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generations (long but easy to read)

Discussion in 'The Pub' at netrider.net.au started by carri27, Jan 4, 2009.

  1. well, i haven't been around NR much for the last 6 months due to competing priorities, but this article captured my imagination and i thought that, being the multi-generational site that NR is, maybe people here would have some thoughts.... and i'm keen to hear them. do you think the archetypes described below ring true?

    it's written by a guy called Doug Casey who is "chairman of Casey Research, author of numerous best-sellers over the last 25 years, raconteur and a certified expert in resources stocks". it was written in 1997. cheers, c x


    Generational conflict has been recognized since ancient times. The twist here is the discovery of several things that have previously eluded observers. One is that the well- known conflict between fathers and sons is only half the story; there aren't just two generational types that alternate (e.g., liberal and conservative), but four. The reason for looking at it this way is that a human life can be conveniently divided into four stages: Childhood, Young Adulthood, Midlife, and Elderhood. Throughout all of history, a long life might be considered to be 80 to 100 years, with each of the four stages equaling a quarter of it.

    Just as each person's life holds four stages of about 20 years each, each generation comprehends a group of people born over about 20 years. Members of a particular generation tend to share values and ways of looking at the world not only because their parents also shared a set of views (which the kids are reacting to), but because every new generation experiences a new set of events in a way unique to them. They hear the same music, see the same events, are exposed to the same books. Members of a generation share a collective persona. There appear to be four distinct archetypal personae that recur throughout American history. And throughout world history as well, although that's a bit beyond what I hope to explore here.

    It also seems, throughout history, that there are periodic crises. About once every century, or about when each of the four generational types has run its course, a cataclysmic event occurs. It generally takes the form of a major war, and it generally catalyzes a whole new epoch for society.

    The four mature generations alive today each represent an archetype. Let's review them from the oldest now living, to the youngest.

    Hero Archetype

    The "GI" generation, born between 1901 and 1924, includes basically all living people in their mid-70s and older. They grew up and came of age in the midst of the most traumatic years in human history: the 1930s and '40s. This was a time of catastrophic financial and economic collapse, world war, political dictatorship, genocide, and virulent ideology, among other unpleasant things; a period of intense turmoil. The times required them to be civic minded, optimistic, regular guys who could be counted on to do the right thing, fit in, and see that everybody got a square deal. As a consequence of what they've been through, they tend to be indulgent parents. As kids they're "good"; as adults they're selfless, constructive, and communitarian. Hero archetypes encounter a Crisis environment in Young Adulthood; assuming they survive it, the odds are the rest of their lives will be lived in growing economic prosperity, leading to a leisurely retirement.

    Artist Archetype
    Meanwhile, another generation was being born at the height of the Crisis -- something that seems to occur roughly every 80-100 years -- from 1925-42. This generation, the "Silent," watched these titanic events happen but were too young to take part in them. They were relegated to being protected, while trying to be helpful in the limited ways available to them. They're overprotected as children, when they might be characterized as "placid"; they tend to underprotect their own children as a reaction. As adults they're sensitive, well-liked, sentimental, and caring.

    Prophet Archetype
    Next came the group we call the "Boomers," born from 1943 to 1960. This was the first generation born after the Crisis was over, and they grew up in an environment where their parents (mostly GIs and early cohort Silents) felt obligated to protect them from all the trauma of the preceding years and were desirous of giving them all the things they never had. As kids they're seen as "spirited." Later in life, they tend to be narcissistic, presumptuous, self-righteous, and ruthless. Born after a Crisis, their Childhood years coincide with a rebirth of society, and their Elderhood coincides with another Crisis. More on them below.

    Nomad Archetype
    The fourth generational type is represented by today's "Generation X," born 1961-81, during what might be called an Awakening period when the Boomers were in the limelight. As a consequence, they were overlooked and a bit abandoned. Their reputation as kids can be summed up as "bad." They're oriented toward survival, which is partially a result of their being underprotected as children. When they become parents, they react and become overprotective. They tend to be savvy, practical, tough, and amoral.

    The kids born between 1982 and perhaps 2002 should be another Hero archetype. My own experience with them is that they're shaping up that way. Represented by clean-cut, straight-arrow Power Rangers. Quite a reaction to the sewer-dwelling Mutant Ninja Turtles that were analogs for the previous generation. They're "'can do" kids, programmed to do the right thing in a smoke-free, drug-free, eco-sensitive, politically correct world. Like all Hero types, they respect their elders, do what they're told without much questioning authority. That's just the type of person you want to have fighting a war for you, and that's probably just what they'll wind up doing. Just like the last Hero types, the GIs. (Iraq was first. Iran next? Or will it be Saudi Arabia?)

