Monday, September 11, 2006

I belong to the _____ Generation

Until I read Alissa Quart's Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers, I thought I was a part of the generation known as Generation X. Since the Generation X tag was frequently used throughout the Nineties to describe this young generation that was into grunge/alternative rock, I thought they were talking about me. Well, upon reading Quart's description of Generation Y, I realized that my birth year placed me in the category of Y and not X. Why do I bring all this up? Because I don't think I'm really at ease with being a part of one generation over the other. I'm still in the dark as to why I thought Generation X was something that covered at least thirty years. So, I resort to what Richard Hell sang about his own generation identity confusion: "I belong to the _____ Generation."

Reading Wikipedia's thorough entry on Generation X, I'm still confused. First gaining recognition in 1964 and appearing again in the following three decades, Generation X sounds like a wide net. Looking at the sidebar of generation names, Generation X's years are listed between 1961 and 1981, but Generation Y's years are listed between 1977-2003. Being born in 1979, I'm right in the middle. Maybe I'm just so adverse to life being factioned off into compartments, but I wonder why we bother with trying to label generations. Sure, it makes for good conversations with sociologists and reference points for articles, but as I've maintained all along, there's way more to life than labels.

I'm of the argument that there is so much carry-over with generations that it's too broad to label matters and attitudes specifically for one generation over the other. What's the criteria that supposedly separates the generations? More often than not, it's the tools and technology that were brand new in pop culture at the time. I could be lumped into the Nintendo, WWF and MTV world because that's when they were first introduced. But it's not like that stuff is no longer around. Today's teenagers are around Nintendo Wii, WWE and MTV, but they are also around stuff that wasn't around when I was their age. There were no ringtones and blogs when I was fifteen, but so what? It's not like we were living on Saturn with Klingons in the Eighties and now we're living on Mars with apes.

In my view, attitudes about life are not restrained to age. An upcoming documentary's trailer opens with this quote that rings in a very timeless way:
I hate my boss. I hate the people that I work with. I hate my parents. I hate all these all these authoritive figures. I hate politicians. I hate people in government. I hate the police and now I have a chance to be with a bunch of my own type of people and I have a chance to go off and that basically what it was.

Though this was in reference to the early- to mid-Eighties hardcore punk, I think this echoes the general appeal of rock 'n' roll in itself. I could hear a fifteen-year-old who's just getting into punk rock say this now, but I could also hear a 41-year-old say the same thing. This is the stuff that defies generation labels, so I wonder what's the deal with the grouping in the first place.

If people are going to tell me that I belong to a certain generation, I'll just keep it uneasy and difficult. I say this not as a way of thinking that I'm different or cool. Rather, this is my assertion about the grayness of life. Richard Hell never felt like he belonged to one generation or another, so he put those thoughts into a song called "Blank Generation." This song came out in 1977, two years before I was born, but the way that he describes himself in the song is pretty damn relatable even today.

Along those lines, I'll end with some lyrics from a song written ten years ago: "Generation Why" by the Reverend Horton Heat:
Beatnik, slacker, hippie or a freak
Ain't it all the same thing all of us seek?
What did gramps do, way back when?
Makes me say the same thing again and again.

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