Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Transitional Generations

Dean Dad has another spot-on post up today about Generation X as transitional. But I think he's missed something. I'm in no position really to judge his statements about Generation X, but I can say that we Millennials (of which I'm just about the leading (read: oldest) edge) are transitional too.

DD writes: "Those of us who went through grad school in the 90's probably remember when “post-” was the prefix of choice. (For younger readers, it was similar to the use of “e-” ten years ago or “i-” now.) It started with “postmodernism,” but quickly grew to become a cultural habit. “Posties” were those who couldn't stop proclaiming the “death of...” whatever. The cultural mood at the time was that we were at the end of something, but the next thing hadn't arrived yet. We were late to the party, but didn't really have one of our own."

He goes on to productively apply this line of thought to administration in post-secondary education (as you might well expect from a blogger in his position), but I got stuck on the very idea of a generation as transitional.

If gen-x caught the tail end of a party, what's the party me and mine caught the leading edge of? Well, we tend to view "post-"anything with skepticism, that's for sure. We have the internet, well, after a fashion (at 12 or 13 I was impersonating an adult on newsgroups and chat rooms -- remember those? chat rooms? mIRC anyone? -- so that I could gain instant access to that automatic respect that being an adult seemed to confer in a discussion). We have PVRs and MP3 players, we're blamed for everything from the death of print journalism to the death of movies.

But I guess what I'm getting at is that we're in a period of non-stop transition now. There may never again be a time like the first half of the 20th century where people could do the same thing their whole lives and be secure. It's certainly not true now, if in fact it ever was.

Dean Dad writes that "being the transitional group can kind of suck. You fight like hell to board a sinking ship." Unfortunately, this could be the metaphor not solely for Gen-X, but also for every generation hereafter.

The new "party" seems to be the Kurzweilian pace-of-change party -- in which things will from here on in change faster than they have before. That means faster sinking ships, faster ship building, and generally faster ships. The new rule is transition, and the new currency is adaptability.

And so I suppose in a way yes, Gen X has got the brunt of it -- they've gone from the illusion of stability (which was just slower change) to faster change, and they're the first to have to deal with it. But it's a new reality for me and mine, and it's not going to get any better. From here on in, we're going to have to be one thing above all else, and that's "flexible."


Bardiac said...

Except I'm pretty sure the WWII generation was frustrated as hell about how long it took them to kick out the WWI generation, and those folks were pissed at how long it took to kick out the previous generation, and on down the line.

I'm pretty sure every young(er) person has looked at older folks and thought s/he could do a hell of a lot better.

And you know what, there's no "do over" about your generation, and the people before and after you didn't choose theirs, either.

The OP thinks, like so many white men, that the world should be handed to him on a silver plate, and it wasn't, and boo hoo.

Vellum said...

Do you think Gen X or the Millennials (or more recent generations? Are you a Millennnial if you're 12 now?) are impatient for their predecessors to get out of the way? It's never really occurred to me, though I suppose they'll be sticking around longer in real terms if we do manage to raise the average life expectancy into the hundreds...