I have always on some level felt that the way I saw things and the lessons learnt from my experiences were far different from those around me and as time progressed this notion became even more apparent. In more recent times my initial assessment has been both confirmed and broadened. I realized that the experiences, value system and world view of my generation is far different from those younger than us. This was highlighted in a recent conversation with members of the generation preceding mine…..a generation which I had previously fooled myself into thinking that I understood and could relate to, boy was I mistaken.
To give you a bit of background on myself I was born in 1980, one year before the death of reggae icon Bob Marley. The 80’s was a defining period in time, complete with the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, worldwide condemnation of apartheid in South Africa, the rise of crack-cocaine in American ghettos and the futile US war on drugs, the launch of television network MTV, the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album and such iconic films as E.T. The Extra-Terrestial, Back To The Future and Top Gun. In Jamaica the 80’s was no less eventful. The most devastating hurricane to hit the island, hurricane Gilbert, beat the living badmind out of Jamaica on September 12th 1988 and the “bloodiest” general election in our history, the 1980 general election, claimed the lives of many Jamaicans. Being born in 1980 meant that I was at the tail end of Generation X, which generally included people born from the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s.
Being an 80’s baby meant that I grew and developed at the same time as many of the customs, practices and products which have now become invaluable to our lives. As 80’s babies we witnessed the first real tangible strike in the technological revolution which exploded beyond any of our wildest desires. Don’t worry…..I wont get all cliché and say the 80’s was a simpler time…you’ve already figured that out. Stranger than being an 80’s baby was becoming an adolescent, a teenager and coming of age in the 90’s. I started high school at the same age as most Jamaicans, age 11 and quickly understood what it meant to attend an institution with a rich tradition and considerable Infamy.So much of who we were, how we felt and what we thought were a result of the era we were in. Standards were different, more was expected of each of us and there loomed the beginning of a rapid decline in values and positive attitudes. This decade saw the entrenchment of consumerism and a rapid increase in technology. Isn’t it Ironic that this decade also heralded the beginnings of the now prevalent instant gratification culture and the birth of generation Y, the bold, fearless and unapologetic children of generation X. The end of the of 90’s was met with mixed feelings and all the crazies emerged from the wood work predicting mankind’s impending doom on the last day of the last month of 1999. Alas, the world did not stop and we all woke up on January 1st, 2000
Lets fast forward a bit as the first half my 20’s were a blur for the most part. At 25 I graduated from university with my first degree and took my place at the starting blocks of the rat race, which like all races, is about both speed and endurance. I entered the working world and had a whole new set of responsibilities thrusted upon me, why not, I wasn’t a kid anymore. Neither was my thought process and my acceptance of the role I played in the grand scheme of things. At 25 I was also smack dab in the middle of a culture of short attention spans, impoliteness and selfishness. If I was a little more astute at the time I would have sold stocks in laziness and by now I’d be the richest man in the world multiple times over. Everything was designed to make our lives easier, results achieved faster and inevitably require less use of our brains. There were ovens attached to refrigerators that would defrost meat and pre-heat to a set temperature at the touch of a button in our reasonably priced sedans. Conversations had been reduced to three-letter acronyms and clever smiley faces which reflected our every mood. Cars got faster, inhibitions got lower and click and drag replaced getting out of bed. PING became hello.
This was the world that generation Y was coming of age in and these were the lessons they were being taught. The inherent value of things decreased and indulgence increased. Wait and see was replaced by gimme gimme. The world and everything in it was at their fingertips. One therefore cannot blame these youngsters for their lack of appreciation for just about everything that exists, that’s what we taught them. They grew up in a world of unlimited supply where life itself is disposable. Their feeling of invincibility is a direct result of coming up in a time where doing without was not an option and anything the heart desired was a mere grasp away. I suddenly began to realize that I had become my parents. I started to feel a similar kind of disconnect with this younger generation that my parents felt with me. Such is life, every generation blames the one before and criticizes the one after, the cycle continues. Those of my generation who have become parents are even more horrified at the world their kids will grow up in and the current generation will no doubt curse our children’s generation.I now realize that this criticism of the younger generation has a lot to do with envy. We envy their youth, we envy their resilience, we envy their inability to see obstacles in their way, its like the saying goes….youth is wasted on the young. Wish me luck as I continually try to understand younger generations and hope that I may find some way to relate to them.