Note: “Generation X” refers to people born in America between 1965-1981. That time frame obviously encompasses more than one generation. For the purpose of this letter, I’m mainly referring to the youngest members of Generation X (born 1976-1981).
I’m a member of Generation X, and I don’t have many good things to say about the Baby Boomer generation. Suffice it to say that I blame them for most of the world’s problems, but I don’t want to dwell on things I can’t change.
What I can change is myself, and I feel like my generation can listen to reason. So I want to point out to my generation that anytime we find ourselves resenting our parents’ generation for abandoning us and throwing us under the bus, we should be vividly aware of what kind of big brothers and big sisters we’ve been to Generation Y and what kind of parents we’re being to Generation Z.
As it stands I’d say that despite all the blood, sweat and tears we’ve poured into making old people rich and fighting their wars we’re actually failing pretty miserably as a generation. We haven’t protected Gen Y’s freedoms. We sat by while privacy became a thing of the past. We didn’t do a diligent job of raising them. We sat by and let the television warp their minds into cartoons. Generation X hasn’t done much for generation Y other than to make better apps to amuse them into not caring how unfulfilling the rest of their existence is. I’d go as far as to say that Generation X is well on its way to becoming Baby Boomers 2.0.
When Gen Z takes over the world I don’t want them to resentfully dismiss Gen X as senile old road blocks to a rational society. When my generation passes the baton I want to get a sincere hand shake and a meaningful nod. More importantly, I want to die knowing the world is headed in a better direction because of the role my generation played in history.
But we have to earn that by doing something other than fighting old people’s wars and making old people richer. The biggest way Gen X can fail is by carrying on the Baby Boomer’s legacy of screwing their customers and workers to get obscenely rich. We can do better than that. We are better than that, and I will be very disappointed if Gen X becomes Baby Boomers 2.0.
What can Gen X do for Gen Y and Z that the Baby Boomers didn’t do for us? Well, if you don’t know what Gen y and Z want or need you could try asking them. Their answers shouldn’t surprise you. They’re bitching about the same things you’ve been bitching about your entire life: that life sucks because we have to follow archaic ideals that nobody actually believes in and that business is war, and war is hell. The corporate culture our elders based the world economy on makes life hell for workers. Even after you leave work there is a war going on between every business in existence to get as much of your money as possible, and this problem is ubiquitous Every time you take out your wallet to put money in or take money out someone skims off the top. You get charged for not having enough money. You get charged for having too much money. You get fined for not telling the government how much money you have. You get bills in the mail telling you that you owe money for things you don’t even understand. In this dog-eat-dog, cut throat world the cards are so stacked against the young and poor that they’re basically just set up for failure. Life is hard because our elders gave us a system that makes life as hard as possible so the rich can get as rich as possible.
There’s no big mystery about what young people want. They want what all young people have always wanted: to not get screwed and not have to live according to irrational, archaic, obsolete, ascetic ideals. If we’re currently screwing the young then we shouldn’t be asking what we can do to help young people. The answer is to stop screwing them. Stop overcharging them for all the basic necessities of life and stop paying them barely enough to survive for working as hard as they can for the majority of their waking hours. The rest of the time, just let them be themselves.
This really isn’t profound. People have been talking about this since before “We’re Not Gonna Take It” first aired on MTV. The story of our generation has always been leading to the point where we either build a better world or sell out to the old one. If the old guard won’t let their young change the old system then all that’s left to do is stop asking for permission to build a more humanitarian, rational, sustainable world and just build it.
How do you rebuild an entire world? I don’t know, but I know if you can build one city that works properly then you can copy that pattern. So until Gen X builds the city of the future my generation can’t say it’s done everything in its power to make the world a better place. Gen X owes the world a city.
If the Baby Boomers finish the job of driving the world to apocalypse we’re going to have to rebuild a better kind of city anyway to adapt to post apocalyptic conditions. Some young people in this country are so scared of an apocalypse they’re willing to fight to prevent that, but violence only begets violence until the only thing left to do is rebuild. If we’ve got time and resources to fight then we’ve got time and resources to skip the fighting and just get straight on to the rebuilding. You might think the idea of building a city is downright stupid, but if you hear people whispering about doing stupider things to “solve” the world’s problems you might want to try to sell them on the idea of building anyway even if you don’t personally believe in it.
This raises the question, how do you set a project of that scale in motion? The answer to that question isn’t profound either. If you need inspiration just go back and watch some of the old 80’s coming of age movies you were raised on. What did our television heroes do when they had to have a show down with the preps from the fraternity across the lake? They threw a party. Then everybody pitched in to complete a monumental task.
Generation X needs to have its Woodstock, except instead of getting muddy, doing drugs and dancing to pop bands from major record labels, we need to get all the right nerds together to figure out how to build a city right there on that field that doesn’t treat people like shit. If we can make one good city then we can rebuild broken ones later. If we can’t make at least one then we don’t really have a leg to stand on when we complain about the ones we’ve got.
One city isn’t too much to ask from a generation that wants to live in a city that reflects its own values anyway. Most of us hate our jobs. We’d all love to escape to a place where you don’t have to constantly agonize over bills and feel insecure about the future. So I don’t know why we haven’t built X City already.
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