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We lack a wave

Generation X has no wave speech

As some of you may know, I don’t read a great many new books. I have read three of the Harry Potter books, and World War Z. Those may be the newest books I’ve read. No, I take it back, I have also read all of Sarah Vowell’s books save for her first one. The point, if I may make so bold, is that I am mainly a reader of the past. Anyone who has actually heard me utter the phrase “Tootle Pip!” can attest that my set of phrases is from an outdated vernacular. I often wonder if I’m not looking for something in those old books, in those past generations that I can’t find in my own generation. Sometimes, I look for echoes of my own experience, hoping that it wasn’t just those of us born in the late 60s and early to mid 70s.

Generation X is not a happy generation. We never really learned things properly. If I felt like blaming the elder generation, I might say we were never taught things properly. However, that would be a *You* statement, and not an *I* statement. The point is, we were failed by our elders and failed by ourselves. Always told there would be someone else to look after things, we allowed other people to look after things. I have noted that we were never so much as taught how to balance a check book, which is something I’m told kids are learning now a days. Basic bookkeeping any way, check books are old hat what ho!

And what comes from that? We had no war to protest, we had no social wrongs to right. We were kind of told that it would all be taken care of. You must remember that when we were young and energetic, the whole gay thing looked to be sorted by about 1999. Had we not sat on our haunches, it might have been too. Sorry about that. We were told our parents’ generation would handle it, like they handled everything else. Should have set off warning bells at the time frankly.

We had the energy, but we had no direction. We had the will, but no idea what to do with it. In the end we turned inward, naval gazing in the great pastime of my generation, he said without a hint of irony. We wanted to learn, wanted to grow, but wanted to feel we’d done some of it on our own, without the elders’ constant influence, always pointing out how they’d done it better when they were our age. Whatever it was we did, they’d got there first and told us we weren’t as good as them. Rock? Beatles! Sex? Hefner! Drugs? Thompson! Our explorations into these things couldn’t even be taken with the abandon of others, we still had our parents in there, telling us how it was awesomer when they were doing it for the first time. They also didn’t have AIDS to contend with… or M.C. Hammer.

I come from a generation that was always living with the feeling of being shoved aside. The baby-boomers, not wishing to admit that they were old, kept invading our spaces. We couldn’t even be young without some old fart constantly trying to muscle in and leach off our energy, to suck off our youngness, in an attempt to stave off the inevitable for just a few moments longer. As a result, we became a Generation of Bertie Woosters. Not the affable idiot, but the creature described by Bertie’s archest of arch nemiseseses, Aunt Agatha Gregson…

“It is young men like you who make the person with the future of the race at heart despair! Cursed with too much money, you fritter away in selfish idleness a life which might have been made useful, helpful, and profitable. You do nothing but waste your time on frivolous pleasures. You are simply an anti-social animal, a drone.”

Okay, one might argue that she’s talking about Hipsters there, but I disagree. Hipsters are at least a movement. They have a name and a uniform… and stupid facial hair. When hipsters saw something was wrong with the banks, they started the Occupy Movement. Okay, it was ineffectual and in the end it doesn’t seem to have worked, but they tried. What did Gen X do? We went to Lilith Faire and turned Woodstock into a debacle. We’ve never really made anything of ourselves, we’re still sort of slouching to one side, hoping the next generation will leap where we simply looked.

But then, I don’t know that we were ever given a chance to make up our own minds. We were caught between different adults and their philosophies, concepts, and methods. They were just learning what the problem with some of us was, and misdiagnosing the hell out of it. The changes in education that actually did some good, came too late. We were brought up by a slew of false gurus that were taking our parents for everything they had. Gen Y and The Millennials are far less of a mess in my view. They’re more polite at any rate.

Anyone who wants to argue can come down to my job and watch Baby-Boomers, Gen Xers, and the So-Called Greatest Generation act like entitled fuck bends who have an emotional breakdown every time we don’t have exactly what they want versus the young people who softly ask if we have what their looking for and when told no say thank you and either make another selection or go somewhere else. These kids are far more polite and respecting than any of the others that preceded them. No one else gets told their rude so much as these kids today, and no one deserves it less. But this isn’t about those kids, it’s about the rude jackasses that make up my age group.

In some sense, I suppose I feel this way because we’re talking about MY group, that I would probably feel this sense of failure no matter what generation I was a part of. I can’t help though, but feel that we never amounted to anything because we were so often told we wouldn’t that we believed those who told us. And now I see those people going to Zen-Apache Shamans, offering the wisdom of the Indians (Asian or American continent, your pick, it’s all gibberish anyway) as a way to fix whatever they think is ailing them this week. We might not have amounted to much, but we didn’t turn into total idiots like they did.

I keep going back to The Wave Speech, and wishing we had something like it

” There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ….And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ….So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Granted, Thompson was just writing about the universal failure of any youth movement, but I never really felt we had one. There is no equivalent of that speech from a member of Generation X that I know of. We had no cause, to war to protest. Individual things like sexuality and spirituality seemed to be sorting themselves out without our help. We have no high water mark, if anything I’ve often felt that we were the antithesis. Not only that, but we were constantly reminded of the place where the high water mark was. An older generation that WOULD NOT shut up about that fucking wave was always pointing to the place where it broke.

We always have a feeling of having not done the thing. When we had the energy, if we’d had the will, we might have been able to make something of ourselves. We could have been somebody, we could have been contenders… but there I go, fading into the past again.

We did though, we had all those music festivals and learned how to cook, and use the internet. I’ve often thought that we became foodies and knitters in a desperate attempt to make something, anything, on our own without the constant interference of the elders. These were things we could learn to do without our parents looking over our shoulders at ever hour of everyday. Always trying to pry their way into whatever cool, youthful, sexy thing we were doing at the time.


We have made a few things. I can cook fantastically well. I know people who can knit little bobbles in the shape of Dr. Who characters. We have, through great effort, learned to do a few things here and there. We have made homes, some of us have started families, and we have sort of quietly stated that it won’t be like last time. We’re trying not to get in the next groups’ way, trying to let them explore and fail on their own. Giving them the room to do something, and not crowding them too much if we can manage. Generation X has been admirable in our ability to get out of the damn way, as far as I’ve seen. And in that, maybe we will have done something. Or maybe someone will write this exact same set of complaints in 20 years, bitching that the Gen Xers never got out of Generation AA’s way long enough to let them become something.

Or maybe, you can stand on a hill somewhere, and with the right kind of eyes see the hundreds of places, where wave after wave hit and then rolled back. Maybe we were as much as part of one big wave as any other, performing the same pattern of erosion that every other generation performed, only we weren’t as able to see it because we were too aware of what had come before.

Either way, I’ll be very put out if no one spots the Nero Wolfe reference in this thing.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


IMGP5171 by greyweirdo
IMGP5171, a photo by greyweirdo on Flickr.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment