Thursday, 23 February 2017

Generation X and political inertia

I don't think we have "got this", unfortunately. At a time when the world needs leadership from heads that are mature but not senile, Generation X is missing in action.

My generation - the cohort born between 1960 and 1982 - has always suffered from a collective inferiority complex. We grew up dominated by the Baby Boomers, the much larger and more culturally confident generation that preceded us. Where our parents saw opportunities for growth - economic, cultural, spiritual - we grew up with a sense of entropy and decay. Growing up amid the reactionary post-hippie comedown of Reagan, Thatcher and Live Aid, we were too late for the party, and many of suspected the party was probably lame anyway. Judging by the number of Boomer celebrities who have fallen from grace in recent years, it was almost certainly full of sex pests.

Sure, we enjoyed ourselves. We had rave culture, hip-hop and alternative rock. They belong to Millennials too, but they belonged to us first. We had Pulp Fiction, Italia '90 and the first home computers and games consoles. More of us went to university than any generation before, and some of us left with degrees. The majority of us managed to scrape enough leftovers from the big table to settle into a slightly threadbare but more or less respectable adulthood before the Boomers chucked it on the fire to keep themselves toasty in their 'forever young' old age. We probably still ask our parents for the odd hand-out, and we definitely need their help with childcare, but at least we're not sleeping in the spare room. 

Did we stand for anything in politics? Have we made our presence felt? I'm not sure. It strikes me that any momentum we had as a political generation (whether spirit of '97, or spirit of Seattle '99) was wiped out by 9/11 and Iraq, and I don't think we've recovered our political soul since. The most successful members of our generation in British politics so far are David Cameron and George Osborne, who spent their twenties hanging out with prostitutes or engaging in drunken porcine necrophilia, before 'choosing life', bombing the economy, battering the welfare state and handing Britain's future back to the increasingly bitter and confused older generation via a pointless and utterly avoidable referendum. It's not a great start.

Whether on the environment, living standards or social cohesion, our kids will have a worse deal than we had, and they'll blame *us* for that, not the baby boomers (most of whom will be too old or too dead to get angry with). As frustrating as it is for an innately nihilistic generation to stomach their boundless idealism and preoccupation with 'edible' seaweed, Gen X should stand shoulder to shoulder 100% with Millennials both for their sake, and that of the generations to follow. We still have time to fix things, but so far we've failed miserably. Kurt would have been 50 this week. Bill & Ted are 52. When are we going to grow up and take control?


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