Since the early 1990s, critics have claimed that GenXers are a spoiled generation, whose members complain and complain and complain (see: here (1993), here (1994), here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Here is an example of a Boomer perspective of Gen X's whining:
Those criticisms find something seriously wrong in Gen Xers' Möbius strip of complaints, that litany of self-justifications, that mountain of blame foisted on Boomers, the whining about Gen Y. And in this Boomer writer's final arch dismissal, there is the proclamation that Gen X has refused to engage, has refused to lay it all on the line and risk defeat in exchange for trying to solve the problems of the world.They keep getting hired, these peculiar young folk, these grown men who warm up Lean Cuisines for lunches, these women who accessorize their workspaces with pillows and beads and inflatable orb-chairs. What’s more, they keep monkeying with office culture, making me change my habits; they want me to plot my vacations on CommonOffice, schedule meetings on an iCalendar, wrap up the workday in time for them to hit the gym. There’s a weird reversal of roles here; aren’t they supposed to learn from me?
Not likely. They’ve got nothing but contempt for my generation, for the big bubble of boomers they trailed into the world. We can’t figure out how to update our browsers. We eat corned beef specials. We still drive SUVs. In their eyes, I’m a dinosaur, bloated from squandering their birthright: cheap oil, open land, clean air and water, Social Security.
We’re not used to being resented, you know.
In fact, we’re used to being celebrated, our every milestone examined in painstaking detail by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek: our Dr. Spock childhoods, the rebellious teen years, our marriages (or non-marriages), the era when we were young parents, the dark days when our children left home, and the darker, recent days when recession sucker-punched us just as we should be joyously retiring. We’ve been the center of attention all our lives. Which is why it’s so strange, not just that we’re being supplanted, but that the generation coming up behind us despises us and can’t wait to shove us aside.
Every generational shift is seismic. And it only makes sense that a shifting of the biggest generation ever would be more seismic than most. Before we get out of Gen X’s way, though, I’d just like to point this out: We were right. We were pretty much right about it all.
We thought big. We believed in a new age, the Age of Aquarius. “Imagine,” John Lennon exhorted us, and we did.
We were fighting more against than for, but as it turned out, Vietnam was bad; Nixon was a crook; how long our hair was didn’t matter. Numbers and righteousness were a dangerous combination, but we made it work for us. We were the Niagara Falls of generations, unstoppable, plunging ever onward, tumbling over ourselves in bubbling, churning enthusiasm. My younger coworkers would snigger at the idea of Harmonic Convergence, those three days in August 1987 when we hoped a new planetary alignment might change the Earth’s karma and, as Shirley MacLaine put it, open “a window of light.” (Shirley MacLaine!) But we honestly believed we were part of something big, something important and good. ...
We’re sorry we didn’t leave our room as tidy as Gen Xers would like — that we didn’t bust the city unions, or “fix” Social Security, or make the schools all shiny and new. Now that it’s their turn, the Xers will find out: Problems are hard! Life is confusing! Sometimes you have to compromise! But they’re like younger siblings, blaming us for having come before them, so sure that if we’d just go away to college, they’d have Mom and Dad all to themselves and things would be grand. Okay, then. You guys go ahead and take over. We’re tired, anyway — tired from having changed the world. ...
If you’ve ever had an honest conversation with your mom or dad, you have us to thank for it. If you get time off from work to take care of a new baby or a sick relative, you’re welcome for that. Getting a tax rebate for making your house more energy-efficient? Bike lanes, pocket parks, hate-crime laws, legalized pot, death-penalty moratoriums, organic food, space telescopes, genome-decoding — don’t you see what we were doing? We were taking the American dream to the max, pushing to its limits the pursuit of freaking happiness. ...
We don’t regret the way we lived our lives, other than the occasional bad LSD trip. We had our Camelot, our shining moment when peace and love seemed within our grasp, when holding hands and strumming a guitar could topple the mighty and bring the corrupt to their knees. Here, let me stick this daisy in the barrel of your gun.
Ah, but you’ll never get it; you can’t help it; you’ve always been afraid to dream, because what if your dreams don’t come true, the same way ours didn’t? You think the disappointment would crush you, just as you think it should — wish it would — crush us. Too bad. Suicide, if you think about it, is just an acknowledgement that you were better off once upon a time. You don’t even have that. All you have are your diminished expectations, your plodding nihilism, your laser-focus on being locavores, or triathletes, or microbrew mavens, or Gleeks, or Twitterers, or whatever new fad you’ve seized on to try to make you feel your lives are worthwhile and you’re going somewhere. Good luck with that.
