Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Generational Slurs....

When someone labels a person or group of people with a generational label, it is usually intended as a slur.

In my previous posting about tissues, I jokingly opined that Millennials have ruined tissues - using paper towels for everything.  It is a standing joke that Millennials have "ruined" everything from coffee, to work, to avocados, to... whatever the newspaper editors felt they needed to use to fill space in the paper this week or generate a click-bait headline.

A reader notes that when people slap the label "Millennial" on something, they are referring to young people in general, often in their 20's which may be more "Gen Z" or whatever label they have come up with lately.

I thought about it, and it occurred to me that whenever these generational labels are slapped on someone, some group, or something, it is not laudatory.  In fact, it is often a slur.

Younger people like to say "OK Boomer!" as if the person they were addressing was some old fuddy-duddy who didn't have a clue.  And of course, you can label entire groups of people based on when they were born - right?  I mean, it works for Astrology - and it is about as accurate.

Of course, I am not even sure what generation I am in, or where the cutoff of these generations are.  Who assigns these labels, anyway?  Is there some sort of government agency in charge of this?  Of course not.  It is just bullshit of the first order.  From what I can divine online, the various generations - or at least the ones with labels - suss out as follows:

The Lost Generation: (1883-1900)  Gertrude Stein coined this phrase, while talking to Ernest Hemingway.  "Yours is a lost generation" she said, referring in part to the large number of young men who never returned from the trenches of World War I.  Like I've said before, war has always been mankind's most effective form of birth control - and evolution.  Each war creates new technologies, and in most wars, the best and brightest stay behind the lines to survive and reproduce.

The Lost Generation is truly lost at this point, unless there is some fucker out there who was born in 1900 and lived to 122 and no one noticed.  Perhaps this is the first "generation" to be slapped with a label - or perhaps not.  Maybe previous generations simply didn't have labels.

Greatest (and most modest) Generation Ever:  (1901-1927) This was my parents' generation and Mark's parents' generation as well.  They are lauded for surviving the depression and winning World War II.  And while many experienced privation and were shot at and were wounded or died, many others did not.  For example, Mark's Dad ran out after Pearl Harbor and signed up for the Army.  They trained him as a B-17 navigator and he was shot down, early in the war, after seeing the pilot's head blown off.  He was taken prisoner - and was lucky, as angry townspeople hung some of the aviators from lamp posts.  He spent nearly four years in a POW camp and saw friends waste away and others shot.

My Dad partied his way through World War II.  He wasn't so sure about this Hitler fellow and after December 7th, 1942, he decided to take a wait-and-see approach as he was in college at the time.  Before his draft number came up, he took a leave of absence and joined the Army.  They sent him back to college - Texas A&M and Officer Candidate School.  As the war was winding down, he was charged with supervising a shipment of gold to North Africa to pay back some of the Arabs who agreed to be on our side - for a price. The C-54 lost an engine over Bermuda, so he left the shipment in charge of a Sergeant and went into town and had a rum swizzle and got laid.  Later on, he was in Italy, long after it had surrendered, and was put in charge of a Jeep parts depot.  He left this in charge of a Sergeant and went to dinner parties hosted by a countess - and got drunk and got laid.  They also serve....who had a good time.

The point is, not everyone was storming the beaches in Normandy or Iwo Jima.  And both our parents benefited from the rebounding economy after the war.  Yes, they sacrificed.  But "Greatest Generation Ever?"  I think Tom Brokaw coined that phrase, and it is a little over-the-top and immodest.  I am sure many of that "generation" are embarrassed by it.

Bear in mind these generational labels are entirely arbitrary.  Why range from 1901-1927 and not from 1910 to 1935?  It was someone's arbitrary choice.  Generational labels mean nothing - as the divergent experiences of our parents illustrate.

The Silent Generation: (1928-1945)  When you think of "old people" today, they may be of this era.  The "Greatest Generation Ever" has largely shuffled off the mortal coil, so this generation is what is left in the nursing homes - until the Baby Boomers push them out.   These were the war babies and guys who served in Korea.  They grew up with us winning World War II, but not being a part of it, other that perhaps to participate in a scrap drive.   People forgot about Korea, which is one reason why they call it the Silent generation.

The other reason being the stereotype of the keep-your-head-down-and-don't-rock-the-boat attitudes of the 1950s, when America rebounded from the mild post-war depression.  People were, supposedly, conservative and Republican and conformist, in that era.

But don't tell that to the beatniks, or Alan Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac - right? Because the "Beat Generation" also has its roots here - and were the precursors of the hippies of the next "generation."

What is interesting to note, is that, so far, these generations are defined by wars.  The "Lost Generation" with World War I, the "Greatest Generation Ever" by World War II, and now the "Silent Generation" with the Korean War (or Conflict or Police Action or whatever - technically it is not over).

Baby Boomers: (1946-1964)  Technically I am part of this generation - although some sources place the cutoff dates as 1940-1960.  Like I said, this is not an exact "science" and in fact is not science at all.  It is just bullshit.  These are the children of the "Greatest Generation" and "The Silent Generation" and to hear the media tell it, we all became hippies, went to Woodstock, smoked dope, and then, in the 1970's became disco kings and queens.

Except, maybe not.  I noted before, I was once talking to an older friend of mine at Carrier who was at Kent State at the time of the shootings, and I asked him what it was like. "I don't know," he replied, "I was studying Engineering and not protesting.  I read about it in the paper the next day.  It was a large campus - I never even saw it going on!"

