Gen-X and the Signs of the Time
In the years separating the Boomers from the Millennials the world changed. Technological innovation has turbo-charged every factor of human interaction.
Human interrelation has not kept pace. We remain burdened by the weight of centuries. Gen-X straddles that divide and we have a peculiar relationship to that change that is under-reported.
In the USA, we were the children of integration and de-segregation — as far as it went — black, white and brown. We lived the “firsts” and, while our children may still be experiencing that, our world had no internet or media within which brown and black faces were prevalent as is the case today. There had been no black president, no black and brown Barbie dolls, no ascension of hip hop to the heights of global youth culture, no influx of affluent Africans, Asians and others from points far and brown.
Boomers lived before desegregation happened and were raised in generally segregated environments and science now knows what having no exposure to other cultures as small children can result in, as far as “tolerance levels” are concerned. Millennials were raised with a black president and a multi-cultural media and believed that racism was over and done.
Gen-Xers have parents who were civil rights warriors, racist holdouts or somewhere in between. They came of age in an era when the world wasn’t as it is today but which has informed the present era foundationally.
The equation was clear and succinct.
On one side of the white American coin, they didn’t “see” color, they believed in the content of character and integration was the only way forward. On the other were the proponents of overt white supremacy in the form of racial dominion by way of physical, terroristic domination, torture, murder and attempted genocide.
On one side of the black American coin, integration was the way forward, but we had to be twice as good to get half as far. You still couldn’t trust any of them because they were not like us and would turn on you in a heartbeat. On the other side, whites were the devil incarnate and the day was coming when God would return to remove said devil from the face of this earth, by any means necessary.
At one point, everybody knew these things. “We shall overcome” was the mantra and the virtuous nature of the Civil Rights battle was understood to be the moral high ground. It was all clear and everyone knew their sides and were unrepentant about being who they were, upholding the vision of America they had been taught was right. Racists were racist and proud of it. Civil Rights activists were what they were and proud of that, too. Those in between did their thing, living their lives and making a way as best they could, being the linchpin “silent majority” and maintaining the status quo of incremental change based upon fear and toleration, if not outright loathing or a visceral sense of distaste. But, at some point, all of that changed.
And as it turns out, none of it was ever clear, nor was it even succinct. The truth always lies somewhere in between the extremes, yet encompasses some aspects of the fringe to the extent that some sub-populations require solutions that may not be generally relevant or desirable. The discussion must move beyond the deliberate obscuration of politics and the general unwillingness to discuss and define these issues and their solutions in as direct a manner as possible.
The ethnic and racial mix of 21st Century America is a microcosm of the global population. Everyone is here, living and dying in the most diverse nation this world has ever seen. The dynamics of such diversity are rife with possibility, anything can and does happen, from the best to the worst case scenarios of human interactivity. Events spanning the the gamut from “bad” to “good” have been dynamic change agents, moving individuals and societies from one way of being to another and it will always be that way.
The challenge of our times is to find a way to transition into an equitable future where the human family as a whole can benefit from the technological innovations waiting to become mainstream. As we have seen, technology has aided society in becoming more representative and that will only continue as individual initiative and ownership of the means of societal production continue to diversify and spread across the planet, resulting in a future/present reality where the ills of the past can be reconciled in a justice-oriented fashion and equality of opportunity, if not outcome, is achieved.
The world possesses the wealth and the know-how, it is the combined will and the implementation thereof, that is at issue. The clarity of a previous era must return to a societal understanding where right is generally agreed upon and the path forward, for the majority of citizens, is the gold standard of the local and national decision-making processes.
The social and cultural worlds of the Millennials and Gen-Z are vastly different from those of the Boomers and even Gen-X. We old people are still stuck, halfway in the old world, fighting fights that they think are dumb and useless. And they are right.
The problem with this is evident, for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
This world is theirs.
Those who take on the charge of keeping the forces of entropy from continuing their rampage of extreme resource consumption and environmental degradation must be prepared to give all they’ve got to make sure we retain viable societal institutions and a habitable biosphere. These are those days when we are all required to step up and stand out front, even if we’ve never done that before in our lives.
If not now, when? If not you, then who?