I know that those who make their livings compartmentalizing generations will not be very fond of this post. I am not now or have I ever been a big fan of labeling people. Labels are stereotypes and while I certainly understand that there are major differences between people born before the advent of TV and those born last year, ultimately, people want the same things. There are definitely differences between children, (who never paid tax, bought groceries for their families, purchased a car or paid for a college education) and their parents. That doesn’t change from generation to generation. It always amuses me watching teenagers protest against the establishment when they know nothing about it. They love the melodrama of the moment but truly lack the understanding and life experience to know what the hell they’re talking about. Protesters of the Viet Nam War understood that their loved ones and friends stood a decent chance of coming home in a wooden box. This generation gets upset if you take away their X-Box.
People of my generation are on the cusp of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. While my earliest memories include color TV, VCRs and space travel, I certainly didn’t grow up with a computer. I did however learn about computers in high school and used one to write my Master’s Thesis. Let me be clear, the greatest generation, those born in the 1920’s and 1930’s really had very different experiences from my generation.
Then came the 60’s and the changes that were to come would change the very fabric of this country and the world. Viet Nam, the Civil RIghts Movement, free love, the drive for equal rights for women, (the equal rights amendment, which ultimately failed to pass). It was the beginning of what people today consider the progressive movement. That generation laid the groundwork for everything that is happening today. Those teenagers, hippies, were far cooler than their parents, whose father’s wore suits to go to the movies. Those adults believed that The Beatles and Elvis were the work of the Devil.
It’s important to note that starting with the 60’s and then carried further with my generation, the gap between the labels X, Y and Z has narrowed considerably. Sex before marriage was no longer considered taboo. Drugs and alcohol were simply part of growing up. Generation X was not going to be shocked at anything their kids could come up with because we saw and did it all. There were no longer taboos and things that our parents could never have imagined or chose to ignore. If you’re having sex, use condoms, and have fun. The “Generation Gap” no longer exists unless it comes to parents having to make decisions for their children that they aren’t experienced enough to make. Parents ultimately make decisions for their children because they understand the consequences of some actions that can only be obtained by life experience. That is not a “generation gap”. Adults use the same devices and live in the same social media world as their children. Two worlds or two generations, have collided. We were just tougher, carrying some of the old world toughness to the new cultural realities. We got bullied but when we had enough we punched the bully in the face. We never cried to our parents and I certainly didn’t know anyone who hung themselves, despite merciless bullying. In fact, several of those who were most bullied, are the most successful people I know.
The fact which is so interesting and often ignored, is that my generation, is the first generation, that’s cooler than the generations that came after it. I mean that in every way. Our music was better, our beach parties were better, we could actually talk to girls we liked or thought were attractive. What could be less cool than not having the guts to ask someone out in person? And it doesn’t matter that on line is the way people meet today, it’s gutless and I feel sorry for this generation and the ones that follow if this continues. And by the way, it’s also a lot less fun. Going up to a girl who made your heart skip a beat simply by looking at her was a right of passage and sometimes it even worked out. Yes, unfortunately, the young adults of today are far less cool than we were and we continue to be more cool, despite the graying hair. Living in a virtual reality or fantasy game world isn’t cool. It’s just sad. What’s ironic about this however, is the cooler generation, us, are responsible for the lack of coolness and toughness in this generation. Parents of my generation wanted to make our children’s lives easier and we coddled them to the point where they lack resistance and resilience to the difficulties of life.
As children, we played video games but we also played baseball, football, basketball and hockey. We didn’t receive participation trophies or as I refer to them “trophies of mediocrity.” Achievement was something you strove for and you worked as hard as you needed to, to succeed. Parents need to teach their children not to accept participation trophies. You don’t win simply because you exist. You win because you excelled at something. That’s what makes it meaningful.
The line in the last Rocky movie where he says nothing hits harder than life is absolutely true. We don’t help our children or build self-esteem by telling them that every minute accomplishment is wonderful. It’s like saying your spouse is beautiful 100 times a day. How meaningless does that become at some point? And worse, once these children do go out in to the cold and sometimes cruel world, we leave them ill prepared to do battle. Now I understand that there are those who would say that life shouldn’t be a battle but it is. As long as there is death, there is battle and we fight it every day. We battle until we ultimately end. So perhaps we are the reason why for the first time in history, we are cooler than our children.