So you see, slapping a "generation" label on people is stupid.  Like my friend at Carrier, I was studying Engineering and worked at GM as well.  My eldest brother and sister went to Woodstock - it rained and they left early.  It was not the defining moment of their lives, or their "generation." None of us became Disco enthusiasts, either. You see, people are individuals, not focus groups or demographics to be spelunked and categorized.

Once again, a war defines a generation - Vietnam.  And while many served and many died, the vast majority of that generation had little to do with the war, and college kids, like my oldest brother, had little chance of being drafted.  He protested against it, however.  Oddly enough, my brother-in-law didn't - and he ended up in the Army.  Divergent experiences, again.

Baby Boomers, of course, are the widest part of the age pyramid which sort of maxes out the year I was born, in 1960.  So Boomers are plentiful and they have dominated politics and industry and entertainment for the last few decades - to the point where everyone is sort of fed up with them.

But fear not, they too are rapidly shuffling off the mortal coil and within a couple of decades will be as rare as World War II veterans are today.  Be patient.

Generation X: (1965-1980)  Generation X got the short end of the stick being only 15 years in length.  Once again, we see how arbitrary these labels are.  I was taught that a generation was more or less 20 years.  I guess Gen-X got less.

Generation X was my first recollection as to the media's obsession with these "Generations." Lame magazines like Time and Newsweek would run articles about "Generation X: What they want, and why?" or something along those lines.  And we were told this "new generation" was entirely different than previous ones, and not just ordinary human beings like the rest of us.

Whether or not Generation X is part of the "Me Generation" I do not know.   That seemed to be a label slapped on young people (again, as a slur) in the mid 1980s because young people were trying to better themselves, instead of protesting something or another.  It seems to have fallen by the wayside since then. 

That really started this whole inter-generational warfare, in my opinion.  Because once you create the "Gen X" label, you have to have catchy labels for the next generations as well.

Millennials: (1981-1996) You can see these "generations" are getting shorter and shorter, over time.  They started calling this "Generation Y" but then the millennium came along and someone decided (Who? When? Why? who gave them the authority?) that since this was "the defining moment of their generation" to slap this label on it.   Maybe a better label is the 9/11 generation - if we are going to categorize these things based on wars.

Again, Millennials are best known for "ruining everything" by refusing to consume, for example.  The label is rarely used as anything but an ageist slur. 

Generation Z: (1997-2012)  While the "Greatest Generation" was 26 years in length, we have whittled this down to a mere 15 for this latest generation of do-nothing slackers.  Nothing good is ever said of Generation Z - they just sit around all day long and play video games - right?  Why haven't they accomplished more?  Well, for starters, most of them are still in their 20's, and when I was that age, I was hanging around and drinking beer and smoking dope.  But for us it was different, of course, right?

Generation Alpha: (2010-?) Proof that this whole "generation" thing is running out of steam.  We have no real tag to put on these folks as many are still in pre-school.  But that's not too early to label them with defining characteristics that will scar them for life.  I am not sure what these children did to deserve a generational label or to be stereotyped as being all of one thing.  I suppose they will call these kids "The Social Media Generation" as they were handed smart phones literally in the crib.  We'll see.

So what's the point of all this?  Only that people are individuals, not focus groups, demographic slices, or other forms of cubby-hole-ism.  It seems that some folks want to label us all and put us into our designated bins and then hammer shut the hatches so we can't escape.

Whenever you hear one of these "generation" labels batted about, chances are, it is an insult.  "Millennials destroyed [whatever]" or "Gen Z is quiet quitting!" or "OK Boomer!".   No one ever says nice things about these generational groups.

In a way, it is no different than saying blacks are all criminals or Mexicans are lazy or that Jews are secretly running the world (hello Sleazy Yeezy?).  They are harmful stereotypes and serve no good purpose, other than to pit "us" against "them."

Stereotypes are so powerful, too.  People tell "Boomer" jokes, even if they are part of the demographic.  Similarly, I've heard more than one "Millennial" repeat a "Millennial" stereotype and more than one "Gen-Z" person complain about how lazy and unmotivated "kids are these days!"  Is is like a black person running a white supremacy group or selling "White Lives Matter" t-shits.  I guess they think if they denounce their own group, the other group will let them in on a day-pass.  If I denounce Baby Boomers, then I'm not one of them, right?  Or maybe the whole structure is just suspect.

You are not a statistic or a demographic.  You are an individual.  The stereotypes made about people of certain ages, religions, or races are not helpful, but harmful. And maybe in this modern era, where making jokes about Jews or Blacks or Hispanics is considered vulgar, it is fair game to go after someone based on what year they were born.

It is rude, but moreover makes no sense.  The "Bernie Bros" who are mostly from the Millennial age group, decry the "Boomers" for ruining the country.  Yet they want to elect an 80-something-year-old Boomer as their leader.   You can't have it both ways - you can't say "all Boomers are like this" and then say the solution is to make a Boomer President (we've already had a few!).  Maybe the answer is to address policies, not ages.

People are individuals.  There are people I know in their 80's who are far-left Liberals, and I know teenagers who think Donald Trump is a God - as the inverse is also true.   You can't pigeon-hole people based on their age.

About the only thing you can do with age demographics is sell products based on age-based needs.  You can sell zit-cream to teenagers and adult diapers to old people.  That's about it.  Trying to make more out of age demographics is just silliness.

So... the next time you hear someone say, "OK, Boomer" or "Millennials ruined this" or "Gen-Z is lazy!" just do me a favor...

...Punch them in the face.   This shit needs to go away, like yesterday!