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The disillusionment of Generation X

While individual views of leadership are shaped by deeply personal experiences, the events common to a generation also subtly contribute. In thinking more recently about the themes common to Generation X, we've started examining the ideals and values of our youth that have yielded to a harsher reality as we aged. We've "creatively" labeled this the Gen-X Disillusionment, and to follow are four examples of unrealized social campaigns that have played out through our lifetime, leaving us to wonder about their impact on leadership decisions, desires and methods.

1. Give peace a chance
Although we came of age during the vague but ever-present threat of nuclear fallout brought on by the Cold War, we were raised in a remarkably peaceful time. We learned from the echoes of the baby boomer's call for peace, understanding their collective recoil from Vietnam. We grew up in a world that avoided confrontation, recognizing the Cold War as an effort by two super powers to avoid conflict. But then, shortly after we entered adulthood, Iraq invaded Kuwait City in the summer of 1990 and our generation experienced its first war, one that could easily be justified because we were protecting tiny Kuwait from its neighboring bully, Iraq. Ten years later, the September 11 attacks occurred, and we rightfully sent our military into Afghanistan.

But a subtle shift soon followed--one where a main tenet of Just War Theory, where military action is a last resort, was rationalized away. We invaded Iraq in 2003 and have been mired in conflict ever since, even redoubling our efforts in Afghanistan in 2009.

By no means were these wars black-and-white issues from a moral standpoint, as President Obama acknowledged. But the fact is that our country has been at war for the past decade, and the values that we embraced throughout our youth--peace, cooperation, diplomacy and understanding--have been replaced by more aggressive means.

2. To drug or not to drug
For Generation X, one of the most memorable wars fought during our lifetime may very well be the War on Drugs. Brought on, in part, by GI heroin abuse during the Vietnam War, Nixon declared that, "America's Public Enemy No. 1 is drug abuse." Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1973 to extend the United States' reach and precision in combating the use and sale of drugs nationally and abroad. Shortly thereafter, efforts were heightened and the National Institute on Drug Abuse was founded in 1974, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy was set up in 1988.

Growing up in the '70's and '80s we were soldiers, combating the insidious pushers and fiends who threatened our futures with dope and smack. We wore t-shirts reminding us that drugs are whack, slapped five with D.A.R.E. officers, cheered on Tubs, Crockett and the 21 Jump Street crew, and even watched Nancy Reagan walk into our prime-time lineup--welcoming the reminders that we should "Just say no." While the messages were clear and efforts sincere, where did they take us?

For the now grown Xer gang, there is an irony in all these anti-drug efforts. In spite of the slogans, we've lived through a war where the enemy may be stronger now than it was when we started. According to a 2008 World Health Organization survey of 17 countries, the United States ranked No. 1 among marijuana and cocaine use, drug use appears to be escalating over time, and the likelihood of drug use increases with personal wealth. Similarly, in 1960 an estimated 4 million people had tried drugs, whereas in 2005 112 million Americans reported using an illegal drug at least once and 35 million used in the past year.

Sadly, while we can point to many tactical wins in the war on drugs (Noriega, Escobar, etc.), we may be no better off than we were when Nixon first threw the gauntlet. With the legalization of marijuana looming, hit shows like Weeds now entertaining the masses, and drug use seemingly on the rise, what should we think? According to one Gallup poll, when asked about the United States' progress in the battle against drugs, only 35 percent said Made Much/Some Progress in 1972, while--stunningly--an even-fewer 33 percent answered the same way in 2009. For all the money, time and effort, the war seems like a treadmill rather than a cause with any definable end.

3. We'll learn ya
What happened to education in our lifetime is a project that could fuel volumes of research and thousands of studies. It doesn't seem like the United States has been satisfied with its educational efforts for decades, and perhaps for good reason. But, the experience of Generation X is particularly disenchanting given the unique circumstances in which we grew up. For the first time in world history, there was a coordinated, targeted and sophisticated effort to educate children through mass media, but the results of this grand experiment seem inconclusive. Through Mister Rodgers, Captain Kangaroo, Children's Television Workshop and others, every Gen Xer with access to a television had the most remedial of opportunities to learn in their living rooms at the same time and same place every day.

Sesame Street first aired in 1969 and, in the words of co-creator Joan Ganz Cooney, "Our original goal was simple: to create a successful television program that would make a difference in the lives of children, in particular, poor inner-city children, and help prepare them for school." A 1973 assessment report of Children's Television Workshop published by Rand included a survey suggesting that after airing for only one year (1969-1970) Sesame Street had become the program most frequently mentioned by parents as being the best for their children. However, with such a fervent focus on education at the mass level, what happened?

On the heels of getting schooled on Sesame Street, many Gen-Xers began to exit the secondary-school system at the time of a curious government-spending shift. In 1993 national education spendingtopped federal defense spending and hasn't been overtaken since. Only in the past couple of years has education been surpassed by spending on health care and pensions, yet the reports keep piling up that the United States is losing ground in the scholarly ranks.

According to the 2007 OECD briefing note for the United States, the U.S. measured below the mean score when tested against 30 other nations in science, finishing with a ranking of 21. The same report opens with a picture of how the United States has lost its grip on high-school completion rates, dropping to 21 out of 27 countries in 2005, and slipping from 2nd to 14th in college graduation between 1995 to 2005. Similarly, the U. S. ranks 25th in math and spends more money per student than No. 1, Finland.

4. American Exceptionalism
Throughout our childhood, Gen-Xers were taught that the U.S. was the greatest country. Period. End of story. And in many ways, it was an easy assertion to support. The compelling birth of our nation, our role as the sleeping giant that finally awoke to help defeat the Axis powers in World War II, the major leaps made for women's rights and civil rights, landing on the moon in 1969...We continually proved to the world that we could do anything. Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. was the lone superpower representing freedom and democracy, the major force opposing communism. Culturally, classic movies like Rocky IV and Red Dawn symbolically highlighted our battle against the Soviet Union, embodying America's never-give-in philosophy. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 bolstered the idea that our way was the right way, and gave further proof that American Exceptionalism may be a core element of our DNA.

But today, we have slipped to 18th in secondary education, 26th in overall education, have a 9.6 percent unemployment rate, the largest budget deficits since the end of World War II, and have fallen to 6th in global competitiveness.

Additionally, new technologies that allow for effortless interaction (for example, Facebook) with other countries have drastically reduced the perceived size of our world--exposing other methods and ideas that are equally, if not more, effective than our own (Finland's educational system). While some have opined that the unstable leadership in America will lead to long-term stagnation, and others have flat-out refuted the idea of American Exceptionalism, many of our leaders are still insisting in shrill tones that we're the best. But to what extent is this unquestioning attitude obstructing honest self-reflection and progress? After all, if we continue to insist upon the reflection we want to see, we will never come to terms with what's clearly staring back at us.

We're quick to acknowledge that we've barely scratched the surface of each of these topics. But if leadership is about values and direction, the Gen-X Disillusionment may contribute to the broader sentiment that our country might be stuck, in need of emerging leaders to align values with action. We're eager to hear your thoughts about how to move forward, the themes we missed, and what other generations think.

Also, have an idea for what we should write about next? Be in touch at info@menoconsulting.com, connect with us at Facebook, or visit us at Meno Consulting.

By Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl  |  November 11, 2010; 10:13 AM ET  | Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Fendertweed posted. Unfortunately that is your/our world. And you have a role in choosing how to deal with it -- constructively, or looking for someone to blame and playing the victim card.


Actually Fendertweed you missed the point of my post. Not surprising to me though. In my experience the typical boomer reaction to every problem is sweep the evidenc under the rug and tell everyone that we need to quit focusing on the negative things like "how we got here" and get more positive.

If people can't identify thier failings, figure out what went wrong and who keeps doing the same dumb things over and over again it never gets better.

Someone once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting the same results" to me that's the definition of Boomers as well.

If thier idea doesn't work they'll try it again and again rather than admit they screwed up.

I'm not a victim. I'm just a very successful GenX'r who's observed your generation for over 40 years and havn't seen anything impressive yet. As I've said and other's have said. All your generations big accomplishments were under GI generation leadership.

We X'rs aren't easily pigeonholed which goes against your generations MBA orientation but we are pragmatic. We'll just wait till you are all in nursing homes then we'll pick up the pieces and start fixing things, while you moan and groan about how angry and bad we are.

Posted by: galfax | November 17, 2010 9:51 AM

There are obvious differences between all of the generations. This topic seems designed to provoke tension among us.

As a Gen X'r, I'd like to acknowledge the Boomers and Gen Y.

The Boomers embraced the second major wave of racial justice in US History. It built a postsecondary educational infrastructure that was more than enough to accomodate Gen X. It labored to transform the US to a postindustrial society. I'm sure I'm missing some things but, that's a whole bunch.

Gen Y faced the War on Terror as youth, and have received the baton from Gen X to continue the fight for Freedom and Liberty. It faced a more competitive educational environment, and have the debt to show for it. It faces an extraordinary job market ... (although, you guys are welcomed home after college. Gen X was told to "get on with it".) It faces the prospect of declining US influence and economic prosperity. I'm sure I'm missing other things as well.

What's my point? We continue to divide ourselves rather than pursuing the hard path of optimism. Please commit yourself to the prospect that you have the bravery and honor to see a better tomorrow for yourselves and your family. Believe in Liberty and Prosperity, and you will enjoy the benefits from them.

Naive? Only to the cynical.

It's called being a proud American.

Posted by: GenXluvtech | November 16, 2010 2:07 PM

"Music being the sound track of a generation, my sympathies go out to GENX."

You can keep your sympathy. And while you're at it you can keep The Carpenters and Barry Manilow too. And we'll keep our REM, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.

Posted by: writinron | November 16, 2010 1:01 PM

I don't think these people know much about Gen X.

This generation grew up in the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate Era. They were pre-disillusioned from the start.

Many of us were also too old by the mid-eighties to be swayed by Nancy's "Just Say No" propaganda and were more likely to adopt a "Just Say Yo!" attitude towards drugs.


Posted by: writinron | November 16, 2010 12:56 PM

As a member of Gen X, I remember Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. I still believe in working hard to get what you want, but we don't always get what we want right away. The things we want, and think we can/should get right away, usually take longer to achieve, especially in this economy. I think that's the biggest fault in this Generation. We need to learn patience.

I think a majority of the generation will be worse off than our parents, but those of us who save money, think rationally, and PLAN will strive in the future when things get MORE difficult. Hopefully, when members of Gen X get in positions of power we can make a change, give the country direction, and work towards making the country financially sound and stable.

Posted by: tfisher1 | November 16, 2010 10:42 AM

Music being the sound track of a generation, my sympathies go out to GENX.

Posted by: slim21 | November 14, 2010 9:48 PM

Dear ALIEN1-
Thank you for your comments. They are the most cogent of the bunch. I've been waiting for someone to point out the economic/work force realities of Gen-X and you've done it!

