so here we go. Nominations are open. As you consider, remember the Daily Cocca’s proposed gradations of Gen X. And don’t forget the Pixies.
A good friend engaged me about this via email this week. I think it’s just about beyond question that our national political structures are utterly, fundamentally broken at the macro level. A broad survey leaves little to the imagination: special interests, Big Whatever…in too many ways our politicians are not our own and are accountable first to their fundraisers and donors. There are exceptions. There are micro-level organizations of integrity, there are good candidates and great public servants. But the system itself exists for itself in perpetuity. Don’t believe me? Try running for Super Congress.
Are our politics broken beyond repair, or can they be fixed according to the rules they’re governed by now?
How anxious are you? If you’re between 18 and 100, are tech-savvy and engaged, your answer should be very. If you’re between 30 and, say, 45 (the Upper Cusack Limit), you might also consider the total refusal of anyone to move a sane agenda forward as an unprecedented opportunity to lead.
Babyboomers, heel-graspers that they’ve been, have been uncannily quiet in all of this at the national level. Sure, they’ve been the public face of so much chicanery since the Clinton Administration, but they’re not seizing any real opportunities to create something new or leave us with much. Barack Obama, young Boomer that he is, out to be the virile head of some great movement. Alas, there is nothing. If I’m being fair, and I do want to be fair, Obama has lead on a few key policy issues, but the wither, blister, burn, and peel of support from the progressive base is not news. It happened for reasons.
We, the USA Network demographic, don’t trust national Republicans or Democrats. We love the idea of hope and change and progressive causes but we don’t believe in attendant hype or machines. We like the idea of populist movements but have seen them be hijacked by agendas that couldn’t be further from our ideals.
We are displeased. What to do? (If you’re picturing Billy Zane as an evil tycoon who doesn’t give a shit, good. We’re being taunted, everyday, by people who will never want for anything, people we’ve put in power, many of whom are apathetic at best toward our well-being or future.)
One impulse is to turn local, and I believe that localism, rightly channeled in all of its healthy forms, will go a long way toward changing our communities in radically sustainable ways. But that won’t happen without you, Generation X. You who are parents, you who are holding down jobs, paying bills, paying taxes, you great middle class getting screwed. I’m asking you to do more. I know, I know. The good news is that in places like Allentown, PA, and, I imagine, its analogs everywhere, there are indeed many Boomers doing great things and looking for help. Your vested interest is your children’s future. Determined as you are to make damned sure the world they inherit is better than the shit-storm left you, you don’t really have much of a choice. If you’re not already, please get connected. Please make a difference. Please build communities.
But we haven’t forgotten about you, Great National Mess. You are Das Nichtige, the unchosen nothing, the aggregate mass of political sin, of omission, of shirking, of all that is wrong with our government, our economy, our budget, our laws. You are our misplaced priorities. Your time is over, we cannot sustain you, but your enablers have said that you’re too big to fail, too big to move.
But you’re not. We know your coordinates. You thrive at the intersection of political parties and the military industrial complex. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, two Citizen-Generals, warned us of you, but we were too busy moving west, killing Indians, too busy moving west, building suburbs, to listen. We’re listening now. We won’t support your national campaigns or your friends in Big Anything. We don’t want Monsanto or Super Congress. We don’t want your labels, your symbols, your platforms. We want clean water, clean air, and safe food. We want safety nets and renewable energy. Sustainability is our ideology, our children are our constituents, and our political leaders will answer to us.
And who will they be if not us?
Douglas Alden Warshaw on some of the things we’ve been talking about here: Generation X, Generation Y, curation, Twitter, how people in their mid-30s and younger engage online et cetera, all through the lens of Conan O’Brien’s comeback. I can’t tell if this is on the CNN, Fortune, or Tech blog, but whatevs.
Here’s a little ditty I did on Huffington last April about Conan O’Brien and “the new sincerity,” specifically, Conan’s pleas against cynicism during his ouster and his continuing faith in a sort of golden rule.