A man’s reach should exceed his grasp. A generation’s, too.
So what about that? Most Gen Xers would say they stopped whining long ago (or never whined at all) and just got on with things. The rest of them would likely argue that to complain is to describe a Boomer-led reality. But I don't believe that. And I would argue that the angry Boomer writer's final point has some truth: many Xers are holding a part of themselves in reserve. Time is running out. They only get one shot. Will they waste it?
What is this generational reserve?
Part of this post is personal. Maybe it will reflect general experience; maybe it will not. I belong to Generation X, but I never thought of myself that way until I saw an artfully constructed vision of my identity in Time magazine in 1990. I was told that I was part of a 'Lost Generation.' This was because being part of this newly-defined group meant I could never reach the incredible standards established by the Baby Boomers. Unable to reach such dizzy heights, I and my peers (the article decided) would never amount to anything.
It was puzzling, since it seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with my reality, self-perception or observations of my contemporaries. I was a child of late Silent Generation parents with mainly Silent Gen friends. Members of this generation, now in their 70s and older, are largely disregarded in generation debates now. But Silents have plenty of opinions about Boomers. For example, they recall years in the 90s, when Boomers pressed Silents to retire early (Freedom 55!), to get them out of the way. - For Xers, on the other hand, Boomers are now talking about raising the retirement age as high as 80, to keep Gen X paying into Boomer pensions and public medicare (which, I can't help noticing, even as a Canadian who supports public health care, will go to support Boomers' massive medical bills in their old age).
My experience with Silents is that they were and remain anything but 'silent.' Also, they generally took and take a dim view of Boomers' exploits. A diatribe like the one from the Boomer above about John Lennon and changing the world would provoke snorts and guffaws. As a result, the message in the Time article, that Boomers were a hard act to follow, was alien to me, since almost all the Silent gen adults I knew at that time would not agree. Nor would they promote themselves like Boomers; nor would they do so at the expense of their successors. The weird message in the Time article about Gen X was a way for Boomers to undermine and control their successors, to make them a manageable quantity.
Everything in that message about Gen X was wrong. That famous Time magazine article came out as the Cold War ended. The period from 1989 to 1991 changed the world, so it seemed, and optimism ran high. The Wall came down. We suddenly could visit countries previously closed off in the Soviet Bloc. Had not nuclear war been averted? Thus, this negative generational message was doubly mystifying. Why were people my age - who were hopeful, ambitious, hard-working, politically and socially engaged, and worried about the environment, famines in Africa, political prisoners in Burma, human rights and South African Apartheid (thanks partly to recording artists at the time), and the Disappeared in El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia and Chile - suddenly considered to be disengaged? I am not claiming that Generation X set precedents or had any monopoly with regard to being politically engaged. I am just saying that Xers were politically engaged. They were not apathetic.
After the publication of that Time article and during early 1990s' recession, communication between Boomers and Gen X broke down. These age groups began using the same terms to mean different things. It was almost as though Boomers' had aimed too high, and, sensing their compromises, projected their failures on their successors in a bid to keep their dreams alive.
Thus, it felt as though I and my contemporaries lived in two worlds. There was a private world we shared, where we were the people we really were, and are today. Then there was a public world, where we were constantly falsely told what we were - and delivered into a fake negativity, a doomed collective stereotype and a slacker role.
Although neither I nor any of my friends were ever slackers, we now had to cope with a Boomer-media-driven false life of 'being slackers.' We lived real lives, and had different identities and accomplished many things behind and around the collective labels which were foisted on us.
At first, Xers were like the original hipsters, who deny they are hipsters, except that Gen X never bothered to deny the slacker label. If you try to articulate who and what you really are, and no one in the media (or anyone else) bothers to listen, at some point you stop trying to explain. Xers were never slackers, but they had to live behind a slacker mirror. Even Kurt Cobain was never a slacker. That was the point to Nirvana's music: self-referential irony. He was saying (well, screaming): I'm a slacker. Yeah, right. That's what's wrong with this picture.
