Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Conceit of Generations

Here we go again: Millennials will save us!
Boomers, Gen Xers and pundits like Thomas Friedman have it wrong: Gen Y's pragmatic idealism can create real change. By David D. Burstein

It's been a while since I last ranted about generationism - time for a review of past thoughts and some current ideas.

Generations are yet another way of dividing the population - as if, in the USA, it's not divided enough already! There's the sharp division of left/right political opinion; racial and ethnic divisions; pro-life/pro-choice; divisions in religious we really need more dividing lines? Is the American mindset bent on a continuing and narcissistic generational conflict? There are serious problems to be faced, problems which affect not only the USA, but the whole planet. Infighting and self-satisfied preening is not going to help solve any of them.

"The Boomers" are the target of anger from age groups labelled Generations X and Y. I belong to none of these three generations. I'm a War Baby with Pluto in Leo (on the cusp of so-called Silent Generation). War Babies have a life memory of World War, and if born in Britain(like myself), or in mainland Europe and Asia we have uncomfortable childhood memories which vividly colour our judgement.

Generations X and Y are said to pride themselves on their wish for peace in the world. How come, then, that they are more than willing to wage war, even if it's simply a war of words, on some of the people closest to them?

The retail market panders to an emphasis on the generations - $$$$$$$$$ again. So the tendency to label generations is not going away as long as it continues to bring in more dosh! Suggested divisions become embedded in public consciousness, they grow, spread, and can develop into ugliness. There's more than enough evidence of that to be found in history.

Getting down to brass tacks (as we used to say in Yorkshire): does one generation really behave and believe differently from another? Generational generalisation is what underpins most articles on the topic. As fans of astrology know (or should) generalisation about, for instance, those born with Sun in any given zodiac sign tells us next to nothing. Yet decades of stereotyping would have us herded: "He's a Leo, she's a Scorpio" etc. Same thing for generational labels: "He's Generation X, she's a Millennial". Labelling is lazy, misleading and generally unhelpful.

Astrologers believe that the three slow-moving outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto can act as generational "markers", yet these planets have little individual personal importance unless one or more of them is closely tied to a personal planet or point in the natal chart. The three outer planets tend to set an "atmosphere" in the world at large, depending on their transiting positions in the zodiac and relationship to one another, and perhaps to the slower of the inner planets, Saturn, Jupiter. Inasmuch as any group of people born into a certain outer planetary "atmosphere" and in the same part of the world, will have similar experiences because of that "atmosphere", this is likely to shape their outlook as they mature. There could possibly be some definable generational characteristic common to such a group, but it will be heavily modified by individual natal chart, family background and personal experiences.

There are non-astrological factors to take into consideration. A fact pointed out by a commenter, to the article linked at the top of this post, that in the USA - and elsewhere to some extent - in the 1960s/70s there was a "glut" of young people ("Boomers") brought about by the raised birth rate following the end of World War 2. So the 60s and 70s brought changes reflecting the virtues and vices of youth, dynamic and unsophisticated in style. Whereas the generation known as Millennials have lived within a society with a higher proportion of older people. Whether that is particularly relevant I'm not certain, but it's something I hadn't considered.

Much adolescent schoolyard nonsense is tossed around about differences in the generations. The Baby Boomer is most often under attack. In common with every generation since the dawn of time, there are good, bad and indifferent among that labelled group. As a generation their contributions have both helped and hindered, as will the contributions of Generations X, Y and Z, and those who will come after.
"I suppose every generation has a conceit of itself which elevates it, in its own opinion, above that which comes after it." ("The Open Door")”― Margaret Oliphant, The Gentlewomen of Evil. (I'd add "or that which went before it!")


mike said...

Well, Twilight, I'm a boomer born in the USA. When I was on the cusp of adulthood, I recall much concern provided by the elders...we were self-centered, slackers, morals-ethics were questionable, higher education wasn't what it used to be, etc. Now that I'm mature, I generalize and believe the same about the younger generations! I am aware of many variants above and below that generalized median, as any generation will contain.

A boomer vs a millennial, both born in the USA, have very different inherent qualities than their counterparts born in various locales around the globe. Most third-world countries contain generation after generation that continue the servitude of impoverished, rural farming, with minimal, dilute variations between generations. The advent of technology such as smart phones and the internet may change the future generations. With the recent expansions in China, millions of poor, farming, multi-generational families have been relocated to cities, bringing radical change to those family units.

The boomers in the USA were quite radical and many individuals in their twenties started small businesses that became something big. I haven't observed anything of sustenance created by the following generations...most have been take-offs of some existing technology (ie, Facebook, video games, apps) and probably have a short life ahead, but maybe it's too soon to judge and they're late bloomers.

One thing for sure, the preceding generations have always left major concerns for the future generations. Each generation deserves kudos for being and bringing what they can to improve our human race and our resident planet. There are huge problems ahead and I'll probably have passed prior to the melt-downs ahead.

