I published a blog on November 15, 2015 that was titled Generations (from which I have lifted some paragraphs today). That essay was based on an article from the Vanity Fair issue of November 2015. The term “Greatest Generation” – born between 1910 and 1924 – was coined by Tom Brokaw and titled his book on the same subject. That generation was followed by the Silent Generation – born between 1925 and 1945, my generation, although I am by no means Silent! Nonetheless, some sociologists often combine the two mentioned generations, which I will do as I look at the Greatest/Silent Generation and how they/we impacted this nation and their/our influence on the current state of affairs and on the generations that followed ours.
The writer of the Vanity Fair piece, Bruce Feirstein, stated that the “Deepest Fear” of the Greatest Generation is “America 2015.” Wow, how right he got that! I think that most of us are sleepless over this present day America, because we have been around long enough to witness how this nation has been behaving more and more like an erratic, reckless and arrogant empire than that ideal bastion of freedom and democracy that we grew up – perhaps naively and romantically – believing in.
Feirstein followed up with the existential question (according to him) of my generation: “Where the fuck did we go so very, very wrong?” I put the magazine down after reading this and stared into space for a long time all the while running the tape in my head of all the events that have spiraled so badly out of control, and that have caused me and my peers to really wonder how the fuck did we get it all so very, very wrong??
How can it possibly be that my generation could have engendered so much damage that has today brought us to the very edge of this precipice that is our dismal political reality? I say political reality because when I look at the absolutely amazing things being done and invented by individual efforts, collaborative efforts, or collective and organizational efforts all over the planet I am awed. Yet, it is only when I look at the political landscape, at the inept and corrupt politicians and corporations leading the world, and at the humongous collateral damage that the wars they designed and ordered have produced, that I see this extraordinary degree of misery and despair. It is enough to look at Syria and to how WWIII is now being fought there – no kidding! – and whether that will engulf more collateral damage on our planet.
It seems to me that we, the Greatest Generation, had raised our children, the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, to be totally self-engrossed with their egocentric pleasures. In other words, by opening so many doors for them that had been closed to us, we ended up by awarding them self-centered attributes. In the US, Women’s Liberation; the ending of two World Wars and Vietnam; ending of segregation and establishment of Civil Rights; family planning with the invention of the pill as well as other compelling causes were major battles that had already been won, (across the oceans, in the Middle East, we had different issues and causes that were just as compelling to us) therefore, and since those major battles were over and done with (not that they are at all), the Boomers could now focus internally on their self-actualization. So, other than voting once every four years, they entrusted their politics to elected officials. Is that, I wonder, what we did? It seems to be the case, though I doubt very much that this was our intention.
That generation was followed by the Gen Xers, born between 1965-1979. It seems to me that this generation felt that there was no need to get bent out of shape for any one thing, cause or situation other than their families and jobs, and not much point in voting because politicians will screw it all up anyway. They are now bringing up the Millennial and iGen children on whom they are lavishing their parenting desire to do better than us, their parents and grandparents. In that process they are overdoing the parenting and the doting, as well as the micro-management and undue involvement in their children’s lives, which has earned them the apt titles of “Soccer Moms” and “Helicopter Parents.”
This brings me to the Millennials, born between 1980 and 1994 (some say 2000). The kids of this generation feel that there are no lifetime commitments on any level. They have personal gripping “issues” and “dramas” to attend to and unduly fret about. They feel that while they wanted to become more politically involved, they also did not think that politics merited much more than a few laughs while watching SNL, Colbert or five minutes of News and then quickly going back to playing with their gizmos and pretend wars. However, life barged in upon that sheltered cocoon and shook them rudely awake!
