Generation X is the term used to label the current generation of people in their twenties. Before we came along there were the hippies, then the baby boomers who traded in their love beads for gold cards to become Yuppies. Each of these groups has a distinct title that links them to a significant point in history. The title of Generation X or the Lost Generation implies that we are generic, not unlike calling us Brand X. That makes me feel like we’ve been written off by the rest of society. We’re the generation that wears the plain, bleached wrapper. According to the rest of society we sit on the shelf collecting dust, while the other generations speculate about what’s in the box. Could it be we are the first peer group that can’t be placed in a single category?
We don’t have a catchy slogan, or a pretty picture drawn across the front to attract perspective buyers. However, there’s more inside our box than one might expect. Douglas Coupland, the man responsible for coining the term in his 1991 novel entitled, “Generation X”, should have taken a closer look before tagging us with such a name. Those who came before us contributed their own ingredients to the mix.
At the end of WWII the baby boomers were born just as America tried to repopulate after our military returned from fighting “over there”. This was a major, massive undertaking for any group. Nevertheless, this generation served as a prime example of togetherness and “family values”. Much later these ideas/ideals would come into focus during a controversial episode of the sitcom Murphy Brown.
In the 1960’s the hippies grew tired of the Establishment that grew out of the 1950’s and attempted to blaze their own path. Let us not forget that they were brought together by the Viet Nam conflict and the Civil Right’s fight. Then, “three days of peace and music”, pulled the whole nation together. Unfortunately, Disco was born out of the ashes of Woodstock. Those of you still blessed with lime green leisure suits and Bee Gees records know what I mean!
In the 1980’s the trend moved from “Smile On Your Brother” to “He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins”. Instead of joining the Peace Corps people began earning MBAs so they could afford new BMWs. The Yuppies change the focus to one of Materialism. The “We” Generation became the “Me” Generation. This may have been due to the fact that the American public did not have a major war to unite (or divide) them. However, we did see some Police Actions. During the Regan-Bush years this country was on a diplomatic roller coaster. As Generation X began to mature, members of the older generations began to point their collective finger blaming the “rough ride” on the apathetic youth of America. This was a great way to shift the blame for current conditions! Our leaders urged us to look to military power (“a thousand points of light” became a convenient metaphor for control) as an answer while planet Earth began literally heating up!
Well, I for one am through staring off into space. I am a college educated man who is trying to use the skills I have been given to find a place where I can make a difference. However, as a member of Generation X, I viewed as a “slacker”; a person whose brain has been numbed by overexposure to the harmful rays of MTV. According to popular opinion, I belong to a societal group that cares more about the happenings on Melrose Place than the situation in Bosnia. Some might even believe we are waiting for those who came before us to pay some sort of retribution for the events that have taken place in the years since WWII. Let me assure you that this is not the case. We know that chance takes more than aiming a remote control at a cable box.
The Gulf War was presented to us as video game reality. Level One was the Air Strike; Level Two was the Clean-Up… such antiseptic words. After the score was tabulated, I still do not know who won! A reading of American history might lead one to conclude that armed conflict is a unifying factor in American life BUT Operation Desert Storm could have been sponsored by Coca Cola, Bud Light, or General Motors. Through the wonders of modern technology we could sit back, enjoy a brew, and have Wolf Blitzer give us the color commentary on the bombs bursting over Baghdad.
Life/Reality has become a game of strategy invented on the fly! All of us in Generation X have learned that as the Zen Buddhists say, life is like playing ball on running water! We are not the first generation to face an uncertain future or see the world in a different light.
We want to forge ahead and discover our own truths. We want to break out of the Generation X Box. All of the assumptions and ideas that have surfaced recently about our generation must be questioned. The American Dream used to be, simply, the ideal of hard work achieving desired goals. It appears to us that this ideal has mutated.
Kids, today, seem to me to be tuned up and turned on and on their way to dropping dead. We all have to work together to reshape the dream that was set before us. I do not want to leave the next generation asking “Why?”
Do not believe the myths circulating about us. We can change the way thing are. We are not a bunch of kids-without-a-clue looking only for handouts! As long as we, ourselves, do not buy into the image created about/for us we can make a difference! We refuse to wear the ”X” ON OUR BACKS!!!
I wrote this in ’92 or ’93 for S.L.U.G. Fest. I think much still rings true today