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

every generation adds to and takes away some. as I look back and forward what I mainly see is most of are doing the best we can, with the knowledge we have to survive this earthly existance.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Maybe I led a sheltered life (UK) but I don't recall my generation being criticised by our elders. There wasn't the amount of interaction and communication there is now, of course. Newspapers and radio - that was it. So if criticism went on, only those in close proximity knew of it.

I suspect that this whole Baby Boomer thing, for and against, has been more noticeable in the USA than in the UK - more of 'em, proportionally, so they made a bigger mark, and have become, for some, a bigger target for criticism.

I accept there are always going to be superficial differences between age groups, but don't accept there needs to be this urge to blame and divide.

I'm not sure I agree that (as you wrote) "the preceding generations have always left major concerns for the future generations", Mike. Not the "always" part, anyway. My preceding generation made sure I didn't live under Nazi rule, they saw to it that the UK had a National Health Service and other benefits for working people. The following generation, the Baby Boomers took advantage of that fact.

At any point in time there are going to be at least 3 or 4 generations around, it'd be wiser for people to be tolerant, even appreciative, of differences between them, rather than critical and divisive.

I do agree that there are likely to be huge problems ahead, which will test the mettle of whatever generations are around when they kick in.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~~ Yes, true. We have to be glad of the add-ons and try to be tolerant and understanding of the take-away bits.

You're right, too - most ordinary folk, through the centuries - and now - have managed to get by, by doing the best they can with what they have. One could say that it's the main human specialty, and it makes for a sturdy resilience. Talking here about the masses, not the elite, mind you!

mike (again) said...

I agree with your comment regarding your parents. If you had been born in Germany or Japan, you may feel differently.

Each generation employs new technology without fully understanding the effects. Examples might be nuclear weapons, nuclear waste, using the rivers and oceans as sewage and toxin dumps, toxic chemicals such as PCB and DDT, damming of rivers for electrical power without thought of aquatic animals and native habitats, destructive land practices such that brought the dustbowl or draining swamps and using the reclaimed land for habitation (New Orleans and much of the coastal SE USA), sprawling suburbs, leaving the monetary gold standard, fast food, on and on.

My generation is responsible for single parent families, the current corporate elitism, banking corruption, two mid-east wars, loss of personal privacy, Patriot Act, dumbed-down future generations by not adequately funding education and public assistance, loss of vision from computer screen emissions, loss of actual human social contact via the internet, on and on.

I have no idea what the 60s and 70s were like in Britain, but here in the states, we were enthralled with the British beat...the Brits led much of the culture here in the USA. We youth were on our way prior to the Brit invasion, according to our parents, because of Elvis Presley's gyrating hips (unheard of...too sexual!). The Beatles and other British music groups presented a radical culture shift replete with psychedelic drugs and marijuana. Was none of this evident in Britain? Elders in the USA were horrified and felt they had lost all control of the rebellious youth. I assumed much of this was simultaneous with Britain...Piccadilly Square stuff!

Twilight said...

mike ~~~ Those in Germany and Japan were reaping the results of the injustices (and even evils) perpetrated by a fairly small band of near-maniacs, though - not the worls of a whole generation. But I see what you're pointing out.

Re your point about new technology - yes, in a way the same applies to individuals and smoking cigarettes. People did it - a lot - ignorant of long term risks. The issues you mention are on a much bigger scale, and those in charge should have had more foresight - but it's easy for us to say so now, with benefit of hindsight, impossible to put ourselves in their shoes.

Single parent families have been common in many generations - here and in the doubt elsewhere too. Illegitimate births were far more common before birth control was common. Among my close ancestors I know of several. The other things you mention in the same para are more US-related, so I'll shut-up! I can comment with confidence only on my own experience ;-)

If I'd lived in or around London, I might have felt criticism of the older generation when the Beatles and other groups burst on the scene. We didn't experience the hippie culture to the same extent the US did though. We had a mushrooming of new fashion - Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Twiggy, etc.

I grew up and spent most teenage years in the north where things were a tad more restrained and slow to change back then, although the big cities such as Liverpool and Manchester were pretty "cool" - I guess, but not in the same way at all as things were in California, as I understood it.

But then different parts of the US would have reacted differently to the 1960s - I'm thinking of Merle Haggard's famous "Okie From Muskogee" now -

We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee We don't take no trips on LSD We don't burn no draft cards down on Main Street We like livin' right, and bein' free

I can't sensibly comment about what went on here. But I stand by my view that generations would do better to be tolerant and even appreciative of one another's differences rather than encouraging divisions, especially now when there are more serious problems facing the planet than ever before.

What's going on now, and has been for a while among some writers and commenters is a habit of placing all the blame for every wrong on "The Boomers" - that's a bit different from the old trad.criticisms about the younger generations smoking pot or listening to rock and roll.

James Higham said...

"The Boomers" are the target of anger from age groups labelled Generations X and Y. I belong to none of these three generations. I'm a War Baby

Are you really, Twilight? I would have said from the photo that you were Gen X.

Twilight said...

James Higham ~~ Ah - warming the cockles of me old heart there James y'are!
Photographs are, with a following wind etc. and decent (or indecent) light quite often kind to me. The thumbnail one was taken in 2010 at the Very Large Array, New Mexico (also shown in the blog heading).

