No one could possibly be THE voice of Gen X, but Cobain was certainly A voice of my generation.
In their seminal 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?, published in 1993, Neil Howe and William Strauss argued that the only thing Generation Xers really agreed on was that there was no such thing as Generation X. Given the inherent irony and collective self-denial bound up in any examination of the cohort born from 1961 to 1980, then, maybe Kurt Cobain was the Voice of His Generation.
Yeah, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but not as much as you might think. Gen X is a subject I have studied deeply through the years, and if trying to characterize any demographic that’s 50 million people wide is a tricky enterprise, it’s doubly so with m-m-my generation because we’re so goddamned contrary. Read more
If you’ve been off-planet for the last few months you may have missed the news: Jon & Kate have split, and in the process migrated from the relative banality of the TV listings over to the hyper-banality of the tabloids. I’m still not sure what the future holds for the popular “reality” show, but whatever it is, Gosselin family 2.0 equals Jon minus Kate.
It occurs to me that these events represent something significant in our culture. Since about 1980 or so we’ve been in one of our periodic “childrens is the most preciousest things in the whole wide world” phases. (For more on the generational cycles that produce this dynamic, see Generations, 13th Gen and Millennials Rising by William Howe and Neil Strauss, two men whose work I have referenced a number of times in the past.) In the previous generation (Gen X), children were an afterthought for most parents, who had been socialized in far more self-centric times. Read more
In the past I’ve written about a variety of generational issues, and have often focused on the Millennials. At times I’ve been construed as dogging them pretty hard. As I’ve tried to explain, my criticisms of them (for being entitled, for lacking critical thinking skills, etc.) haven’t really been criticisms of them, per se – a cohort that’s 75-100 million strong doesn’t get to be a certain way all by itself. The blame, if we want to use that word, falls on those responsible for educating and developing the generation.
Further, some have erroneously interpreted my critiques as somehow suggesting that my generation – X – was without flaw. Which, of course, is ridiculous. Every generation has its relative strengths and weaknesses, and X has been a trainwreck in some respects.
All of which leads me to the other morning, when fellow scrogue Brian Angliss forwarded along the link to a Washington Post column from Neil Howe, the man who co-authored, along with William Strauss, the finest series of works on America’s generations I’ve ever encountered. Read more