That Same Old Generational Song And Dance

Dustin, formerly of such blog fame as the Gun Toting Liberal among others, emailed me this very interesting piece regarding the difficulties that the youngest generation to enter the workforce are facing; namely the fact that employers are dismayed at the prospect of hiring them.

Generational talk tends to glance off of me kind of funny. Depending on whose definition of Generation-X you take into account, I’m too young to be lumped into that group, and when it comes to Generation-Y, or “The Millenials”, I’m too old. I’m caught in that three or four year gap between the two generations that rests somewhere in the transition from one to the next. For instance, I was a latchkey kid, but I also grew up in the era of self esteem boosting and protective coddling.

I actually remember when spanking fell out of vogue, and then when it fell back in vogue as a form of protest to parenting-by-the-book.

So while I tend to identify more with Gen-Xers, I’ve more often felt something of an outsider, even among an entire generation of nihilistic outsiders. But not necessarily identifying with one generation or another does not preclude one from making certain observations and noticing specific patterns.

The article mentioned above details the apprehensions that employers have in embracing those kids just now entering the workforce and graduating from college. They are bright and creative, but they also seem to have issues with being adults, and are too fragile to be useful in the real world.

It’s a tune that sounds vaguely familiar, largely because it’s been sung before time and again. The words may change a little, the beat may speed up or slow down depending on who’s playing it, but it’s the essentially the same song and dance over and over again, with each generation eventually getting around to perform their own cover.

“Kids these days…” it begins, and is typically followed up by a rueful shakingof the head. The song I’m familiar went something like this: “When I was your age I walked five miles to school, in ten feet of snow, uphill–BOTH WAYS! And I was PROUD to get that education.” Of course, my parents weren’t serious when they said this, they were mocking their generation who would tell them such stories in earnest.

It only goes to show that each generation will look at the generations to follow and see something lacking. It has been like this for as long as anyone can remember; I’m sure even the generation that preceded the Greatest Generation looked down upon their posterity, shook their heads and said, “Kids these days… they just don’t know how easy they got it.” At least until World War II anyway.

But does the quality of person actually decline? I’ve already seen some of the shades of criticism of the kids these days. How it’s all email and no real mail, how the practice of writing has fallen by the wayside in favor of typing. Video games instead of pick-up football games. And of course, the fact that the generation just grew up too soft, not ready for the rigors of the real world.

Yet, amid all of this criticism is a kind of generational lament, one that does disparage the strength of the character of those of future generations, but is much more reflective of the short comings of the present generation. Boomers enjoyed a prosperity and sense of peace that their parents lacked when they were coming of age. Xers engaged a pragmatism healthy skepticism that seemed to often elude the boomers, and the Millenials will enjoy a sense of technicological symbiosis with media that Xers and Boomers invented and sought to perfect.

As a friend once told me, everyone 26 years and younger has a myspace page that is maintained meticulously, while everyone she knew older than that had bare bones myspace pages if at all. I tried myspace once, and it remained pretty much tabula rasa for the few months before I just deleted it and moved on.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how many grumpy old men crowd into barbershops and wax to the contrary, no generation is necessarily worse than the one that precedes it. That is not for the previous generations to decide but instead for future generations and history. Instead, what we see in the lament of every generation as it looks upon those who will replace them is an empathetic failing to fully grasp that which molds their sons and daughters.

Time does not stand still and we do not exist in a bubble. Inventions are made and perfected and change the way we see and interact with the world; from the advent of written language to widescreen plasma televisions with DVR capable digital HD cable. Even more so, we also have a societal and cultural memory; we are not forced to rediscover the same truths over and over again, and so what we see is that each generation comes of age with new tools that reshape the growing experience, tools that are both tangible and metaphysical.

There are mistakes made along the way, for instance the parental technique that seeks to protect a child from the possibility of failure is indeed damaging, however, these mistakes are not so catastrophic of errors that they can’t be corrected.

In truth, that same old generational song and dance is probably a good one. It means that our future generations are being equipped with new tools of life, tools we can’t possibly understand, and yet will carry them further than we could possibly imagine.

2 Responses to “That Same Old Generational Song And Dance”

  1. Generational talk is indeed silly, since most “experts” can’t agree where one generation
    ends and another begins. Yet I continue to read the latest articles inaccurately defining
    why my Generation Y is made up of delusional, overachieving, hubristic menaces to society.

    Oh well.

  2. I agree Bianca! It’s always been difficult to pin me into one generation or another, but either way it goes, I end up being not good enough.

    Really, and I may do a follow up on this because I’ve continued to think on the subject since writing this post, where one generation begins and another ends really isn’t the point. The point is that each “generation” grows up with new contours on their developing landscape, every child reaches into life on the shoulders of his parents, who in turn stood on the shoulders of their parents, etc.

    It would seem natural that generations would stand in awe of those that followed, but that’s not the case. The reason for this is because as generations turnover, standards change. Older generations mourn that their posterity don’t meet the standards they had to meet as kids, but what they forget is that the younguns have new standards to contend with as the older standards become increasingly less significant.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by and I hope to hear from you again soon!

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