Sunday, February 04, 2007

Generations II

To make some further observations, as always trying to label individuals by the standard of a collective is difficult if not impossible. I believe the point is, though, that even taking into account the vast amounts of variance found amongst individual human beings, the overall character of a generation as a collective cannot help but be shaped by the forces of history, namely the stages of the cycle they inhabit when they are born and come of age, and with this character so shaped, they cannot help but impact the stages in which they live their midlife and old age.

To take my category, Heroes (Civics), we are born during an unravelling and come of age during a crisis. This generally causes the early lives of a Civic generation to be relatively easy, though characterized by uncertainty about the future. Civics then come of age during a Crisis, which really shapes them. The current, "just deal with it" Millennial generation does indeed have more in common with the "suck it up" GI Generation than it does with its immediate Gen X "whatever" predecessors, or their "love is all you need" Boomer parents, and the preceding "make your own future" Silent generation, which saw many young people in the aftermath of World War II immigrating to the Americas from Europe (like my grandparents, who are both a part of that generation). I mean think of the catchphrases that are so popular with our generation, "Deal with it," "Get over it," "Get over yourself," "Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it." That kind of heartless crap hasn't really been popular in western parlance since the GI generation, really, and I do think it's very much a product of the fact that most of us were born in the Unravelling of the 1980s or 1990s, a paradoxical time of both terrible uncertainty, economic prosperity and reduced government services resulting in more poverty. And my own experience sort of gives some credibility to both the idea that people are individuals and thus not entirely shaped by their generation's norms - as I more often than not find myself rejecting this sort of "deal with it" rhetoric - but at the same time individuals cannot help but be shaped at least in some way by the collective - as I find myself more often than I'd like to admit giving into that cold, toughen-up attitude.

Meanwhile, the coming Artist (Adaptive) generation will be shaped by the Crisis in which they are born; a world of increasing warfare, shifting global powers and alliances, and of course the consequences of decades of social neglect of the poor and the ever-shrinking middle class, spurred on by more and more globalization resulting in lower and lower wages and a continuing stratification of social classes. Actually, I think the shrinking middle class could be a defining characterisitic of this generation, as more and more families find themselves on one of two sides of a divide of well off or poor - and of course, it's the poor who usually end up fighting in wars. Mix that with continuing global conflicts, and you've got a generation very similar to the previous Artist generation, which was very much shaped by the fact that they were born and grew up during the twin crises of the Great Depression and World War II, while their older brothers and parents fought to survive in both war and the peace that preceded it.

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