Green the new American Dream?

This post from Matt over at TheWyze is interesting:

‘Green’ is to Gen Y what ‘Peace’ was to Gen X

He does seem to confuse the attitude of [Boom] with [X], since Boomers were the ones protesting for peace for so many years. Gen X didn’t protest for (or against) anything.

But there is another aspect to the green attitude of [Mill] which is their tendency towards group think. Millennials are excellent at teamwork and collectivism, but they are also subject to over-simplifying problems. In this way they are very similar to the [GI] who overcame the Axis in WWII. That generation also had a severe case of group think which became more obvious after the war when they put together the shallow “American Dream” which their Boomer kids later rebelled against.

I believe “green” will be held by the Millennials (aka Gen Y) in the same way as the American Dream was held by the GI’s: as a shallow ideal that their kids will eventually rebel against. For example, I can see that 30 years from now everyone will have a “carbon counter” on their phone, house, whatever, and they will measure their status by the number on that device. But, as their kids will probably point out, they won’t be any more connected to mother nature. And so the cycle continues.

This recent article about a Volvo experiment with “CO2 pedometers” is a forerunner to this concept. I picture CO2 emission counters being used in daily life, either on a cell phone or attached to your house/car/children. Your CO2 count will be a measure of your social conscience just like a well-manicured lawn was back in the 1950’s. But, just like those 50’s ideals, it will be a thin veneer that will eventually be challenged by the next Prophet generation (the kids of the Millennials). I can hear them saying, “Okay, Mom, your carbon count is tiny but where is your connection to Mother Earth? When is the last time you actually rolled in the dirt?”). The more things change…

Generation X: Bad Parents?

The over-scheduling, over-achieving and stressed-out parenting style that has been the hallmark of the Boomer (born 1943-1960) generation may finally be coming to a close now that Generation X (born 1961-1981) is fully taking over as parent of young children. There is a backlash developing in the form of the “Bad Parent” who isn’t willing to sacrifice everything to be the perfect Mom or Dad. And, like everything suggested by Generation X it was initially reviled but now starting to gain acceptance. This short (2.5 minute) video on CNN give a quick picture of the shift:

While they seem to understand that the parenting style so dominant when the Millennials (born 1982-200?) is coming to a close, there is little awareness of what comes next. The Boomers dove into parenting like everything else they did, with idealism and righteousness. By the time that Gen X’er started to have kids they got overwhelmed with the expectations (that were unrealistic, especially for Moms) and are finally starting to rebel.

All of this makes sense in generational terms, but the thing that is being missed is the parenting style that will dominate for the next 20 years. According to Strauss and Howe’s generational theory, the next “cohort” or generation began a few years ago, perhaps in 2003, perhaps in 2005 (that will become clearer in time). The next generation (that they have named “Homelander” for now) will be raised very differently than the previous generation (the Millennials). The Homelanders will be raised during a massive crisis, much like the Great Depression and WWII that was faced 80+ years ago. This period of crisis is known as the “Fourth Turning” (the title of one of Strauss and Howe’s best, but  most difficult, books). We are at the start of the Crisis/Fourth Turning right now (they call it the Millennial Crisis) and it will likely last until 2025.

So how will Gen X’ers (and eventually Millennials) parent during this Fourth Turning? Probably in the same way that the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) and GI Generation (born 1901-1924) did in the 1930’s: by protecting the children from the chaos in the world. This protection will go completely overboard in the upcoming years and the kids will end up in ridiculously cloistered environments (“They stroll in sidewalk versions of sport utility vehicles, learn to swim in U.V. protective full-body suits.” from a recent NYTimes article) and will probably turn out much like their grandparents, from the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942). As usual, most institutions (schools in particular) won’t be prepared for this shift and will assume what worked for the previous batch of kids (Millennials) will work with this bunch as well. The result will be a very challenging time for schools (and eventually companies) as these stifled, conformist and compliant kids move up through the years.

