Friday, 15 January 2010

The Pre Gen Gen

I'm trying to work out what the generation before the Baby Boomers did, to make such a balls-up of things.  I'm no longer waving some loopy concept around and seeing what sticks to it, I'm suddenly up against an awful revelation:  Our parents were weird!

The worst thing is that you hear teenagers say that all the time.  But I'm a Borderline Boomer myself, a bit on the young edge of the Boom but still there.  And I've noticed that almost everyone I speak to of the same generation, has a tale of dysfunctional parents of some kind.  Things I've heard:

"My mother was not good at parenting, she was far too busy having a good time."
"Mum was a lady and she didn't concern herself with the kids."
"Our mother was a self-absorbed alcoholic and dad wasn't home much."
"My father was a doctor, he kept mum drugged and beat us a lot." (TRUE! As I was told it, and will never let slip who this was.)
"My step father tried, he really did..."

My own story is somewhere spread among some of those above, and a few others I won't go into - we have enough similarity here to establish a few base rules.

Firstly, let me say that my father was the pool of sanity, for me at any rate.  He was also a good critical thinker, and often let slip little pearls which are still proving true to this day.  "The World Wars," he said once, "they changed everything, changed it for the worse, and you and I won't see the end of that change in our lifetimes."  I believe that without dad our family would have been much changed, too.

So now let me get to my generation.  Of all the people I meet and interact with, about 1/3 are my gen, about 1/2 are younger, and the rest are unclassified or much older.  That's a rough guide, of course, I'm not in the habit of counting my friends by age.

The group I'm interested in, the Boomers, have one thing in common:  all bear self-inflicted scars of excess.  And almost every single over-reaction to life that they exhibit can be traced to something parental.  "I was never allowed to be a kid, so when I got out of home I partied and drank pretty much all the time.  I did way too many drugs, and always at the back of my mind was the thought 'hey fuck you mum and dad!' and then I discovered that I'd given myself a real problem and now I can't take that back" seems to be a summary of the major plotlines.

Almost every one of my contemporaries exhibits signs of over-indulgence in one or more things.  As though they are overcorrecting for something in their childhoods.  And yet, often I can't find any such shortcoming as would explain that reaction in their youth, just being underparented. It's really strange.  Then I remember the rest of Dad's diatribe against the Wars.

"It turned a social order upside down" he said.  "Men left in their hundreds of thousands, and women were left staffing factories and spending more time outside the home and away from their children.  Those children (you) are missing something in their upbringing."

And "The balance changed.  In a patriarchal society, everything was based on needs and requirements.  You needed food and a roof over your head, you needed to learn how to provide for your family when the time came.  Then we became more matriarchal and those needs and requirements changed.  Now we're a world-wide nanny state, and it's only going to get worse."

In so many ways, he was spot on.  And continues to be, years after he's passed away - still the shots he called are on target.  He also called a few other things right, and in an upcoming article I'll try and remember enough of those to explain them.

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