The Gen X reaction to this situation created a three-pronged generational sensibility. These are the distinctions in the Gen X identity: there are the false labels Boomers projected upon them. There is the daily world where Xers just get things done. Some analysts have recognized this aspect, arguing that Xers are not slackers, but actually can-do pragmatists. And there is a final, private reserve.
More interestingly, this final aspect of Gen X identity is the least well known and least understood: a reserve, a refusal to play the game, an obstinate wall against selling out. There is always some aspect of this generation that hangs back and does not - will not - participate. When challenged on this, Xers usually mutter that they refuse to participate in society on (stereotyped) Boomer terms, for example, by following a hyper-marketed collective groupthink. This post is about that generational reserve, which Xers have held back until now. Can Gen X really blame that deep-seated, silent withdrawal on anyone but themselves?
Again, this withdrawal, this non-conformity, is not an overt characteristic. Gen Xers go to work, raise families, get things done. But they like weird fashions, or have niche interests and indie sideline activities. They have sensibilities that are on some level remote and inscrutable to their contemporaries.
Xers' reserve explains their love of science fiction, fantasy, video game escapism, role-playing games and other pop culture corners in film, music and television. Ask them to recite key lines from Blade Runner or LOTR - favourite films about embattled, alienated individuals fighting for the basic right to exist in peace, or small bands combating rising collectivities - and many of them will do it without a second thought. On average, Xers are also attached to historical objects or collectables, as well as traditions that iconoclastic Boomers attacked. This trend culminated in the Steampunk and Urbex movements. All those babies thrown out with the bathwater found a second home. And that home is Gen X's private, generational reality.
This reality did not just happen; you have to go back to the beginning to see a process. Perhaps it took witnessing where the Boomers first failed in the 1970s and 1980s, in those domestic spheres which they really do not like to acknowledge, that Gen Xers became idealists. In all those broken homes in the suburbs, Xers were the first witnesses of what it meant for Boomers to envision a new world and to fail. But remember: in those decades, a lot of Xers fully partook of the Boomer-led reality and its values. Many believed in Boomers' dreams and aspirations. But it was in that time period that Xers learned what the true cost of Boomers' big values were and would be. And they learned early on, in a private sense, what Boomers' promises were really worth
River Phoenix was arguably the first popular American star to deliver this message. Running on Empty (see the trailer here) and The Mosquito Coast (see the film here or below) illustrated exactly how and when American Generation Xers parted ways with the Baby Boomers. These are little-discussed, but seminal, Generation X films which intimately overlap with the central Boomer experience. These movies show that at one time, Boomers and Gen X were on the same page. Their rift did not occur in the clichéed and simple way it is now portrayed. For Xers, it was a painful, forced withdrawal. If you want to understand that Gen X experience, these films arguably came closest to portraying their retreat from their elders.
The Mosquito Coast (1986) © Warner Brothers. Reproduced under Fair Use guidelines for discussion and review only. Video Source: Youtube.
It was probably in domestic scenarios, where the cost of Boomers' ideals became plain, that Xers decided not to compromise with their own values, even if it meant being scapegoated for every mistake every Boomer ever made. Xers' implicit generational withdrawal concealed that decision to hold the line. Gen X's devoted fandom of films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and the Star Wars, not to mention comic books and other pop cultural iconography, points to a commitment to a mentality shielded from Boomers' ugly sell-outs.
It turns out that if you live in Middle Earth most of the time, it seems you never have to compromise who or what you are. You never have to ruin your ideals, as many Boomers in their domestic lives so patently wrecked theirs. Moreover, Xers indulged in a kind of inverted nihilism. Seemingly serious compromises in daily life became a badge of honour, proving how much Xers did not compromise behind the scenes. In their mind's eye, Xers were never truly humiliated by jobs and positions deemed by Boomers to be befitting to the slacker. Constantly being held up to the Boomer measuring stick; being forced to accept Boomers' favourite ideas as the only acceptable truths; enduring dismissive and negative insults, which increased in the Boomer media from the 1990s through the present; floating through jobs as standards collapsed: none of it ever hit home. Why? Because - from a Gen X perspective - Boomers' media-driven realities are not real life.
Thus, Gen X lived in a divided reality for decades, one defined in the Boomer media; one defined by going through the motions and ticking off the boxes; and one defined inside Gen X's loosely-connected society of scattered individuals, where a stubborn and idealized withdrawal from a world of gritty compromises reigned supreme. It is no wonder that Gen X's most high profile accomplishments appeared first in the virtual reality of the Web.
