Owing to the sizable number of new readers who probably aren’t up to speed on the updated generational theory popularized on this blog, I thought this post would make a helpful refresher.
If you frequent social media and dissident blogs, it’s hard to escape the phenomenon of people getting woke to generational differences. Much is made of Strauss-Howe generational theory. Some claim they can predict where the country’s heading based on the age of the people in charge cross-referenced with the general cultural mood when those leaders came of age.
Some folks take Strauss-Howe to an extreme, as if it were some kind of generational astrology. For my money, the most significant fruit of generational wokeness has been an increased awareness not of where we’re going, but of how we got to the point we’re at now.
What was the culture like when your dad was coming of age? How much was college tuition when he went for his BA? What was the state of the economy when he applied for his first real job? The rising tendency of people to ask these questions is important because the memory hole is a central feature of the Left’s ideology. When your worldview is based on the airy fantasy of progress, it pays to discourage people from thinking about the past, lest unflattering comparisons be made.
Another key windfall of our enhanced generational awareness has been the rediscovery of previously forgotten generations. For some reason nobody talks about, the mass media have a decades-long habit of tagging certain cohorts with ready-made labels, popularizing the term, and suddenly shoving it down the memory hole. Remember the MTV Generation? Sometimes previously unknown generational divisions are identified, as in the case of Generation Jones.
One such discarded generational label is Generation Y. Bear with me as I go into some depth on the subject, because it’s the cohort I belong to, so it’s the only one I can speak on authoritatively in detail.
“Generation Y” was to go-to label for the children of younger Baby Boomers and the younger siblings of older Gen Xers. I remember hearing the term frequently until the latter half of the 90s, when some Madison Avenue type came up with the buzzword “Millennial”. Both tags existed side-by-side for a while, with Millennials understood as the children of older Xers and the younger siblings of Ys.
Then one day, the term “Generation Y” was stricken from the public record. The decision to sunset that label is especially odd considering that everybody calls the generation following the Millennials Gen Z. Then again, we live in a post-literate culture.
The label is gone, but the people it used to describe are still around. Media types don’t know what to do with members of the former Gen Y, so they get lumped in with either Gen X or the Millennials depending on that day’s coin toss results. The incoherence of this makeshift solution is obvious when you apply a modicum of scrutiny. There are millions of people born between 1979 and 1989 who are nothing like Xers or Millennials.
These differences come to the fore when you consider each generation’s besetting vices. Everyone who takes an interest in generational trends knows the stereotypes. The Greats are diligent but emotionally distant. Boomers are inveterate narcissists. Xers are cynical to the point of paralysis. Millennials are developmentally stunted snowflakes.
For those members of Gen Y who are enjoying a chuckle right now, you’re not getting off the hook. If my generation can be said to have a general vice, it has to be that we’re collectively naive, approaching the point of obliviousness.
There’s an explanation for everything. In Gen Y’s case, we grew up largely unaware of what was going on because our elders subjected us to a ubiquitous and extended gaslighting campaign. Our childhoods mostly happened in the 80s, which were the eye of a cultural storm that started in the 60s and is now rending Western civilization stone from stone.
Generation Y came up in an era that still had something like a functioning economy. In terms of race relations, America was as close to colorblind as we’ve ever gotten and are ever likely to get. If you were in second grade ca. 1988, you didn’t think anything of hanging out with the black kid in your group. He wasn’t a POC or even necessarily an African-American. He was just Mike.
Millennials never had that experience of minorities. They were indoctrinated with intersectional race theory, which didn’t really come in until Gen Y had left grade school. On the flip side of the coin, older Gen Xers remember the urban crime waves and riots of the 70s, even if they’re politically on the Left.
While not as spoiled as Millennials, Ys were members of the first generation born after wages froze and mothers were universally ripped from their children to join the workforce. As a result, GenY’s parents embraced the practice of bribing their kids to make up for not spending time with them. These payoffs usually came in the form of toys, and it’s hard to complain because the best toys ever made were produced in the 80s.
That’s not bragging. The mind-blowing quality and variety of playthings that Ys were constantly plied with goes a long way toward explaining why we’ve been wandering down the primrose path ever since. Getting a new NES cart or going to Chuck E. Cheese for no apparent reason really did make every day feel like Christmas. Gen Y got started on the hedonic treadmill early.
Last but not least, the internet had none of the accessibility or utility for countering the official narrative that it has today. You had your parents’ and teachers’ word, textbooks, and TV, and that was it. Everything was fine and would continue to be fine.
Surrounding a generation of kids with a false picture of the world produced a whole cohort of sheltered adolescents. We honestly thought things were OK and would keep being OK in perpetuity. The warning signs were hidden from us, ostensibly for our own good.
It’s no wonder why Gen X turned out so cynical. They had the personal context to see that the relative peace and prosperity was fleeting, and that the 80s were a small island in an angry sea. They had the advantage of setting out into the real world while Gen Y was still in school, and they got intimately acquainted with reality.
In contrast, I liken the typical Gen Y experience of growing up in America to the harrowing experience of Michael Douglas’ character in 1997’s The Game. To Gen Y, America’s decline felt as sudden as going to bed in a mansion in a gated community patrolled by armed guards and waking up in the trash-filled gutter of a third world shit hole. The transition has been disorienting to say the least, but like Gen X icon Tyler Durden before us, we’re slowly realizing what’s happened. And we’re getting really pissed.
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