Posted by: arabrabneslin | November 14, 2010 8:27 PM

Baby Boomer writers always want to analyze the Generation Xers and draw all kinds of conclusions. Since I am of that generation, let me enlighten you baby boomers.

See, we are not you. If you continue to reflect us off of your experience, then we are all going to be disillusioned.

Gen X was never very unified to begin with. They were never politically engaged and were all about money. They did not care about personal sacrifice or the greater good. When I was in college, you could not get people to be engaged in any way at all. It was all about me, and it still is. You can't be disillusioned if you were never enlightened in the first place.

While it is true that the cold war and the drug war caused tremendous damage to our generation, they did to all generations.

So, yeah, if you declare war on half the world and half of your own citizens, you won't find a lot of good coming from it.

Still, we are fighting two imperialistic wars at the moment, the drug war is going strong, and the GOP managed to destroy the economy for the next generation or so.

Despite the fact that our leaders totally screwed us, and still are, I think the Gen X bunch turned out ok, but not great.

It's not a great generation, but it never was to begin with.

Posted by: hempplanet | November 14, 2010 8:25 PM

There are heroes and villians in every generation. These labels are meaningless and stupid. I'm generation Big Mac and I hate those losers from generation Whopper!

Posted by: ephobe | November 14, 2010 8:23 PM

Get over yourselves....

The USA is not losing ground. It put the cultural and economic expectations of the rest of the world so high that they have been striving to catch up. Go to Germany, China, India and you will see that their lifestyle is still far behind America's.

The sincerest form of flattery is imitation, and all of these countries are trying to emulate American success. Don't worry that the gap is closing, bravo for the them.

Younger generations have some different challenges, such as the environment, diverse demographics, urban crowding... That's their challenge, they are bright, they will deal with it.

Posted by: MHawke | November 14, 2010 8:06 PM

@antiquepaper1:

"Really Reality? Over 58,000 boomers killed in Viet Nam and you say we dodged the draft? Compare that with 4,000 dead in Iraq."

Um, you're WRONG.
1st. the number of battle related deaths were 47,413. the others died for other reasons.
2nd. the average age of those KIA were 23. The war started in 1957, those who were KIA were born in 1934 or later. So many of those deaths were the depression era children who were also fighting WWII.

-It wasn't until 1969 that the boomers would lose their lives in that mess.
-the majority of the baby boomers who went to Nam fought 4 years out of a 16 year war.
-it was the baby boomers who worshipped Lennon and put Jane Fonda on a pedistal.

Today, there might be a casualty of 4700 of MY generation lost in the Middle East. The war is not even 10 years old yet.

Today i drove past the SECOND funeral for a fallen hero in my town in the last MONTH.

I personally don't know how it takes nearly a decade for the world's greatest military superpower to stop a rogue group of radicals. Sure you voted Nixon out, but look at the corruption.

But I know your Halliburton shares are treating you well.

The "non-materialistic flowerchildren" "learned" from the S&L Crisis by condoning the subprime scandal, thinking that it would salvage the value of the overpriced piece of real estate you got with an ARM.

The baby boomer elected politicians FAILED to prevent the 9/11 attacks, killing nearly 3000 civilians in one day.

And to thank our sacrificing soldiers for their sacrifice, the baby boomers elected politicians that literally sold our country to a communist China.

I'm the minority, I can't gain control of what our government does in a democracy because we have to get by the boomers first.

I concur, the "greatest generation" is the greediest, most inept, coniving, uneducated and corrupt group ever.

Posted by: reality1975 | November 14, 2010 5:59 PM

I see much in common with the points in your column today. The boomers were the older obnoxious kids I grew up following and the Gen X folks are the obnoxious kids we watched as we took off on our careers in the 80's.

I think your 4 points reflect the lessons of experience crashing against the myths that we were programmed with before becoming an adult in America after WWII.

There is a fictional America that the people who want to manipulate you want you to acknowledge and kowtow to. Then there is the gut-ripping hard-assed values-vacant country where we have to live and survive. Welcome to the real one: load up your concealed carry, pop the mood pills, cheers for the next invasion, and go finnagle your daily bread.

Posted by: roboturkey | November 14, 2010 5:36 PM

As long as practical application takes a back seat to idealistic accumulation of massive amounts of facts and knowledge is seen as the means by which we will create our liberal socialist utopia, you have no one to blame but your own irresponsibility.

In other words, don't take the ramblings of snake oil salesmen (like self-appointed cheerleaders who tout playlists and conduct seminars on how their "creative" views create solutions) too seriously.

Deming got his degrees in Math, Physics and Electrical Engineering, not Leadership Studies and touchy-feely "power to share" hooey.

Posted by: EllEyeBee | November 14, 2010 2:30 PM

If we have a shortcoming as a generation I do not think it is disillusionment; I think we fail to count our blessings. It could rain gold from the sky and we would never be satisfied. Life has been too easy and we do not adequately appreciate it.

Working three jobs and getting a degree was not hard work, compared to being a South American working 18 hour days just to export all of my country's natural resources to feed obese Americans. I am glad you raised your child right Mooncusser, but you benefited from being in the right place at the right time. We simply do not realize how lucky we are. We live in a fantasy playground of consumable joy. We live off the profits of third world slavery. We are appalled by the real adult world around us in an ineffectual, placated sort of way; like watching a television channel we hate that we are too drunk to get up and change.

There is no one to blame. We are collectively complicit. Yet if we are to avoid being culpable for handing our children a broken planet, we must stop separating ourselves into imaginary clans and work together. The captains of industry in every generation in every country should not turn a profit in the short run at the expense of further generations' well being. This includes, but is not limited to corporate feudalism, selling drugs, war profiteering, propaganda, educational extortion and environmental pillaging. If we fail, our progeny will be much worse off than having snarky arguments over the internet about who is to blame.

Posted by: endlessazul | November 14, 2010 2:13 PM

peace, drugs, education... mostly wrong on all points.

the author calls the past 35 years 'exceptionally peaceful.' are you kidding? let's take a look... the US initially backed pol pot after vietnam due to his being virulently anti-viet... 2.7 million died there. we overthrew the chilean democracy and installed the brutal general pinochet who is now in prison for his crimes. we backed argentina's 'dirty wars,' killing many. we backed fujimori in peru, now in prison for his massive crimes there.we waged war agasint the democratically elected sandanista in nicaragua. we overthrew haitian democracies twice and installed dictators. we've waged endless drug war in colombia. we overthrew bolivia repeatedly and until morales and chavez, same both were under our guns for ages. we invaded panama when noriega, long-time asset, failed to make his drug payments. we backed the genocide of the mayan natives in guatemala, 250,000+ killed. we waged war for chiquita banana in el salvador, killing 125,000. we backed indonesia's genocide of the penan natives of east timor. we've waged continual colonial resource wars in zaire, angola and now congo... killing millions. we backed south african apartheid til its dying breath in 1993. we backed fascist federico franco from 1935 til his death in 1977. we created hussein and backed him from 1959-1989; then turned on him and have killed 2 million iraqis with the gulf war, embargo and iraq war and resulting civil war still raging there. afghanistan we created taliban to help us fight the soviets leading to 400,000 deaths and now have waged war on afghanis for another 9 years, no end in sight. yemen, somalia, iran? and the balkan conflict... if this is peace; what in the hell is war?

drugwar propaganda. as the british society of medicine just reported in the lancet journal, alcohol is much, much more deadly than all the legal drugs combined. for instance, 4.8 million americans died last century from drunk drivers; while only 300,000 died from overdoses and marijuana, after 31 million in prison since 1935... how many deaths by pot? insanity in government. sex and drugs and rock&roll are better by far than anything the empire has ever offered us.

education? can it even be called education? kids here in new york city call it 'prison prep' as they see the future. the ignorance level is astounding. the aveerage high school grad has read a total of 68 pages of history and cannot carry on a snsible conversation about any political issues; lacking any background at all. working vocabulary is down from 4500 in 1950 to 1550 now!

and in this decade, we have averaged 160,000 new jobs created per month while 147,000 young try to enter the work force every month. this has created a continuing lost generation... 30% of 30 year olds still living at home in despair, holding degrees yet trying to get a job as a walmart-slave?

generation-x, i feel for you. author, look before leaping.

Posted by: tazdelaney | November 14, 2010 12:43 PM

What a lot of self-serving hot air. Too many silly sel-esteem trophies were handed out to both Gen X and Y for simply breathing. And btw, it's Mr. *Rogers*.

Posted by: streetnoise | November 14, 2010 12:12 PM

It's enlightening to read the comments by the fuzzy minded one world globlizaton nuts, here, and their fanatasies about this country. Hard physical work? Gen-X workers love it! Education? They will train for any meaningful job.... but these neoMarxists outsource every job they train for or displace them with some rude, incompetent foreign "guest worker". Then, they turn around and blather meaningless nonsense about "world complexity", as if their one world fantasies were going to be a permanent fact of life. The road back, for thi country, is to remove these trecherous swine from having any say about policy.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | November 14, 2010 11:42 AM

endlessazul, go look in the mirror. Blame that person for your shortcomings.

Your perception of the boomer gen is way off. Most of us didn't smoke pot, etc. After a divorce when my daughter was four, I raised her by myself. She was babysitting at the age of 13 and worked while going to college. Why? Because I provided the model. She saw me go to college at the age of 37 and continue through grad school - and I worked f/t and raised her. I raised her with a solid work ethic, a "can do" attitude, and a sense of philanthropy. She is in the midst of surpassing me scholastically - she's working on a PhD - grad school has been on her dime only. She has her own family, works p/t as a school psychologist, and does volunteer work. She has absolutely NO sense of entitlement, indeed, she seeks to contribute to the "whole."

My advice, dearie, get over yourself. Get a job and find yourself. Stop pointing the finger. YOU have choices. You can wallow in your dung or make something of yourself. Grow some cajones and get on with it.

Posted by: mooncusser | November 14, 2010 11:40 AM

Whew. What about American values like a Puritan work ethic, individual responsibility, and a can-do spirit? These seem to be missing and voila there goes American Exceptionalism.

These are integral values which seem to have gone missing and that is what seems to be limiting our society and culture.

Posted by: USDude123 | November 14, 2010 9:51 AM

As a generation X'er myself I have determined one thing. We are the spoiled generation. Actual physical work we shun and either do not do at all or hire someone to do. Government spending on education improved nothing but enriched bureacrats, contractors and administrators at the expense of the students. We can do anything at 3 times the cost of past generations. We all think we are special and have been taught that no rule applies to those with good lawyers. We think frivolous lawsuits are just fine and normal. Drugs are OK to the X'ers as long as you can use them to get a future reality show. We claim we are conservative but live vicariously through people magazine and feed Hollywood millions. We now work hard to spoil our kids, thinking they should never have to do anything for themselves. I have served and serve in the military but most of our generation has not and have no appreciation for our countries freedoms. We think college is for everyone and are watering down to the point that everyone can go and a degree will mean less in the future. We have actually made the military softer, gentler and some would say sillier. Defense takes a back seat to employee rights in todays military. We think we are entitled but now the first bad economy of our working lives it is not working out so well. We are good at spending borrowed money and as a generation we know little about saving but talk a good game about conservation as we only practice it when convenient. The good news is the next generation is likely to get a clue sooner or later and more lawyers are not out of work than any time in the past 40 years.

