Sunday, April 3, 2011

Generation Y, Generation Zero and beyond

Last time: in my last blog I waxed lyrical about what I believe defines my generation, Generation X. Now I take a look at Gen Y - and what I believe should be the names of the next generations set to rise after the Y's have had their day in the sun...

The 90's came and went, and the Naughties began. And then September 11, 2001 rolled around. Gen X-ers watched in horror as the giant towers fell.  Our generation had never witnessed such an awful cataclysm , although certainly plenty of horrors had occurred during our lifetimes. But this was something new – Vietnam happened before most of us were born, and World Wars I and II and Korea belonged to the Baby Boomers. But this was real-life horror for Generation X.
I must say that I have no idea how the members of Generation Y felt when this terrible day happened. I would like to know how they must have felt at the time, all of 8 to 10 years old. Maybe that's what informed their greater need for material security (which I discuss in greater detail below)?
Generation X proceeded to take to their new pulpit - the Internet - and pronounced this terrible event to be part of a massive conspiracy. Some even claimed it was an inside job, perpetrated by the U.S. itself to justify invading oil-rich Iraq. If this is true, then once again the so-called guardians of our freedom had just betrayed us on an unimaginable scale.
And this is the crux of the matter; in Generation X's lifetime, America has gone from being the cradle of modern democracy and saviour of the modern world, to a country that now appears to have no value for human life. Vietnam was the first early evidence of this;  we now have Iraq and Afghanistan to add to that list. Thanks to Wikileaks we can see first hand just how brutal, cold and callous these "guardians" have become. How much blood and tears must be shed to protect us from "evil". It makes you start to wonder who are the real bad guys.
And meanwhile behind the scenes, the materialistic machine rolls on. People work, people get money, people spend money. People accumulate stuff. The revelations of quantum physics appear largely forgotten – particularly by Generation Y. As I see it, Generation Y are like the new Baby Boomers – they have experienced unprecedented levels of material security, even more so than Gen X did. Generation Y have their computers, laptops, smart phones, Nintendos, Xboxes, iPhones, iPads. It’s become all about ”I” again with Generation Y. And although Gen X certainly embraced technology in our childhoods it was more in a spirit of fun and enjoyment, as opposed to obsession and must-have to fit in. 
I'll say it again because this is my main point: Generation Y are almost like a recapitulation of the Baby Boomers – they love their material things, they are close with their families, they are rabidly conformist to accepted society and they really don't step outside the box too far. They seem to crave social acceptance much more than we of Gen X did. Again - could this be a knock on effect of September 11? They unconsciously don't want to be seen as non-conformist, in fear of reprisals?
Also, I notice that they really don’t seem to take spirituality that seriously – neither organised, conventional religion nor the new age. They seem to have regressed in this regard back to a pre-Vietnam state. It's quite odd. I don’t know quite what happened there – maybe it’s because we, Gen X, couldn’t come up with anything to replace the system that was broken. Perhaps the simple answer is that Gen X has failed to give Gen Y a proper spiritual alternative to both materialism and conventional religion.
Or maybe, just maybe, Gen X is still waiting quietly in the background, watching; assimilating all the lessons of time and waiting for the last of the boomers to move out of positions of authority so we can finally have our changed world. As Gen X-er John Mayer says, we’re waiting on the world to change. We are just too sensitive to assert ourselves in a world of dog eat dog. We would rather wait until those that hold such a mentality are simply out of the way altogether so we can create our new world in a smooth and holistic fashion.
(It’s interesting to note that as I write this, all the old leaders of the Middle East and Africa – Gaddafi, Mubarak et al – are now being toppled from power. But given these were just U.S. approved puppets; whether this is ultimately a good thing is anyone’s guess.)
Gen X felt we had to tear down all the old structures due to society’s betrayal and REDEFINE what is good, what is wholesome, not based on material terms but on what is good for both the spirit AND the body. The main reason for this is that while our parents lauded themselves for providing us all the material benefits, often times the emotional element was completely lacking. There was a void of empathy, understanding, compassion – and all from a society that claimed to be Christian!! Parents would just not want to know if we came up to them with an emotional need, a need to be heard and understood.
