December 14, 2014

Cynicism and sarcasm were Gen X specialties long before the grungey Nineties

Part of the ongoing attempt to make the '90s revival happen (it won't happen) has been to emphasize the tone of cynicism, sarcasm, and irony within youth culture of the time, specifically the grunge / alternative / slacker sub-culture.

Not that there isn't a grain of truth to that picture, but what was new and distinctive of the '90s was that this tone permeated the sub-culture's view of everything — not only was the overhyped cut down to size, so were the things that ought to have been respected, even by the sub-culture's own standards. Fuzzy '60s-era utopianism was met with only a cold raised eyebrow, but so too was any practical and non-ideological attempt to make things better. "Whatever" was the answer to, well, whatever. The tone was more nihilistic and disillusioned than merely ironic.

In contrast to the across-the-board sarcasm of the '90s, teenagers in the '80s reserved their eye-rolling for only what was pretentious. Funny as it may seem, the most visible — and audible — pioneers in this trend were the Valley girls, not proto-hipster wannabes. Some little nerdlinger presumes to ask out one of the cute popular girls: "Oh I'm like so sure!" Some aging hippie teacher tries to work her students up into a burst of cleansing synchronicity: "Ugh, get a job."

Barf me out.

Gag me with a spoon.

Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.

Those teenagers still felt enthusiasm for what truly deserved it — and not just bitchin' camaros, bodacious bods, and totally tubular tunes. Letting your guard down and sharing your life with friends, and belonging to an active social scene, were still earnest and sincere pursuits. This distinguishes the zeitgeist from one of "kill yr idols."

The tone of youth culture in the '80s, then, was fundamentally one of stabilization — letting the air out of the over-inflated, while showing appreciation for what we have taken for granted.

During the '90s, this would devolve into cutting down everyone and everything, reflecting the shift from an outgoing to a cocooning social mood. Now, it was all about the lone individual who was so much more world-weary than every other individual, and too cool to need to belong to a group with others, who would probably not be as stylishly aloof as he was anyways.

Generation X is unfortunately remembered more for their '90s nihilism, when their formative years were just as much a part of the eye-rolling Valley girl '80s.

They themselves remember growing up in the '80s, but the Boomer incumbents who write the official histories in the mass media have emphasized the anti-utopian 'tude of the '90s instead because it serves as a better foil for their own generation's identity as '60s idealists. And the airhead Millennials who drive traffic on BuzzFeed, Upworthy, etc. latch on to the slacker / alterna phase of Gen X because they're obsessed with their own origins as '90s kids, and are incurious about the time before they were being doted on as babies.

But the X-ers were sarcastic way before it was cool.

35 comments:

  1. Awesome, totally awesome! was still used by us in the 1980's, and in some way that little piece of stoner wisdom paid homage to things that were, well, awesome, like Hamilton's capture of the robber.

    You MUST put a book together on this alternative historical cycle.

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  2. I wrote another post on the use of maximizing vs. minimizing slang words to express enthusiasm.

    Maximizing are the ones from the '80s -- totally, to the max, etc. They also showed up in the Roaring Twenties -- absolutely, positively, etc. Those were outgoing times. Minimizing are the ones used today -- actually, kind of, pretty, etc. They're from cocooning times.

    There's another class of words today that look like maximizers -- fuck yeah, I fucking love, obsessed with, etc. However, they aren't used to refer to things that are extraordinary, but to the utterly mundane.

    "I fucking love PB&J sandwiches!!! Who's with me?!?!"

    "I know, right? Fuck yeah, PB&J!!!"

    "OMG, first time I've had PB&J since I was literally in third grade -- obsessed!"

    These days, young people try to hype up what is boring and play down what is exciting. ("Moving out from my parents' house was actually kind of interesting.") It's like taking uppers for when you're depressed and downers when you're manic. It suggests an underlying outta-whack-ness to the emotional system, and a desperate attempt to repair its regulation.

    It's the opposite of the '80s, where each mood was given its due, and allowed to be experienced naturally until it had run its course. Fun things were "totally fucking awesome," and ordinary things didn't have special slang -- "Uh, this PB&J sandwich is, uh, OK I guess."

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  3. The PB&J thing was just off-the-cuff, like what is the most mundane thing in the world that these airhead Millennials could get a big boner about?

    Sadly, Google uncovers some actual instances:

    "I had pb&j for dinner last night. downed it with a glass of milk and some potato chips. I fucking love pb&j." (FOR DINNER)

    "I fucking love PB&J and could sit down and eat a loaf of bread's worth of them..." (from a thread titled "Is it wrong that I'm 22 and love PB&J sammiches?")

    "I FUCKING LOVE PB&J! UPVOTES!"