Of course, as I have mentioned before, their parents (Gen X’ers) will be entirely different (and more difficult) matter…

Made for the Millennial Generation: Barney and High School Musical

This post is potentially more embarrassing than my commentary on the American Girl Dolls. Last week we watched the first “High School Musical” and I was struck by how similar the themes in the film were to the old Barney and Friends shows. Then I realized that they are made for the same generation: the Millennials, born 1982-200?.

Check out these lyrics from Barney:

You’re remarkable – you really are
You’re the only one like you
There isn’t another in the whole wide world
Who can do the things you do
Because you are special- special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way
Yes you re special -special
Everyone is special
Everyone in his or her own way!

And from “We’re All in this together” lyrics from High School Musical:

Everyone is special in their own way
We make each other strong (each other strong)
Were not the same
Were different in a good way
Together’s where we belong

The message from both is consistently about specialness and teamwork, both characteristics often ascribed to Millennials. This is definitely what the Boomer Generation (born 1943-1960) wants their kids (the Millennials) to be about, and these shows are like a pop culture love letter between generations. Of course, most of us Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) almost puked when we saw Barney for the first time (even if our kids loved it). And, believe me, High School Musical is no different in that regard. If you were born from 1961-1981, I dare you to make it through this entire clip without rolling your eyes:


(in case you’re counting: that video has 38 Million views on Youtube)

Or how about this one:

Millennial Generation Teamwork in Video Games

A viral video of a gaming session that went around a while ago that is interesting to watch from a generational perspective. It is a recording of a “World of Warcraft” session showing the group strategizing before a battle that ends up a disaster. The thing I find interesting is the amount of discussion going on before they go to battle. I don’t play video games anymore, and when I did we never had this level of teamwork. Is this the Millennial (born 1982-200?) training ground?

I realize that most gamers today are in the mid-30’s and older (Generation X, born 1961-1981), but I bet that the younger gamers are A LOT more teamwork focused.

PS. If you have never browsed www.collegehumor.com, you should. It is the funniest Millennial research you can do…

Generation X as Parents: Wildly Overprotective

Photo Credit:  Pak Gwei
Generation X’er are definitely over-protective when it comes to their kids. But do they give a damn about anyone else’s kids?

This interesting article in MSN by Susan Gregory Thomas describes parent’s attitudes today. The article makes some great points about the nature of Generation X’ers of parents, but I think it misses the marks in regards to their children.

A couple particularly good quotes:

“Generation X parents seem to have mistaken emotional ‘enmeshment’ for ‘attachment parenting,’”

and

“Our parents, the Boomers, didn’t pay so much attention to us — they were getting divorced and working and respecting independence, so they left us a lot of times to Scooby Doo,” says Calhoun. “But we’re going a bit far in the other direction and paying so much attention that we’re picking up on every blip in our kids’ whims.”

(note that many parents of Gen X’ers were actually of the Silent generation born 1925-1942)

But this one totally misses the point:

As for today’s little kids? “No one will want to hire them,” says Brody. That’s not an encouraging thought, especially in these economic times.

The kids described in the article are the generation AFTER the Millennials (born 1981-200?), tentatively known as “Homelanders” (born after 2003 or so). They are likely to follow in the footsteps of the Silent Generation by becoming conformist young adults. How is this possible? Consider that most Gen X parents are not particularly permissive with their children. They often enforce strict rules and boundaries for thier kids inside and outside the home. But Gen X parents don’t really care what society thinks about their parenting or whether their kids obey society’s rules.  So the kids get two messages: my parents will protect me from the outside world as long as I follow their rules (and they will be there to enforce them).

The message that Gen X’ers give their kids is, “Follow MY rules and there will be a good outcome”. Once translated into an adult mentality (in the Homelanders) that sounds a lot like a recipe for conformity (“Follow the BOSS’s rules and there will be a good outcome”). I think that some of the psych’s interviewed are confusing the permissiveness of the Silents and Boomers with the “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks” of the X’ers. Just because we don’t care whether Johnny takes away your kid’s toy, doesn’t mean we are permissive: it means we don’t give a damn about YOUR kid.