In fact that’s all we wanted – as Gen X-ers we had so many feelings inside, we just needed to let them be heard and to have some kindness shown to us. But that was just too much for most baby boomer parents (but to their credit, not all). I think that from their perspective they had lived through the tough times of war and other hardships so what were we new ones complaining about! What they failed to understand is that compassion is not something you discard because it doesn’t make any money – it’s essential for building a loving and trusting connection with your family.
So Gen X-ers, having been largely denied this deep understanding in our families, turned as a result to friends. Unlike Gen Y, we know that friends can be more like family than your "real" family. In fact, Gen X-ers often find that friends are more understanding, more willing to have a laugh and treat each other with compassion and respect, and a heck of a lot more fun and fulfilling to be around. For Gen X-ers, friends facilitated the expansion and emergence of your fuller being, your deeper persona. (Again, there's that spiritual need to grow and develop, and be heard.) BB parents on the other hand would often not even look on you as a rational, thinking being; the attitude was often well what do you know you’re just a stupid kid! What a contrast to today’s kids, who are often more intelligent than their parents!
What’s amazing to me though is that the boomer generation seems to have a split personality. On the one hand you have the salt of the earth types (such as my parents) who typify what I’ve been saying, but then members of that same generation are my favourite musicians and rock groups, that are all made up of baby boomers!! Incredibly, the music of Pink Floyd in particular, who by the way are now all in their sixties, might well be said to constitute a Gen X manifesto! “We don’t need no education”! So I think it can be said that the seeds of Gen X were planted in the baby boomers, and the ideas they seeded came into bloom with the X’ers.
I think the main issue I have with Gen Y is that they have fallen back on relying on the old means of survival, on the old clapped out system that has proved that it doesn’t work and is long overdue to be replaced. But maybe that was a natural reaction to my generation’s strong idealism – we did lack a certain practicality in the application of our ideals. But just as Gen Y are anchoring the old world, so Gen X are working hard to anchor the incoming new world. We have had to overcome a lot – we were the first generation to really confront a lot of horrifying issues, from the Cold War global nuclear stand-off to Middle Eastern terrorism to 9/11 to U.S. government brutality and mind control and the looming GM and superbug crisis. We Gen X-ers have our plates absolutely full, and in the face of such a world we know something needs to change and change soon. Gen Y probably quite naturally has retreated from all this wearying and stressful confrontation back into the comforting (and illusory) materiality of the baby boomers, but I really believe that the next two generations will move things irrevocably forward.
The Coming of Generation Zero and Generation Wow!
The children that are coming after Generation Y, born 1994 to 2008, appear to have a maturity beyond their tender years; they seem far more intelligent than Gen X was at that age, far more outward looking and really amazing in their comprehension, self expression and overall way of being. They seem to be a fantastic blend of the idealism of Gen X and the practicality of Gen Y – in fact they seem to live by an inspired practicality! So I think I’ll call them Generation Wow! You see them all the time on TV, child prodigies who are not only brilliant but practical - perhaps they will be a fusion of the best of Generation X and Generation Y.
I have also created a new term for the generation being born now - the children being born from  2008 through to 2020. I call them Generation Zero, because I believe they represent a fresh new start.  They will build a more holistic world based on the achievements of the incredible new generation that are succeeding Gen Y.
As Generation Zero will come after Generation Wow, they will most likely reap the benefits of the generation before them and be fully able to express their spiritual gifts. Generation Zero will grow up in a new climate of tolerance and acceptance, and even perhaps of increased spiritual awareness. It is my hope that it will be this generation that changes the world once and for all. Maybe Generation Zero will be the third and final "wave of hippies" who will at last achieve the longed-for new age?