“People try to put us down, just because we get around. Talkin’ ’bout my generation.” That was a hit song in 1965 and to this day, “My Generation” is still played on the radio, somewhere, every day.
It’s not one of my favorites. I’m too young to be a hippie, too old to be a millennial and too contrary to be told I have to like certain things because I was born in a certain time period. If I live long enough, the nursing home is going to rock to Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Carlos Santana, Steve Morse, Keb Mo and Heart and a variety of music we don’t have room to discuss here. Sixties music is generally too “sad sack” for my taste, though I respect the intentions behind it and the volatile times that inspired it. At the moment I’m listening to Polish bass virtuoso, Wojtek Pilichowski. Earlier it was Waylon Jennings and before that, Anoushka Shankar. Good music transcends generations and all boundaries.
“Why don’t you all fade away, and don’t try to dig what we all say.” Generations always poke fun at each other across the generation gap. Lately a favorite target of boomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, is the millennials who were born between 1981 and 2000. Millennials, so they say, are inept, self-absorbed latte drinking, safe space seeking, easily offended weaklings who don’t know how to change a tire, but want a trophy for trying.
It never seems to occur to said boomers that if their millennial doesn’t know how to change a tire, it’s probably because they weren’t taught how to do so by their boomer parents, who, by the way, were the ones who invented participation trophies. It could also be that the millennial doesn’t know about cars because they can’t afford to buy one. They have too much student debt. Their parents told them to go to the best schools so they could find a job with perks and benefits, but in the boomer created tapeworm economy, those jobs are scarce.
I know millennials who have seen battle serving their country, and not one of them would I consider weak in any way. They didn’t create the problem that they were sent to fix. Their parents created that problem, and while they were at it, wiped out about a fifth of the rain forest and put three fourths of all animal species at risk of extinction. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s a bit rude to have a big party, hand someone a broom and then insult them while they try to clean up the mess left behind. It may not surprise you that some refer to baby boomers as the “me generation.”
Last week we talked about changing times and the experiences some of us had growing up that will not be available to those who come after us. Some of those experiences touch the memories of the last century and even hear echoes of the century before that. But the rate of change in our world is accelerating, and what is familiar now may not be even 20 years from now.
Recently I went to a place that held a lot of memories for me growing up. It’s called a “mall,” and they are disappearing rapidly from America. When I was the age of our youngest millennials, the mall served many purposes. We couldn’t afford to do much shopping in a mall, but just about anyone who was willing to work could manage to buy some kind of car to get there, or knew someone who had a vehicle. There was a theater and an arcade and numerous places to eat, but these were all ancillary to the mall’s main function for us, which was to serve as a center for social life. It was a place to be, to hang out, to spend time together under the same roof, face to face, engaged in conversations in real time without any electronic aid.
One of the first things I notice about malls these days is the fact that young people don’t often go there. On my recent mall visit, I spent most of my time at a bookstore inside (another place that sees fewer visitors each year).
There is a coffee shop at the bookstore and I was talking with a young lady who works there as a barista. I commented that when I was her age, there were a lot more of my peers in the mall. I asked her where here friends gather when they get together. She thought about it for a moment, and gave me a very thoughtful reply. What she said also supports what I have read of current demographic trends.
Apparently young folk don’t gather in person as much as their parents did. They still visit at someone’s home or go to events together, but much of their socialization now is electronic. My young friend also believed that spending so much time in virtual reality has made her generation somewhat lacking in self-confidence in traditional social situations. We’ve all seen a group of young people leaving a restaurant together, silently, phones in hand and engaged with the small screen.
I’ve also seen couples my age at the same restaurant, waiting for their order, phones engaged and no one talking. If smart phones had existed in the 70’s and 80’s, does anyone believe that they would have been scoffed at by the generation that now condemns their use (but still drives with a phone in one hand)? I didn’t think so.
So meme on, if you wish. Everything on this page is painted with a broad brush. It’s all in good fun, right? We’re carrying on a tradition as old as humanity when we poke fun. But lately it seems that some of the humor has developed a sharp edge. If our younger generations are somehow lacking in any way, I think some of us may be in denial as to who is responsible. The young do not spring from the the earth fully formed.
We like to talk about how much better things were back in our day. If that’s true, is it the fault of our children? We had one of the greatest opportunities any generation has ever had for a better life. We took full advantage. We partied hard. Perhaps we should be a bit more understanding of the people to whom we’re handing the broom – and the bill for the damage.