    It's risky to characterize everyone born in a certain time frame as sharing a persona; after all, people are individuals, not ants or atoms, each like the other. But it's really no different than characterizing people by the country they're from. There's no question in my mind that people share characteristics by virtue of the milieu in which they live, and that's true of time as well as geography. Take a look at the people you know by age groups, and see if they don't roughly fit the brief descriptions.

    The interesting thing is that through about 400 years of American history, it's possible to see these generational types repeating themselves. It's not an accident. The characteristics of each type shape the next generation, as well as current events. And events leave a further imprint on all of them.
  2. Hi Carri and welcome back :) I would give a qualified yes. I fall between Prophet and Nomad in terms of birth date. It shows the cyclical nature of history or the "We never learn" doctrine I am afraid.

    The author postulates that politically disconnected, straight laced Gen X; are ideal military fodder. I would hope that this is not the case and that Gen X are more worldly and even if they have little political interest they have global concerns.
  3. They grew up and came of age in the midst of the most traumatic years in human history: the 1930s and '40s

    The idea's good, but the maths is wrong; the years 1914 - 1945 could far better be described as the most traumatic years of human history, and only then of recent human history. It could very easily be argued that many periods much earlier were far more traumatic; the Black Plague in Medieaval times, and the unrecorded grinding poverty and ignorance of the Dark Ages make the 30's and 40's look like Utopia. Even closer to more recent times, better candidates present themselves; the flu epidemics of the first 20 years of the 20th century killed millions and destoyed many families, not just in America, in which the author is solely (typically) interested, but in Europe and even to a lesser extent here in Australia.

    What he has failed to consider is the over-reaction of the Depression generation, and the post WW-II generation in terms of indulgence of children, and the huge difference this upbringing brought about. Parents by the millions who had eked out a living by guess and by God, determined that their kids would never have to do that. Dr Spock gave them a pseudo-scientific (and later utterly discredited) backing for their plan to make sure their kids had everything because they had had nothing. The result was a generation of over-indulged, whiny, selfish brats who thought the world owed them a living. They marched in the streets and protested about the war and poverty, and went home to double beds and secure allowances, and the certainty that if they stepped over the line, daddy would bail them out.

    This generation did not, as might be expected, swing the pendulum even one whit in the opposite direction, and we now have two and a half generations just like them. Of course, they have now grown up and given up the weed and high ideals, and are bankers and lawyers and business executives, but their children are already grown and it's too late to change the mistakes they made when they were little. While they ride round in the BMWs and on mid-life-crisis Harleys, their children still expect the world to owe them a living, because that's what they were taught to expect. Its failure to eventuate leads to drug addiction and other vices because these precious ones cannot adjust to the realities of the world, so the temporary bliss of drugs and excessive alcohol consumption must dull the pain.

    It's doubtlful in the extreme if any social or moral programme can be put in place to stem this slide into hedonism and unrealistic expectation. After all, if the kid next door has a Wii by the time he's five, little Johnny's dad is just plain stunting his growth and ruining his potential if he doesn't fall in line and go down the same route.

    As unpleasant as it may sound, in my opinion the only thing that will changed this recidivist, welfare-driven, excessive culture, is a genuine financial crisis in which families and individuals will have to learn again the simple lessons of sufficiency, living only on one's means, and bringing children up with mum and dad as the centre and sum of a caring, non-indulgent world.

    (See I didn't bring the Bible into that once :rofl:).
  4. Wow, does this guy have any touch with reality? Gen Y's taste for high school massacres, open gang wars on the streets, etc, etc. Or maybe I'm just another Gen X over reacting at being overlooked and being called a called a sewer dwelling Mutant Ninja Turtle.
  5. Dean, I think that you should meet the Man, and get to know him, before you rush to a Judgement.
  6. Gee Hornet I thought the original Author's brush strokes were broad. You must be using a broom. :)
  7. I was born in 1949: I grew up in the era I'm describing......

    Yes, generalising, but there's a lot of evidence to support the contentions I put forward.
  8. I know it's a generalisation, but in my view, the difference between a good (at their job) cop and a crim is which side of the law they are on.
    The same could potentially said for the "Hero's". They aren't at war doing something good, but they are spoiling for a fight anyway...

