Millennials and Baby Boomers; Baby Boomers and Millennials. One group can’t get off their phones, the other can’t figure out how their phones even work. We’ve been hearing both claim their supremacy lately but, oddly, this battle skips a generation.
That generation is my own: Generation X. Remember us? We’re the folks born roughly between 1964 and 1981. We’re the ones in the middle lane with a child car seat NOT texting while driving.
While Twitter teems with Gens Y & Z and septuagenarians post cat pics to Facebook, you haven’t heard much about us Gen Xers lately (Karens notwithstanding). Probably because we’ve been too busy #adulting to brag about how awesome we are. Let’s change that.
10 We Make a Great Sandwich Generation
Gen Xers are today’s “sandwich generation,” meaning many of us have young children and aging parents. We are “stuck in the middle” with major responsibilities to family members from both the preceding and succeeding generations. We are not the first to undertake such responsibility, but we’re among the only generations to come of age during the invention and proliferation of a world-changing new medium: the Internet.
Gen Xers lived analog youths and digital adulthoods. We are not largely confused by technology (like many Baby Boomers), but we don’t take it for granted either (like seemingly all Millennials and Gen Zers).
The dichotomy that Gen Xers have lived—before the World Wide Web and now during it—allows us to empathize with both our elders and juniors in ways other generations simply could not. The Internet is arguably the most society-changing invention in a century, and it integrated into life as we grew up. This allows Gen Xers to relate both to Baby Boomers, whose lives without the Internet stretched well into adulthood, and Gens Y & Z, whose existences were shaped online from childhood.
9 We Remember When Rock Music Was Good
Back in the Stone Ages now known as the 1990s, primitive men and women still used an archaic tool known as a guitar (pronounced “gi-tahr”). They used it to play an illustrious genre of music they called—and I hope I’m getting this right—the “rock & roll.”
All kidding aside, what passes for rock music today is utter rubbish, comprising watered down guitar riffs and vocals aided heavily by auto-tune software. If you think the Jonas Brothers and Maroon 5 are talented, you’re doing it wrong.
When I was in high school the following bands were dominating the Billboard charts: Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Hole. The Smashing Pumpkins. These are rock immortals—groups that wrote their own songs, sang their own vocals and wailed out with minimal electronic assistance.
I just named five ’90s bands better than any playing rock today. Here’s five more: Rage Against the Machine, Garbage, Stone Temple Pilots, Marilyn Manson, Weezer. The notion that rock was leap years better in Gen X’s heyday is so obvious that it transcends opinion. It’s a fact.
8 We Saw the Free World Unite as Young Adults
I graduated college in 2001. That September I was commuting to work from New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan. I was switching trains under the North Tower of the World Trade Center when five terrorists slammed a commercial jetliner into it.
I was among the first group of people to flee from the burning building. I walked north toward Midtown. Then the loudest sound I’ve ever heard changed the world forever. A second plane had crashed into the second tower. It was 9:03 am on Tuesday, September 11, and America was under attack.
What emerged from that catastrophic day was a unity that neither America nor the free world has seen since. A president who took office just eight months earlier despite losing the popular vote saw his approval rating skyrocket to 90%—the highest in polling history. For the first and only time, NATO’s mutual defense clause was invoked as the broadest military coalition since World War II prepared to strike back at Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. For a fleeting moment in time, it was freedom vs. oppression, tolerance vs. intolerance, good vs. evil.
It didn’t last, of course. America invaded Iraq for no reason, the financial crisis caused finger-pointing and insularity, and America—the once so-called “indispensable nation”—is now led by men who alienate democratic allies, deny science and demonize the free press. Gen X remembers a world in the not-so-distant past that seems like ancient history. It will be up to us to steer mankind back toward freedom-loving nations working collaboratively for a shared future.
7 Our SNL Cast Was the Best
When people—usually Baby Boomers—talk about the “good old days” of Saturday Night Live, they’re typically referring to the first few years, the mid-70s cast with comedy legends like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, Eddie Murphy and John Belushi. While this cast was ultra-talented, the show’s best seasons were in the early to mid-1990s.