Posted by: confussed | November 14, 2010 9:19 AM

As a generation X'er myself I have determined one thing. We are the spoiled generation. Actual physical work we shun and either do not do at all or hire someone to do. Government spending on education improved nothing but enriched bureacrats, contractors and administrators at the expense of the students. We can do anything at 3 times the cost of past generations. We all think we are special and have been taught that no rule applies to those with good lawyers. We think frivolous lawsuits are just fine and normal. Drugs are OK to the X'ers as long as you can use them to get a future reality show. We claim we are conservative but live vicariously through people magazine and feed Hollywood millions. We now work hard to spoil our kids, thinking they should never have to do anything for themselves. I have served and serve in the military but most of our generation has not and have no appreciation for our countries freedoms. We think college is for everyone and are watering down to the point that everyone can go and a degree will mean less in the future. We have actually made the military softer, gentler and some would say sillier. Defense takes a back seat to employee rights in todays military. We think we are entitled but now the first bad economy of our working lives it is not working out so well. We are good at spending borrowed money and as a generation we know little about saving but talk a good game about conservation as we only practice it when convenient. The good news is the next generation is likely to get a clue sooner or later and more lawyers are not out of work than any time in the past 40 years.

Posted by: confussed | November 14, 2010 9:18 AM

The title of "Peace Generation" should be coveted by all generations. Not to sound cliche' yet either know your history or be condemned to repeat it. We must learn from our mistakes and continue to advance organizations like the United Nations, The U.S. Institute of Peace, the Peace Corps and the Anti-Defamation League.

We certainly must continue the battle against drug and substance abuse moreover we need to include Pornography and Violence as equally contentious enemies as well. The war has been won for those that share the will of God, our creator to trample debauchery and injustice. Yet we must still suffer the effects of immaturity and battle fatigue.

We must never again vocalize a dumbing down of education as it seems to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need to dig soundly into the depths of our resolve and get the grade of A instead of D. Had it never been done before, it would still be possible. The fact that we have done it before only increases the likelihood that we will do it again. Prayer and practice make consistently achieving the A grade sustainable.

On American Exceptionalism, there is no exception to the rule, because we are the rule. Only now we need to accept with maturity that so is every Global citizen. We are the best and always will be because the race is neither between you and I nor between one of us and another. The race is with oneself. Victory is guaranteed only by choice. Without exception Americans of every generation have chosen to win. Congratulations to the citizenry and generations of all other Nation's that chose the same! God bless America and God Bless our world!

Posted by: GoalDStandard | November 14, 2010 7:17 AM

I guess I was born at the end of the 'Greatest Generation,' having been born in 1942. At the time, my mother and I lived with my grandmother in a railroad car - and that railroad car was a BIG upwardly mobile move from what my mother (a member of The Greatest Generation) had grown up in! My great-grandmother lived nearby, and she constantly told my mom 'work hard in school, go to college, choose a lucrative profession and your life will be better than mine.' I grew up in Quonset huts, which were, indeed, better than the railroad box car. By the time I was 15, my parents had finally been able to buy a home.

I worked hard in school, went to college (tuition was free in 196_ California community colleges), choose a non-lucrative profession (philosophy) and sure enough, my life was better than my parents' lives. By the time I was 45, I owned a house, a car, and co-owned a business with my husband.

I taught my children that if they worked hard in school, joined the military and/or went to college, and chose a lucrative profession, their lives would be better than mine. That has proven true for all of them: Those who went to college and chose lucrative professions are attorneys. Those who went to college and chose professions with other rewards than money are a police officer, an EMT-Firefighter, a sales executive for Apple, Inc., and an IT VP for a major credit union. Those who didn't go to college are a stay-at-home mom homeschooling her three daughters, and a telephone sales person selling mattresses.

My grand children weren't taught to work hard in school, join the military and/or go to college, and choose a lucrative profession. I'm not sure what they were taught. since only the two home schooled grandchildren can read at 12th grade level, write legible cursive writing, spell most simple words, or do arithmetic without a calculator.

The point of this epistle is to let the whiners of all ages know that there wasn't anything to whine about! My mom grew up to be a wise and wonderful woman. My kids tell me I did, too (but I suspect they're biased).

Maybe it's the gender bias that's getting in the way of the grand-kids who didn't work hard in school,or didn't go to college, or didn't choose lucrative professions or all three. Maybe it's the fault of the 'silent generation' or the 'baby boomers' or the 'Gen-xers' or the 'Gen-Yers.' Or maybe it's because they didn't learn enough in grades k-12 to allow them to compete in college, so they could get a lucrative position.

My personal position on the matter is that when we are young (under 30) we're all on fire for hope and change, but once we have a child or two, our perspective changes, and while we're still in favor of hope and change, we aren't as passionate about it because we're getting by on the status quo and if we rock this mighty ship of state too far, maybe our lives wouldn't be better or even as good as - our parents lives were.

Posted by: Kaelinda1 | November 14, 2010 3:07 AM

I was born in the last year that qualifies as "X". My older brother and his cronies all got computer science degrees as they were told this would be the "it" job of the future. Then I watched as they all lost their jobs to outsourcing. The only one of the lot that escaped the trap DID NOT buy a house and was therefore able to easily move away from his 17% unemployment area to greener pastures. The others languish on in their house-prisons.

I'm also watching gen Y stumble out of college, 50,000 or more in debt. Glassy-eyed naifs clutching these "degrees" of "something of humanities" that qualifies them to a fabulous job selling wool trousers at the mall. Or maybe, dare they dream, a job shilling coffee. If I recall correctly less than half of current student loan debt is actively being paid on. That bubble is going to come up like the ghost of lib-art-degree past and it will crash the country.

Honestly I'm scared for (and of) both generations. Learn how to operate a kerosene heater and subsist on oatmeal and dried beans, my friends. This is where we're all heading.

Posted by: rahannis | November 14, 2010 2:29 AM

My generation is not "disillusioned". We are ultra-illusioned. We believe that our tiny little electronic lives are meaningful. We believe in our own personal connection to pop-stars that, to our elders' discredit, have spent more time with us than our own parents. We are medicated by your doctors and your entertainment devices, placated by the constant throbbing drone of manufactured drama and have little to no idea what real life is like. Of course, we were raised by people who thought smoking weed and screwing was a revolution. That is how good and easy it is to be an American. We have never tasted desperate. We don't have to spend every waking minute of our lives manufacturing goods to be shipped off to the spoiled rich in foreign lands. We live leisure and always have. We are the way we are because you wanted was was easiest for us and not what was best. Balance your budgets or we will put you all in homes, not because we don't care, but because it is what you taught us.

Posted by: endlessazul | November 14, 2010 1:53 AM

Well, these things are complicated, with so many perspectives, each probably having some validity.
I think one big driver of what the Gen Xers have experienced is that they had the misfortune of having been born too long after WWII,and have been in an environment where America increasingly faced growing overseas competition, which continues. In addition, the military industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about came to full "flower" because of the Cold War, with a number of negative consequences for the country.
There has also been some withering of civic institutions and responsibility in the face of the ascendancy of capitalist responsiveness to stockholders, and the rise of a full fledged market oriented consumerist society empowered by technologies.
But in general, articles like this invite readers to get embroiled in intergenerational conflict rather than seek common ground/perspectives needed to recognize solutions.


Posted by: steveandjanereed1 | November 14, 2010 1:24 AM

Maaaybe this whole thing is not about YOU and "your generation". Has it occurred to you that you are born into circumstance and have limited control on what the world is going to do at that point in time? I can't say boomers or x'ers deserve any more credit, or scorn, than any other generation over time, and should carry no more accolades or burden.
Lighten up, try not to take it so seriously, or wait.. that is part of what Gen Xers are all about, isn't it? The Gothic and Grunge movements? In that case, yeah, indulge yourself...you shot high and failed miserably. Thanks alot losers. Now go pity yourselves.

Posted by: climbingartist | November 13, 2010 11:25 PM

Reality75 wrote:

It's Gen Y who is fighting these wars when their parents dodged the draft.
_________

Really Reality? Over 58,000 boomers killed in Viet Nam and you say we dodged the draft? Compare that with 4,000 dead in Iraq. You don't know what you're talking about on this and many other issues. For you, it's all about boomer busting. You didn't see the crap the boomers had to put up with culturally in the 50s and the 60s because by the 80s much of that had been changed for the better, often by the boomers.

You talk about baby boomer elected politicans as if boomers were the only ones voting? Well many boomers first voted for George McGovern over Nixon in 1972 but there were not enough of us to defeat Nixon as the Greatest Generation voters were the majority then.

And what about the late 80s 90s entertainment scene that we never topped? We had our own entertainment scene in the 60s with free outdoor concerts and Woodstock etc we didn't need corporate produced mega - entertainment ala MTV and its successors.

As for insufferable arrogance, there is plenty of that to go around in the greatest generation and Gen Xers and Yers, the boomers have no monopoly on that.

I frankly don't see Boomers talking about the greatest generation in a bragging way, just the opposite I see many drawing parellels between the Greatest Generation and the Y gen regarding Pearl Harbor and 9-11 etc etc. I frankly don't see what was so great about the Greatest Generation. Sure they lived through the depression but the weren't the breadwinners then, they were kids then. It's the boomers and the Xers that have had to struggle to put bread on the table during this economic meltdown.

Also, boomers did not have it so easy. Greatest Generation enjoyed 3% mortgages from the start with no subprime mumbo jumbo. The men then enjoyed an economy before outsourcing jobs overseas, before women flooded the workforce (a good thing for women yes but still the Greatest Generation male had it easy regarding promotions and job potential). Sure the GG fought in WW II and "saved the world" from Nazis and Japanese Imperialists. True and that was awesome and deserving our respect and gratitude.

You can try and simplify these issues to blame boomers but it's never that black and white. Open your mind and lose the "lets blame the boomers for everything" mentality. You will benefit in the long run.

Posted by: antiquepaper1 | November 13, 2010 7:03 PM

It's the economy, stupid -
We had generous ideals instilled in us by baby boomers, and the Reagan yuppie conservatives told us to look out for ourselves first. Then we graduated into Black Monday, and saw those yuppies surprised that their company had laid them off. We couldn't get jobs to pay off the student loans - so we invented them. (For those who think GenX did nothing, you never used the Net till we came along.)
Then we saw those jobs sent overseas when we asked for time to raise our families. We were told to become responsible homeowners, and those that did now have another mountain of debt. Now we see the children of the yuppies crying because they can't believe their company laid them off and that no one's hiring.
We trust no one, and believe in nothing. It's more reliable that way.