    Big generalisation.
  9. i really dunno about this guy either. my generation, i probably dont know alot about, but for that which ive seen and associate with, it's certainly not smoke free. hopefully alot less that it was in previous days. again, not drug free hahaha. enter many different music scenes and you will find drugs rife. take Sensation or Summadayze both of which i went to for NYE/NYD. that many people on drugs, its not funny. i've never touched the sh!t in my life, and i never will, but the fact is i love going clubbing, i also work at a club, i love going to events and festivals. alcohol and drugs are everywhere through it!

    if anything i would have said my generation is the opposite to this! not speaking for myself personally at all, but with al lthe political correctness and laws and crap about, no-one can touch a kid without the threat of jail, so kids have little respect for elders/teachers etc. both my parents are/were teachers, and some of the things i hear is shocking, and im only 21 :shock:

    gah i dunno, but this guy is generalising alot, and even then pretty off whack i think.
  10. i totally agree with rob. i hate to say it but kids these days are terrible. kids my age are bad enough (ahahahhahaha) but the ones i see in primary & high school now are far worse. this is the day care generation who's parents expect them to be parented by other people.
  11. Just noticed that the article was written in 1997. Be curious to see how the author would review his theory with 12 years perspective?

    Rog, are you referring to the Man who'll lead me to the Path of Enlightenment?
  12. Yes Dean, I am. Get on your knees, mate.
  13. :rofl: I may just have to give that a big miss.
  14. Then you will never walk the Zen Karma Hare Krishna Freemason Moonie path with us. You are to be shunned.
  15. well, given the length of the OP i'm surprised by the number of responses. people with the concentration to read that much and some of them Gen Y's!!! so it seems not all cliches hold true.

    thanks for the welcome back cjvfr. don't think i'll be able to logon much but nice to from time to time.

    paul, i think a 50 million death toll for WW2 (40mil for the allied forces and 25mil of those being civilian) ensures it gets a pretty high rating as a highly 'traumatic' period though i agree that 'most' is a dangerous word to use. i haven't read his book and i have no reason to advocate for him but i'm guessing he's done enough research to fit the black plague and medievil times as part of his 'crisis every 80-100 years' theory.

    as for every generation since the depression being indulged, clearly the reality is that yes, we've grown up in affluent times but i would ascribe this to large degree to fast-paced technological advancements and pre-baby-boom aged governments indulging in too much debt.

    and you should know as much as anyone else here the backlash there's been in the last two generations in terms of a growth in evangelical christianity, fundamentalist islam, skyrocketing growth of buddhism (all of which have zero or low tolerance for drugs and alcohol), an overwhelming green movement which believes in reduced consumerism and simpler lives, and a massive 'recovery' movement by way of the 12-step programs which also preach a fairly puritanical lifestyle.

    which also speaks to nibor and eswen's points that while i agree that party drugs are a given in any club/festival environment (and hat off to you nibor for managing to stay clean and party hard - i'm a big believer in both) i think the guy's got a point in terms of the kids on the flipside. it was amazing to see the kids who worked and studied at the uni where doonx and tamera had their engagement party - all bright eyed and bushy tailed and keen to change the world.

    for heaven's sake, they just elected a seemingly decent, honest, intelligent, articulate well-balanced guy as president of the United States, substantially as a result of the cult following he got among the youth movement who want to see change in the world, want to be part of that change and believe it can truly be a better place. don't tell me all those kids are a bunch of drug-fkd, over-indulged, spoilt, good-for-nothing gangsters.

    i think it's easy to just see and focus on the negative but while i think we all agree the writer has drawn some fairly long bows, i think perhaps there's more to what he says than we're giving him credit for.
  16. You're probably right and the author must have compelling evidence to publish his work.

    I'm neither an anthropologist or historian but it seems to me that generation Y doesn't comfortably fit the Hero Archetype that well.

    After all, you'd expect graduating uni students to be gung-ho. The landslide election of Obama is hardly the sole work of a Hero Archetype youth movement, seems more a very simple backlash against a blundering opposition – besides the author’s theory seems to sit better at implying Hero Archetype youths being the force behind the re-election of a fundamentalist/martial Bush four years ago? The resurgence of religion in the developed world is probably just boredom with things material and it’s hard to accept/create/discover new religions these days…..this could be a minor abberation that's not relevant to his generational theory?

    I'll concede that living the times would have to affect our perception and it was an interesting article. :)