I don't think Gen Xers ever understood that this third aspect of silent, internalized collective mental disengagment would have a painful cost. No one can prove that it was a collective shift, but where it did happen, it was not done in anger: slip inside the eye of your mind, don't you know you might find a better place to play? But this rigid refusal to cooperate with Boomers (read: to an Xer, join in the wave of ugly compromises behind closed doors, while hypocritically still trumpeting one's intact values to the entire world via slick marketing manoeuvres) ultimately has forced some Gen Xers into a private identity crisis. Because sooner or later, you can't just be an uncompromising idealist in your head. You have to do something; you have to risk failure; you must test those unsullied values against the rigours of the real world.
In fact, Xers have already done and are doing quite a lot. But they are not doing it as members of Generation X. By 'doing something,' I mean they have to engage at a different, risky, publicly-acknowledged level of collective generational activity, in a manner different from their contemporaries.
Xers' fragmented realities raise questions: what are Gen X's ideals? Who are they really? What do they mean when they refuse to 'sell out'?
Boomers led Gen X to the Kool Aid, but could not make them drink. Most Baby Boomers never knew the answers to these critical questions about their younger counterparts. Nor did they try all that hard to find out the real answers, because a great portion perceived their successors only through the lens of the Boomer Group Self. Faced with a bizarre wall of uncooperative silence (cloaked by whining), they laughably labelled Gen Xers 'cynics,' which is even worse than 'slackers.' If you know any Xers well, this additional label is incomprensible, it is so wildly wrong. Could it be that Boomers suspect that they themselves are cynics? Ah, well. For once, this is not about them.
Winona Ryder: "I'm told I'm not the ingenue anymore." Photo: Horst Diekgerdes (December 2010). Image Source: Elle.
In 2010, Winona Ryder was resurrecting her career after a some (unfortunately deserved) years in the wilderness. In Black Swan, she delivered a scary, top-notch cameo as a washed-up prima ballerina, Beth MacIntyre. Ryder told Elle magazine:
Ryder's Black Swan cameo worked because she finally dropped her trademark Gen X reserve. She let go of that little piece of herself that was saved on the shelf. She was finally showing her real guts, her soul as an actress. It was visceral, enraged and broken-hearted."I did relate to Beth on a certain level,” she says. “Just that thing of, you know, when I’m told I’m not the ingenue anymore. And now I’m 39. I remember when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be older, because I was always the kid on the set, I was always younger than everyone else. And now I’m older than a lot of the people I work with. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, which is so strange."
Scene from Black Swan © Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek/Phoenix/Dune Entertainment. Video Source: Youtube.
When I think of Ryder's other performances in the past, I might think of her delicate gamine beauty, and her studied, skillful, affected and withdrawn manner. Her performances were Gen X audience vehicles. As an actress, she appeared to be self-consciously mindful of what she evidently privately thought was important, and perhaps (by extension) important for her generation. Her efforts were encrypted messages about America or femininity or anger, about thwarted drama, alienation or black humour. By contrast, Ryder's cameo in Black Swan was a broken shell, at last no longer circumspect, a potential she hinted at in earlier roles. She no longer held anything back.
Ryder co-starred with Ethan Hawke in what is considered a signature Gen X film, Reality Bites, a niche movie with plenty of whining, which weirdly bears up over time. Hawke is another of Generation X's dramatic poster children, who has been similarly dogged by being compromised by his refusal to compromise. Like Ryder, Hawke has made embarrassing mistakes in ways he did not expect. There is depression in that, in a recognition that one must let go of gilded youth and cannot preserve one's values and youthful promise in amber. In an interview with The Guardian in February of this year, he said, "Nothing went the way I thought it would. ... When I tried to sell out, it failed miserably." In other words, this Gen Xer equates selling out with plugging into big budget movies, like a Boomer leading man would. And it is doubly depressing because Hawke just could not compromise his guarded aspect, even when he tried to do so. He hints that there is a way to let go of that aspect, however, in specifically Generation X terms.