Posted by: juliaj1 | November 13, 2010 5:08 PM

Americans of every generation need to VOTE. Democracy will not work unless people use their right to vote for those people who run for office who share their values and beliefs. If we all sit home and watch the government in fear - we will get more of the same.

Posted by: tfarneti1 | November 13, 2010 5:02 PM

No, no , no peace was never given a chance and fittingly Kisssinger got a Nobel Peasce Prize for extenting the colonialist war in Vietnam as long as he could? The war gave up on use, there were provocateurs everywhere undemining and provocateurs provoking action to create the Reagen reaction to the peace lack of movement.
Carter helped provoke the Iran-Iraq war sot they could kill each other off and we helped provide arms to both sides.
Crter signed off in '79 for CIA operations to lure the Soviets to occupy Afghanistan and use the people as prosy war bait long before the millionairesses arrived bearing stingers for religious freedom for zeolots.
Using religious movements is a time honored tradition.
Believe the ordinary view of our current messy history and reap the concequences of all the war debts that have been stacking up on us or start thinking about bringing us into the 21st century of learning how to live within the means of our planet without the profit motives of war and the excessive cost of destruction and perpetual reconstruction. The 20th century was the pinnacle of the realpolitik of ideological insanity.

Posted by: Wildthing1 | November 13, 2010 3:31 PM

Gen-X has had a disproportionate influence on Internet culture, entertainment, and even the English language for too long already! It's amazing they're crying for more power! To use one of terms they reintroduced to the language after it had been thoughtfully and respectfully subdued by Boomers, that's just retarded.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | November 13, 2010 1:29 PM

The disillusion is not only affecting the GenXers.
The Illusion was to think that because once you were on top of the list in education, economy, leadership, so on, you will always will be on top. This society has become complaisant and lazy, does not want to make any effort and has the feeling of entitlement.
Over spending has moved from the federal government to Mrs and Mr Jones and there is not limit on the number od pairs of shoes, clothes, huge cars and homes and so on.
The constant double message "eat a 12 portion pizza and be really thin" "buy a 7 seater SUV to transport a 10 lbs baby and be green" has alienated the people beyond limits and the confusion is so, that nobody can think strait any longer.
I was born in Argentina and moved in 1998 to live in the US at age 35. When my brother and friends visit me (all college educated and most successful small business owners and professionals) are overwhelmed with the amount of useless things, the size of the residences and cars. Not even mentioning their surprise when they hear the amount of vacation time given by companies (really little) and the amount of work hours per week.
Some other countries like Argentina, which is considered 3rd world in the US, have had for example fiber optics for telephone and television communications since the early 90's, workers have vacation time in proportion to the years worked (after 10 years 3 or 4 weeks is the norm), women are paid when the have a baby, health is available to all, for free in publics hospitals for those who are in hard times and all companies must offer health insurance, vacations and retirement contributions. Higher education is free (private too). The best science and medicine colleges are public and free of charge.
My point is, that all societies have problems and are in constant evolution. Once Argentina feed the world, but not now, once the US was the absolute example to follow, but not now.
The disenchantment is that the fantasy is over and the society itself has to rethink and reshape.

Posted by: claudia_princess | November 13, 2010 12:55 PM

The disillusionment of Generation X & Y has a lot to do with buyers remorse from having voted for Obama. The suicide rate of the American military is astronomical. Our college students are also committing suicide at an alarming rate.

We are experiencing the worst economic depression since the 1930s. Our rights as citizens are slipping away with DHS goons at the airports feeling up airline passengers. We are turning into a police state.

Posted by: alance | November 13, 2010 12:05 PM

@JHARRIS99: Oh look, it's another boomer come to claim credit for the achievements begun by his parents. What a surprise. You know the civil rights acts of 1957 and 1960 were signed by Eisenhower, right? You must have been quite the little hellraiser protesting on the National Mall in your Roy Rogers dungarees. But look, I'm a reasonable guy. I'll agree to stop whining as soon as you stop voting and let my generation begin to repair the tattered economy you've left in your wake.

Posted by: vgnmlcntnt | November 13, 2010 11:57 AM

Many of these posts complain about the Boomers who just preceded the X-ers. No one seems to look at the fact that all children are products of their parents. Thus, the vast majority of X-ers are not products of the Boomers. Rather they are products of the 'silent', or, basically un-named generation preceding the Boomers.

After WWII, there began to evolve the social and philosophical education doctrine that championed a 'hands off' approach to child rearing. It emphasized such as 'time outs' and use of a constant verbal mantra that each child was 'special.' Parents were encouraged and advised to let their kids find their own way, to utilize only subtle punishments, and to 'reason' with their toddlers. These techniques came into full-blown use with the X-ers.

Well, now the X-ers are finding out that they are NOT SPECIAL. This is apparently a big shock. Where the 'experts' missed the boat was by recommending the 'special' treatment. Instead, the approach should have been that each child is unique and valuable with concomitant reinforcement of that limited albeit factual view.

By leaving the child alone to 'find their own way' with no firm and enforced underpinnings, the X-ers are adrift and confused because the real world is different from the fantasy they were taught and encouraged to believe.

This is NOT a defense of corporal punishment nor of an approach which severely suppresses the natural creativity of children. It is simply an observation that our societal view of child rearing went too far toward 'hands off' and the X-ers are now paying the price. It ain't the Boomers fault nor, indeed, solely the parents fault. It IS the fault of societal groupthink that dominated the early development stages of Generation X.

Posted by: jdrd58 | November 13, 2010 11:42 AM

What the authors should have examined is what went wrong with the Baby Boom generation! As a Baby Boomer myself I am flabbergasted that the hippie generation brought us Orwell's 1984!!!!

PS: The technical definition of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) needs to be changed. Because of the Vietnam war "true" baby boomers ended around 1957. Those born after 1957 fall into a different demographic.

Posted by: SteveR1 | November 13, 2010 11:13 AM

It's interesting that the author primarily uses mass media and mass cultural events to define a generation that grew up primarily defined as being the first to recognize both as bread-and-circuses distractions from what was really going on. (Honestly, Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" was only a cultural touch stone in the way it was mocked as the naive intervention of a out of touch W.A.S.P. leading an even more out of touch government.) GenXers haven't BECOME cynical; we grew up that way.

I for one was far more influenced by the government bungling and posturing that led to the deaths of 100s of marines in Beirut and the needless loss of the first space shuttle than by any of the events listed in the article. Also, the Cold War was a very big hairy deal that completely separates the thinking of those who came of age while it was going on from those who only learn about it in school.

Posted by: SageThrasher | November 13, 2010 11:09 AM

"Gen X" is mis-defined. A person born in '65
has almost nothing in common with a person born in '80

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 13, 2010 11:02 AM

(I am not a Boomer but part of the so-called Silent Generation [1944] who were the real leaders in the political movements attributed to the Boomers.) But oh the poor Gen X-ers. Gripe, gripe, gripe. Why not do something about it? You know, like those lazy Boomers who did nothing but help force the country to end the Jim Crow laws, enact voting rights bills, and full-bore Civil Rights legislation. The Boomers helped force an end to the war in Nam. I don't see the 2 wars being waged today ending because the Gen X-ers forced an end to them. Nope - both wars are meandering their way to an end that isn't in sight like the way the Gen X-ers seem to meander thru life. (Will the last soldier out of Iraq please turn out the light at the end of the tunnel?) So all you Gen X-ers can continue to gripe or you can do something substantial. I'm sorry that your world has changed much like it changed for my grandparents during the Depression. They worked their way out of it unlike the Gen-Xers who feel they can gripe their way out of it. However, the Gen X-ers seem to prefer Hoover over Roosevelt which means you all flunked history as you were studying to become whatever you've become. Sorry folks but to paraphrase Walt Kelly - you have met the enemy and he is you.

Posted by: jharris99 | November 13, 2010 10:47 AM

See, this is what I'm talking about. You people eviscerated the American middle class with your downsizing Reaganomics and your outsourcing Clinton-Bushonomics and now we're whiners because serving lattes to your pampered azzes just isn't enough for us. Your hero Reagan INVENTED peacetime deficit spending, and your savior Bush made the word "debt" lose all meaning, and yet somehow we're profligate spenders because we're trying to prevent a global depression and ensure that all Americans have access to health care. Screw you, my whining is the price you pay for your endless tax cuts. You people make me sick. At least Nixon had the decency to resign. But you people just keep coming back for more. Go suck a tea bag.

Posted by: vgnmlcntnt | November 13, 2010 10:20 AM

As a Gen Xer born in 1966, nothing has been a bigger disappointment than watching the "peace and love" Baby Boomers mature into a "me first" demographic -- driven mostly by their own self-absorbtion, greed and terrible parenting skills. (Did the Boomers learn NOTHING from America's Greatest Generation?) Talk about disillusionment!"

exactly. They seemed to HATE sharing anything. Very selfish generation indeed.

Posted by: Tblack68 | November 13, 2010 9:29 AM

It seems to me that Generation X want to blame everybody but themselves. They see baby boomers in secure jobs living in a nice house and assume they were born like that. They don't stop to consider that they probably worked and struggled to get to where they are today. Generation X expect to be given everything on a plate so they assume that their parents were given everything on a plate.

POSTED BY: GLENNET1 | NOVEMBER 12, 2010 10:31 PM"


This is what X loves about Boomers. You spend all day talking to us and you still are utterly clueless. You just describe YOUR generation. Not mine. Here's to your health. You're going to need it because we are going to roll you all.

Posted by: Tblack68 | November 13, 2010 9:23 AM

end the drug war, just legalize pot. it would really cheer a lot of good people up, and the only ones upset would be the control freaks and the jerks

Posted by: nixxon | November 13, 2010 8:54 AM

And did I mention that W. Bush is the CHAMPION of conservatives everywhere?

Posted by: jjedif | November 13, 2010 8:28 AM

Gen X will waste away their lives whining about how the Boomers supposedly screwed them over.
Ever consider doing something about it? Or would you rather just sit back and complain about the previous generation while touting how wonderful you all are.
You are given the privilege, ability and freedom to be who you are and yap all you want about it thanks to the previous generations...including Boomers.
So, You're welcome.

Posted by: JONJJ | November 13, 2010 8:23 AM

Generation X turned out to be Generation W...typified by George W. Bush, the most clueless, ignorant president in U.S. history, the man:

who as governor compassionately executed more people than anyone before him,

who got away with being AWOL during a war because of his alcohlism and possibly his drug addiction because his dad paid for it,

whose dad paid for most of his grades and got away with it,

who allegedly got away with paying for an abortion for his girl friend who then became a "pro-life" champion,

and who let a draft dodger named Cheney run the country into the ground even as the president's own citizens were dying in the aftermath of a hurricane to which Bush sent a horse breeder as his guy in charge.