Let’s set the record straight here: Gen Xers enjoyed the best SNL cast. Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Chris Farley headlined a lineup of unsurpassed secondary cast members including Phil Hartman, David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Julia Sweeney, Dennis Miller, Victoria Jackson and Ellen Cleghorne.
The breadth, quality and downright hilariousness of the recurring characters this cast created are unparalleled not only in the show’s 45-year run but, quite possibly, television history. Wayne & Garth, Matt Foley, Nat X and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer are just the tip of the iceberg for a cast that brought the best show in comedy week after week for the better part of a decade.
Since that crew disbanded, the number of breakout stars the show has produced in the ensuing two-plus decades can be counted on one hand, starting with Will Ferrell and ending with the immensely talented Kate McKinnon from the current cast. The ’90s cast was a Dream Team that may never be replicated again.
6 We Remember When Facts Were… Well, Facts
Gen X is the youngest to remember a time when technology had not yet turned us into a society divided by misinformation. If you can’t agree on facts, you can’t agree on action – a notion at the crux of issues from Brexit and Trump to xenophobia and uber-PC snowflakeism.
Gen X remembers a world without an Internet to support limitless, unqualified opinions and spread innumerable lies and agenda-driven disinformation, and before cable networks like CNN and Fox News masked political partisanship as objective journalism. We recall a time when the world got its news almost exclusively from mainstream newspapers, news magazines, and major-network television and radio programs. The lack of segmentation had its downsides, of course, but the huge upside was that we largely agreed on what the facts were. Today’s faux-journalism—custom-tailored information fed solely by confirmation bias—simply was not possible because the media sources catered to huge swaths of the public. Since their reach was so broad, all understood that undue subjectivity risked alienating significant portions of their audiences.
It was in the media’s best interests, then, to report in a straightforward fashion that, though by no means perfect, was both factual and widely consumed. As a result, an overwhelming majority got their news from trustworthy sources and, in turn, were far better informed than they are today.
Gen X remembers a world when we had our facts straight and, because of it, has a better bullshit detector than ensuing generations do and will.
5 We Grew Up on Darth Vader, Not Darth Maul
No cultural comparison better showcases Gen X’s supremacy than the original Star Wars movies versus what the franchise became starting with 1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which ranks among the most disappointing films in the history of moviemaking.
The gap in quality between the original three films and the two ensuing trilogies is as vast as a galaxy far, far away. The original trilogy was a captivating struggle between good and evil, complete with conflicted characters that the audience cared about and special effects that were groundbreaking for the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Millennium Falcon became the world’s most recognizable spacecraft, and Darth Vader its most infamous villain. As the saga ended, peace was restored to the galaxy.
And then it wasn’t. Unable to leave well enough alone, George Lucas rushed out three poorly-written films with bland characters shot almost entirely in CGI. Jar Jar Binks became the most reviled character in cinematic history during a series of films that were so bad it managed to make a half-hour-long light saber battle on a volcanic island absent of any suspense or emotion.
And then, in 2015, Episode 7! The Force had awakened…
… to boredom. To retread plots and a main character who, to satisfy the PC Police, was turned into a female protagonist with no real faults and therefore nothing compelling about her whatsoever. Congrats, Disney, the Force is now officially female… and sleep-inducing. Combining overblown political correctness with corporate greed, the latest trilogy was a disjointed mess driven more by diversity than by the need to be good movies. The trilogy’s final disaster, The Rise of Skywalker, was so bad that conspiracy theories have arisen in its wake.
Gen X got the good Star Wars films. Hopefully Gen Z has suffered through the last of them.
4 We Fully Understand #OKBoomer
Though it’s usually Millennials and Gen Zers using the term, Gen X has a comprehensive understanding of the generational animus that has emerged between Baby Boomers and the youngest generations. As the middle children of history, we have a clear view from No Man’s Land.
So OK, Boomers, let me explain something to you: Millennials and Gen Zers are pissed because what they’ve been told since birth—that they will have at least as much opportunities as preceding generations to live happy, fulfilling lives—is complete bullshit. Here’s a brief list why.
For starters, the Earth is warming, melting and starting to punch back against decades of runaway fossil fuel use that your generation could have curbed but did not. In case your SUV engines drowned out the news, let me kindly inform you that there is no Planet B.
