Gen X Mindset

Thu Sep11, 2003

When no one asks what historical situations created people of my age, I tell them that we’re survivors in a world not really worth surviving in anymore.

We grew up in a time of record abortions, when the population zero movement was distributing literature that equated children with bombs: Every child is a moment taken off of the world’s clock. Most of us were latchkey kids or children of divorce and the parenting literature of the day encouraged exposing kids to everything.

We grew up thinking of ourselves as survivors and the last few recessions – hitting us in our young, formative years when many of us were leaving high school or as the last of us finished graduate school – seemed to enforce the idea that the world was out to get us. As education costs rose, and college became a perquisite, aid dried up, and grants all but vanished.

Our confidence is based on the idea that we’ve survived. We’ve lost good paying jobs and had the guts to start over again. And again. And again. We’ve learned to rely on nothing, and yet what most of us crave is community and family. And almost all of us say that we wouldn’t bring up our kids the way we were raised. This is why our kids and the Boomers’ kids seem so alike: They’re being raised with the same philosophy, the snowflake philosophy.

Don’t let the next generation grow up wasted, like ours.

Whether you believed in post-modern magic or not, relativism defined our relationship to the world in college. If you had a perspective it was called a “privileged” perspective (in air quotes), because no single worldview could hold water, even if it was only your perspective. This meant that it was exercise in futility to claim you had something more worth saying than someone else so you said nothing at all.

Not wanting to vote for Boomers who would inevitably support only themselves, we turned away from politics, stopped participating in elections, decided that it was better to choose not to matter than to be made not to matter.

Politically and morally we’ve taken a turn to the right, following the Boomers who have found god and fiscal responsibility. Why? It’s hard to say, but Reagan appealed to us by promising to bring us back to elemental economics, where a day’s pay was worth a day’s work and I think it’s the same logic at play. We feel cheated, and this is a strong message to a generation that has lost its faith in government, that knows big brother is carnivorous.

It has been ordained: Boomers will offer up entitlement programs to the gods of fire, choosing an arbitrary date of 1965 to cease social security benefits, and the country will begin support kids again.

It will be interesting to see how the AARP adapts to the new environment. The elderly lobbyists have gotten stronger since about 1965, and the Boomers could be the shot in the arm the group needs to really block up the pipes. (The Silent Generation was too small, though it did have the capital to run its programs through.) I foresee a breakup of the group around 2020-2030, followed by a new policy that tells seniors that it’s their duty to retire as late as possible and then slip into a coma and die without costing the government or their families very much money...


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