Tag Archives: generational conflict

Dear Generation X, Please Build A Better World

“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 roadblocks to a rational society. When my generation passes the baton I want to get a sincere handshake 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, cutthroat 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 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 onto 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 showdown 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.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 Build a Better World
Talk About Saving the World
Be Better People
Baby Boomers and The Younger Generations

Ten Ways People Get Dumber As They Get Older

Renaissance painting of a fool or jester sitting in a chair looking forlorn.

 

1. We stop going to school.

While in school you have knowledge crammed into your head for 4-8 hours per day. After graduation, most people just stop reading altogether because they have no motivation to teach themselves new information. Most people resented and resisted the knowledge were taught when they were in school. So after graduation, they’re more than happy to plop down in front of the TV for the next 60 years and let their mind turn to mush and forget everything they did learn in school.

 

2. Even if every adult wanted to learn, a lot of them are too busy.

Between working 8-12 hours a day, cultivating (or enduring) a marriage, raising children and doing household chores most people don’t have the spare time or energy to learn new things.  There’s not much you can do about this, but even though there’s a good excuse for it the fact remains…most people don’t learn much after graduation.

 

3. We assume the education we did receive proves we know everything (or at least as much as we need to know).

In theory, this shouldn’t be true. You’d think that people who went to 4-8 years of college would have a lifelong passion for learning, but the more people with higher education degrees you meet the more you’ll find out this generally isn’t the case. Instead, the higher of a degree they’ve earned the more conceited they are about how much they know. The more conceited they are the less motivation they have to learn more. So they spend the rest of their lives congratulating themselves for their past educational accomplishments and cease achieving new educational accomplishments while forgetting most of what they had learned that they’re so proud of.

 

4. We give up.

When we’re young we tend to be enthusiastic, hungry idealists. The world is a big, open sky to us. Every adult felt like that when they were younger, but then they got out into the real world and found out nobody gives a crap about you. You’re not a snowflake. You’re a number, and you’re expendable. Nobody really wants you to think outside the box. They want you to shut up and follow their orders.

Someday you may come to the realization that idealism is cute in cartoons, but in the real world the responsible thing to do, the adult thing to do, is to get a job you don’t necessarily take any joy from and work hard day-in and day-out for 60 years without a single complaint.

When the light goes out in your eyes and your life downshifts into autopilot you don’t think of brilliant things. You lose the motivation to explore. You just fade out. You call it “responsibility,” but your willful celebration of slavery defeats the purpose of existing in the first place, and it makes the world a duller place.

 

5. We come to believe that the rank makes the man.

The purest example of this is military officers. Aside from politicians, no group of people in the world are more delusional about their self-worth than military officers. Why do they think they’re so great? Because they have an arbitrary, man-made rank that tells them they’re God. And once you’re God you believe you can do no wrong. So you don’t listen to anything you don’t want to hear, and you have no motivation to improve yourself since there’s nowhere to go once you’ve reached the top. This is as true in the civilian sector as it is in the military. Give people an important title and tell them they’re important and they’ll become delusional idiots.

 

6. We assume the mere fact that we’re older makes us wiser.

Adults think kids are dumb shits. Adults don’t try to talk sense to kids because they know every kid is so naive they’re practically, certifiably insane. Being an adult surrounded by children is like being a one-eyed man in the land of the blind. You have more clarity and hindsight than them. True as that may be, it tends to go to adults’ heads. Even if adults are smarter than children that doesn’t make them a higher form of life. And the only reason adults are smarter than children is because they were born first. Whoopdy doo. You don’t get an award for that. If you think being born before someone else makes you better than them then you’re not as smart as you think.

 

7. Similar to #6 is that we tend to assume that getting married, having kids, and working at a job makes us wiser.

Again, yes, you do learn a lot about life by experiencing these trials. But those lessons are on par for what you should learn in life. Great. You can do what you’re supposed to. That’s not going above and beyond the limits. Assuming doing the bare minimum in life makes you an expert on life is foolish and shows how little you know about life. More importantly, it causes you to stop pushing yourself to learn more than the bare minimum.

 

8. We’ve had more time to convince ourselves of our beliefs.

Childhood is defined by our quest to understand ourselves, the world around us, why we’re here and what we’re supposed to do now that we’re here. By the end of childhood, we’ve amassed a head full of answers and explanations, and a lot of those answers are wrong. Even if they were all right, our understanding of life would still be incomplete. But people get the answers they’re comfortable with and repeat those answers to themselves over and over again until they can’t see anything else outside their tiny misshapen reality. Then they spend the rest of their life defending their answers and becoming more close-minded. After we’ve spent 50 years telling ourselves the same thing over and over again, we would have to erase part of our identity to admit that we’re wrong about our cherished beliefs. There’s a reason we have the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

 

9. Similar to #8 is that we’ve had more time to surround ourselves with sources that confirm our biases.

We make friends who believe the same things we do. We watch television shows that are slanted to our point of view. We read news sources that cater to the spin we want to hear. The few nonfiction books that the average person reads are written by authors who just tell their audience what they want to hear. After a lifetime of confirmation bias we inevitably convince ourselves with concrete certainty we’re the good guys and anyone who disagrees with us are the bad guys.

 

10. We’ve invested our pride and our very identity in our tiny reality.

Growth requires change, but in order for adults to change they have to admit that their tiny worldview is either wrong or incomplete. Pride alone won’t let them do this, and even if they were willing to lay their pride aside- their identity is their reality, and their reality is their identity. Changing would be tantamount to suicide, and even though it would benefit them more in the long run, most people are too afraid to walk through the darkness to reach the light. They would rather live with a comfortable lie.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

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