Most everyone has heard about ‘generation x‘ – roughly speaking, anyone born between 1965 and 1979.
The term was reputedly coined by Hungarian photographer Robert Capa in the 1950s when it was used as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War.
The interesting aspect of this term is that because it has no formal dates, the range that it spans is fairly fluid. I think the one thing that it does highlight, is that this generation is made up of the children of second world war children. The range of 1965 – 1979 is popularly used by Pew Research, Metlife, McCrindle Research and Gallup but there are outliers like the National Geographic and PriceWaterhouseCoopers who use slightly wider ranges.
The reach of the second world war was immense, its impact on millions of children and adults was felt around the world and the children of those children would go on to become this so-called generation X.
As members of this generation, Mrs Jones and me have differing views of of some things. Though we grew up worlds apart in the Southern Hemisphere in relatively privileged circumstances.
All of our parents worked, on a full time basis almost from the beginning. This is a characteristic of many children of this generation whose mothers and fathers would come out of the austere circumstances brought on after the world war and the newly empowered hopes and aspirations of a generation of young women who went to work in factories and businesses during the war years while their men were away fighting. It was almost expected. So for our generation, not working was almost not an option even if you were a mom.
A second aspect of this generation was that I feel that our parents almost bent over backwards to provide in a way that their parents couldn’t. We never went hungry, were never on the street, never had parents who were out of work and enjoyed some of the modern conveniences that middle class families of the day benefited from – a car, a house that was owned – holidays away.
My paternal grandparents left England just after the war and settled in South Africa. For my grandmother and my father this was an awfully big adventure – he was only 6. For my grandfather and my aunt and uncle perhaps not so much they were in their 50’s and twenties respectively. They had spent some years in Malaysia and so a life in the tropics was not entirely a new experience. For my grandmother it must have been dramatic. The furthest she had traveled as a young woman in her late twenties – had been continental Europe.
There are a lot of varied characterizations of Generation X, some of them focusing on formative, adolescent and then young adult lives. One thing that I see when looking at my contemporaries, now fifty years on, is that many of them are self employed. Many of them work internationally and many of them have been much more successful in material terms, than their parents before them but then that’s just a perception.
Rather amusingly I came across this concept of Generation Jones. A generation that squarely matches up with my brother’s age group. The term was coined by author Jonathan Pontell to described it as those born from approximately 1954 to 1964. This group is essentially the latter half of the “Baby Boomers” to the first years of Generation X.
To me, this is the beatnik, hippie, protestor, fists shaken at the world age group that I don’t relate to – they were old enough to know the Vietnam War and the other conflicts of the late 1960’s and 1970’s and be a voice of protest about institutionalized racism and sexism. They are the Gates, Jobs, Barak Obama and Sarah Palin generation.
Old enough, as boys, to die for their countries and fight in wars that they did not necessarily understand or care about. Tech savvy to a point, driven and motivated as adults by things a little different from those things that drove and motivated their parents. Perhaps a bit more jaded and cynical – and very suspicious of government!