The bar to be president is now so permanently low that almost anyone can be president. In fact, there is no bar, anyone literally can be president.

Posted by: jjedif | November 13, 2010 8:21 AM

I think if you look at any generation, you'll find that the idealism of youth inevitably fades to the cynicism and resignation of middle age.

Posted by: dickinyobooty69 | November 13, 2010 8:09 AM

VGNMLCNTNT, I felt the same way about my parents generation. Either you let bitterness dry you up or you get over it and get on with it. It's up to you.

At your age a whine like yours is just sad. And guess what. You're children are going to think the same thing about you.

Posted by: arancia12 | November 13, 2010 12:44 AM

I once argued with a baby boomer hippie who lived in a camper that our young mohawk pink hair rebellion was the same as their acid laced long hair rebellion. She didn't get it.

I'm and angry genXer for peace and yes, SOCIAL JUSTICE!

Posted by: meowomon | November 13, 2010 12:38 AM

1974 here. I don't mind saying it, I'm a full-blown boomer-hater. Reading all these boomer rants is like attending some group therapy meeting and discovering for the first time there are others like me. Like Lunadyne below, somewhere along the line I figured out that the best I'll ever be able to do is wait for the boomers to die off, then start cleaning up the wasteland they left behind. I've accepted it. That doesn't make me any less bitter about it. So to all of you hypocritical, greedy, narcissistic boomers who are incapable of taking responsibility for anything you ever did, I hope you enjoy this thread, and may the chorus of insults only get louder and more vicious until you finally do something right and drop dead.

Posted by: vgnmlcntnt | November 13, 2010 12:18 AM

@AM1968:

"I tend to feel that the boomers have such high expectations for everything from SSI, to a perfectly comfortable retirement, etc."

"Boomers love to talk about the "greatest generation" but it does not seem that they learned anything from them. "

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I"m afraid that based on your comments it appears that the Boomers may not be the only ones who didn't learn anything from the Greatest Generation. ;-o

Seems to me that so much of the bitterness on display from post-Boomers is grounded in the very same expectation/desire for a comfortable retirement, your social security (still trying to figure out what "embezzlement" Reality1975 is talking about in his rant, which also shows lack of understanding about how SSI works, it isn't and never was a discrete segregated account (a la the fabled "lockbox"), etc...

seems easier to lash out at a generation (Boomers) than to dig deeper into the real issues and causes and shine the light on financial behemoths, rampant consumerism and debt (it isn't Boomers who are buying and using all those XBoxes, iPhones, etc.) ... etc.

Posted by: fendertweed | November 12, 2010 11:44 PM

@Galfax ...

if you were referring to/accusing me of "whining" about whiners, I am LOL and must clarify that I am completely without guilt.

I've worked hard, done well, and plan to get out of the way for Gen X and Gen Y in just a very few years, I won't be hanging on til I'm 70 and standing in your way, LOL.

I actually share in the disillusionment which is why I've worked on an exit strategy for 30 yrs., so I can get out ...

But before you blame entire generations for this or that, note too that my parents never called one of my bosses (as the parents of a 30'ish employee did to her boss where I work did) to complain about Susie's performance evaluation... my parents steered me to find my own way and handle my own issues.

broad brushes and generalizations almost always fail ... the world is a harsh place, sucks in fact, full of corporate manipulation that far outstrips & belies the easy cut at blaming "boomers", "Gen Z" or whoever ...

Unfortunately that is your/our world. And you have a role in choosing how to deal with it -- constructively, or looking for someone to blame and playing the victim card.

Posted by: fendertweed | November 12, 2010 11:31 PM

As an end-of-the-baby-boomer baby, welcome to the real world gen X. I was too young for Woodstock and old for disco. What happened to all the peace, love, and rock and roll'ers of my generation?

The world happened.

Every generation deals with its challenges. You can blame or you can build a world. You just have to define that world instead of letting boomers define it. It's your choice.

Posted by: arancia12 | November 12, 2010 10:43 PM

I don't really understand Reality75's comments. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both baby boomers, so Generation Y doesn't have the monopoly on entrepreneurs. Most of the Vietnam vets are baby boomers, and many of the soldiers who died in Vietnam were baby boomers so I don't see they had it 'so easy'.

It seems to me that Generation X want to blame everybody but themselves. They see baby boomers in secure jobs living in a nice house and assume they were born like that. They don't stop to consider that they probably worked and struggled to get to where they are today. Generation X expect to be given everything on a plate so they assume that their parents were given everything on a plate.

Posted by: glennet1 | November 12, 2010 10:31 PM

I don't really understand Reality75's comments. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both baby boomers, so Generation Y doesn't have the monopoly on entrepreneurs. Most of the Vietnam vets are baby boomers, and many of the soldiers who died in Vietnam were baby boomers so I don't see they had it 'so easy'.

It seems to me that Generation X want to blame everybody but themselves. They see baby boomers in secure jobs living in a nice house and assume they were born like that. They don't stop to consider that they probably worked and struggled to get to where they are today. Generation X expect to be given everything on a plate so they assume that their parents were given everything on a plate.

Posted by: glennet1 | November 12, 2010 10:30 PM

I was born in 1968-guess that would be right at the beginning. I tend to agree with the "baby boomer" comments. Always the best cars, highest realestate, etc. I don't get it. I don't feel entitled to anyting. I work hard, have a law degree and work for an insurance company. I tend to feel that the boomers have such high expectations for everything from SSI, to a perfectly comfortable retirement, etc. But when I look at who they elected to office, their constant complaints that they don't want to pay taxes (many Tea Partiers are boomers) I see a group that doesn't want to pay for anything but yet wants everything. I don't get a sense that they understand or want shared sacrifice. I believe we need to pay off our debts (let the Bush Tax cuts expire), fix SSI so it is more modern and sensible and get rid of polarized politicians. I'm willing to sacrifice so my country continues to be, well, a good place to live for me, my choldren and everyone else. Boomers love to talk about the "greatest generation" but it does not seem that they learned anything from them.

Posted by: am1968 | November 12, 2010 9:34 PM

This post is for the people who fall under the Gen X category. Like yourselves, I can't elaborate enough about how bitter I am with the baby boomer generation. that's a HUGE can of worms that I can't fit onto one page

I was born in 1975, right at the cusp between Gen X and Gen Y and the view from here is very interesting.

Upon entering adulthood, I've seen Gen Y do nothing but make the most out of their opportunities and ambitions. It was infact the Gen X crowd that I've noticed make themselves invaluable to their employers by gaining multiple credentials (ie. bilingualism, CPAs&programming/engineering degrees) The trouble is that these opportunities are disappearing for those who are following in your footsteps. Because the few who were able followed that lead. The baby boomers had it so easy and I loathe the group because they lacked ambition to make the money they wanted without putting forth the credentials to earn it, yet they want to rob our generation. I know a lot of boomers with secure positions with only a high school diploma and they want a high real estate value, the best cars, etc....of course adversely ruining everyone elses' ability just to simply manage. It's Gen Y who is fighting these wars when their parents dodged the draft. These are also the nicest kids with degrees, a great GPA in pratical fields.
Ironically enough, it was a 23 year old who turned a $100 million dollar Venture Capital investment into a $15 billion dollar company called Facebook, during a credit crunch, creating jobs. The "toddler CEO" was also chatised in Silicon Valley by jealous baby boomers. Let's not even forget that the late 80's and 90's produced an entertainment scene that the baby boomers never topped. Many involved were a part of the Gen X demographic.
Sure these "kids" grew up sheltered/spoiled. So were many of us. But while interacting with the group, I've noticed a few things regardless of their background, wealth, race, etc..
When you treat them with respect, they gobble it up. When you show them self esteem, they gobble it up. When you show them what confidence is (vs. arrogance) they gobble it up. When you speak to adults like adults about their choices in life, they gobble it up.
There's a lot of opportunities within the group and they don't feel it. My young adulthood is wasted because of the choices baby boomer elected politicians made and their opportunities are disgustingly few.

I was raised by a baby boomer. Okay he got a few things right, but I too suffered blows as a result of insufferable arrogance that is commonplace with baby boomers.

I am optimistic that the two demographics can defeat the baby boomer influence. Hey, at the end of the day it wasn't Gen X or Gen Y that embezzled the social security monies they paid into.

Posted by: reality1975 | November 12, 2010 9:21 PM

Oh, you're going to sell out, that's for sure. This inflation of your self esteem at the expense of the baby boomers is as pathetic as anything they did when they were your age.

somehow you think nobody else has ever been you. Somehow you think you're remarkable, that the world has never seen your kind before.

Sounds a lot like the boomers to me. The only difference is that you're a great deal more pathetic than they were.

Posted by: eezmamata | November 12, 2010 8:21 PM

Suck it up and go back to work is not an answer, it's not even a challenge. What it is, however, is a direct rejection of the hopes we had as a younger generation. We watched, and knew, that the institutions of previous generations wouldn't support us. We had/have more career mobility than any generation before us and we use that to demand companies show us loyalty before we devote ourselves to them. We are the last generation to be pre-internet. We came of age during a time of hope and change and then had to watch as all of those crumbled in front of us, crushed by the hammer of the baby boomers against the anvil of gen-Y. And yet, we're told to suck it up? Why? For what purpose? Because life is tough? After the glimpse we had of what is possible, is there any reason to think we should be anything but bitter and disillusioned that the world decided to go in a different direction? At least we didn't sell out like the Baby Boomers did when the precious 60s gave way to the 70s and then the 80s.

Posted by: Logan5 | November 12, 2010 8:14 PM

I'm relatively sure that disillusionment and adulthood are one in the same - especially when you've got the baby boomers hanging over your head. As adults, we all understand that every single person on this planet is full of sh**.

Wake up in the morning, try to have a few laughs during your day, try to raise your kids to be aware but somehow happy, go to bed.

Everything else is a useless distraction.

Oh, and get ready for a bankrupt country - the boomers are far too selfish to take any reduction in benefits.

Posted by: semantic1 | November 12, 2010 8:00 PM

As a Gen Xer born in '67 I think my biggest disappointment with the Baby Boomers, amongst a litany, is the wholesale dismantlement of our powerful business culture. It started gaining steam in the 1980s with pop-psychology economics and management books and the corresponding fads. It accelerated towards the end of the decade as our industrial base was sold off. Throughout the 1990s our financial markets were casino-ized, and in the aughts the looting went mainstream.

Over the same timeframe, layoffs became the norm (they happen semi-annually where I work - I've survived 15 so far). Training shifted from companies cultivating and grooming their best employees to guide the company into the future to expecting all employees to come into a position with all the necessary training. The cost burden was shifted to the employee, who of course has to balance that cost with all of their other burdens. Also lost was the concept of mentorship whereby oldsters would take youngsters under their wing and show them the ropes so that they could do their jobs better and make a stronger company.

