I just read a bracingly honest article about “generational identity.” It’s titled “Your Generational Identity Is a Lie.”
Disclaimer: I don’t know, or care, if that newspaper is certifiably “right wing” or “left wing.” I find the article to be helpful. Period, end of disclaimer. To read, you first have to pull your head out of your rear end. As Francis Bacon put it, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”
The article acknowledges only the famous, and easily discerned, demographic hump from 1946 to 1964, the so-called “Baby Boom.” These were the post-war years, when GIs got married, had kids, and bought starter houses in the former potato fields of Levittown, Long Island. The other generations have shape-shifted for years, obviously attempts by know-it-alls to keep the Boom thing going by naming subsequent generations. So we had Generation Y, which is now called The Millennials. We had 20-somethings and 20-nothings, and 30-somethings, and so on.
The problem is that the so-called subsequent “generations” (who are not far enough apart to be actual generations) are defined by cheap criteria like popular music and TV shows. (Not to mention the political ideology that gave us the chimerical “generation gap.”)
The Baby Boom demographic hump is unmistakable. Less unmistakable are the alleged characteristics of that generation. Many people in that “generation” don’t feel like it. I am one of them. I was born without a 5 in my birth year; that was represented to me as an uncrossable abyss throughout my childhood and adolescence. Kids one year ahead of me had a sense of entitlement I still can’t quite articulate. I, meanwhile, had “missed out.”
Missed out? Perhaps on The Lone Ranger on the Philco cathedral radio which adorned my bedroom till the late 60s. (Or on the large floor-model Philco with short wave which occupied the corner of the living room–we put the Nativity set on top of it.) Instead, I got the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and a few odd precursors like Diver Dan and Sandy Becker.
But no, I don’t feel I “missed out” or am to be forever juvenile. Don’t tell that, though, to someone born in the 1950s. To such a person, in some deep and unacknowledged sense, the American door swung shut on January 1, 1960.
Once, for a while, there was even an interstitial generation, for those born from 1960 to 1964. A thin demographic wedge, as a Chicago cartoonist (whom I cannot remember, mea culpa) once called us–proposing the generational identity The Wedgies. Anyway, that one fell by the wayside as the Truth got updated again.
My parents, products of Victorian parents and the Depression, teenagers during the War, were married early in 1960, as it happens, just after the door “shut forever.”
Yet I always looked to my parents, and of course to their parents, for cultural guidance. What was I supposed to do, listen to the Beatles? They of “Ob-La-Di”? That must be a joke.
The definitional hubris of modernity. The burden of being your own God, and of writing your own Book of Psalms.
A prune-faced old Presbyterian woman from Pennsylvania, who once was nationally celebrated for being hired as, and I quote, “associate for leadership in educational nurture and teaching in the Curriculum Publishing Program Area of the Congregational Ministries
Division in Louisville,” did a ‘generational workshop’ at a dying church I once thought I might help revive.
So angry, so prune-faced, that she scowled in return to my cheerful “good morning,” she proceeded with the deft certitude of a cult leader to indoctrinate us about all the “generations” in America, and how one isn’t like another, and what they can’t say to each other, and what language doesn’t work, and how dangerous and fraught it all is, and how the “God-talk” is incompatible…
and–get ready!–how “children have computers in their pockets.” “Hmm? Hmm? Whatcha think about that?!” A tortured rictus of mockery, which she would have probably called a “smile,” momentarily overspread her glum countenance.
And they call organists insane.
I took out my Android phone and quietly began to play Plants Versus Zombies. I’m sure that this Genius of the Generations had never heard of the funnest game of all time. Then again, fun is probably evil.
The problem is due to a combination of Marxism, which seeks to divide people; and the me-too-ism which is so much part of our human nature. Add to that the chronic arrogance of the “50s Generation,” forever seeking its next spinoff, and here we are.
People are people. To a future generation, my students and I will be reckoned siblings.
How much identity does a person need?