    "man i fucking love pb&j sandwiches you just dont know i just might do that wow son you got me all excited now"

    "I fucking love PB&J wit dat crunchy PB." (Gangsta-licious kiddie snacks.)

    Etc.

    Truth is sadder than parody.

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  4. All of that shit reminds me of the horrible "I fucking love science" meme, when it's not actually science they love, they just love being affiliated with it or something.

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  5. The Vermifuge12/14/14, 10:45 PM

    You might say that it's the difference in cynicism and sarcasm between Fast Times and Reality Bites.

    Also, if anyone watched "Beverly Hills, 90210," perhaps there was a sharp change in how the characters interacted from the start in '90 to the final episode in 2000. I never watched the show, though, and, most of the time, I'm hesitant to put much weight in what a single property says about popular culture.

    I'd argue, too, that the '90s lost its cynicism after '94. Cobain shot himself in April, Green Day and Weezer both had big debuts, and Beck had "Loser," (which plays into the irony they're trying to sell now, I suppose), getting radio-play. But there was also a major difference in the sound between Woodstock '94 and '99.

    And I agree that there won't be a revival. There were too many bad sweaters, a lack of formative films (American Pie isn't the Breakfast Club; She's All That isn't Pretty in Pink) for the younger generation to take its cues from, and no one will want to spend time in a chat-room during a '90s night, either.

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  6. Idea for a '90s night -- using the internet to communicate only with people you DON'T already know in real life, rather than substituting online for real-life interactions with your "friends" and family.

    The kids these days would be surprised that even if several people in a social circle had AOL back in the day, none of them knew each other's screen name, let alone yak back and forth over IM or email.

    It wasn't until around 2000 that people started migrating their social life to the internet, with 20 AIM windows open, a buddy list that was all real-life friends, real-life in-jokes on your away message, and so on. (I never took part because it seemed weird, confusing, and off-putting, but it spread like mad in the early 2000s.)

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  7. I find the glib nihilism of many 30-40 year olds today tiresome, juvenile and counterproductive. What the early to mid 20-something Millennials lack in grit or intuition they more than make up for in narcissism and unrestrained ambition. The boomers eat it up and are more than willing to leapfrog them right over the slightly older cohort who've developed this affected stance of not giving a fuck to compensate for the fact that humility, honesty, stoicism and loyalty just aren't valued qualities at the moment.

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  8. Millennials' "unrestrained ambition" is nothing more than pushiness and hyperactivity, much like a toddler's style of trying to bully around the parents but not actually getting his way.

    That brattiness worked when they only interacted with their passive and indulgent helicopter parents (i.e, their whole lives until their mid-late 20s). But now that they're finally interacting with genetic strangers in the real, outside world, they aren't getting their way anymore.

    Ambition implies a longer-term goal, a larger plan that today's actions are working toward. Millennials are entirely focused on the moment, wanting to get their way NOW NOW NOW. And what they want doesn't lead toward anything larger, it's just getting their fix from one of a multitude of distraction streams, or removing obstacles to their quick fix -- other people asking something of them, performing their duties, Wi-Fi speed slowing to a crawl at the Starbucks, etc.

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  9. And brattiness is certainly how it comes across when you're interacting with them regularly and you aren't old enough to be their dad. So you're probably right. I think it might even be a kind of grandparent effect, with boomers staying in upper and middle management well into the years where their edges have worn down.

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  10. I don't mind the lack of ambition among late X-ers, who imprinted on Bart Simpson and Beavis & Butt-head. It's not good, but if we're comparing the "con" column across the generations, slacker-dom is relatively benign to the rest of society.

    Ambition quickly escalates out of control and creates disruptive volatility, whereas slacker-dom leads to mere stagnation or a slow drain on productivity.

    Both ambition and slacker-dom are individualistic and hedonistic, but belonging to a group / scene and following some sort of norms is at least possible among slackers, vs. incompatible with ruthless ladder-climbing.

    Ambitious individuals can climb to the top of a pyramid where they can influence or control people over a vast range, a la the executives of Hollywood studios or the corporate board of a Wall Street bank. Slackers' drain on others, such as it is, remains a small-scale and local phenomenon.

    No one minds a handful of ambitious individuals who are going to have no family or community life (which by personality they would not mind missing anyways), in order to invent the Next Big Thing. But when ambition becomes more and more common, as it did with the Me Generation, then it becomes overweening -- rising competitiveness means you must become ever more ambitious *just to stay put* on the status pyramid, let alone climb upward.

    As a reality check, consider the '70s, when the trend toward status-striving had only begun, and thus was at a fairly low level for most of the decade. It's harder to imagine a less ambitious climate than the one where large swaths of young people were drop-outs of one sort or another, the prototype for Jeff Spicoli. (Ditching school reached an all-time high back then, according to Dept. of Education records.)

