Neil Howe, Washington historian, economist, and co-author with William Strauss of Generations: The History of America’s Future, written in 1989, characterized the so-called “13th” or “X” generation as a group generally “interested only in what it takes to get by” and who “see their elders as pompous windbags.” Howe considers those born between 1961-1981 as the 13th generation; the children of the Baby Boomers. Howe and Strauss say, “Boomers” (those born in the years after World War II) “initially trusted no one over 30” and “now want to regulate the morals of everyone under 30.” He says that as Boomers move into their 60’s and 70’s “we can look forward to a big chill” and a “new meanness” in political life. He predicted “a new national crises in the 2020’s,” and I think we have reached that crises now.
We live in a world of great diversity. The X generation thinks and lives in a different world than their parents, the Boomers! The Millennials (Generation Y) the children of both baby boomers and older Xer’s (Millennials were born 1980 to 2000) have a life of their own, generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with the new technologies. These generations are diverse. We also have diversity in nationality, geography, parental status, marital status, income, education, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and on and on.
How do we live in such diversity? The one thing we must not do is lay on the new generations the life we have lived. It’s a new world. We must let them find their own way. There is nothing in the lifestyle of the Boomers of which to boast, or of any generation before or after.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This so-called Golden Rule, which we have long touted, implies the basic assumption that other people would like to be treated the way we would like to be treated. I’m not sure that is so any more. A number of people have lifted the Platinum Rule as the way we should deal with others in the midst of diversity. It says, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others the way they want to be treated, which is quite different from how you may want to be treated. A “relationship” is necessary for the Platinum Rule, but such is not required for the Golden Rule (which may be why we cling to it). Do we know how Millennials want to be treated, or the Xer’s? Do we know how the Afro-American person, the single parent, the homosexual, the aids victim, and all the other diverse persons in our society want to be treated? We better find out.
This is written from the perspective of a “pompous windbag,” born in 1943, sometimes considered a part of the Silent generation (1925-1942) sometimes considered a Boomer, and sometimes just a wee bit crazy!