When Lev Grossman wrote about “Twixters” in Time back in ’05 (It seems so long ago, I thought, looking it up, with a tip of the hat to Leonard Cohen, which puts me squarely ‘twixt centuries…), young people responded that they were being no more feckless than previous generations — if anything, less — but that there weren’t a lot of options for getting your feck on.
Let’s face it — when you start complaining about young people’s lack of everything but attitude — their lousy or non-existent work ethic, their dwindling or totally absent attention span, their lack of ambition, their focus on materialism to the detriment of idealism — it really means you’re just getting old.
2010 is the 400th anniversary of the death of king Henry IV of France, assassinated while his carriage was stuck in a traffic jam in Paris. Today, Slate runs an article encouraging readers to contribute ideas for lessening urban traffic congestion.
Good King Henry, who governed wisely, so tradition has it, and promised every French workingman “a chicken in the pot,” ruled a country whose preoccupations sound a lot like today’s: cost-of-living increases and inflation, debasement of the currency, taxes, wars, religious strife and controversy…and I’d be willing to bet that each generation saw the next as debased in values, less educated and ambitious, fixated on passing fashion, and more concerned with doing well than doing good.
At least the younger generation’s taste in music may not have been as much of a concern as it is now…but I wonder.
Gen Y has been broadly tarred with a Home Depot’s selection of brushes, but is this stereotyping deserved? Is Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation” any greater than the one that would have rushed to enlist, buy war bonds and plant victory gardens had it been asked to on September 12, 2001? I doubt it.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la doggone même chose… one has to wonder, given the success and drive of young entrepreneurs in Gen Y, whether part of their supposed stalled momentum isn’t in part due solely to having to cope with contemporary conditions, as every generation has had to.
After all, the supposedly feckless “me” generation produced Steve Jobs and The Woz, and not every person who came of age in the welter of the sixties was a member of the counterculture, far from it.
We love images, the simplifications that help us make sense of things – what’s there to blog about if we start by acknowledging that every case is different?
I’m not sure when that point of “getting old” kicks in – hey, maybe each case is different, so I can’t even identify a bogus trend here!
The formula seems to be this: It’s the people at least twenty years older than the people they’re criticizing who author these generalizations. Fortunately, we’re running out of alphabet to catalog the generations, so after Gen Z it’ll be all over – the Age of Aquarius!
Ah, I feel old.
Louis Mazé was born the year we “lost China” – look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls, as they used to say so picturesquely back then, or do what he does – hit the iPhone! After a lifetime living around the world and raising his own children in different countries, he’s back in the USA as an independent management consultant and trainer.
He’s worked in higher education and the corporate world, and his own clients include those realms plus government and health care.
Oh – and he also does voice-overs in several languages without sounding like Peggy Hill speaking Spanish. He does live in Texas, however.