    Yet look at how stable, egalitarian, homogeneous, and full-of-life the Seventies were. Jobs had not been off-shored, immigrants had not been trucked in by the millions, companies had not been downsized, quasi-monopolies didn't run the economy, Wall Street was small potatoes, folks knew their neighbors, and church attendance was still common. The President was so against bailing out the financial elite that he told New York City to drop dead.

    The crime rate was rising, but that's part of a separate cycle, not the striving-and-inequality cycle. The divorce rate rose until 1980, but that seems to have been an after-shock of an adultery epidemic circa 1970 (part of the sexual revolution). And in the early '70s there was one of those 50-year peaks in rioting. The worst thing about the mid-'70s recession, in people's memories of it, is the long lines at gas stations -- BFD, compared to the recessions of the past 25 years, and their jobless "recoveries."

    If slackers are the worst that there is, we get the good old Seventies, whereas more and more ambitious individuals leads us into the chaos and fragmentation of the current period.

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  11. "What the early to mid 20-something Millennials lack in grit or intuition they more than make up for in narcissism and unrestrained ambition"

    Millennials ain't got nothing on the late Silents/Boomers, who were unbridled terrors in their in your face, we're gonna get ours so you better get the F**k outta the way attitude.

    What do you mean by grit, exactly? The Greatest Gen. had enough grit to fight WW2 without complaint. Early Silents had the grit to be children in the great depression. The Gen X-ers have had the grit to put up with Boomer Bullshit since they were 70's/80's kids without completely collapsing into frustration and despair.

    Boomers love to boast and do tough guy posturing, but they totally lucked into post WW2 prosperity and a social/economic climate that kept them safe, warm, and well fed with no obstacles to establishing a living and a family.

    The arrogant conceit that the Boomers 'earned' these privileges is what's caused them to totally abandon stewardship of the commons. This shirking of duty has obliterated the possibility that their descendants will have the same standard of living and opportunities that the Boomers had.

    Why extend a hand to future generations when, geez, you can have whatever you wish if you just work hard enough for it. Course, that kind of attitude totally ignores the deplorable environment children have grown up in since the 70's. Children can't magically 'work' or 'earn' their way to a loving two parent household with good food and they can't 'earn' a pleasant neighboorhood in which everyone is honest, loyal, fit, and speaks classy English.

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  12. Boomers do have the 'grit' (aka psychopathy) to ruthlessly cheat and betray their fellow man for the sake of their own asses. The last thing they usually wanna do is earnestly take one for the team, particularly now and in the recent past as cutthroat competition has accelerated to frightening levels since the 90's.

    What's in it for ME?

    Dammit, it's not fair to pull me over for going 15 mph over the speed limit. I'm a good driver, leave ME alone!

    Better slash my taxes, it's my money and nobody is gonna take it from ME!

    Get the idea?

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  13. "And I agree that there won't be a revival. There were too many bad sweaters, a lack of formative films (American Pie isn't the Breakfast Club; She's All That isn't Pretty in Pink) for the younger generation to take its cues from,"

    Well, the 90's-mid 2000's sure had a lot baggy clown pants which I think are the most embarrassing, outdated part of that period's clothes.

    There isn't gonna be much excitement about reliving the Can't Hardly Wait era since the 90's were the "let's cool our engines" period that was bound to happen after we hit the red line in the 80's, the decade that was the culmination of outgoing trends that first appeared in the 60's.

    The 90's themselves were so dreary and self conscious that movies which are derived from the common fashion of that period without much to say about it may be of academic interest but certainly won't stir passions.

    The 90's were so flippant and clammy that most people (esp. older ones who were there) don't dare dive into the period's culture without strapping on a bio hazard suit and some armor first.

    The groovy 70's, alright
    The rad 80's, now we're talkin'.
    The Nirvana 90's, I dunno gimme a minute to think about it.

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  14. The late 90s coming of age movie was Fight Club.

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  15. The Vermifuge12/15/14, 6:56 PM

    Hey Feryl, I left off mentioning the baggy clothes on purpose, for it's not a shining moment in fashion, (even though frosted tips were almost as bad). Somehow the grunge and skater subcultures became mashed into JNCO by J. C. Penney, which created the perfect uniform (http://24.media.tumblr.com/528767d46807df3904ff9b076241cba0/tumblr_mkpdfktCvl1qc8g41o1_400.jpg#JNCO%20282x400) for the period after '94.

