ROWAN C MILLAR
THE GENERATION GAP
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
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
Rowan C. Millar is a Generation Y'er.
He lives in Silicon Valley.
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