But of course in an era of LBOs and other financial chicanery, strong companies are immaterial - they're merely a mechanism for financiers to extract value. If you can pull out your profits up front, what does it matter what ultimately happens with the company? I've been in the financial industry for 20 years, I've seen how it works from the inside. I didn't get a company 401K until they offered a Roth, and all of the money in that is either cash or foreign equities. I will not play in the domestic market until it has had a thorough cleansing and is restored to the fair market practices that made our markets so strong in the first place.

Same thing with housing. I'm not going to buy until I find a situation that is a good value and can handle the fact that I could be laid off in any six month period. Oh for the days of underwriting mortgages for blue collar union types who you knew were going to be working for the 30 years of the mortgage...

So I'm basically out of the modern consumer culture. I turned off the TV three years ago and haven't missed it. I use a prepaid cell. I don't fly; I drive if I can. The car has been paid off for years. Debt? Pshaw, I feed the cash culture. Don't ask me to sign up for your card; my info is worth more to me than your discount. I pay for quality by shopping local (preferably young) instead of national chains. I'm done with the Boomers and their Animal House rampage through the decades. They've trashed our country in so many ways and Gen X has known for years that we're stuck as the clean-up crew. That I actually understand what happened (and is happening) just fuels the resentment. There's a reason I refuse to vote (and I do vote) for any Republic or Democrat candidates anywhere on the ballot. They're both responsible for what has happened, with their 'partisan' games, and I refuse to support it. Boomers? Feh

Posted by: lunadyne | November 12, 2010 7:53 PM

500 years from now, who's going to know the difference?

Disillusionment comes from having illusions. Life sucks and then you die, anything else is gravy. Grow up already.

Have I listed enough platitudes and bromides here? I hate to think I left any out.

You know what we really need? Some new gods. The gods people worship today really suck, invented by our bronze-age predecessors they really have no reason to exist anymore.

Sure, those people invented the wheel, and we should be grateful to them for having enough sex to make our own existence possible. But really, gods?

Posted by: eezmamata | November 12, 2010 7:30 PM

Even those who want only peace can be under attack. What should they do to protect themselves?

Give up?

Surrender?

Or fight back?

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 12, 2010 5:56 PM

comments are an interesting read - Thank you DANGREEN3.

Posted by: cb9009bc | November 12, 2010 3:44 PM

Martin Luther King-good, Malcolm X - bad; John Lennon, batty, crazed, daft, lunatic, mad, maniac, nuts, screwy, unbalanced, Like..."who would make love on TV for no good reason?"; all Russian women were brunette and wore potato sacks, I knew this because my AP History textbook said so; and Ronal Reagan was god incarnate after that failure of a President Jimmy Carter.

The Greatest Generation begot The Most Selfish One (Generation). A generation whose leaders personify its interests. Now Generation X is reconciled to the self fulfilling prophecy of the Baby Boomers that future generations will be worse off.

Posted by: GotKids1 | November 12, 2010 3:43 PM

As I read how generations of people are supposed to be responsible -- or irresponsible -- for the ills of this society, I see the nameless non-people -- namely corporations, which cannot be held responsible as individuals -- laughing all the way to the bank as they have sold back to us consumers the images and style of rebellion and social justice, which we have settled for (in acquiring music, clothing, media) instead of opting for real change, which is much less comfortable. I think outpsyching consumer culture (cell phones/ipods/computers for GENX, psychedelic trappings or artisanal foods for Boomers) is the first challenge -- whether it's the fantasy of the military or the fantasy of a college education for all, fantasies that corporations charge us for and that the economy is falsely ratcheted up by.

Posted by: cwolz | November 12, 2010 3:42 PM

Once we have another WHITE president either Democrat or Republican then we will be able to move forward, because these Republicans and Tea Baggers will not even pretend to try to cooperate with Obama.

Posted by: devilsadvoc8 | November 12, 2010 3:41 PM

Let's not forget that we Gen-Xers (I was born in 1970) have plenty to be disillusioned about. Does any major institution in this country have the reputation it did 50 years ago? Watergate and succeeding scandals destroyed our belief in politics and government. Sex scandals destroyed our belief in the church. Steriods destroyed our belief in sports. Bank bailouts destroyed our belief in business.

With regards to points made by some of the other commentators, I'd say morality post Boomers is now very much a two edged sword. Yes things are no longer black & white like they were for our grandparents. There's now a lot of gray. Perhaps too much at times, but I will leave that for others to argue over. That said, members of Gen's X & Y are much more accepting,and I think for the better of things our grandparents would never have considered. Gays, mixed-race marriage,and looking on non-whites as equals is now by and large accepted by Gen's X&Y for example.

I also think that part of Gen X's problem is lack of a clear cut enemy to focus our attentions on. Yes, most of us agree that terrorism is bad, but beyond that there is no consensus on what to do about it, beyond throw lots of money at the problem and hope it goes away. Chances are the war on terrorism will go the way of the war on drugs. Lots of time money and effort spent on a problem that won't be any better when Generation Z reaches adulthood in 20 years.

By comparison, our grandparents had the Depression and World War 2 and our parents had the Cold War. Clearly defined enemies and a united or mostly united consensus on how to deal with it!

Posted by: AKReader2 | November 12, 2010 3:41 PM

Broadford:
"Get busy getting results for the people who are counting on you, and stop this brain dead contemplation of whatever expectations you had that have not been met."

In other words, shut up and do what you're told. And stay out of my bushes!

Posted by: presto668 | November 12, 2010 3:37 PM

Evaluating the failures of the previous generation is not "whining," it is honest reflection with the hope that we can somehow find our way out of the self-absorbed present into a collective future. And as for the "get to work" sentiment... thanks for the advice! We are at work - forking over half of what we earn to pay for a morally corrupt war, a failing education system, and baby boomer retirement funds. More than disillusioned - disgusted.

Posted by: cb9009bc | November 12, 2010 3:02 PM

WAH-WAH-WAH! Life is too short for self-absorbed solipsism. Get busy getting results for the people who are counting on you, and stop this brain dead contemplation of whatever expectations you had that have not been met. WAH-WAH-WAH!

Posted by: Broadford | November 12, 2010 3:00 PM

I believe your #3 point is directly related to your #2 point.

Posted by: mellilantz | November 12, 2010 2:49 PM

As a Gen Xer born in 1966, nothing has been a bigger disappointment than watching the "peace and love" Baby Boomers mature into a "me first" demographic -- driven mostly by their own self-absorbtion, greed and terrible parenting skills. (Did the Boomers learn NOTHING from America's Greatest Generation?) Talk about disillusionment!

Posted by: Jumpy66 | November 12, 2010 2:29 PM

Larrybud:

Your call for greater education funding begets the question of what have you done with the billions of dollars you have already been given.

I am a member of the front end of Generation X (born 1966) and my mother is a retired public schoolteacher of the silent generation.

I grew up in the '70's & 80's hearing "we have an education crisis in this country" and "teachers don't get paid enough" time and time again.

In all that time the education establishment grew larger as did the admin side, a C and mediocrity was considered acceptable and there were many articles asking "Why Can't Johnny Read ?"

Only recently have we started to ask serious questions and hold the education establishment accountable for the resources we have given them.

K-12 education is not only not highly valued in this country but I would submit this is one of the many societal institutions that has FAILED us leading Gen-X to be so cynical and mistrustful of institutions and authority figures.

Posted by: King2641 | November 12, 2010 2:18 PM

As spoiled as any generation, but more self-absorbed - caring more about dumb-asz cell phones and other idiotic gadgets

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | November 12, 2010 1:58 PM

This is a very good start for a more comprehensive study about today's society in the United States, as well as a global society.

The United States is also saddled with excessive political correctness, the concerted lack of strong leadership and political partisanship. This and a whole slew of other problems exist in today's society, yet we avoid frank and open discussions because 'it might hurt someone's feelings'. We can't even discuss racism without being labeled a racist.

Recently I was doing research on Tammany Hall and I was struck by the similarity of Tammany Hall with many of the initiatives of today's overly politically correct society.

Nay, this is a good article that might and should enable discussions all across today's society. Our recent mid-term elections indicated a huge dissatisfaction with the government the way it is being run today, and not just at the national level. The recent arrest of Maryland's PG County Executive most likely is representative of the graft, greed, corruption and ineptness of our leaders who, by the way, were elected to represent us, for the most part, and not really lead (as in not telling us how to think, etc).

Gen-X is no more cursed than the Baby Boomers, nor better equipped than Gen-Y. What we are seeing is a massive lack of communication. Let's talk openly about our problems.

Posted by: joelhar1 | November 12, 2010 1:58 PM

I think these sentiments are common with a lot of Boomers, too. But I was raised to believe that the world was a harsh place, that education and the things you want need to be earned, that borrowing is risky and that there are no guarantees in life. All of those things have always been true. If Boomers are guilty of anything, it's of raising their kids to believe something different. We were fortunate in being born when we did- but that was just luck. If history teaches us anything, it's that change is the natural order of things. If we did not teach our children to deal with adversity, shame on us. And if we have forgotten how to live as we were raised, we can't really blame anyone else.

Posted by: eenkriek | November 12, 2010 1:30 PM

Maybe Gen X can figure out how to get us back into space? Us Boomers have shot our bolt.

Posted by: jimward21 | November 12, 2010 1:30 PM

Very insightful article. But may I offer one more thought on disillusionment.

I was born in 1972. I have noticed something about expectations in my generation. We were latch key kids, many of us, and grew up on TV. What we did not realize, is that somewhere in the back of our brains, we were studying it. Growing up, how do you learn of life? Your environment. How do I act like a man? Dad. Uncle Bob. The neighbor, Frank. How does the world work, and is life fair? The lives of people around me should inform that.
Instead, you have a generation that grew up on tv and movies. As a male, if I am the good, sincere guy, If I am John Cusack, I will end up winning out, get the girl, have a good life, that's the rules, right? If I am brave and never give up, like Rocky, I can't fail. Well, then we grew up, and the world is so much worse than that. So fundamentally unfair, when compared to the lives of tv people.
Yes, I know, we all know tv isn't real. But subconsciously, maybe not so much. I still catch myself thinking in right and wrong, fair and unfair, based upon these false expectations, and it feels both naive and pathetic, but also, disillusioning.

Now tell that to someone who survived the great depression, or vietnam, and you'd be told to suck it up, and rightly so. Get over it. But If you wonder why my generation seems so disillusioned, so shocked we didn't all grow up to own a home and 2 cars, I believe that false impression of reality, movies and tv are fairly telling.

I'd love to hear someone from the psychological disciplines regarding this idea.

Posted by: hideous | November 12, 2010 1:28 PM

Y'all missed the most important "example of unrealized social campaigns", because without its success: NONE OF THE OTHERS MATTER!

What about the quest for ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY?

Posted by: jsmith021961 | November 12, 2010 1:13 PM

As a baby-boomer (born in 1956) and a community college professor, I taught a lot of Gen X students in the 1980s and 1990s. While sometimes bright and insightful, as a whole they were pretty downbeat in the classroom--everything always suXXed.