    Also, I've bumped into a strange subculture (if that's what you want to call it), which is both depressing and a product of its time. There are these cam-girls, who'll do online peep-shows for tokens. But you can tell that few of them enjoy it; and, if they do, they’re either new, like the attention, or need the scant pay, (which I doubt is as easy as you might think to get). The entire situation is deplorable, and I'm sure someone is skimming most of the money off the models, like a pyramid scheme involving door-to-door magazine salesmen, to the detriment of each one, because, after all, they’re replaceable. There is, then, a lack of dignity in the exchange: you have thirsty morons quite willing to say things—with a certain flare for their autistic inability to notice the emotions on these women’s faces—that they're too scared to utter in public; and you have women who don’t want to be trapped on the camera anymore. It’s a cluster of failure, and it’s a dispiriting look into the coldest underbelly of the Internet. There may be worse videos, but the baseness of the live show is more off-putting. Of course, it is both a sure sign of the cocooning period and a crumbling generation, but one that's so pathetic that it must take its exploits of voyeurism online, that lacks empathy or a higher nobility, and that mistakes vulgarity with liberty.

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  16. Clueless tried to be the coming-of-age movie of the '90s. It was written and directed by the director of Fast Times, although that one had a better writer (Cameron Crowe, who'd done some participant-observation beforehand).

    The characters are all caricatures, so it's hard to connect with the same way you could relate to the kids of the '80s teen movie. Those may not have been the most lifelike performances, but they were mostly sincere attempts to portray a specific individual rather than a generic type (the ditz, the stoner, etc.). Jeff Spicoli isn't just any old generic stoner, he's a memorable particular stoner. Alicia Silverstone's character is more like a generic upbeat ditzy blonde.

    Singles and its imitators focus on 20-somethings, not teenagers.

    The only one that stands out is... My So-Called Life. (Laugh it up, fuzzball.) The characters weren't cut-outs, for one thing. They were all identifiable types, but they weren't just playing the type.

    The plotlines were plausible but leaned toward melodrama, like everyone episode was a Very Special Episode from the late '80s troubled-teenagers genre.

    However, the performances weren't melodramatic, shaking your best friend while shouting "WHY?!?!", as they had been on the corny VSEs. The emotion level is dialed up, but not off the charts, and it's plausible in the context of coming-of-age teenagers.

    Like the great teen movies from the '80s, we get to see a lot of each character, not just focusing on the lead. It feels like a real social network that each one is navigating their way through, and we see how each reacts to the others.

    It was only on for one season, and I don't think was saturated in re-runs. So only a narrow group saw it -- born within a few years of 1980.

    It aired during the '94-'95 season, so everything looks and feels very Nineties-y. Nice snapshot of the alterna/grunge moment right before it went up in a puff of smoke and was replaced by the Hanson / Spice Girls zeitgeist.

    In that respect, it was better than the other "spotlight on youth culture" movies and TV shows because it showed everybody including the normal, preppy, and popular kids as well (who were not caricatures), and their interactions with the alterna kids (which were not comical Us vs. Them antagonisms derived from memories of nerd rejection).

    It was like The Wonder Years in tone, only contemporary rather than based on Boomer nostalgia.

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  17. "I left off mentioning the baggy clothes on purpose" "the perfect uniform (http://24.media.tumblr.com/528767d46807df3904ff9b076241cba0/tumblr_mkpdfktCvl1qc8g41o1_400.jpg#JNCO%20282x400) for the period after '94.

    Lately I've been doing a baggy pants watch for movies/TV shows made between 1990-2008 and though they are a lot more common in that time frame then they were in the 80's it's still unpredictable.

    I personally remember baggy pants quickly coming into style for blacks in the very late 80's with white kids going all in on clown pants by about 1996. Older white guys, being more out of fashion and bigger cheapskates, tended to wear the more fitted pants they got in the late 80's/early 90's until about 2000. By about 2008 the situation had reversed itself with Millennial white kids adopting skinnier fits while middle aged guys were wearing the pants that were trendy in the later 90's.

    While 80's fashion can be hard to pin down because of the level of exciting individuality, 90's fashion can be hard to pin down because the decade was the start of me 1st, anything goes pretension. So the decade is kind of a ugly mess with the remnants of 80's (with some 70's stuff at the tail end of the decade) fashion tossed into the dreaded 'alternative' and 'urban' blender. Stringy unstyled hair/quasi mullets in the 1st half of the decade and crew cuts throughout the decade albeit much more toned down from the Billy Idol 80's style. Goatees, tats & piercings. Increasingly formless clothes. Increasingly pretentious, dorky head gear like backwards ball caps, then berets, then even gilligan hats. Might as well cover up you boring hair, I guess.

    Fred Durst in the 90's:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=fred+durst+90%27s&client=firefox-a&hs=bID&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&biw=1366&bih=627&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=Bh6QVN_TDI-byATg4oCoDA&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ

    Anybody wanna relive that?

    There was so much affected posturing and narcissism that people became walking stereotypes instead of just comfortably being themselves. That's what people find so obnoxious about the period.

