Generation Gap

I read something today that set me off for a minute. I’m not going to link it or name it because, under the circumstances, I don’t think that would be the right thing to do. It was an interview of a female author, in her early thirties, at a publication considered to be quite prestigious. (Globally prestigious, no one I’m directly acquainted with at all in any way.) So, that would make her a member of Generation Y, or, an “early” Millenial. I also read a comparison between Generation X, my generation, and Generation Y, that said Generation Y has the gumption that Generation X has lacked. Well, piss off, to that. It isn’t that Generation X has lacked gumption, it is that we’ve had a different set of priorities, and, get ready, we were children in the 1970’s which had some tough aspects to it. My husband and I just exchanged our stories of how we learned to swim. He was thrown into a river. I was forced to jump into the deep in of a pool, with no one on the inside of the fence to save me, and no one there at all when I returned to the surface. Generation X endured a lot of literal “sink or swim” when we were coming up. We did without things. We got told NO, a lot. We got told “Tough shit” and “That’s the way it is” and “Because I said so” and “Get off my lawn” and “There are kids starving in Africa. That’s dinner, eat or go hungry.” But, I digress. The young woman being interviewed has a book coming out. This is why I am not linking it or naming it. I truly believe that every generation has to find their own way in the world. I’ve not read her book, nor will I, and as an author, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do to go slamming someone like that coming out of the gate, she’s allowed her opinions, and, her hypocrisy. That’s assuming that anyone is listening to me anyway.

Please note, this discussion is that of broad, generational, generalities. If it doesn’t ring true to you as an individual member of one generation or another, then it doesn’t. People say things about Generation X all the time and as a Gen X-er, I know they’re often missing the mark.

The young author was saying a lot of politically correct things, whilst also noting that during the time when she wrote this book, in which she is obviously presenting a biased point of view about a time in history long before her birth, and fine, fiction is fiction and everyone has an opinion, but that whilst writing this book, she was ensconced in a very exclusive area, living someplace that most people could only dream of being able to afford to live. And, that is fine too. I have nothing against people having wealth, or being wealthy, not at all. I believe in Capitalism. Ah, here’s the rub, this young author was bashing Capitalism, among other things, as is seemingly on trend for some these days, and I cringed. Are those who do such aware of the fact that they are biting the hand that feeds them?

So many act as though they would forgo their privileges in a heartbeat for the fairness of all and I am telling you, I call bullshit. They know not from which they speak, not in the slightest. Some years ago now I marveled at protestors who camped out at the State Capital, I think it was there, to sit-in and protest, during which they bitched and demanded porta-potties and better wifi service connections for their laptops and phones so they could let the world know they had the gumption to get out there and do something. They also demanded bottled water. “Mommy and Daddy! I need a porta-potty so I can protest longer! A clean one!” (It was during the Occupy Movement that protesters demanded sanitation/bathroom facilities, at various protest locations.) There is a generation, or two, out there that wants easy answers to hard questions, and they are not going to find them. It is also my opinion that there is a generation out there that doesn’t seem to have any concept of history, economics, or how the world actually works.

But, if you are still reading, I will tell you something else that I realized in full for the first time about this generational thing, that seems so simple I’m surprised I hadn’t fully comprehended it before. I am fifty years young, I have now lived through some history as a cyclical thing,ย  and in the last ten years, I noticed a particular phenomenon where it’s seemed like certain things from history were repeating themselves. Certain social issues, that I will tell you many of us considered to be pretty well under control, as a teenager in the 80’s it wasn’t all perfect but most Americans, regardless of race, religion, politics, gender, were getting along with one another pretty well. All of a sudden people were all pissed off all over again about issues regarding Feminism, equality, people acting like the Civil Rights amendments were never passed or enacted, and in a lot of ways, as the Millenials came of age, it kind of sounded like the 1970’s again. Some of the fashions even trended briefly through the ’70s and ’80s again, from “wide leg jeans” (bell-bottoms) to neon colors and everyone sporting different colored hair. I thought, what is going on? Because if you didn’t know better, you might have looked around and thought women hadn’t yet gotten the right to vote. ( Personal opinion, I think, the rehashing, it did tremendous damage to the trajectory of the United States as a country and to Americans as a people.) But I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.

