Last week I caught an article on binge watching, the compulsive watching of TV series. Among other things there was talk of a guy who watched TV at a higher speed to be able to watch more things. His unquenchable desire to passively observe came before even the intrinsic value of entertainment. “In my day,” I thought, my God, I really thought that, they would have taken him for mad.
As a 46-year-old member of Generation X (includes all those born from 1965 to 1979) I remember that no one bragged about watching so much TV. It was the opposite: it was chic to boast of not owning a TV at all. Good. It was the beginning of a long reflection on the values received by my generation. And, far from being a “Boomer”, also because technically I’m not, I have reviewed the aspects that in my opinion should be preserved, or recovered, to save the future.
Generation X around the world, open your ears
Generation X grew up in a world that was changing culturally, socially, technologically and economically.
We have been taught that everything corporate is evil, old school is always better than the latest and greatest, authenticity is king, conformity is death and there is nothing worse than being a scab, of salesmen or posers.
No one would ever call themselves an “influencer” in the 80s and 90s: in those years, nothing was more embarrassing than trying to get people to look at you at all costs.
Sure, we had some poison on us. Deep in the heart of nearly every member of Generation X is a deep feeling of nihilism. We didn’t trust the companies that kept our parents warm (just for a little while), and we did well: they would gut their pensions in the following years. Our grandparents told us that everything corporate was predatory.
We had a little less faith in family values because we were the first generation growing up in kindergarten. We didn’t care much about politics either. In the 1990s, Generation X’s aversion to politics was historic everywhere, and with the collapse of the opposing blocs the bewilderment became even greater.
Of course these are all commonplaces about Generation X, but studies show that this generation really has some hallmarks.
How Generation X is made
According to a paper on generational differences, the core values of Generation X are “skepticism”, “fun” and “informality”. They are described as “self-sufficient”, “independent”, “unimpressed by authority” and motivated by “freedom”.
In the young Generation X, the culture of the time instilled mistrust and skepticism, and a sort of “see it for yourself, you are not the center of the universe” mentality.
Since the 1990s, when Generation X began coming of age, Western culture has been increasingly drugged with constant indignation, constant concern for technology, and constant looting by greedy boomers.
The answer to all these problems?
Simple: admitting that Generation X was right at some point, and if we followed suit we could reverse these terrible trends. OK, it might not solve all of our problems, but the way things are going now definitely isn’t working. Also, weren’t the 90s great? The decade that preceded 2000 (with 11 September and the beginning of the “endless war”) was frivolous, disinterested, perhaps a little soft, holistic, but certainly of a pacifist and ecological nature. We were coming of age and we would have brought a more agnostic and anti-imperialist world. Someone prevented us from taking the scepter, and perpetrated the values of the previous generation, with all its muscle load of war and infinite growth, with all the disasters that followed.
It’s also the fault of the Xers, Certain. Many of us have lost our way by forgetting our contempt for authority and skepticism towards institutions. This is a call for us to remember what we once stood for and to fight by doing what we do best: staying above the fray.
Generation X, it’s time to tie your boots (Camperos of course) and show the new generations how powerful contempt can be.
Here are the top four Gen X values that we should embrace again to save the world.
1 Purchase of vintage items
After the paninara orgy of the 1980s, nothing was less trendy in the early 1990s than wearing branded clothes. Remember Naomi Klein’s “No Logo”? Here you are. If you really had style, you bought used clothes and remixed them into something “your”. If you liked hip-hop, take advantage of the offers and bask in some super tough Carhartt thing (complete with stickers). The mood of the time was totally anti-fashion. These days, we live in a world where instant fashion is killing the environment. By embracing the “cool” second-hand values of Generation X we can give a blow to the greed of multinationals, help the planet and frankly look even cooler.
2 Skepticism about media and technology
In the early 2000s, people fell in love with smartphone and social media technology so quickly that no one stopped to think about the potential consequences. We now have a world in which children are depressed, the culture has been devastated and no one really talks anymore: physically, in public you stare at a display. “Virtually”, you spend your time slaughtering on any opinion.
I can perfectly understand why later generations there are waterfalls, but the truth is that Generation X also slept behind the wheel and crashed. The generation that embraced the idea that TV rots the brain needs to remind everyone that social media can die, and maybe it is dying. He needs to remind everyone to go out and play in the sun or read a book. And to remind others, he has to stop first.
3 A little snobbery
Good taste counted. In the 2000s, millennials decided that people have a right to like whatever they like, and that it is worse to judge someone’s personal taste than to have bad taste. It is not a sign of freedom. Only the hymn to the shortcut, a path with little effort that stops at the door: I do not study, I do not inquire, I do not cultivate anything. I like this? So good.
Generation X members based their entire personalities on taste: they demanded integrity from artists and were rewarded by living in an age of superior film and music. Today there is simply no new music anymore, and we are stuck in a world dominated by comic book movies, because no one has bothered and condemned the people they appreciate. the culture of “less effort” and who only stuffs it with such things to make a profit.
4 Political apathy
The political divide of the last 30 years (remember: since the fall of the Berlin Wall) has calcified and become sterile, as more and more people base their personal identities on politics. This has created a culture in which the dialogue between “progressives” and “conservatives” has become sterile: on the one hand, there is a continuous opposition that prevents the exchange. On the other hand, at high levels the policies applied end up looking dangerously alike, whoever goes to the government.
This climate has attracted increasingly incapable and degraded figures of politicians, and has effectively stopped any sense of progress. Do we want to talk about the 90s? Di Mani Pulite, to stay in Italy? Today the new generations are almost throwing that historic moment in the trash, coming to “regret” the politicians and the ‘vintage’ corruption of the 80s.
Of course, compared to current mollusks, those others look like giants. But the truth is that in the 1990s Generation X had received a ‘revelation’, and had consecrated political apathy as a way of life. Since then, barring periodic infatuations, we Xers generally show less social trust or trust in the government, we have a weaker loyalty to the concept of ‘homeland’ or to a political party.
If everyone got this feeling back, we could probably focus again on problem solving and constructive discussions, and maybe not get fooled around so many.
Generation X, stand up and walk
My generation is now 40 and 50 years old, and alongside the pride of the inevitable phrase “in my day” it must be self-critical. It is fair to say that we have gone from being outside the system to being part of it. Today we participate fully in the creation of the technological and political machines that are generating the kind of conformism against which we once lashed.
Now that Generation X is at the age where they can rule the world for a few decades, it’s time to resume a commitment to the core values that make us who we are. And there is good news: if we put in the effort it will not be difficult to get back to those big pain in the ass that we are, because we were naturally raised to love the past ironically.
And this is what can save the future.