Generational categories are stupid. Stop it.

They’re more than stupid: they don’t really exist, except for one. Here’s a 2014 excerpt from The Atlantic:*

Screenshot 2019-11-11 at 1.29.54 PM

So no, you are not a Gen-X’er, or Millennial, or Gen Z, or whatever other kind of bullshit,  stereotyped category the media and pop culture want to slot you into.

[FWIW, I also believe the Boomer category is way too broad and that sociologists are wrong. How silly is it when the oldest members (1946, 47) could easily have been the parents of the youngest (1963-64)?]

Anyway, please understand this:

  • Labeling and “othering” demographic blocks based on age is ageism. Ageism is no more acceptable than any other -ism.

  • Insisting on labeling someone based on their year of birth promotes inaccurate stereotypes and denies that person their freedom of self-definition. 

This works both ways. It’s ageist to suggest that “‘ millennials’ are xxxxx” because you are saying that people of widely varying races & ethnicities, religions, income levels, and regions somehow are having the same experiences and responses to life. It’s ageist to suggest that everyone born between 1946 and 1964 is responsible for environmental degradation and the wrecking of the economy.

What is factual is the laissez-faire economic movement of the 1970s and 1980s by both Republicans and centrist Democrats. Some of these politicians were older “Boomers,” but many were born in the 1930s. I am not a political expert by any means, but my own experience of the past 40+ years is that politicians became very good at focusing on social issues, divisiveness, and economic buzzwords while gradually draining our culture of hope, justice, and general prosperity. The “gradual” part is important, because it was very much like the frog-in-hot-water metaphor, where the heat is gradually increased and the frog gets acclimated until it’s too late, the frog is boiling.

I mean, we didn’t go overnight from prosperity, robust jobs with good wages, etc. to hollowed-out small towns where the best job is second shift at the Dollar General. (No disrespect to folks and friends working at Dollar General.) Media, entertainment, artificial economic bubbles, and a hell of a lot of  propaganda  kept us distracted while the water got hotter and hotter.

I guess a lot of “Boomers” did get wealthy, somewhere, but I personally know more many older folks who are having to work in their 70s and 80s to eat and pay for medicine, who struggle with medical care and medicine, and who will never be able to retire.

They struggle just like younger people who are trying to work and raise families on incredibly inadequate wages in an economic environment where everything costs more and is harder to obtain than it was 20 or 40 years ago, and where they face an older population who, responding to decades of propaganda, buy into the bullshit of the meritocracy. It amuses me to see older folks dissing younger folks: fuckers, these are the kids you raised! You don’t like how they turned out? Well, that’s on you.

My summary points:

  • Technically, there is no valid generational category known as Gen-X, Millennial, or Gen-Z.

  • The Baby Boomer category was created by sociologists long ago to talk about specific post-WWII characteristics, not to label tens of millions of people for the rest of their lives.
  • Other categories were created by pop culture and are so vague and imprecise as to be useless.
  • All such categories are being weaponized by predatory capitalist corporate media to attract attention and extract emotion with the aim of maximizing ad revenue and enriching the elites who own them.

I repeat:

  • All such categories are being weaponized by predatory capitalist corporate media to attract attention and extract emotion with the aim of maximizing ad revenue and enriching the elites who own them.
  • Keeping the population divided by old vs. young, black vs. white, urban vs. rural, coastal vs. heartland, etc., is a strategy the elite uses to keep us from discovering common cause and rising up against them to seize power for ourselves.

Reframe your speech. Don’t use these categories in your social media postings or conversations. Keep it vague and general; say “older folks” and “younger folks,” which does recognize where people are in their life journeys and allows discussion of different life experiences, but doesn’t slot people into these egregious pseudo-cohorts.

*The Atlantic article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.



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