The interview continues:
There has to be a way of defining this generation, of acknowledging its accomplishments and asserting its interests, of welcoming it into the fold, without forcing its members to live according to Boomer and Millennial terms of collective self-definition. I do not know many Xers who in their hearts revel in generational alienation. They just don't know how to make their isolation stop. They do not know how to communicate in a way that is comprehensible to their contemporaries. The generation wars are a mass media game of broken telephone.[Hawke's] character [in The Woman in the Fifth] seems like a napkin sketch of Hawke himself. "In many ways it is," he says. "That jacket he wears – I had this blazer that's a little too small, like it's left over from prep school. The costume designer and I saw it as an extension of the character from Dead Poets Society: you know, his eyes have gone bad, he used to be quite promising but promising doesn't cut it at 40. He's turning in on himself. [The director] Pawel [Pawlikowski] had this idea that depression is someone who can't see outside of themselves." ...
"Even this action movie I did, Assault on Precinct 13 – I saw a piece of that on TV the other day and I just looked depressed," admits the 41-year-old. "The whole movie was depressed. It's Detroit. It's snowing. My character's a pillhead. It definitely infiltrated my life." His charisma has a slightly haggard intensity these days, his face gaunt, his trademark goatee a little scruffier than you remember it; he looks like a starved version of himself. But he is still a fabulous talker, making unbreakable eye contact during long, soulful riffs on the importance of keeping your personal flame alight that recall the Huck Finn-ish sneaker-clad boulevardier who talked Julie Delpy into getting off a train in Before Sunrise. But there's no mistaking the black halo Hawke wears these days. The guy has taken a beating – the worst of it, one suspects, self-administered.
"I call it the black years," he says of the period following his divorce in 2004, sequestered in the delicious post-punk rot of the Chelsea hotel. "It was really difficult. It was difficult in ways I couldn't even see at the time. There was the obvious way in which it was difficult – the death of a dream, the inability to parent in the way that you want to. But for me it was – what's that Dante quote? 'At the midpoint of my life, I've come to the part of the forest where the straight way is lost.' Nothing teaches you like getting levelled. And I got levelled in my early 30s. Nothing went exactly the way I thought it would. Wait a second: love isn't real and, holy shit, I put all this energy into not making the same mistake my parents did and I just re-enacted them all! I thought I was so much smarter than everybody. And I'm not." ...
Of all the actors of his generation, Hawke has probably stayed most loyal to indie's art-for-art's-sake ethos. He has been offered plenty of superhero parts over the years and turned them down; he auditioned for Titanic, then watched as DiCaprio's career soared. Does he wish he had cashed in a little more? Hasn't he earned the right to don silver spandex and halt the progress of tidal waves?
"This is the biggest struggle of my life, to be honest," he says. "I never know to what extent I have to feed the snake, you know. The times in my life I've tried to sell out have failed miserably. I did this Angelina Jolie horror film thinking it would be a big hit and it was terrible. When I've followed my heart it goes well. One of the most successful movies I did was Before Sunset: we made that film for the sole reason that we wanted to make that film. The trick is to shoot from your heart, and then when the kind of work that you like is back in fashion again, you'll seem like you've stood your ground." He laughs – a strange conspiratorial cackle, in which you detect a slightly embattled note.
Below, is Hawke's rendition of a modern Hamlet, featuring waves of dreary superficial apathy, irony and self-immolation. It is epic in all the excuses it has not to engage with crises at the deepest level. It is also one of the most tiresome and depressing Hamlets I have ever seen. But beneath the dragged-out, adult-adolescent, self-enforced tedium, it is compelling: it confirms that Hawke was holding back what he really felt, what he needed to express. Here, he is Generation X, when it is not cooperating at its most recalcitrant. It is an implosion of social withdrawal, combined with a refusal to withdraw at all: I'm not going to play the game, but I'm not going away, either. It shows what it means to be perpetually on the outside looking in, while being on the inside, looking out. Over the long term, it is an unsustainable position. Everything about Hawke in this scene aches to fulfill promises that were made a long time ago. But to do that, he has to break through, and lay it all on the line. We look forward to seeing him do that in Before Midnight.
To Be or Not To Be: "Conscience does make cowards of us all." Shakespeare's speech for Hamlet in Hamlet (2000) © Miramax. This was a dramatization of the generation in 2000. Hawke confirms that Gen X has moved on since then. Video Source: Youtube.
Unlike the Boomers, Gen X have always eschewed collective cooperation and generalized norms. They herd like cats. They may work together, but they abhor collective, self-referential action. Regardless, they will have to face terrible problems together. They will have to tap the source of their inner reserves by learning to be - rather than accomplishing things based on a cornered decision not to be - as a generation.