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  18. "Clueless tried to be the coming-of-age movie of the '90s. It was written and directed by the director of Fast Times, although that one had a better writer (Cameron Crowe, who'd done some participant-observation beforehand)."

    "The characters are all caricatures, so it's hard to connect with the same way you could relate to the kids of the '80s teen movie. Those may not have been the most lifelike performances,"

    I do think the quality of acting is quite important. In the last several years I've noticed on TV how disagreeable Millennials act in front of the camera in non scripted/'reality' moments. I don't watch modern TV shows and I don't watch modern movies with young casts so I can only go off of 'reality' when I judge how Millennials do in media.

    You kind of get whiplash when talk/interview shows switch between people born from about 1960-1986 and true blue Millennials born since 1987. The later Millennials are so damn awkward, aloof, taciturn, or alternately hysterically over excited/emotional that the viewer/listener end up wanting to grab 'em by the collar and tell them to ease up and act like a human being.

    Imagine how off putting and inaccurate it would be to make a movie about 80's/90's gen X-ers with flat affect droning and screeching later period Millennials.

    Besides, X-ers have so little navel gazing sentimentality and enough humility that I don't think they'll ever try to correct the 'problem' of poor youth films from the 90's. The 90's kinda sucked anyway and I think that a lot of people would rather just forget them.

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  19. Piggybacking on my comment about the tastes of Gen X artists, I think that Boomers and perhaps even Millenials may eventually take a crack at making a movie about 90's teens.

    But I don't think Gen X-ers will ever bother since they aren't interested in broadcasting their youth to the world/future generations and also because, like I said above, they were in the thick of dumb 90's culture so they of all people don't wanna revisit it.

    I don't blame Richard Linklater for wanting to reproduce the late 70's on screen. Why bother with the pretentious, anti social 90's?

    If 'we' did, it would probably be a highly acerbic take that at the decade.

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  20. "It's harder to imagine a less ambitious climate than the one where large swaths of young people were drop-outs of one sort or another, the prototype for Jeff Spicoli. (Ditching school reached an all-time high back then, according to Dept. of Education records.)

    Yet look at how stable, egalitarian, homogeneous, and full-of-life the Seventies were."


    The Vietnam War draft was inegalitarian. College students were exempt.

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  21. "The Vietnam War draft was inegalitarian. College students were exempt."

    Thanks for bringing this up, it's something I've also considered. The Vietnam war exposed a growing cultural/class rift in America. Draftees were disproportionately poor, black, and southern/rural. Many vets of that war hated the vile disdain that many snotty college kids threw at those who fought in the war.

    The fact that elder generations gave so many draft dodging options to their precious Silent/Boomer kids is yet more proof of the privileges that youth had in the 40's-early 70's.

    Hamburger Hill (1987), written by a 'Nam vet, is a very intense but matter of fact soldier's point of view story of Vietnam. The characters in the movie adopt an almost Zen like non chalance about the most awful things in order to get through the ordeal. According to the director this was inspired by the people he fought with.

    The ones who went there were more unpretentious, pragmatic, and selfless than the ones who pussed out . The dodgers tended to be vain, ambitious, glib, and cosmopolitan with many of the dodgers eventually become powerful figures in the media, law, and government.

    The list of republican cowards, draft dodgers
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=364x1440824

    It focuses on conservative dodgers but it's still very illuminating.

    One in particular stood out:
    Jack Kemp: Did not serve. "Knee problem," continued in NFL for 8 years. More Silent Gen psychopathy. His career was more important than taking one for the team.

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  22. Having lived across the Gen X divide you discuss, I can say both the "rad" 80s and the "meh" 90s had their appeal to me personally. In some ways the 80s were a John Hughes film and the 90s was the sequel they never had.
    80s - high school - misfit kid has to select from a smorgasbord of social cliques and cultural/counter-cultural archetypes - preps/jocks/stoners/punks/posers. None of which can he/she completely commit to conforming to as they each bring their own pre-baked world view to someone still seeking answers. Alienation ensues, the struggle to fit in and find acceptance finally resolves around senior year as the groups of label-defying kids find each other and bond forming a larger clique that is not fazed by the cool kids now attending inferior colleges.
    90s - the sequel opens at the college - where the hero brings his/her chip on the shoulder from high school, still uncertain of whether they can fit in. College provides proves to be a more validating experience than the end of the first movie as the band of misfits the hero bonds with are an eclectic crew that is every bit as alienated and somewhat healed as the hero and have a diversity of world views that defy the 80s pastiches of punk/prep/poser/jock to create a complete various mashups and incorporate subcategories like industrial/psychobilly/hippie/metalhead. This eye-opening acceptance of the alienated and salon-like nature of conversations on the college campus helps our protagonist reach an internally resonant value system that rejects labels, demands first-hand experience of any truth and seeks an ever-increasing knowledge of the real world to fashion further beliefs.
    mid-late 90s - that's the protagonist leaving college for the real world. now bumping into other counterculturally eclectic kids with similar values in the mosh pit and trance dance floor, relating isn't a problem. Collective action of the kind that held the hippies of the 60's and stoners of the 70's together, however is. When you've rejected everything & nothing is cool. What's there to do? The nihilism of the 90's was a failure to form zeitgeist due to the generation's all out rejection of any cohesive sentiment or belief system. The conviction that we'd eventually believe in something once something worth believing in showed up ultimately eluded us because nothing did.

