Thursday, October 09, 2003

Son (and Daughter) of Boomer emerges – and it ain’t pretty

Whaddya get when the most selfish, conceited generation in history breeds? More of the same, of course – but the scary thing is that the spawn of greed and excess are now adults.

None of this is really news, of course. But as the lavish and well-lubricated (I assume) launch party last night of this Nike ad, sorry, report into Generation Y has already recouped its “investment” – via today’s saturation, uncritical media coverage – I thought I’d better poop this cynical little boomer-marketeers party.

First, note the demographic parameters set up in the report – Generation Y apparently covers those born between 1975 and 1987. A starting year which happens to annex a Poland-size proportion of the years generally allocated to Gen X (1963-1978), meaning that Gen X is denied the dignity of least having a 15 year running time. Actually though, I don’t care about this latest indignity, of Gen X being relegated to a demographic rump, an inter-generational interstice.

In fact, Generation Y can roll on in, with its conquering tanks, all the way back to those born in the early 70s, as far as I’m concerned. The reason being that this all the better differentiates my generation (or what’s left of it) from what came before and after it – we are not the children of boomers. (Or alternatively, of those of us born in the sixties to very young (boomer) parents, these have never subsequently forgiven us for the costs we caused them – endless such hardships ranging from having to do fewer drugs in the sixties, to having to liquidate a few shares in September 1987 (ha!) to set aside for the kids’ uni fees.)

Make no mistake then – Generation Y’s kiddies are truly cut from their parent’s own cloth. This may sound paradoxical – after all, weren’t boomers the generation for flaunting all authority, including that of the parental kind? Even more saliently, doesn’t Generation Y share – however reluctantly – Gen X’s foundational badge of honour, in being a generation whose lifetime living standard, on average, is significantly below that of their parents? How has Generation Y's anger response to being ripped-off been so sublimated and, moreover, how has their parents’ rank hypocrisy been transformed into an autochthonous (= coming from nowhere) authority over their offspring?

One magic word explains how Generation Y has been able to inwardly thrive in such improbable circumstances – sycophancy. This is a generation which is not merely at peace with authority; it can’t help itself from fingering open the fly of power, wherever it sees it, and then pleasuring its orb. This is a generation 62% of which say Australia is becoming too much like America, but which rates Nike – the epitome of American boomer mediocrity (and a client of the report’s commissioners) – as its favourite brand. This is a generation which is not so much indulged by its parents as pimped and primed daily for a life of “mini-me” vacuous materialism.

I could go on like this for quite a bit more, like railing against “the Glitterazzi” – the “largely conscience-free”*, me-and-my-material-possessions-first group who are the supposedly dominant, 25% of Generation Y. Unfortunately, though, I’m already starting to sound too “in my day”-ish already. I’ll leave then, on a different-but-related note, of oh-so-Boomer observedness (NOT) about the youth of today

Writing in this week’s Australian Higher Ed supplement**, David Brooks is impressed by the “sucking-up skills" of many of his students at Yale uni:

I got a call from a politician in California who said that one of his important donors had a daughter at Yale who really wanted to get into the [high-demand] course [that I was teaching]. Such networking skills at such a young age make you want to stand and gape

Yep, that’s right – a Generation Y girl makes a simple phone call to Daddy, and this is written-up by the “gap[ing]” (and panting too, one assumes) middle-aged Brooks as ultra-impressive networking skills on her part. In my day (sorry, it just came out), pimp-Daddys were at least seen for what they were, rather than bizarrely reverse-puppeteered, so that their Rolodoxes become a personal achievement of the novice young ho. Oh, and being a sycophantic ho was not usually a role one aspired to, either. But what would I know – as a Gen X true-believer, I am my own worst pimp.

* Simon Canning “Generation Y not love your parents” The Australian 9 October 2003 (no URL)

** David Brooks “A triumphant march of the sycophant” The Australian Higher Ed supplement 8 October 2003 (no URL)

Update 10 October 2003

Generation Y speaks up; says it feels pressured by Gen X. There, there Amy – it’s all right; I give you my personal guarantee that we are not trying to conscript you into following our “failed” paths, or to otherwise pin you down. If you still feel the stinging unjustness of yesterday’s article, I suggest you go drop a few hundred at your local fashion strip to make you feel better. And it makes me feel better too – with your boomer parents no doubt onto every tax lurk in the land, the unavoidable GST you pay on your clothes alone each fortnight must come close to covering my dole.

Oh, and as to what I said about “the Saffy generation” back in June, I take it back – to the extent that I suggested that Saffy was a Gen X’er. She’s Generation Y, of course.

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