I cannot, and do not, speak for all members of my generation. I can tell you that I always felt more in tune with my grandparent’s generation, The Greatest Generation, also known as the G.I. Generation or the WWII Generation. They were born in the early1900s through the late 1920s. Their generation was shaped by The Great Depression and World War II. They understood real hardship. Ever wonder why your grandma’s house never changed in decor? Because that would have cost money and they didn’t waste it. Apart from practical matters, their attitude was different. They understood the value, and the cost, of living in a free country where things may not be perfect, but it sure beats the hell out of everywhere else, by a lot. They understood, from The Great Depression, from World War II, the fragility of The Good Life. They did not, as a Generation, bash this country, they wouldn’t dare and you better not either because they bled and died for it. They were grateful, and thankful, and appreciative. They were also the generation in which the actual Civil Rights movement was born. They were the generation that taught proper English and made you stand up straight and salute the flag because the good life here isn’t a given and there are kids starving in Africa. They understood that there was, and is, aย reason and reasons,ย why America, The United States,ย  isn’t a third world country, and functioned as it did, and as yet, still does. And it had not yet become improper in some way, or politically incorrect, to point that out. You see, the idea about having the freedom to protest is that one should understand how rare that freedom is, how lucky they are to have it, and be so damn grateful to live in a country where they can that they really wouldn’t ever want to unless it was actually warranted. The Greatest Generation understood when it was actually warranted because they knew what it was to really have to fight. They had common sense and knew those hard answers and what it all took. They were not spoiled people. I am going to say that again and let it sink in, they were not spoiled people. They were also, the first teachers, in schools, of my generation, Generation X. They were also still around when Generation X was little, telling their stories about marching across Europe and fighting the real Nazis, and fighting the Japanese Imperial Marines in hand to hand combat ( one of my grandfathers did and I am grateful, the other grandfather stood guard at the Panama Canal, an uncle lost an eye in Korea, two other uncles fought in Vietnam, my late father-in-law marched across Europe twice as a member of the 36th Texas Infantry Division the first combat troops to land in Europe and the Division that accepted the surrender of Hermann Goering), they were telling their stories too about saving every last bit of bacon grease, if they could get bacon, and every scrap of material, fabric, to remake something out of, of saving scraps of paper, and thread and everything, and not having nylons, drawing a seam up the back of their legs when they didn’t have stockings, or later, hose. They were still around telling us about washing clothes on a washboard with lye soap, and how they used to listen to the radio, before television. All my life my grandmother said, “Waste not, want not.”

Then came the children of the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, also sometimes called “The Me Generation.” They have sometimes been called “The Me Generation” as they’ve sometimes been noted as being self-involved, spoiled, and so on. They were the first generation to experience an excess of leisure time within which they might pursue “self-fulfillment.” The Boomers rejected the traditional values of their parent’s generation. And they rejected them hard. My parents were Boomers. I heard plenty of stories about the hypocrisy of The Greatest Generation from Boomer adults, not just my parents, who wanted to do things differently and were out to prove how wrong their parents were about everything. What I recall my grandmother saying about them, as a generation, was that they had no common sense and didn’t have “a grip on reality.” She also once said to me, “We spoiled them, and that’s our cross to bear. We didn’t want them to struggle like we did.” (I’ve noted that the Boomers, as a generation, don’t care for this, being labeled as essentially an ungrateful generation, any more than I care for Generation X being referred to as slackers. So, I can understand that.) The Boomers have also had more wealth and more access to it, than any generation before them.

Now, I’m not going to argue for or against any or all of the issues that were the issues of the Boomers as they came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, that isn’t the point of this, BUT if you can objectively look at the trends of the last ten years, I think you’ll see that as the Millenials came of age many, not all, but many began to reflect the social issues, opinions, and values, of the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers were the teachers of the Millenials. When my son was in grade school, a fourth-grade teacher at his school, told her class to go home and tell their parents to vote for Al Gore. Now, many will say, “Well that’s great!” Well, no, it isn’t. It is a violation of the law. It is an undue influence on impressionable minds and the teaching of bias and personal opinion, which isn’t the job of any teacher. The teacher was reprimanded and placed on a brief administrative leave, but only after one of the parents complained and continued to. But, the teacher herself didn’t know she’d done anything wrong. Teachers aren’t supposed to tell kids WHAT to think, they are supposed to teach the process of HOW to think.