    80s or 90s as the defining phase of the Gen Xers - it was a progression. They both were and they were part of a continuum. A Hegelian journey of youth culture that continues to seek real & ours against a backdrop of others who already tried and failed. The millennials' "obsession" with PB&J and other trite things falls somewhere along that line. Maybe a we can't reject everything without looking like a bunch of disaffected jerks like the Gen Xers, but we still can't stand for something real without having the inherent contradictions of our movement force us away from our beliefs like the boomers.

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  23. Inequality makes political activism more extreme, which tends to scare away women. In a previous post in "Face to Face", Noam Chomsky is quoted talking about how the political activists of the 1980s were much more intense than the hippies - for instance, actually going to Central America to help indigenous peoples, which is something few women would ever do, let alone attractive ones.

    Status-striving generations tend to be more explosive in their activism. For instance, the violent labor strikes of the 1910s and 1920s were fought by status-striving generations born at the end of the last century. These guys were known for drinking hard, being whoremongers, etc.

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  24. Gen X and 503/21/17, 5:06 PM

    Keep an eye on generation Z. Their slang exploded just in the last 2 years, and it's a totally different set of words & meanings from anything that came before: extra, salty, thirsty, lit, I can't, queen, smh, rip, epic, af, shook, hmu, hai, meh, tho, dem, dose, etc..... it's interesting.

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  25. Gen X and 503/21/17, 5:11 PM

    I learned computer skills at work, many times over as technologies changed. I loved my anonymous Internet life, where I could express my true self without being stereotyped due to appearance and low income. I spent 1993-2005 using email, blogs, message boards and fanfic to weave a complicated, dense web of social interaction that I felt completely comfortable in. All of that has been destroyed. We created online lives to reveal our true selves to people who understood, bonding deeply and never knowing real names if we so chose. Our online selves were the most real and honest parts of ourselves -- not so today, with everyone tending their little hotbed of frantic displays of their so-called perfect lives.

    I can't relate to the hippies OR the 90s kids - they just aren't our generation, sorry. We didn't wear baggy pants, grungy clothes, long straight hair or mid-riff baring tops. That was our younger siblings. We wore stirrup pants (just like leggings), tapered or pegged high-waisted jeans, thigh length tops, short hair that was feathered, gelled, moussed, or teased, and listened to Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, and Ozzy Osbourne. But if we kicked the 90s kids out of our generation we would be even smaller.... yeah, screwed again. That should be our generation's motto.

    Maybe we Gen X’ers would be happier and less jaded if we hadn’t been completely leapfrogged by everyone from marketers to businesses looking for employees. They think we can’t learn new skills – hell, that is our specialty. We get no respect from anyone, no welcome anywhere, and not enough pay for the loyalty we have shown in our workplaces when continually told to “do more with less” and assimilate fired or laid off workers’ tasks into our own with no raise in pay – over and over during the recession years. Seriously, a catch-up bonus and 10% raise for all of us would go a long way toward easing our cynicism and “disloyalty.” Treat a Gen X person to lunch today.

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  26. Status-striving generations tend to be more explosive in their activism. For instance, the violent labor strikes of the 1910s and 1920s were fought by status-striving generations born at the end of the last century. These guys were known for drinking hard, being whoremongers, etc.

    Sounds like Millennials ;)

    How much political violence are we expecting and social scientists predicting?

    I overheard a white-haired, tall, 65-ish man saying he is "ready to take up arms." He was mostly bragging to his friends, or so I hope. This was after a outrageous, but taxpayer-funded, congressional town hall we all attended. I think people like him expect me to "punch Nazis" for them, while they drink overpriced wine and laugh at violence against those they find disagreeable. Their threatening pre-behavior leads me to consider avoiding them. They're emotionally unstable, partly to show off how sensitive and pious they are about politics. My congressman says "this is war," but also says we shouldn't punch Nazis, to his supporters' immediate disappointment. He implies he will not do anything to protect Nazis. But to him, a Confederate flag is a publicly big deal.

