Skip to comments.Gen X: Sherpas of the American Economy?
Posted on 10/01/2008 4:06:00 AM PDT by equaviator
I recently read a manuscript about Gen X in the workplace, and as I did so, I was struck by how much of a transitional generation we are. Perhaps because of all the flux that has occurred (and continues to occur) in our time, we have always struggled to have a positive identity; so many of the experiences we share are negatives. In no particular order:
-3 Mile Island -AIDS -Tylenol scare -Drinking age went up from 18 to 21 -Existential self-awareness of grunge -Emo bands before them -Cobains suicide -Bushs famous broken promise, No new taxes -Clintons impeachment
Even positives are often construed as negatives: -The Berlin Wall fell; communism failed -The Gulf War: military victory, social and geopolitical mess -Wall Street (Greed is good Dont expect loyalty!) -Political Correct movement which stamped out discrimination on its face, and also gutted fearless, honest dialog -Dot com boom and bust
And whats the hallmark of our generation? Arguably, its our snarky, ironic, self-awareness-laden sense of humor. From the Church Lady to Colbert, with guest appearances by Garafalo and Spade, our humor has a dark overtone.
What does it mean? I dunno, maybe nothing. But as I was reading through the manuscript and cataloging for myself all the things that define us, I struggled I interpreted the negative definitions to mean that we are not defined we are so used to be neither this nor that, it only seemed fitting to then ascribe that same neither quality to our trends hence language framed in the negative. Indeed, most of the major trends I could think of had us either a little ahead of the curve or a little behind it very few had us right in the middle. I thought that the absence of a defining characteristic was maybe in our genes (remember slacker?), sort of like a collective egolessness.
Then I thought about Sherpas.
Like Gen X, Sherpas have long been part of incredible journeys, but theyve always been just a step to the side, never in the limelight and never really part of the action. Defining the Sherpa who carried Sir Edmund Hillarys pack for him up Mt. Everest would have taken the spotlight off Sir HIllary and that might have ruined the the romance and majesty of the trek. Focus too heavily on Tonto, and the mystique of the Lone Ranger falls apart. I felt like maybe society on the whole needs us to be undefined. Were the ones laying the ladders over the crevasses, scoping the paths, installing the ropes taking over for the Boomers who were happy to establish base camp and prepping the pass for the Yers who we already know want to hit the peak.
But unlike the work of the mountaineering, Nepalese Sherpa, the infrastructure we are laying is far more subtle. And disruptive:
-Technology: We put together Web 1.0. Most of us who were in it knew full well we were pushing these technologies beyond their capacities, that the collapse was only a matter of time, but we also knew that we needed to lay the infrastructure hard and fast in order to force corporate America (the driving force of change in our society) to take notice. -Management: We have been flattening organizations for over a decade. Along with the Dot Com Boom came another important trend: flatter organizations. That era ushered in the idea of the meritocracy like none other: dont like your job? Leave for a better one across the street. Youre the best programmer in the city? You could command salary and perks commensurate with your capabilities despite not being a management muckety-muck. -Values: We have been putting a torch to wanton commercialism since day one (though this trend seems to be becoming undone). One morning when my dad and I had breakfast in 1997, he was stunned to see me in a swag t-shirt and ripped jeans. You should dress like the CEO, he said. I do, I replied. Nice suits? Brand names? Not necessary. We had our fill when Guess and Girbaud had us wearing acid wash jeans and ballon-y cotton pants. We learned early that being a slave to fashion could make you look dumb, and we havent forgotten the lesson.
The analogy is not perfect, but the idea seems to fit. And as we enter roles of real responsibility, itll now be our job to shepherd society through radical change in the economy overall, from a capitalism as we used to know it to something more fluid, global, and (de)centralized. Something that, like us, has yet to be defined, that retains elements of what preceded it and includes elements of a future that is still taking shape.
Were not in the old world, and were not yet in the new. We are very much in between, and its up to Gen X to lay the foundation that gets us from the former to the latter.
During the 60’s, my parents were clean cut folks raising a family of four kids. And during the disco craze, I listened to country music, hunted deer, and worked the farm.
And frankly, if we are all going to take on generational identities, the Greatest Generation has a lot to answer for. They introduced socialism on a massive scale, ruined the school systems, apparently raised a bunch of dope heads, and ran up an enormous national debt.
But it's all artificial, the invention of some pop sociologist to make money.
I came here to do that. It just doesn’t feel right not to.
Have at it then.
They aren’t the greatest generation.
They are the most uneducated on a grand scale, as, I believe, they were the first generation to be publicly educated.
When they hit tough times, then dropped freedom in exchange for socialism so fast that we are still fighting the after-effects.
I’m not for knocking old folks, so I will leave it at that. If they were younger, I’d call them on their deeds, but no point in doing that now. Let them collect their social security checks (more unequal wealth distribution there) and die breathlessly unaware.
Actually the designation of generations goes back to, well...the bible.
It is a legitimate form of analysis. The names that are designated have become more hip over the past fifteen years or so.
Generally speaking a generation is about 22 years. That was defined as the amount of time to go from being born, to the median age of producing another generation. So the boomers went from 44-65, X’ers are from 65-86, and so on and so forth.
Doing some studies on generations following WWI and the Civil War will give you some insight as to why things are going the way they are. If you think about it, the garbage we went through in the 20’s and 30’s closely resembles what is happening today....a few short years after the end of the Cold War.
Doesn’t make the next ten years look good.
Living years. Mike Rutherford. (Mike and the Mechanics, Genesis)
Do I get a book or something?
Thanks for the earworm :/
The year 1969 and how you remember it says a lot about what generation you are part of. If you think the most awesome thing to happen in 1969 was Woodstock, then you are an older Baby Boomer. If you think the most awesome thing to happen in 1969 was the Moon landing, then you are a younger Baby Boomer or an older Generation X person or part of this "Generation Jones." If the greatest thing you remember about 1969 was the tricycle your parents gave you for your birthday, then you are Generation X.
You are correct, Adonius...good clarification on the “discrimination” comment.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
“Ive always heard that the Baby Boom generation were the ones born between 1946 and 1964, and that Gen X was born between 1961 and 1981. I was born in 1961 (same year as 0bama, yuk) so Im never sure which annoying bunch of losers Im supposed to belong to.”
I define Baby Boomers as those people who are old enough to remember Woodstock and the Tet Offensive but not old enough to remember World War II. I define Generation X as those people old enough to remember the Cold War but not old enough to remember Woodstock or Tet.
“And frankly, if we are all going to take on generational identities, the Greatest Generation has a lot to answer for. They introduced socialism on a massive scale, ruined the school systems, apparently raised a bunch of dope heads, and ran up an enormous national debt”
What Brokaw called the “Greatest Generation” is what I call the “Suburban Generation”. Much of what defines suburbia- supermarkets, fast food, backyards, television, traffic gridlock, subdivisions- became ingrained in our culture after WWII by the young people who had been on the front lines. The Presidents from Kennedy to Bush Sr belong to this group.
I reject the notion that the WWII generation is the “greatest generation”. They did a lot to be proud of & have a lot to answer for - just like any other generation.
They seemed to focus on handing down material gains as the civilization was withering on the vine.
They destroyed us, making it permanent with the immigration act of 1965.
Gen-X uses the 70s and the 80s as their cultural heritage. Star Wars, Jaws, and ET were the major movies of our youth.
& Baby Boomers helped to give us the crap, coarse culture we have. Even the ones who were not a part of the madness let the other side win & take over the institutions of culture and education - they lost the culture war.
The WWII generation also gave us no fault divorce and the permanent welfare state. Thanks guys.
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