I am a little tired of the "not doing as well as our parents" line. Our parents (or your parents) did not even have smart phones!!! I wonder how they survived? I missed a draft call possibility by one year. I don't think that was doing better. Every generation has its burdens, so in that we are in this together. Most Gen X'rs understand that.

Posted by: guitar1 | November 12, 2010 12:28 PM

What disillusion? Gen X voters seem to include a lot of enthusiasts for the Tea Party, hand guns, Fox News, no-money-down mortgages, negative savings rates, and the "God Bless America" (but buy Chinese on credit) or nuke-em view of world affairs. They are pretty much the same sort of self-loving, other-hating folks as their predecessors and successors.

Posted by: jkoch2 | November 12, 2010 11:29 AM

Collective problem-solving and

Posted by: mgallo2 | November 12, 2010 11:12 AM

I was born in 1970, my first memories are of constant TV news coverage of Watergate, Vietnam, and Beirut, Lebanon. All of which created a skeptical perspective towards everything in the news.

I grew up with the first generation of "latch key kids" whose parents both worked, and who additionally had more technological changes that affected them personally than perhaps any previous generation. Sure, computers had been around but they were the size of a room until the school I was in got eight Commodore 64 systems to try to teach students on. We were the first generation that had video games, personal computers, portable music players (first the boom box, later the walkman) and Video tape recorders (beta and vhs). We saw space flight go from one shot trips to the Space Shuttle. We saw the beginning of cable TV.

My class was the last class at the school I attended that was forced to do all their math problems on paper and show their process. The classes following me were required to have calculators and were taught to use them rather than work the problem out in their head. Now handwriting isn't even being taught, my little cousins are expected to do their homework on computers and hand in typed copies. My teachers wanted my homework to be handwritten in a clean copy so they could tell I'd done my own work and my mother hadn't written the paper for me. Typing was something I was taught in high school on typewriters. Now they teach keyboarding and my little cousins don't know how to adjust a form in a typewriter so that the typing goes into the right slots. If the form isn't available in a fillable PDF format, they have to fill it in by hand with their less than legible handwriting.

My parents can't understand why all the younger cousins print any letters they send instead of writing them. I know why, they never had any penmanship or handwriting classes.

Honestly, the War on Drugs never made that big an impression on me. It was the discovery of AIDS and the sudden constant barrage of birth control methods during my teen years that made more of an impression.

Workplaces changed. By the time I was looking for my first job, offices were accepting people who had "rat tails" instead of insisting on the clean cut look they'd had up till then. Tattoos still had to be covered up and it was scandalous to have one unless you were a Hells Angel or a sailor. Now tattoos are ubiquitous. Which I find interesting since our generation was the first to be told about all the diseases that can be spread (like AIDS and Hepatitis) via dirty needles.

Posted by: RazorGirl | November 12, 2010 11:04 AM

Odd that the salient observation is missed: Where did the government spend/tax the most? What worked the best?

The highest taxes are in the most failing states, led by CA and NY -- coincidence? i.e. high taxes enhance more spending, not balanced budgets.

Ever since the establishment of the Dept. of Education and the War on Drugs these endeavors have failed more.

Can no one in Washington connect the dots?

Posted by: donx65 | November 12, 2010 10:41 AM

One last thought before moving on. Each human on Earth gets 60x24 or 1440 minutes. All of us have to take about 7 hours out to sleep. That leaves each of us with roughly 1000 minutes a day to do our best at whatever we need to do with that time. The biggest mistake is to think anyone has any more minutes in a day than we do. It takes years to see success. There are those who stand front and center on the stage of life and get credit for that which others did. But they also get shot at for it. So doing your best at whatever your circumstances demand is the future being paid for the next generation. It is not easy, but in old age it is the saving grace of self satisfaction before the God you know you must face for all you did with all those minutes that only God can give. Live as if it is your last breath of life
and you will find satisfaction in little things done well. It adds up over the years. Enjoy it all while it is here. 1000 minutes a day.

Posted by: momvera | November 12, 2010 10:09 AM

I am a member of this so-called "generation X" and all I can say to you is stop your moaning and get to work! We've had it easy compared to many of those who were raised before us.

Posted by: goldengoal74 | November 12, 2010 10:07 AM

I was interested to read the discussion points, which I think miss some important trends:

1. Gen X is the first generation in a long while in this country that will live worse off than its parents. This has profound ramifications on how one sees oneself and one's life. Think about it: raising the age of social security eligibility now means that it is more than likely that it will be raised even higher for gen X. My projected social security payments are minimal compared to those my parents received, despite my working longer. Add to that the fact that no one I know my age and younger has any pensions to speak of, unlike everyone of my parents' generation, and you have a retirement nightmare waiting to happen in less than 20 years.

2. Gen X is also the first generation in a long while to have had job insecurity built in to our *entire* working lives. We began working during a recession (which meant few had jobs after graduating from college and many ended up back at home), we have continued working through several recessions, and likely will end our days working during yet another. Meanwhile, very few people my age and younger know anyone who has not been laid off, reduced in hours, or had a salary freeze. This is *daily* reality for us--our parents did not know this as even a yearly, much less once a decade, occurrence. And this despite being better educated and trained than our parents.

3. These unpleasant and disempowering realities have ensured that Gen X continues to be overlooked as a political and social force. This in turn has led many in this generation to devise ways of surviving that may seem reactionary and apolitical, because they are almost entirely based on the actions of individuals doing their own things to get along. Simply put, being in power or control in any real sense is not a reality for most in this generation. This means that the greater good--the federal highway system, civil rights, social security, medicare, health insurance for all, etc.--will likely not be a part of our striving as a whole.

Posted by: alien1 | November 12, 2010 9:59 AM

I'm at the end of Generation-X, but I think the two biggest problems we've faced is the knowledge we won't do as well as our parents did, plus the fact that we've dealt with a conflicting message that we could make a difference only to find that the previous generation wasn't done making a difference yet. In essence we're a generation without a place to be or a place to go.

Growing up, we were told on shows like Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Wizard and a host of others that if we wanted something, and we worked hard for it, that we could achieve it. But after we worked hard, achieving a level of education across the board that hadn't been achieved enough, we still can't quite find our place. The people making the decisions are still our parents generation. From the President on down, by and large the people we take direction from is our parents group. We are stuck in a sort of stagnant adolescence... we have the trappings of adulthood, the responsibilities of adulthood, but not quite the control of adulthood. The boomers, and to an extent the "Greatest Generation" came to be at a time when new opportunities were opening up, putting them in positions of authority when they were in their late 20's, early 30's for the simple reason that no one else was around to do it. And now as they reach their 60's and 70's, they are still in those position of authorities because, in their greed and lust to get out of those positions, created an economic situation that forced them to stay there.

And so by the time we start being able to "make a difference" we are later on in our lives than our parents were with more responsibilities than they had, and facing the challenges that they created for us. The rise in property costs, the environmental damage, the political dialogue they created are things we must deal with, although they are neither of our creation nor our choosing.

Faced with this stagnation and challenges, I wonder if we were somehow betrayed as children. I wonder if our children will face our dilemna of having grown up believing we can make a difference yet not quite able to...

And yet as I think about starting my family, I think I might still look for some DVD's of Mr. Rogers and Reading Rainbow and make sure I know when Sesame Street is on. I'm going to look for opportunities to show them how cool science is and make sure they believe they can do whatever they want, if they work hard enough. I just hope in a few decades, they aren't cursing us Generation X-ers for not giving them the opportunities they need to do it.

Posted by: mkelm441 | November 12, 2010 9:37 AM

I am from the so called silent generation, born in 38, so parents were from greatest generation. With that base we overheard lots of comments about the depression but not having experienced it was hard to really comprehend. Then came WW 2. After the war, and as my generation matured, the greatest generation was not too un settled, by our youth's, music etc. , as they of course had seen the roaring 20's. Point is, each generation changes the ground rules. I have studied WW 2 and concluded, as most, we were one unified force, as we as a nation, had a cause. The Boomers splintered the country is many directions, with no common thread, only a core belief in entitlement, laced with corruption, and a lack of morality. And lastly, Empires do not last.

Posted by: dangreen3 | November 12, 2010 9:35 AM

The authors' seem to have drawn different lessons from growing up in the 1970s than I did. I was never disillusioned by the failure of large institutions, most especially government. I recall 12% inflation, 15% interest rates, gas rationing, Iranian hostages, the Watergate Hearings on t.v., dreadful American products being run out of the marketplace by more well-designed products from Japan (Walkman, anyone?), and worst of all Disco.

The authors sound more like idealistic Baby-boomers who find that the world just doesn't meet their expectations, so it's somehow a problem of the world. Hmmm...

Instead of disillusionment, most of my peers and I instead developed ironic detachment, mild disdain towards any organization larger than a few dozen individuals, well-calibrated cynicism about anyone with a political agenda of any ideology.

We offer a healthy attitude of nihilism when someone promises hope and change-- whether from the Left or Right. In either case, it likely won't be delivered, and if it does, it will have unintended consequences that cost more than it is worth.

It's indicative that the prevalent genres of music popular when I was in my formative years were punk-rock and later, Grunge.


Posted by: mc-squared@verizon.net | November 12, 2010 9:33 AM

Well tell me if the Boomers have been in charge and they aren't responsible? Who is.

I think your "Whining" about people pointing fingers is a perfect example of what's wrong with Boomers as a group. They collectively seem to feel they aren't responsible for anything. I'll admit I'm talking generally and of course there have to be exceptions.

But Again if our leaders aren't responsible for what they did then who is?

Of course you could actually post a useful thought on what's wrong instead of defending yourself. A little guilt maybe?

Posted by: galfax | November 12, 2010 9:12 AM

As far as education goes there is something that most people don't even consider.
Nearly every other country that we compare ourselves too have work study programs that filter out the children who don't have the desire or ability to successfully go on to college. They end up training for non-degreed jobs. The result of this is when we compare our High School math,science and reading scores to thier students all our below average student are included no the US scores but in Europe,Japan, and most of the industrialized world they've funneled those below average students out of thier High School educational systems. No wonder our numbers keep dropping. We keep trying to squeeze everyone through College even if they just aren't capable of doing it.

Posted by: galfax | November 12, 2010 9:05 AM

p.s. having a bit more I recall that my father's grandmother lived w/ his family as far back as the 1920s ... underscoring the point about 3 generation households being nothing new.

All of which is to say that I sympathize with and understand the disillusionment, but when it comes to blaming the Boomers for everything, I have to wonder whether some cheese would go well with your whine.

Posted by: fendertweed | November 12, 2010 9:03 AM

@ral_tir and others:

Sorry you are in tough times but I don't think you have a particularly clear picture of how things were before you were around. Both in my grandparents' generation (born 1890s) and my parents' (born 1920s) it was very common for older relatives (a great grandmother, or whomever) to live in the same household, so 3-generation households were not uncommon IMO/IME.

