Monday, April 04, 2005

Generation Y

Plumber wonders “How on earth are our kids ever going to offend us?”

Our kids can’t shock us because we are Liberals. Do you really think the flapper socialists of the twenties and thirties were all that shocked and disapproving of the beatniks and hippies? Did the punk/grungers really shock the hippies? For goodness sake man, look at the seventies!

I do not believe that generations are necessarily in opposition to previous generations either, however, they are contrasted against previous generations. Generations are usually characterized by some experience (for some reason, around age eight for the oldest members). Boomers were characterized by television mass media. Gen X was characterized by Watergate/Vietnam. As far as Gen Y goes: I believe they are characterized by the bifurcation of American culture between haves and have nots that occurred in the late eighties (observe fig. XII on pg 36). This has created a definite drive to succeed (economically and hedonistically).

Also, while most characterize this generation as over parented, hypothesizing about smaller families, I see this generation as over surrogate-parented or institutionalized. While both mommy and daddy were off trying to become masters of the Reagan universe, the kids were supervised at day care, and then after school activities (activities also had the purpose of boosting their resumes as well- gotta succeed, or else…) creating a sort of institutionalization. By institutionalization I mean a propensity to seek out a clearly delineated set of rules for behavior and then avoid drawing attention from authority figures by at least superficial adherence. As a result they lack a real sense of initiative or ability to deal with novel situations. A prime illustration of this trait is the show “Damage Control” on MTV. This is a hidden camera show that documents the reaction of a typical Gen Y’er as they are left in charge of their parent’s house and faced with, well, novel situations (not exactly a sociological study, but work with me here).

One such situation is a contractor (hired by the absent parents) coming to the home with a pair of workers dressed as prison convicts in orange jumpsuits, and then asking to be invited in (for a glass of water). Every participant has reacted in pretty much the same way: doing whatever his (and so far all I’ve seen are male subjects) duly appointed parental surrogates suggest, no matter how outrageous (such as when a real estate agent, again parentally employed, asks on behalf of a potential customer to cook in the kitchen; the customer then compiles a motley assortment of ingredients such as hot sauce, flour, mayonnaise, and pickles in a hot frying pan). If these kids had been raised with a parent, novel situations would have come up and would have been dealt with through a process of reasoning. Rather they are raised in an institution where there are rigidly defined procedures for dealing with almost every situation.

I wonder, what could happen when a whole geneation of conformists finds out that they will not be as richly rewarded for their conformity as they have been led to believe? Hmmm...


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