Olivia Langlois ’21
So recognizing that I had no idea when the deadline was for this particular Rubble article was, I decided to begin writing it while having little to no idea what I would write about but a fair amount of gumption. My typical work style includes listening to music too loudly while working, and this was no different. In the background was Conan Gray’s “Generation Why,” it’s a gamble as to whether or not anyone who reads this will know what this song is about since it only has around 2.6 million views on YouTube. Not shabby, but no smash hit. This song basically describes Generation Y and their sense of displacement in this seemly wild world.
This song sparked my interest in the crazy world of Generational naming. Now, it is worth noting that there are about three generational names that are actually corroborated through all the different sources, and the generational names I will be speaking of are all American generations. In typical American generational naming, I, personally, find the names of Neil Howe and William Strauss the most interesting.
One of the most notable generations in American history is the Greatest Generation or GI (for government issue). These are the people that were born the span of 1900 to 1924 and would’ve been old enough to fight in World War II. They rose to the challenges of the World Wars as well as surviving the Great Depression. They are glorified heroes who overcame their struggles to cement the future of America.
Then we enter into what appears to be a downward spiral of generational “goodness.” Next comes the Silent Generation. These are the kids in the shadow of the generation that “saved” humanity. They grew up during all of the struggles that the Greatest Generation faced; these struggles left them quite scarred. These young adults grew up in a time where it was dangerous to speak out: The McCarthy Era. They focused on their own careers rather than activism. There are, in fact, benefits to that mentality: assured safety and hard-earned wealth. This generation was the wealthiest generation to date.
Next is the “Baby Boomer” generation. It was the moment when everyone came back from the war… they all had kids. Hence, a boom of babies. They flooded the workforce and grew up in an age with a growing consumer culture. They bought more, spent more, and made more than any other generation.
Now, they happened to lead such self-important lives that the Thirteeners (Generation X) that follows them is the first generation to have a lesser quality of life than the generation preceding it. The children in this generation had less parental support than generations before it; this is because women started to enter the workforce, so not a bad thing.
Here comes Conan Gray’s song: Generation Y, the Millenials. These children grew up during a conflict between liberalism and traditionalism. They occupy the time when technology became a real thing; interpersonal communication is a characteristic of their generation. They are also another great generation, fighting stereotypes and the social systems that limit groups of people, in hopes to bring more equal society.
And lastly, it is my own generation. I have no idea whether-or-not the seniors consider themselves apart of the Millennial generation, but I know that most sources believe that my own class of 2021 is on the older edge of this growing generation. Now, what is our generational name you may ask? They are apparently still deciding. But the ones I find most interesting are the Homeland generation and the New Silent Generation. The Homeland name came about because of 9/11. The majority of the generation was not even born when 9/11 occurred, so for nearly our entire lives, the United States has been at war with terrorism. This makes generational theorist believe that our generation is more comfortable staying at home, rather than entering the world. We are also called the New Silent Generation partially because of our growing up during another economic downfall. We grew up and remember the stress of the 2008-2009 recession. They believe that we are more likely to be focused on creating a stable job than being active community members. We are not supposed to be a “great generation.” We are supposed to fade into the background of achievements of the generation before us, as the Silent Generation did to the Greatest Generation.
Yet, the Silent Generation was not as silent as they make it seem. This is the generation that can claim ownership to one to the greatest figures in social rights: Martin Luther King Jr. They did not fade into the background, but rather, were responsible for those who were leaders in an important movement. The remarkable achievements of the Greatest Generation should not discount those made by its predecessor; they were equally important and influential in shaping the world.
In my opinion, Conan Gray’s song describes the wrong generation. The Millenials have a name that provides structure and an important place in the world we occupy. The generation that truly is questioning is our own. We are generation unsure of how to follow in the footsteps of a generation destined to be exceptional, already labeled as followers before we reach adulthood. Yet, we should not follow simply because that is what is expected. We can change the stereotypes of the generational naming system because we do not have to stay silent.