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  27. "Sounds like Millennials ;)"

    You have to factor in cocooning also. The Millenials were raised during a period of falling crime rate(makes society wimpier), so their activism takes the form of becoming SJWs and arguing online.

    The most explosive political activists will be those raised in a period of rising crime and rising inequality. Interestingly, in the early 2000s you started to see some really intense political activism targeted against the WTO - remember, the crime rate rose briefly during this period - but it petered out as cocooning commenced once again.

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  28. Status-strivers are generally more reckless, but this can also make them more aggressive. For instance, Strauss and Howe(two authors who write about generations) have written that in World War II, the it was the more status-striver, aggressive generations, such as the Lost Generation, who were in charge of the war effort, and often made very hardheaded choices such as dropping the A bomb, fire bombing of Dresden, etc. Truman and Patton were both from status-striving generations.

    In the reckoning of Strauss and Howe, you often need the status-strivers to "pull the trigger" - because they care less about the consequences.

    For the record, I'm not so sure we needed to drop the A-bomb/massacre civilians. However, I think the point about how it was the status-striving generations more willing to do that kind of stuff is basically correct. As I mentioned, in the 1910s it was the Lost Generation who were ready to burn down America to get concessions from their employers.

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  29. Two of the leading generals in WWII, Patton and McArthur, are both associated with acts of insubordination or abuse. Patton infamously slapped one of his soldiers suffering from shell shock; McArthur publicly criticized his commander in chief, wanted to bomb China during the Korean War, and on audiotapes in a discussion with John Kennedy, can be heard advocating for the widespread use of tactical nuclear weapons.

    Patton was born in 1885, McArthur was born in 1880, which means both men came of age during the waning days of the Victorian era and the early Progressive era(still a period of inequality and status-striving, which didn't end until the 20s).

    In the Patton slapping incident, it shows changing social mores. First of all, I personally don't believe its acceptable to ever slap a soldier putting his life on the line, however society's attitude changes over time. In the movie "Full Metal Jacket", for instance, the gunnery sergeant not just hits but chokes one of his soldiers during the status-striving days of the Vietnam War.

    Whereas, during the mid-century period of rising equality, such behavior was taboo, and Patton got in serious trouble for doing something like that.

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  30. Two of the leading generals in WWII, Patton and McArthur, are both associated with acts of insubordination or abuse.

    The privates were no better. Reading a famous solder-turned-professor's memoir, in which he describes Geneva Convention violations rather nonchalantly, besides hearing about lots of war-time rape all over the war zones, I was surprised they are so proud of themselves. I mostly won't miss them. They got into some trouble for causing trouble, disrupting the war effort, which is not really punishment for sin.

    Now, they are mostly gone, so we have new movies about how, for example, conscientious objectors were abused in the "greatest" way. I don't want to watch it though, because it's biased and fictionalized.

    Military history is underrated, and I'm growing interested in it. It is difficult though.

    " In the movie "Full Metal Jacket", for instance, the gunnery sergeant not just hits but chokes one of his soldiers during the status-striving days of the Vietnam War."

    See, that's why I doubt the Abu Ghraib prison narrative. People tend to cruelly hurt and abuse those who are somehow similar to them, like fellow soldiers, not foreign prisoners. Wrongful anger tends to precede lashing out. Spontaneous abuse is peculiar, and I consider it an anomaly. Also, I heard nothing about the Iraq War's terrible Silent and Boomer generals,not only Americans, the Dep't of Defense's overall failure, and generational splits among civilians and activists, with rich Boomers complaining about the wars, while everyone younger seems to have concluded, in a libertine sense, that it's ok to b a soldier, so war is ok, but being poorer than older people is not ok.

    It was an awkward time, and I'm still catching up on it.

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  31. "The privates were no better. Reading a famous solder-turned-professor's memoir, in which he describes Geneva Convention violations rather nonchalantly, besides hearing about lots of war-time rape all over the war zones, I was surprised they are so proud of themselves. I mostly won't miss them. They got into some trouble for causing trouble, disrupting the war effort, which is not really punishment for sin."

    Well what you say is certainly true(what is the memoir BTW?). But at the same time, you read things like Stephen Ambroses' "Band of Brothers", and it shows the military as being very different back then. The tyrannical, corrupt gunner in that book put his troops through hell, but never hit any of them. Furthermore, it was the public's reaction which was also different - reacting with horror at a soldier being slapped, whereas when "Full Metal JAcket was released", reactions had become blase and muted. And of course blatant hazing at Abu Ghraib.

    "Now, they are mostly gone, so we have new movies about how, for example, conscientious objectors were abused in the "greatest" way. I don't want to watch it though, because it's biased and fictionalized."

    Just saw that movie(Heartbreak Ridge), there is that scene where Andrew Garfield's character is beaten by the other troops. Don't know how historically accurate that is or isn't.