I know I’m a little late on this, but the Conan segment from Monday with the fan correspondent known to the internet only as Mustache Mike (Mike/Michael Sag?) was, perhaps, the funniest 15 minutes of late night television I’ve seen in a long time. Think a 2011 Manny The Hippie with natural presence, constant Superman stance, and a really funny sense of humor in all the places Manny kept his pot. Line of the night: “He’s a knight. He deserves our respect.”
Conan O’Brien and The Post-Ironic Hipsters is totally going to be the name of the alt.country band I form with Conan once I meet him.
The world we live in started on this day in 1984. As Wikipedia just told me, it was 27 years ago today that “the first Apple Macintosh, today known as the Macintosh 128K, went on sale, becoming the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command line interface.”
Modern life, I am four years older than you. You really ought to give me your lunch money.
Just kidding, modern life. But I am thinking of extending my end point for Generation X from 1980 or ’82 to 27 years ago yesterday. Which also happens to be the occasion of Hulk Hogan’s first WWF World Heavyweight Championship. I don’t think the lines could be any more clear.
If you’re roughly my age, we may share some of these academic distinctions:
- Last or close-to-last class of students to attend various Cold War or pre-war era schools before their sometimes dubious 90s and 00s renovations. (Elementary school, high school, college)
- Last or close-to-last class to take a typing elective with actual typewriters. (9th grade, but I didn’t really learn to type until I started using AIM the next year.) Possibly the last class to even be offered a typing elective.
- Last class to run DOS in a computer applications class. (10th grade)
- Last class to run DOS-based email and instant messaging on campus servers. (college)
Presumed shared cultural experiences:
- Old enough to have been into late 80s/early 90s music the first time, young enough to have looked up to the people who made it. Old enough to have been into mid-80s music the first time, young enough to have had no way of buying it yourself.
- Were in elementary school, not high school, when Bad came out.
- Were in junior high, not college, when Kurt Cobain died.
- Were the last group of kids to make mixtapes. While the older and younger ends of Generation X differ in significant ways, this is one thing we all did right along with you, John Cusack.
- Saw your first Molly Ringwald movie on VHS (or TBS), not at a theatre.
- Your first John Hughes movie was more likely Uncle Buck or Home Alone than Sweet Sixteen or The Breakfast Club
- the Soviets were scary until the end of elementary school. There was a Berlin Wall.
If you were born between, say, 1977 and 1982, a lot of this might hold true for you. Most commentators put those years within the Generation X set, and when I was a kid, I thought that was the coolest. But when I think of Generation X these days, I think of 40- year-olds, people who were in college in the early 90s (yes, I think of Lisa Bonet, don’t you?), who were teenagers in all those Brat Pack movies. I don’t think of people who are about to or have only recently turned 30. I don’t think of people our age. [Ed. note: I wrote and posted this 4 years ago. I’m almost 35 now. Time only goes faster.]
Granted, generational definitions are sort of meaningless and almost always vast: the Baby Boomers are said to have been born between the mid-40s and mid-60s. What does that even mean? Still, I’m with everyone who calls people in their 80s and 90s now The Greatest Generation. They’re a group of people who went through it all and still had energy left over in their 60s and 70s to help take care of us. They were united by the Depression, the living memory of one World War, the coming and hell of another, and in many cases, the added hardships and injustices of recent immigration.
What binds, say, the Boomers? Not being their parents? What binds Generation X? Music? Movies? Pop culture references and ironic savvy? Being the first generation to have two parents working outside of the home as a norm? Birth years, as they relate to generational labels, seem now like unruly sundry cohorts lumped together with too much ease. In our case, perhaps Generation X contains everyone as old as Eddie Vedder down to everyone young enough to have bought Ten in middle school. Said the other way, perhaps it contains us and everyone 10-13 years older than us that made the music, television, movies we still love and reference.
Even so, I’d like to suggest a parsing of our Generation. 1967-72: X.0. 72-77: X.1. 77-82: X.2 and so on. 82-85? Y.0.
I was talking with my friend Tim, who I’ve known since 1986 or so, about some of these things on Facebook a few days ago. He had some interesting suggestions for a post about things we experienced that our kids never will. I’ll follow up with more on that in the next few days. By the way, free knucklesandwiches to anyone who starts calling them Generation Z. How about Generation More Awesome Than Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, and The Hulk Combined?