In the Middle East today we have the image of Ahed Tamimi, the seventeen-year-old Palestinian Millennial now in jail and awaiting to stand trial in Israel for slapping an Israeli soldier. Unbelievable! She, as much as her stone-throwing Millennial peers, represent the rude political reality of a ruthless occupation that propelled them into protesting their situation. Here, in the United States, Emma Gonzalez and her peers were propelled by the tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, which left seventeen people dead, to protest their situation. Whether it is Ahed Tamimi in Palestine, or Emma Gonzalez in Florida, these Millennials are the face of a planet that is deeply anguished, and of a United States that is having a nervous breakdown. Just as the Sixties, whether in the US or in the Middle East, defined the Greatest Generation, it might just be that there is another cosmic movement uniting today’s Millennials in their search for Justice wherever they are geographically located. What the hell are we doing to these youngsters here, there and everywhere by subjecting them to such unwarranted tragedies?
It is difficult to put into the proper words how heavy with grim atrocities are the hearts of so many people across this world. It is not a matter of being “pessimistic” or “optimistic,” for no matter how positively we try to view our world, appalling events are clouding every one of our attempts. One cannot be politically aware while feigning nonchalance. Yet, in order to be able to get out of bed every morning, millions of people are tuning out the world and living their busy lives totally ensconced in their daily bubbles, requirements, jobs, families and entertainment, choosing to be oblivious to the world and its sordid events. In a way, I don’t blame them. It’s not that they are callous humans, it’s mostly that they feel helpless in the face of so many humongous challenges. Where does one begin listing the calamities that keep coming at us with such rapidity that we barely process one horrific event before being slapped with one that is equally, or more, shocking??
The atrocious massacre in Florida was heart shattering, to say the least! The images of these innocent slaughtered children made the nation stop and gasp in horror! How could this be happening again, and again, and yet again??? The images of the mourning, and rightfully angry parents, as well as the tearful faces of the stunned and traumatized students will be with all of us for the longest tortuous time. How can this be? The parents and people of this nation are demanding Action, not Palliatives. Again, and again, we are proving to be a Violent Nation. We have proven it as the Mass Massacres increase, as we go from one War to another: War on Opioids, War on Drugs, War on Crime, and to all our Other Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and all those hundreds of other countries where we have stationed our troops and caused the killing of all those Other Students, Children and Innocent Civilians. And, please don’t tell me, as some of our corrupt politicians have said, that our Wars are for the ultimate Good! What a sadistic explanation! It is like saying: I am going to kill you and your children, but it is for a Good Purpose. Seriously? Yes, we are, indeed, a very Exceptionally Violent Nation!
Nevertheless, it is extraordinarily hopeful, inspiring and awesome to witness the young teenagers from the Parkland School in Florida, joined by students from all over this nation, rise up after that horrific tragedy and declare: Never Again! Yes, indeed! These beautiful children now have a Cause that is uniting them and propelling them to Action! They are Organizing (being the experts on social media, after all!), Marching, Protesting and defying the politicians who will not address their concerns.
As hopeful as I am that this tragic event, will take off and cause a cultural awakening and shift in this violent nation (same as the Black Lives Matter Movement; the Me Too Movement etc.), I am also deeply apprehensive for these brave Millennials. The corrupt politicians, lobbyists and powers-that-be will do their best to crush their valiant endeavors by infiltrating their earnest ranks with their evil-doings. These kids, though, are not fighting for Left Agendas, or Right Agendas. They are fighting for their Lives which are being held hostage by Greedy and Corrupt Politics. And, perhaps, there is hope that if these Millennials succeed, they will, at some point before it is too late, claim the title of the Greatest Generation for themselves by seeking to change the dismal politics that have made my generation dread “America 2015!”
I am not a sociologist (or any “ist”), however I think that all generations share a similar common goal: we all want our children to do and be better than us. That is why we try to analyze and make sense of the past. We do that in order to understand, correct and create better people and, hence, a better world.
We, the Greatest Generation, still have a bit more time to translate all our experiences and all our desires for the benefit of the younger generations and to somehow make them grasp and appreciate those aspects of the past that connect them to us and to the planet as a continuum of events and not, as they sometimes seem to believe, that they are what they are simply due to an egg and a sperm coming together! My heart goes out to them and to the many challenging and brutal battles that lie ahead of them!