Next, real wages have stagnated while everything else gets more expensive. The cost of renting or purchasing a home has skyrocketed across the Western World and, for those of us living in America or other places without free university, college costs have doubled in less than 20 years. This isn’t normal inflation—it’s exorbitant greed whittling away at middle classes in democracies around the world. Simply put, your generation had it better than ours do.
Third, the young adults entering the workforce in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis were and remain at an inherent disadvantage. In an environment where employers held all the hiring leverage, artificially low wages combined with exceedingly high housing costs (and for Americans especially, college loan debt) to constrain the choices of Millennials and Gen Z.
Did you really think they moved back home because they wanted to? #OKBoomer. Maybe if your generation hadn’t ruined the world Gen X wouldn’t be tasked with saving it.
3 We Also See How Silly Political Correctness Has Become
Remember the little boy in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes? That’s us.
The other day I told a 40-something-year-old colleague that she, and I quote, “looked nice today.” The reason I did that was because she had a client meeting and (drum roll please) she looked nice that day. Somehow, the world did not end and I did not become a #MeToo casualty.
it was not a comment I would have made to a 25-year-old. And therein lies the problem: the younger generations have become so politically correct that the rest of us can’t give each other innocuous compliments anymore. Gen Xers see this overblown nonsense for what it is: wimpiness masked as strength.
This one’s on you, Millennials and Gen Zers. Young people have become so ridiculously sensitive that comedians are refusing to play college campuses. Spearheaded by the Wokerati on Twitter, a large swath of today’s youth profess to be infinitely inclusive while trying to ruin people’s lives and livelihoods over a dubious remark. They are little more than bullying cancel culture hypocrites who espouse tolerance while practicing anything but.
Their purity tests have poisoned our politics and generational relations. They want men who transition into women to be allowed to compete in women’s sports, despite the plain and simple fact that men are stronger and faster than women. They are singular entities who want to be called “they” and “them.” They stress the importance of the individual over the good of society, and are completely incapable of compromise or consensus-building. And they don’t seem to realize or care that the backlash against their rigidity is a major reason populists like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have come to power.
Warning, Gens Y & Z: Gen X can punch down as well as up.
2 We Respect (Some of) Our Elders
Gen Xers are the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation, who fought and won the largest, most important conflict mankind has ever witnessed: World War II. That gives us a unique perspective on history and our potential part in it.
Think about it: generationally, we tend to rebel against our direct predecessors. The Baby Boomers tried to distance themselves from their Greatest Generation parents, Gen X from the Baby Boomers, and so on. So while they were leading invaluable movements—the push for civil rights and women’s lib, to name just two—Baby Boomers were naturally too caught up in rebelling against their parents to fully appreciate what they did: save the world from tyranny, Nazism and genocide.
Not so with our grandparents. In fact, Gen Xers had the distinct privilege of being bounced on our grandfathers’ knees as young children, listening to stories about battles in France, Germany, the Pacific. On TV, we saw black and white footage of a war whose ethics also were black and white; those 20-year-olds in foxholes were our grandfathers fighting for good versus pure evil. There is a binding beauty to that generation that, hopefully, has rubbed off on Gen X just enough to fight the good fight when our time comes.
And that takes us to the list’s last item:
1 We’d Better Be the Best, Or Else
As I write this the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is approaching half a million cases. The death toll will be vast and, as unemployment numbers rise while stocks plummet, the economic fallout from COVID-19 will likely surpass the Great Recession.
Even before that, the world was literally burning. Australia, the Amazon and California have experienced unprecedented wildfires directly attributable to the mounting threat of climate change. Antarctica and Greenland are rapidly melting while we continue to burn fossil fuel at record levels.
In Europe, a flood of asylum seekers and online misinformation campaigns are driving intense political division. The United Kingdom has left the European Union and, across the Atlantic, the United States has forfeited its role as the leader of the free world by tearing up hard-won treaties and embracing autocratic dictators. It is also 23 TRILLION dollars in debt.
The world is unraveling and its problems are four-alarm-fire urgent. For everyone’s sake, Generation X better prove to be Generation Best, or there may not be too many more Generation Nexts.