It is easy to think that Xers, with some individual exceptions, have not amounted to anything, but that is because they do not promote themselves. The very idea of generational consciousness and generational identity, in the way Boomers use it, is a fake mass media marketing concept developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Generational awareness has always existed, but it was never the historical socio-political phenomenon that Boomers Neil Howe and William Strauss mistakenly and anachronistically assumed. In earlier societies, dependent on different economic models, governmental forms and social structures, a 'generation' as defined by Howe and Strauss could not exist. The Strauss and Howe late capitalist generational concept, extant in past times, would be wrong and incomprehensible. Strauss and Howe's theory is a classic example of Boomers projecting their 1960s' terms of reference back upon history. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy of Boomer greatness at work, as though Boomers were important enough to have been the glorious product of long-evident trends. It simply is not true.
Again, the 'generation' is a post-WWII mass media construct. But just because generational labels are fake, it doesn't mean they aren't real. Unfortunately, because a lot of people accepted that construct, the construct gained real weight. The problem is that Xers do not use the generational marketing machine to describe themselves and their work. This has created another false impression: that Xers' work does not exist. Those who look, however, find their work everywhere. A lot of it even runs against Xers' individualist attitudes, and involves significant group efforts.
Generations are a marketing construct, and Gen X faces a marketing problem. They want to live on their own terms, in what they regard is real reality, not packaged reality. They want to save the world, but they want to do it in reality, at a grassroots level. They do not want to save the world in a national magazine profile, a network newscast, a documentary, or a television special starring themselves. It is this distinction between the real and the marketed real that poses Gen X's biggest publicity problem.
There is also the paradox that Xers' fantasy-ridden ideals are more real, and more practically realizable, for them than Boomers' marketed realities. Fulfilling that paradox depends on working off the radar, out of public view; Xers' work takes place on their own terms, in unlabeled, oddly publicized conditions. Whether it is preserving something from being lost, recovering something that was cast away, or building something entirely new, the Xer standard is to do it for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of accolades to feed a larger generational meta-reality.
This is why Xer author Jeff Gordinier believes that that civic actions which Xers have already taken, and will take, will not be advertised.
Nevertheless, in order for Boomers and Millennials to comprehend and acknowledge Gen X's ongoing contribution to society, Xers must address the problem of collective self-definition. Yet they cannot self-define in the same ways as these other cohorts. Most Xers I know would ask why they should bother. Why should they live on anyone else's terms, including other Xers' terms? The rest of them would say they don't have time for this.
They should bother because collectively asserting their interests will ironically make them more accessible, even to each other. Dropping that last bit of reserve and fully engaging will open Xers up to more positive intergenerational discourse (which by now is almost as inconceivable as harmonious interpolitical discourse). Better relations among the generations would help all cohorts deal with mounting problems in society, politics, government, the economy and international affairs. The Boomers have always taken a combative approach toward other age groups. Perhaps Xers can, with studied effort and some self-awareness find common, practical grounds to address pensions, social welfare, medical policy, public debt and crumbling infrastructure.
In his book, X Saves the World, Gordinier struggles with the problem of intergenerational communication. He highlights Xers who are doing remarkable things, but have largely been ignored and unheralded by Boomers and Millennials in public life. This is Gen X's problem in joining the fold: how can Xers establish their own institutional strongholds, and professional and collective perspectives, which stay true to their generational heart? How can Xers build something unique that is still understood by Boomers and Millennials (who speak a different generational language) to be a significant social contribution? How does one make conscious the unconscious sensibilities of an entire generation in order to spur them toward a new kind of action?
Part of the problem goes back the beginning. In the early 1970s and 1980s Gen X held a critical part of themselves in reserve, when they refused to engage on Boomers' terms to resolve social, political and economic problems. It is that final bit of circumspection that must be relinquished, without selling out. Gen X has to stop equating practical survival with complaining. Gen Xers must lay all their cards on the table and confront the world's harshest tests. Armed with all the tools of Neverland, they are oddly good at attacking bullshit, and challenging reckless fantasy masquerading as hard policy (for an example of this, look here). That unique collective action, if it comes, will be this generation's as-yet undiscovered country.
See all my posts on Generation X.