There is a lot unsaid and overlooked about my Generation X. As an “Xer” born in 1974, I was heavily influenced by a variety of teachers. My parents who faced oppression within Communist Cuba, teachers who suffered losses during the Holocaust, or were subjected to racism during the Civil Rights Era. Others who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam; as well as various women who I looked up to, who worked hard either as activists or in their own private lives, to obtain equal rights for women. I do not intend to speak for the whole of my generation as we are each individuals and can speak for ourselves. With this noted, What does it mean to be a part of “Generation X”?
According to David Barnet (2017), “we didn’t even get a name until Douglas Coupland wrote a novel about us in 1991”, another point of origin, is that our “X” was inspired by Malcolm “X” and represents “an unknown variable or a desire not to be defined”. I prefer the insistence of not being “definable”. Generation “Xers” think for themselves. We listen to the Baby Boomers and admire their militant as well as their loving characteristics and we also look at the Millennial’s and admire their savy within the technological era and their quest for “justice”. I have one predominant complaint about my generation and that is that we have perhaps been mostly quiet and or unfortunately -often obedient. However, we also make quiet efforts on a variety of noble causes.
What influenced Generation Xers? We were bombarded with “the moral of the story” … Our after school specials taught us not to do drugs or bully others. We watched “The Facts of Life” which taught us… well, the “facts of life”. We learned ethics from “All In The Family”, “Different Strokes”, “The Jefferson’s” and “Family Ties”. We appreciated the value of Capitalism and money making during the time of “Alex Keaton” and “Wall Street”. We also, cheered for Rocky against the brutal Russian in Rocky IV. Still, we fell in love with Robin William’s Russian character in “Moscow on the Hudson”. We lived knowing there could be nuclear war and complete global annihilation and we hoped for the better traits of humanity to prevail.
We cried when we saw the space shuttle, “Challenger” explode and still respected the science behind “NASA”. We really believed “We Are The World” and wanted to help USA Africa and end starvation in Ethiopia. We stood with Michael Jackson then and we also stood with Willie Nelson in support of Farm Aid. Many of us actually said “no to drugs” because Nancy Reagan told us to. We were made to be afraid of AIDS, and respect the life and death decision which unprotected sex or intravenous drug use could be. We mourned with every family and loved one weeping over the AIDS memorial quilt too. We supported our troops during Operation Desert Storm and were encouraged to do so by our Boomer mentors -many of whom had felt some guilt and had wished they had treated Vietnam Veterans differently.
Our subculture included grunge and a definite increase in cynicism of all things establishment. Our music told the honest and raw stories of our open wounds and grievances with regard to our work, our personal relationships and our relationship with ourselves. We saw the big picture at a macro level, the realities and struggles of every day life at the micro level and also the willingness to purposefully not think of anything at all. We embraced activism and escapism.
We love our “Boomers” and we also love our “Millennial’s” many of whom are actually our own children. I have been critical of my generation for not yelling as loud as the “Boomers” and Millennial’s” but in retrospect, we have been leading a “Quiet Revolution”, so subtle, both our Boomers and Millennial’s have overlooked us among the noise. Maybe we have even underestimated ourselves too. I have included some clips showing the “Undefinable” Generation Xers in action and a few of our influences. I personally prefer to be “undefinable” and I prefer to believe that Generation X is conducting some sort of quiet revolution -ever so softly. When we finally appreciate how in spite of our differences we each remain “human”- there is no need to define ourselves any further. Then, we are all Generation X.
Check out this film from the minds of visionary Generation Xers, UK musicians/visual artists Jamie Catto (Faithless) and Duncan Bridgeman. 1 Giant Leap is a title, a philosophy, a leap of faith.