Directions for Generation X

In Strauss and Howe’s book “The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“.  At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. I already posted the script for the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?) a few days ago. The script for Generation X (born 1961-1981)  is shown below (emphasis and links mine). “Nomad” refers to the archetype of Generation X.

Survival skills are what a society needs most in a Fourth Turning, and those are precisely what the most criticized archetype—the Nomad—possesses in abundance. Through the natural corrective force of the saeculum, the Nomad was raised to excel in exactly those skills that history will require from him in midlife at a time of real public danger. His challenge will be to stop dispersing these skills for scattered purposes and start gathering them for one larger purpose. Through the Unraveling, the Nomad has been able to withdraw from civic life, but come the Crisis he cannot. It will be his duty to ensure that whatever choices society makes will work as intended. In public life, the Nomad must cut through the paralytic residue once built by his shadow, the old Artist. In private life, he must rebuild the family and community rituals once discarded by the old Artist. As he does this, the Nomad will nurture the new child Artist.
The Fourth Turning will find other generations with lives either mostly in the past or mostly in the future, but it will catch X’ers in “prime time,” right at the midpoint of their adult years. They must step forward as the saeculum’s repair generation, the one stuck with fixing the messes and cleaning up the debris left by others. Every tool X’ers acquired during a hardened childhood and individualist youth will be put to maximum test. If X’ers apply these tools for community purpose, they will become antidotes to pathologies remembered from their own Awakening-era childhood— from divorce and latchkeys to public debt and cultural decay.
The X’ers gravest Fourth Tuning duty will be their society’s most important pre-seasonal task: to ensure that there can indeed be a new High, a new golden age of hope and prosperity. For the Crisis to end well, X’ers must keep Boomers from wreaking needless destruction and Millennials from marching too mindlessly under their elders’ banner. They will not find it easy to restrain an older generation that will consider itself far wiser than they, and a younger one that will consider itself more deserving. For this, X’ers will require a keen eye, a deft touch, and a rejection of the wild risk taking associated with their youth.
From now through the end of the Fourth Turning, X’ers will constantly rise in power. From 1998 until around the Crisis climax, they will be America’s largest potential generational voting block. As the years pass, their civic contributions will become increasingly essential to their nation’s survival. They will have to vote more and participate more, if they want to contain the Boomers’ zealotry. They will have that chance. Their own elected officials will surge into Congress as the Crisis catalyzes, eclipse Boomers around its climax, and totally dominate them by the time it resolves.
As they go one-on-one with history, X’ers should remember that history is counting on them to do whatever hard jobs may be necessary. If X’ers play their script weakly, old Boomers could wreak a horrible apocalypse, and X’ers demagogues could impose a mind-numbing authoritarianism—or both. If X’ers play their script cleverly but safely, however, a new golden age will be their hard-won reward. As they age, X’ers should remember Hemingway’s words: “Old men do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

This was written in 1997 and I am personally amazed at how true it holds today. Us X’ers have a tough and thankless job ahead of us (just like our tough and thankless childhood/young adulthood). But perhaps knowing how critical our role is in this transition will bolster our morale.

Directions for the Millennial Generation

In Strauss and Howe’s book “The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“.  At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation (actually the generation archetypes) in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. The script for the Millennial generation (Hero archetype) is shown below:

For the child Hero, the Fourth Turning looms as a great coming-of-age trial. Whether the Crisis will be won or lost will depend in large measure on the Hero’s teamwork, competence, and courage. By forever sealing his reputation for valor and glory, the Fourth Turning can energize the Hero for a lifetime of grand civic achievements.
Today’s Millennial children should bask in adult hope, remain upbeat themselves, and reject the Unraveling-era cynicism that surrounds them. They should keep their innocence and avoid growing up too quickly. They should do small good deeds while dreaming of the day they will do greater ones. By applying peer pressure to positive purposes, they will be able to reconstruct a positive reputation for American adolescence. When older generations preach traditional values that they themselves failed to learn as children (and which are not yet common to the adult world), Millennials would do well to ignore the hypocrisy—and heed the lessons. The sooner today’s children succeed in displaying these virtues, the more likely older people will be to treat them generously (by paying school taxes and relinquishing elder reward), thereby helping them prepare for their coming trial.
At the onset of the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover demanded “a fair chance” for American youth: “If we could have but one generation of properly born, trained, educated, and healthy children:” he predicted, “a thousand other problems of government would vanish.” Events—and young G.I.s – proved him right. The Millennials’ time is near. If they play their script well, perhaps the day will come when they sing in unison, as young patriots did in 1776, “The rising world shall sing of us a thousand years to come / And tell our children’s children the wonders we have done.”

Will the Millennial Generation be up to this task? Only time will tell.

Generational Group Think

Is Millennial “Group Think” an example of how they are the Dumbest Generation?

Millennial blogger Rebecca Thorman at Modite recently put up an interesting post about Millennials and Community. There is one aspect I find particularly interesting:

Our friends “move in the same circles we do and are exposed to the same information. To get new information we have to activate our weak ties,” Albert-Laszlo Barabasi explains in his book Linked (via Valeria Maltoni).

This is a key aspect of how Millennials approach community. They may have strong ties to their classmates in both high school and college, and may join civic organizations to band together. But when it comes to online interactions there is a strong sentiment of “group-think” because the technology makes it so easy to filter out ideas to just the ones that match your bias.

This is a surprisingly powerful force, as Barabasi pointed out in his book (I read it a few years back). I think there are many Boomers (born 1943-1960) and Gen X’ers (born 1961-1981) feel that this dynamic will lead to the Millennials (born 1982-200?) will be the “Dumbest Generation“.  I don’t agree, but I do feel that the Millennial generation will be much more unified in their thinking. As an independent Gen X’er, I chafe at the idea of succumbing to group-think, but that does not mean that it is inherently dumb. Gen X’ers and Boomers are known for independent thought, and (particularly for Booomers) deep, introspective thought. This can be a wonderful characteristic, but can also lead to navel gazing. Millennials are more likely to piece together their ideas from multiple sources (the post on Modite contains 25 links!) that mostly agree with their ideas. Is it a more shallow approach than Gen X and Boomers take? Yes. Is it dumber? No.

The generation that the Millennials are most similar to (in recent history) it is the GI Generation (born 1901-1924). They, like the Millennials were subject to group think. Consider the society that they built in the 1950’s: a single American Dream that everyone was expected to buy into. There were few dissenters in the 1950’s when the GI’s were in power, but once their kids (Baby Boomers) came of age and the Silents (born 1925-1942) were there to lead them, there was a massive rebellion (the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960’s).

The way that Millennials work together, both online and offline, is a critical component in the society that they will help build (or rebuild, depending on how you look at it). The Millennials, as a generation, will NOT be deep thinkers. But I think it is valid to argue that we have had enough deep thought over the last 20-30 years. The challenges that face our society today will require resolute action, not more long-winded debate. And Millennials, like the GI’s before them, are nothing if not Do’ers. As an independent-minded Gen X’er I know that I will probably find much of the society that Millennials create in 20-30 years to be dangerously shallow, but by then I will just be another crotchety old man from a different age 🙂

A New Civic Generation

USA Today had an article last week on how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?) is stepping up volunteering. There are a couple quotes by “Millennial Makeover” authors, Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais (I am reading their book right now).

“Other generations were reared to be more individualistic,” Hais says. “This civic generation has a willingness to put aside some of their own personal advancement to improve society.”

If you are a Gen-X’er (born 1961-1981), take a look at this gallery that is included in the article. These kids are not acting much like we did in our youth. If you are like me, you probably can’t help think, “Damned goody two shoes! I’m not buying the act!”. Our Gen X cynicism sure dies hard.