While times are tough, your generation is not so "extra special" that you are going through things that prior generations did not... true, people live longer now, but in my family at least 3 of the 4 branches were 3-generation households back in the 1940 and 1950s.

The disillusionment is understandable, but scapegoating is not helpful.

Posted by: fendertweed | November 12, 2010 9:01 AM

How about some articles on what people hope for in the future of our country as a country of united people. Who do we want to be and how can we do it. What do we expect of the newly elected and what part can we do to get us where we are at peace with ourselves and the world.

Posted by: momvera | November 12, 2010 8:58 AM

I was born barely in GENX right towards the end of the Baby Boomers. I think the biggest problem is that the Baby Boomers as a generation haven't done anything successful on thier own. All the big successes the Baby Boom generation takes credit for were under the leadership of GI generation leaders. The most effective boomer leaders of our country to date were Clinton who was a good manager but not a great president and Bush who'se never succeeded at anything but rhetoric.

My belief is that the majority of the angst you are seeing that is whipsawing back and forth is that the Baby Boomers who honestly expected to fix thier world in one Generation are finally waking up to what Gen-X told them years ago. They can't fix everything in one lifetime. We were labeled difficult, disfunctional, and angry because we tried to make our parents face that simple fact.

The irony now is they are the angry liberals on the left and Tea partiers on the right screaming for change but with all the common sense of the GI generation gone they are just making an Inchoherent sound of rage that will take us nowhere. I don't think anything will change till the Baby Boomers start to exit the government. If you go back and look things have gotten progressively worse as far as compromise and the ability to pass legislation as the GI generation senators and congressman left with the same refrain. "I don't like it here these people are broken"

Posted by: galfax | November 12, 2010 8:53 AM

I am a parents of Generation X children if the 35 to 45 group is who you are discussing. There is always a good side to anything. This is a generation that is better informed about child abuse, better informed about culture differences, better informed about choices of religions and better informed about human rights.
What they are missing is the unbiased information of moral foundations and the historical results of trespassing against one another.
The cultural division maker of generational degradation has been part of their TV mental input which is finally changing. Their lack of real life conversations and deep thinking is floating about trying to find a pedestal. They work tirelessly to go no where on income while others hoard the power of money and feel they have a right to it. They became adults right out of high school with no grace period through college years for the legal responsibility to learn the laws of our society. Their moms were pushed into the work field leaving them stranded again. This social revolution was by media design. And now we all pay the price of the puppet maker's
social experiments and we can't blame the Russians or anyone else for putting tax money in foreign owned schools in our land.
And now Washington has a new crop of puppets who I pray learn the responsibilities of adulthood that growing up requires before they loose our freedom all together. No one person's belief system is more right than another. They just had different input.
When that input is shared, freedom makes it ways possible for all. My children did OK, but they sure didn't have it easy in our sin driven one up man ship time period in history. It is time to be real about who is running us amuck.

Posted by: momvera | November 12, 2010 8:53 AM

And perhaps any hackneyed attempt to pigeon hole such a large and diverse group as a generation is pointless to begin with. I'm 39 and lived through much of what is distorted in the piece above. I have so many quibbles and flat out disagreements with how this piece is presented that I'm not sure where to start, but as a teacher I'll start with education.

The myth of American lazy, violent stupidity didn't begin with "A Nation at Risk" but that has been the narrative since the Johnson Administration. The reality is that American public schools are doing the best they can in a society that doesn't value k-12 education and never has. For every story of a failing large urban school district there is an untold success story that the is either never told or ignored because it doesn't fit with the narrative of disaster and alarm. Are there failing American schools and districts? Absolutely. Does that make our system "worse" than Finland or Japan where there is no guarantee of a free public education for 12 years? I think those indicators are relative to what we value as a culture and what they value.

I flat out challenge the notion that "federal" spending on educationhas ever surpassed the level of defense spending. The total amount of actual federal dollars spent on education is a fraction of the defense budget. When federal dollars are added to state expeditures it evens out a bit, but states are almost categorically spending those dollars to keep up with the unfunded federal mandates on public education. As an example, since the passage of the IDEA law, it has never been funded at any more than 17% of the originally authorized levels. The rgulations haven't changed or weakened, but the money to pay for them has not been added to the budget so states are required to make up the difference.

But as long as we're using the defense budget analogy the question should be asked why is it OK to spend trillions of dollars on wars and defense, but when a proposal is made to increase education funding we default to the we-can't-just-throw-money-at-it argument? It's OK to throw billions of dollars down the drain and thousands of American lives for a pointless war, but increasing education funding is anathema?

The worst aspect of Gen-X disillusionment, if such a thing actually exists, is that we continue to fall into the worn out narratives of the past. Is there a leadership vacuum? Well then now is the time for us to step up and shake off the mantle that has been placed on us as being whiners. To do that, we need to start a new narrative that's based on something other than angst.

Posted by: LarryBud | November 12, 2010 8:50 AM

Another big influence for Gen X was STDs. I'm 43 and that was the biggest component of our high school health classes. Herpes was everywhere and AIDS was just coming on the scene. We never got the "free love" opportunities of the boomers. Sex was always something to be afraid of. At my workplace (a state college) there are no Gen-X leaders. It's all still boomers, with many more 50-somethings still in the pipeline. They are great leaders. I worry that my cohort won't be able to do as well!

Posted by: drl97 | November 12, 2010 8:39 AM

My 16-yr old daughter has brought up similar questions. As she is preparing for college, she asks "what happened to the idealism of your generation?". I have asked her to explain and she brings up some of the issues mentioned in this article plus many others. I end up saying (in a tired and ashamed voice) we lost to the "boomers". They outnumbered us and we let them hijack our plans. I only have to point to my father (who is now retired, disabled, and lives with us) and how we as a family end up altering plans to make sure his needs are met. When he was healthy and strong, I looked to him for guidence, and now I have to help and take care of him. This, overall is what I think happened to our generation. When we were young and idealistic, we looked to the boomers for advice (which by that time, they were no longer idealistic, but becoming entrenched in their paths) and when our ideas conflicted with theirs, we ended up losing. We have made some small changes in the world and in our community, but the big changes were "killed" and we just said "whatever" or "who cares". We truly became the "slackers", the "boomers" believed we are.
Thanks for listening to my rant. Maybe we have done a better job with our kids and we need to support them as they try to change the world for the better.

Posted by: ral_tir | November 12, 2010 8:21 AM

This pretty much sums it up and also validates why Generation X is both cynical and hype-averse. I am digging this column, guys. I would love to read anecdotes about emerging Gen X leaders. It always helps to hear about Xers who are doing what you suggest here - aligning values with actions.

Posted by: jenx67 | November 12, 2010 8:20 AM

I'd be interested in the ages of the other commenters. As a >40 gen-x, I really felt that this captured the spirit of much disillusionment. It's no good saying that the piece is too long or has facts which you dispute. The point that these struggles have been fought all our lives to limited or indeed no progress has cast a tangible pall on our belief that change can happen. If you polled all the gen-x in our country, how many of them would tell you that the US has improved in our lifetime? Not for lack of trying, mind you, but we don't really see how drugs, politics, education, etc. can be improved.

Posted by: copdoc | November 12, 2010 8:17 AM

Apparently our generation also rode the cusp of statistical illiteracy as well.

In 1993, FEDERAL spending on education was $51.33 Billion. Defense spending was $344.18 Billion.

Total NATIONAL education spending, including state and local governments, topped defense. The federal share, not even close. It may just be one word, but as a result, you're about $850 billion on the wrong side of the facts.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | November 12, 2010 7:57 AM

We have been shunned as a group for nearly 20 years. The previous generation had the numbers and the narrative for far too long.

My biggest disappointment is the lack of engagement from politicians who have catered to the baby boomers throughout this era. It didn't help when we were broad brushed as spoiled, slackers, and any other perjoratives just to sell a few more copies.


Posted by: raidhjk | November 12, 2010 7:45 AM

You really need to stop citing FINLAND as a counterpoint to the United States. Finland is a small, ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation of approximately 5.2 million Finns. The U.S. is a sprawling, polyglot, multicultural empire of 300 million.

We will never be able to compete in such qualitative indicies with countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark, etc., who invariably make up most of the top tier.

Rather than take the U.S. as a whole, look at small, homogeneous states like Vermont, for example, and voila-- across the board, educational and oher social quality of life indicators suddenly rise to European levels.

Look at a Texas or a Lousiana in microcosm, and they fall even lower than U.S. averages.

Self-evident, but difficult to discuss since it clearly raises the specters of race and culture as significant determinents in overrall societal success, and since such evidence stands in stark opposition to the dominant ideology of diversity-- that diversity is our greatest strength, has an intrinsic advantage over "monocultural" societies, and should be not only recognized as a fact, but actively pursued.

For all the paens to diversity we are taught in America, your lists reinforce, as they always do, that from little Finland to larger Japan, most of the "most successful" countries are among the world's least diverse.

No coincidence, that; but almost verboten to speak of.

Posted by: gadstian | November 12, 2010 7:19 AM

Gen X is SO SCREWED..... Thanks to the self indulgent hippy baby boomers

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | November 12, 2010 6:37 AM

America is intellectually challenged. In the parlance of psychology, America is an "exceptional child" among nations; in need of special education programs that treat American exceptionalism as an abnormal personality. The decline in liberal (gasp) arts and narrowing of education to specialized fields and mass sports at our universities has distorted self-perception and replaced it with chauvinistic hubris. Jingoism is not far behind, as evidenced by our seemingly endless and futile cycle of wars: on drugs, on poverty, on terrorism, etc.. Historian Arnold Toynbee documented the cyclic rise and fall of civilizations, but George Santayana said it best: "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it." (Volume I, The Life of Reason)

Posted by: -tao- | November 12, 2010 6:21 AM

This piece is kind of muddled and goes on too long. The writers might want to look up the meaning of insipid, which is used in the phrase "insipid [drug] pushers." Perhaps insidious was the word wanted.

The writers also need to state a clear definition of American Exceptionalism. The term gets used sloppily and many take it to mean American superiority, some take it to mean the Truman Doctrine on steroids where we are to spread the truth and beauty of the American Way to all other lands and people, some take it to mean that we are entitled to super power status, and the more scholarly definition is limited to our success in founding, expanding and sustaining a democratic republic out of nowhere. But in any event, it is not new or unique to the Gen X experience and comes from as far back as De Tocqueville. Many generations have been raised on a notion of American specialness. Many have found it challenged during their adulthood -- Viet Nam comes to mind as tarnishing the American self-image of a just and beneficent republic, savior to the world, for the several generations alive during 1965-75, only the youngest of which was the Baby Boom.

Perhaps disillusionment is not a uniquely Gen-X experience, but a universal experience of finding nuance, imperfection, change and contradiction in a complex world. It is, perhaps, called adult reality.

Posted by: cassandra9 | November 12, 2010 2:23 AM

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