But I, I digress. That, I think, is, in large part, who their teachers as Boomers were, not all, but that there was a social agenda at work that perhaps superseded the task of providing a solid educational foundation in the basics. I will also say that while I think many such individuals are woefully lacking in self-awareness, that’s part of growing up, I think many others are incredibly savvy in this technologically advanced world and so they’re towing the party line, as it were, to get ahead, which often seems to be claiming to be of the exact opposite disposition of their reality, ensconced in exclusive enclaves that keep all the socially disadvantaged they claim to be warriors for, out. And that comes off as the ultimate in hypocrisy and snobbery. Sometimes I think what bothers me more than fine young Capitalists pretending to deny that they are in fact Capitalists, spinning tales of social justice and equality, from places on high, from circles you and I could never breach, is that so many others just readily agree with the hypocrisy, or don’t seem to notice it. “Oh gawd, yes. This Capitalism that just gave me this book deal and this pulpit is just so awful and unfair. We’ve got to tell everyone how much it sucks. Sure, I’ll take another glass of Champagne. And could you bring me some more caviar?”

Who will be the teachers of the Millenial’s children? And what will that be? So, if you ever think teachers aren’t important, think again.

All the pseudo-rebels
in their fine feathered angst
all the pseudo-revolutionaries
from those fine think tanks

I ended up writing a three-page poem, from my point of view, of course. It’ll show up in some poetry collection of the future.

Where does that disconnect, that generation gap, leave us? Presently, I don’t know. Was my grandmother’s generation, The Greatest Generation, right about everything? Obviously not. The Boomers clearly don’t know it all either, and neither does my generation, nor do the Millenials. But, I think, when we begin to sort out our influences, when we begin to see them, we begin to understand our place in the world, and we begin to think for ourselves, rather than simply reflecting the cycles and opinions and sometimes the resentments, of those who came before us. Objective, critical thinking, is needed and will be needed, going forward. There are hard questions, they may have simple answers, but those may not be easy answers.

Americans are spoiled. I didn’t grow up spoiled but, I am spoiled at the moment and I damn well know it. One of the reasons why I know it is because I know what it’s like to struggle, to really have had a hard time in life.ย  I am grateful, it was a helluva hard climb to the middle class and took all my life so far. I thank God for how good things are. Every time I walk into any store in this country, I feel like “WOW. Thank you, God. Thank you to everyone who fought to make life this good for any of us.”ย  But, Americans, as a country, as a people, are spoiled to the point of not knowing it. Spoiled to the point of taking it for granted, spoiled to the point of bitching about it without realizing that they are. They think that a Starbucks on every corner is normal, it isn’t normal, it’s luxury. They’ve confused rights with privileges, and vice versa.ย  A top of the line iPhone goes for $1500. Normal isn’t when everyone can afford those things, that isn’t normal. And it never will be. If they keep on, it’d be far more likely that we all end up with wall phones in the kitchen again, or no phones at all because how long has it been since they maintained those lines? Because no one wants those jobs or jobs like those. My grandparent’s generation would never have fathomed the way so many turn their noses up at good, manual, labor jobs that offer a steady income. If you want a quick primer on the value and importance of a good job and a steady income to them, there’s an old movie you can watch, based on an old book, titled “The Grapes of Wrath.”ย  This prosperity is historically completely unique. Americans have stopped looking around and saying to themselves, “IT IS AWESOME HERE! I lucked out! I am blessed. This is the GREATEST place ever.” Americans have achieved a place of taking it all for granted, rather than coveting this freedom, rather than understanding what it is, and how it came to be and what is actually required to preserve it, rather than nourishing and protecting it and praising it and thanking their lucky stars that they live here. So, I’m complaining, about all the complaining, because I know what happens when people don’t appreciate what they have. Probably, because I care.

TS

 

 

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