Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Obama Generation Jones? Or Triple X?

The Boomers were narcissistic look-at-me hippies, in the sense of the individual trumps all, even when idealism & joints were passed around and shared like stds.

As technologies multiplied and proliferated, we became sorcerer's apprentices trying to keep up with faster and faster messages from every direction. As Steve Stark puts it:
"Where the Boomers naively tried to change the system and the Xers in a sense walked away from the system, my generation used the system to get what we wanted," Pontell told a reporter. "It's like the Boomers never realized they were playing the game, the Xers folded their cards, and my generation was wise to the game but said deal the cards anyway."

Spinning it all positively, a post-Baby Boomer sees a problem or opening and solves it. That's certainly a trait one would want in a president right now and Obama demonstrated he had it by "audaciously" running for the presidency at such an early stage of his career.

Then there's this generation's love of technology and "the new," forged in Andrew Thompson's words "out of a lifetime of upgrading from Atari to Nintendo to Sega to Xbox." Thompson, who writes the blog Gen-X Rising (, wrote perceptively of his generation (and he considers the slightly older Obama a compatriot), "We . . . were shaped by rapid technological change smack-dab in the middle of our most formative years. And that molded the way we understand the world in which we live."

Gen X is, after all, the generation that created much of our modern tech world -- YouTube, Wikipedia, and Yahoo. It's not necessarily technology that "saves the world," à la visionary Boomer Steve Jobs, but practical stuff one can really use.

So far, so good. But what people have tended to forget are some of the critiques of the cultural leanings of Obama's generation.

Long ago, former New York Times columnist Russell Baker was one of the first to notice that a generation that grows up hooked on the latest technology tends to suffer from "herky-jerky brain" -- or what others might characterize as a generation-wide case of attention deficit disorder. In their book Generations, William Strauss and Neil Howe also describe how other generations often find the members of this generation "frenetic," "slippery," or rather empty -- driven more by ambition than anything else. Strauss and Howe relate how the drug of choice for some of the males of this generation has been steroids -- literally a physical manifestation of all the pumped-up hype with which they surround themselves.

Steroids, like the pumped-up Axelroid & Rahm-bo, have boosted and juiced these dudes into a higher state of self-righteous practicality. Here's more:
During the campaign, we heard all about the positive aspects of generational change. Are the negative ones now coming into focus? After all, the most well-known Gen-Xers who have preceded Obama onto the world stage were notorious for their uncanny powers of self-promotion that, in the end, represented style more than substance. There was Princess Di (born the same year as Obama) or even Michael Jordan (born two years later and, now that he no longer plays basketball, known mostly for his shoes).

Like his cohort, the president also can't live without his "toys" -- his Blackberry and his teleprompter. But is his generation's tech addiction part of the reason why he has such difficulty focusing on the one great economic problem facing the nation, choosing instead to push a 27-part agenda?

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The fear is that this brand new generation in charge will Twitter and text while America faces potential catastrophe. It would truly be ironic if we all ended up longing for the old, fractious days of messianic idealism, when the Boomers were still in charge and everyone had to hear about Woodstock again and again.

Back in my own hippie days, for a while I got involved with astrology. Among my readings, the importance of the planet Neptune as a generational landmark came up in my various sources, from famous astrologers who placed the blame on the French Revolution from the planet's position in Libra when the chief protaganists were born, and on its position in Scorpio for the massive change that Bonaparte's slaughter of an entire generation of birthdates with Neptune in Scorpio serves as an example. Of course, Neptune went into Libra, the sign of intelligence & empty-headed frivolity at once, in 1943 and moved into Scorpio in the late '50s. The country certainly experienced topsy-turvy revolution [in the double sense of the gerund "revolting"] during the Summer of Love and Altamont. Luckily, the country was spared great bloodshed, probably by Reagan & Nancy's friend Jean Dixon [whom FDR & others consulted in private because of her reputation]. Of course, I'm just joking, but I'll take astrology over Paul Krugman's economic theories and Cornel West's Weltanshauung every day of the week.


LookingUp said...

Interesting blog. Boca is sounding good to me right about now. Re. your post today: Obama is not a Gen Xer, nor a Boomer, and very few prominent voices anywhere have said he is a Boomer or Xer. By contrast, many influential voices have repeatedly said that Obama--born 1961--is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) specifically use this term to describe Obama.

Here is a recent op-ed about Obama as the first GenJones President in USA TODAY:

And here is a recent interview with the guy who coined the term "Generation Jones":

dave in boca said...

Look up:

Thanx for the linx and I find this sort of peer cohort sociology interesting, as many historical figures appear to have been marching to an unheard tune in some sort of tandem---Lincoln & Darwin on same year, same day birthday only for one. Both epitomize the Zeitgeist somehow. Of their particular slice of an era.