Rafael Vr said...

Astrology suports the idea of generation, and it does influence especially the highly tunned to outer planets as they are the light for those born at the same outer planetary influence.
The idea of separating, dividing isn't a USA peculiar thing, it is global and vivid to the eyes of the critical minds, where patterns especially in behaviors worldwide is shown by those who are more influential in the especific generation.
Yet, we live indeed under certain peculiar atmosphere where it does shapes our view and therefore our attitude, it automatically puts the people divided trough their tastes and shared characteristics and more, once more highlighting the obvious generational qualities and disfavors. It helps us to navigate the world with more information and previewing what kind of an attitude the next generation would be about to transform the world, and astrology can help much as the study of it envolves personal and transpersonal issues, forecasting the decided generation into parts of deep studying and understand the meticulous scenarios they could bring about in the next future, and study the old ones in order to provide reflections of whys and how's.
I enjoy the theme of generation, is suspect for me to argue otherwise as I see a pattern unfolding and patterns that had already unfolded, but still surprising.

Twilight said...

Rafael Vr ~ Hi there!

I agree in part. Yes, most countries will experience divisions, it's just that when I moved to the USA I became far more aware of this - especially that the divisions and sub-divisions seem more defined here than in the UK.... sub-divided and even further sub-divided, in fact.

In light of the above I still feel that acknowledging differences, but refraining from emphasis on divisions is a wiser way forward. Divided, we the people are weak, united we could be stronger than any opposing force, nationally or universally.

Rafael VR said...

Mmm I see… whenever I go to the USA I also found myself in that opinion. Although further I meet some people from the military and meet some Americans, and found then very acceptable of differences, but still I’m not able to formulate such a perspective while not living in the USA and only seeing as an outsider. But I sense your opinion as you are able to presence this division more vividly.

In Brazil the differences and divisions make us a different country, as a mixed-nation ever to enjoy each ones peculiarities, such as race, sexuality, etc. still the prejudices from it are minimal in the middle-society and we take it as opportunities. However I am not saying that the color of skin should be a division, but in terms of color it is a reality, but white or black, are still human and its judgment must be only for their character. And astrology goes beyond the color, sexuality, religion… you name it.

I’ve been a few time to UK also, and presence a division as well, perhaps not as the USA as you have perceived so uniquely. UK has a separation of classes and this is very clear for me, but I could they the respect each on has for the other, and not seeing straight to the other’s eyes is kind of a rule, and that was glorious for me.

I agree that divided people are week, but in fact the generations aren’t apart, I mean Just in theory, whereas a taste and a behavior are only the start to make flexible adjustment between generations that serve as experience for us all, it could inform us the wrongs of the past generations, still if use the information wisely. But taking an example of people born under Pluto in Leo versus Pluto in Scorpio generation as they make a hard aspect to deal with, it is clearly for me that each generation has something important to share to each other and the global sphere, it is clearly the pre-judgments Pluto in Leo makes to the Scorpio Pluto people, and I am saying it cause at the end, could be a resolution of some kind, a tense one, but a possible one trough this intense generational square, and still not making them apart, but only serving to watch ourselves in the mirror from different times.

I hope I wasn’t to subjective on the matter.

Twilight said...

Rafael Vr ~~ Thank you for your additional thoughts on this. :-)

One factor feeding into the more clearly defined divisions I perceive is almost certainly the internet and our ability to read what others, ordinary people, and not just journalists and politicians, are thinking and feeling. For most of my life in the UK this wasn't available, whereas it has been at my fingertips from the minute I arrived in the USA.

I do acknowledge that not everyone is as polarised as those who rant on the internet, whether in the USA or other countries.

You're exactly right about the UK - the class division is the biggie there, always has been, always will be as long as the monarchy remains strong. That divison irked me a lot! Still does. I'm far from being a Royalist.

That's a good point about the Pluto Leo and Pluto Scorpio generations being in square aspect astrologically. During most time spans I suppose there'll always be one generation square or opposite another in astrological aspect - in the rare time spans when this doesn't happen, perhaps a "Golden Age" might be felt. I'm not inclined to do the necessary research right now, but might get back to that one day.

Reading your thoughts, an old recurring thought of mine flashed back to me: the only thing that could ensure mankind becoming totally united would be for alien beings to land, or appear, on Earth and pose some kind of risk to us. That would highlight what we so often forget - that we are really all the same and would stand united in our the human-ness.

Rafael VR said...

Thank you Twilight, i admire your open mind and usually are tolerant of other's people view despite the obvious oposed opinion. it is a quality hard to find these days!

Hope next generations takes our society further to the next level of 'peace'... whatever that means ;)

Twilight said...

Rafael Vr ~ That's kind of you - I'm fortunate not to receive too many really violently opposing comments, so my tolerance doesn't have to stretch far beyond its comfort zone.

I hope the future is everything coming generations hope for - they will have to struggle for it though, I suspect - but it will seem so much the sweeter for that. :-)