From the mid-60s to the early-80s, Western culture experienced a period known as the ‘Consciousness Revolution’. It started with Vietnam protesting, and the development of counterculture for counterculture’s sake. Green, feminist, black power, and a number of other movements came out of this period. There was a generation gap, with the Greatest Generation on one side, and the Baby Boomers on the other.
This is the environment in which the Baby Busters and the Generation X crowd were born and raised.
Gen Xers (as I’m sure you all remember), grew up at the end of the Cold War, and watched multinational corporations come to power at the same time as the Soviet Union collapsed, developing cynicism and disdain for the works of the generations past. We can call this cynicism The Nirvana Effect.
In any case, Gen Xers tended to band together, and build their own works and communities, rather than rely on the ones they inherited. Whether it was a revival of political action, development of record labels, or the entrepreneurships which led to the dot-com boom, they banded together, and built things.
…and then, of course, came the hilariously and iteratively named Generation Y. Gen Y grew up with computers in their schools, didn’t watch the Challenger explode, and only saw the Berlin Wall fall in history class. IT has always been a part of the world around them, and like Gen X, they banded together, and built things. While these things may consist of elements as distasteful as pop punk, emo and That’s So Raven, they still built things.
There was a gap of several years between Gen X and Gen Y. Not a big one, just a few years. The people born in this gap are creatively called Generation XY, or The No Generation (although I prefer The Doom Generation).
They grew up in a very narrow transition period. Young enough to enjoy The Simpsons as a cartoon when it first aired, and old enough to enjoy it as comedy genius when the Cape Feare episode aired. Old enough to remember when Nintendo led the world out of the darkness after The Great Video Game Crash.
They watched the Berlin Wall fall, and were the last people to be born with any memory of life during the Cold War. They grew up with Carmen Sandiego and TMNT, and watched technology move from the realm of research and sci-fi into BBS networks, and the creation of the World Wide Web.
There aren’t really many of them, comparatively speaking. They’re not large enough of a demographic to be marketed to by advertisers, or addressed by politicians. The ‘great albums’ of the late 80s and early 90s had already been written and released, and the great TV shows were absent, or incomprehensible. Too late to have seen Battlestar Galactica, and too young to know what the fuck was going on in Twin Peaks. They had Saved By The Bell instead, which, while featuring a cast of characters and a puntastic premise (Principal Belding. Saved By The Bell. Bells go ‘ding’. Get it?), still sucked hairy goat balls.
This generation is markedly characterized by a complete lack of association or identity with the popular or political movements that were present as they grew up, or that developed afterwards. They did not band together, they did not build things. They just watched the world as everything happened around them.
While usually I can fake being part of the older Gen X world with my overwhelmingly Gen X friends, or pretend like I understand what the fuck those little Gen Y jerks are on about, I can’t do it today.
Today, I feel exactly like the out of place person-without-a-culture that I am.