By: Hazel Suson – Alvarez
X – the universally accepted symbol for the unknown, the mysterious and the enigmatic. Algebraic equations use “x” to represent an answer that needs to be solved.
In The X Files, Mulder uses the “x” sign on his window when his investigations hit a bizarre, extra-terrestrial obstacle. In The X Men, the mutants wear the “x” icon, not only to honor their teacher (Prof. Xavier), but also to mirror their anonymity and non-belongingness to their own society.
A certain segment of society today is identified with the “x” mark. People whose thoughts, choices and values affect a country’s destiny and the marketing campaigns of large multi-national corporations.
Are you on of us? Are you a Gen Xer – the Whatever Generation?
Contrary to popular beliefs, Gen X people don’t come from Melmac, Tatooine or Dr. Who’s telephone booth. There are many accounts on where they come from and who first used the term.
According to the Wikipedia, Generation X is a term for the generation that followed the post-World War II Baby Boom generation. While the exact dates bounding this age demographic are highly debated, those born in the 1960s and 1970s are generally agreed-upon as members of this group.
The term is used in demographics, the social sciences, marketing, and more broadly, in popular culture. Their influence over pop culture began in the 1980s, and has only grown in the 1990s and 2000s.
Although the origins of the term “Generation X” go back at least as far as the early 1960s, it was popularized by Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. In the book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe called this generation the 13th Generation because the tag, like this generation, is a little Halloweenish, and it is the thirteenth to know the flag of the United States (counting back to the peers of Benjamin Franklin).
In continental Europe, the generation is often known as Generation E, or simply known as the Nineties Generation. In France, the term Génération Bof is used, with bof being a French word for whatever, considered by some French people to be the defining Gen X saying.
But why “whatever”? Generation X people, compared to other earlier generations, are very tolerant of diversity (culture, political views, religious beliefs and moral values). On the other hand, Gen X people are very intolerant of having it forced on them by reverse-discriminatory quotas or politically-correct speech.
The media introduced Generation X as a group of alienated overeducated, underachieving slackers with body piercing / tattoos, who drank franchise-store coffee and loved grunge music. These concepts had some truth to them but were in many cases stereotypes.
Generation X culture is basically a radioactive mutation of values. Despite their generational attitude against communalism, Generation Xers take some group pride in their generation.
In math, “X” stands for ‘substitute anything’, and Gen Xers take some cooperative self-importance in their own tolerance, diversity and inability to be labeled. Previous generations may have overly claimed to be ‘liberal’ like being for civil or feminist rights. The Boomer generation became viewed as secular — pro-choice, against the Christian Coalition, perhaps even anti-family — to the extent that the ‘liberals’ wanted to legally impose acceptance of many moral lifestyles choice on others.
Meanwhile, Gen Xers quietly practiced their tolerance as shown by the increase in inter-racial marriages and adoptions, experimenting with alternative lifestyles such as living together before marriage, while not yet showing a desire to impose their personal individual choices on society via legalisms.
But unlike their parents (and surprisingly more like their grandparents) Gen Xers place a premium in maintaining the nuclear family by putting values like relationship and values before their work or career. Some Gen Xers delay marriage in order to be more careful in choosing a mate for a lifetime. If the marriage does end in divorce, both parents stay involved with the children via joint custody.
Gen X’s attitude towards technology can be summarized by noticing that most were either born after the 1969 moon landing, or were very young at that time.
Therefore, to Gen Xers, “anything is possible”, as long as you’re willing to throw enough money at it. In fact, Gen X people will be the last generation to see their technological preferences evolve from analog magnetic reels, cassette tapes, vinyl records, to digital audio CDs, MP3s and Windows Audio formats for iPods.
They saw the birth and growth of the Internet, and rode on the first wave of third generation communication devices. Thus, Gen X people are in a very significant technological crossroad which continues to influence their thinking, attitudes and values.
Gen X Values
In the book Generations at Work, Claire Raines describes four specific generations in the workforce today: Veterans (born between 1922 and 1943), Boomers (born between 1943 and 1960), Generation X (born between 1960 and 1980) and Nexters (born in 1980 or after).
This overlap of generational needs and styles can wreak havoc for those managers just trying to meet objectives. “The organization does not define success anymore,” Raines said. Today, the individualistic Gen X does that. For Gen Xers, even terms like ‘status’ and ‘loyal’ look different. ‘Getting ahead,’ which is the old model brought to mind some poor employee working into the wee hours at his or her desk, gradually amassing power and money over the years, is characterized by Raines as “laughable” for Gen X workers.
There is no doubt that Gen Xers want to go ahead financially, but they’ll do it their own way without sacrificing their personal lives or family. For a Gen Xer, there’s a big difference between a career and a job. Intent on looking for career security rather than job security, Generation Xers believe it is critical to build a repertoire of skills and experiences they can take with them if they need to.
That’s why Gen X employees have a high turn-over rate than their Baby Boomer parents. For a Baby Boomer, once you are employed, you expect to retire from that same company. For Gen Xers, their job today — this very minute — is just one of the many stepping stones to enhance their career.
Nancy Lyons, the president of Bitstream Underground (a Gen X internet service) believes that financial rewards always will motivate Gen X workers but it just isn’t always top of their mind today. Her company tends to pay mid-range for all the people it hires. But any definition of success quickly gets put in the context of “having a life”. For Gen Xers, success doesn’t come at the expense of one’s life outside work.
Resistance is Futile
Although many Generation Xers are already in the work force and in many other sectors of society (government, education, the media, etc.), their influence has barely begun.
Within the next 10 to 20 years, when the Baby Boomers have already retired or have died out, the full impact of the Gen X dogma will be felt as they assume higher leadership positions in government and the private sectors.
The invasion has begun. Prepare to be assimilated.
The Brave New World begins as the Children of the Atom shout out the Gen X battle cry, “Duh, whatever!”