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WebSideStory Pick of the Week! 3/16/98

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    I feel that we are all the victims of a generation gap, or rather a generation gap mentality. Maybe just a general gap between everyone. I can't say for sure how new of a thing this is, because I've not been around very long. I think that Baby Boomers are the big generation, the main generat- ion to have real solidarity and be seen as a whole, and all of us that have come after have been to some degree in the shadow of Baby Boomers. I find that we are curious about Boomers but we often try to hide that curiosity, along with our admiration, and we try and be something "different but the same."

    Many of us have the sense that the 60's and 70's were good times and were a cultural peak, but we're not sure how to relate that to ourselves. I'm not sure how much of our lack of respect to Boomers is spontaneous, or how much it stems from Boomers' own ideas of how older generations should be treated. Maybe using the term "us" is not quite appropriate, because I'm unusual in the way that I have a lot of respect for Boomers and am notashamed to admit it or to try to delve into bits of Boomer culture that I find. And I don't always blame my fellow Gen Yers and Xers for not doing the same, so much as I wish they weren't cut off, as they are, from the fascinating culture of Boomers.

    I think much of the problem is a lack of communication between parents and their children, the kind of deafening silence we read about in autobiographies that I'm sure pervades American culture. My parents have been rather generous with their telling of interesting facts and stories, and they are both Boomers, both 53. It's hard for me to fathom a life without that, not that it would be necessarily unbearable, nor has my life been easy for me. There is the famous Woodstock in '69 which everyone knows about and many have even seen the video of and there is a general respect for it among us and a belief that it was a good time, but what of the culture that spawned it? As my uncle (another Boomer) tells me, the idea that Woodstock is the essence of the 60's is a misrepresentation, as it was actually more like an end to the serious solidarity of the yearspreceding it. He says that Woodstock represented the beginning of the party mode of the 70's which didn't involve as much idealism. I'm sure that's not entirely true, because in the 70's and even the 80's and 90's there have been great evolutions of idealism, but I see his point. His point is that people focus on this big drugladen music festival like that's all there was to the 60's, like there weren't changes in mass consciousness,like it wasn't a diverse time with lots of interesting things that had nothing to do with Woodstock.

    What about all the tiny Woodstock-like things that happened? The love-ins and sit-ins and communes and rallies and books and discussions and ideas? What about the cultural renaissance that swept the world where in people were no longer confined to such narrow lifestyles, wherein people were allowed to fuse to- gether what they liked from multiple cultures? What about the war and all of the social changes that happened among those both in favor of it and against it? Not to say that hasn't been recorded at all, and maybe it's been recorded much better than similar things have in the past, but I still long for more.

    In terms of the "counterculture" or "subculture,"people often don't tell their children or often even their peers about their past experiences out of fear. It's kind of like mass denial. How else can a society learn from its mistakes and gain from its achievements, though? People are generally encouraged to talk to their kids as much as possible and to read them stories, but I don't find much encouragement of storytelling itself. There are obviously vast differences between the way different people view the past, but is silence the best solution?

    I think that more cross-generational dialogue would make our culture much richer. This is an amazing time, but the past is amazing also and it's full of things that would seem almost pointless were they not to be told to anyone. All of the adventures, all of the experimentation and enlightenment, so much has been done that seems to have been done for the purpose of posterity, with a story in mind. So much that has been done as though there were multitudes watching, people living their lives as if in a book or a movie. And yet young people these days generally are clueless about the past. I'd like to talk more about "Boomers' own ideas of how older generations should be treated. " Baby Boomers are famous for being at odds with the generation of their parents, giving rise to the "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" trip, and a general celebration of youth. This idea about parental relations could have, even sub- sonsciously, molded the minds of Boomers' own children who Boomersmight've had trouble imagining being any different from themselves. Obviously, even if this is true, there are vast exceptions, and I think parental relations have made many leaps forward on many levels. Still, I think there was a side to the Boomers' war against The System/The Man/their parents that involved a lot of tearing down and not as much building up.

    As I write this I'm reminded of the incredible effort I've seen Boomers (including my parents) put into child rearing, I want to give credit where it's suandrely due, but I still think it all deserves looking into. What it kind of boils down to is my belief that generations needn't suffer such casualties warring between each other. Right now there are vast possibilities and vast pitfalls and I envision more of a joined effort, I pray for one, I pray for us to set aside differences long enough to work on our overwhelming amount of common needs. Maybe the Internet will help this kind of thing take place. Truthfully, I'm not real into computers and I hope that we aren't reliant on them for this kind of thing, and that we can just do it, as it were. I actually am vaguely planning to start up some kind of discussion/true storytelling program or something, probably involving Boomers International. In a way I feel it's my duty, as one whose parents haven't withheld much information, to try to share with others the blessing. There've been times I've wanted to have nothing to do with my parents, when I even wanted to erase any hint of them from my- self, but it's not realistic or historically well advised to have to start from scratch. Many my age would initially reject an offer of stories of their elders' past, and I'm not sug- gesting it be forced on them.

    I think the entertainment industry is possibly partly to blame for gaps between generations. They market different things to different generations,and often capitalize on the feelings of elite grandeur and such of various age groups and social castings. It's proven that we as a society can be very unified, and our hospitals and police and whatnot amaze me constantly with their efficiency. I see no reason why we shouldn't take things further instead of wallowing in the mire of hopelessness.

    I've decided to use this last paragraph to talk about little backpacks. They may have nothing to do with generations or gaps or anything along those lines, but I feel they demand scrutiny, and this seems as good a place as any to do it. When I say little backpacks, I mean those little tiny ones, usually black and I suppose leather, that so many girls and women have started wearing enmasse these last few years. Please let me say:I hate them. My hatred stems partly from a deep love for regular backpacks, even the huge ones used for longterm hiking/camping, great vesicles for anything a heart desires to carry. Then along come the little backpacks. As if to say "Women have no business carrying anything bigger than a makeup kit" or some such. There were already fanny packs and purses...I'll end my complaining there.

    Rowan C. Millar is a Generation Y'er.
    He lives in Silicon Valley.

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