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  32. I seem to remember the generational cycle of ambitious/utopian generations introducing a lot of self-absorbed and naïve changes to society (Missionary gen, Boomers), which they come to regret in older age after these changes ultimately come mostly at the expense of the subsequent generations (Lost, Gen X).

    These "Lost generations" are abandonded as the generation above tries to rescue even younger generations. All the while, much of the mopping up is actually being done thanklessly by the Lost generations.

    The ruthless behavior described earlier (dropping A bombs, etc.) ought to be considered in context. Lost generations come of age in alienation, poverty, violence etc. and as they reach older age they probably are attracted to the idea of trying to swiftly purge society of ongoing strife and ambition that endangers future generations.

    Silents and Boomers have made war on utopian grounds ("spreading democracy"). We can probably theorize with some plausibility that when Gen X-ers are finally "allowed" to have more leadership, our operations will gain clarity and utility and mid-century bred utopianism will finally go the hell away.

    A Silent whose name escapes me wrote a book about why our foreign policy has been such a clusterfuck for decades. He admits that his peers our still stuck in mid-century naiveté about ethnic differences and limits to our abilities. Many of peers, in spite of vast evidence to the contrary, really do believe that non-Westerners would be more enthusiastic about modern Western culture if Westerners did more to persuade them.

    Lastly, the sick-of-it-all crankiness of Lost generations makes them more amenable to embracing the "extreme" option of a strongman/warlord approach in their old age.

    Especially seeing as how decades of psychic wear manifest a desire to expel the chaotic traits of the word they grew up in. Gallup says that X-ers are less stressed out about Trump than Boomers. Boomers remain the harshest critics of Trump, no surprise since their gen. type is the most narcissistic and judgmental. The problem with Boomers is that they all earnestly want to make the world perfect, but there's little common ground that they cede to other Boomers. And that's always cause to act like the world is gonna collapse unless we obey exactly what a given Boomer wants.

    I've gotta hunch that even some Gen X liberals have a secret/subconscious desire to watch a tyrant take no shit and get things done, after 50 years of Silent timidity and Boomer bitching.

    Have ya noticed how sleazy erotic thrillers are now as dated as bell bottoms? Mature Gen X-ers can be abrasive and aloof but at least they're not promoting hedonistic and selfish behavior by "adults". Even though Boomers still make up much of the producer/director class, today's scripts about adults in their 20's, 30's, and 40's simply cannot be as sleazy as their 70's/80's/90's counterparts.

    X-ers and early Millennials were battered by the egomaniacal decadence of adult Boomers. They aren't going to make the same mistakes. Gen X filmmakers find that tawdry subject matter hits too close to home; it's depressing, not exciting. Boomers get easily turned on, post-Boomers think of VD and broken families.

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  33. "Gallup says that X-ers are less stressed out about Trump than Boomers. Boomers remain the harshest critics of Trump, no surprise since their gen. type is the most narcissistic and judgmental."

    It does seem that the Xers are more apathetic about Trump. What is the real reason, though?

    It has less to do with Boomer narcissism, more to do with Xers being disillusioned by rising inequality. Boomers, because they came of age during rising equality, have a greater sense of agency and political initiative. They think they can make a difference, because you really could make a difference in the late 5os/early 60s, when citizens had more control of the political process.

    Xers came of age during the period when the political process became hijacked by corporations, so they naturally became more politically apathetic, because they don't believe they can make a difference. Xers are notorious for hating both parties, seeing both as corrupt.

    The one exception is that a small portion of Xers became extremely politically radical - believing that ruthless action is the only way to reform the system. Similar to how it was the Lost Generation who were ready to burn America down during the 1910s.

    Cocooning factors in here also. We know that the antecedent to early Generation X(1955-1975), the Lost Generation(1875-1895), were extremely politically active. They were the generation that fought the union battles and put America back on an egalitarian footing - you brought that up saying that the generations fucked over by status-striving make the decision to make the country egalitarian(good point BTW). So Xer political apathy was no doubt colored by the last 20 years.

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  34. Probably one other reason why Boomers are obsessed with Trump is because they are older and sicker, if things go wrong they could end up shit's creek, either unable to support themselves or worse. This is especially applicable concerning the healthcare debate.

    They also control most of the wealth in the country; if they things change, either because Trump is successful or because he "blows it up", they have more to lose.

    The younger generations take a devil-may-care attitude, they don't have as much money or investment in the system as it is. some, even some liberals, may fantasize about Trump "blowing it up"/apocalyptic "larping".

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  35. “Now, it was all about the lone individual who was so much more world-weary than every other individual, and too cool to need to belong to a group with others,”

    This observation reminds me of why I felt like everybody else were playing catch-up in the 1990’s.

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