Fire up the turntable, roll your joint and squeeze back into your skinny jeans. Twenty first century Australia is set for a clash of generations.
The federal treasury’s 2002 Intergenerational Report famously forecasted massive financial inequities between boomers and their offspring, sparking talk of a “looming conflict” between the generations over who would foot the bill of an ageing population.
At the same time, commentators and researchers are noting with increasing frequency what a social and political oddity (and disappointment) generation Y is turning out to be.
Last month in the Australian Financial Review, Deirdre Macken observed that there was a widening “generation gap” between Y-ers and their elders: “a fundamental quandary that has anyone over the age of 35 throwing their hands in the air and declaring ‘what the hell do they want/mean/think they are?’”
X-er Monica Dux wrote recently in The Age: “I have come to believe that the greatest generational threat is not the boomers. It's generation Y.”
Unfavourable comparisons between generation Y and their parents certainly abound. Boomers protested against Vietnam for ten years, Y-ers protested against Iraq for about ten minutes. Boomers believed in free love and education; Y-ers believe in free downloads and a full fee-payers education.
Boomers picked a job, a spouse and a political party and stuck with it, while Y-ers are afflicted with a mass case of ADHD, unable to commit to anything for longer than it takes to download a track to their iPod.
Boomers wanted to have it all and Y-ers want to have it all right now.
Not surprisingly, the young ones aren’t winning many fans. In the Sun Herald, ANU politics professor John Warhurst recently noted, “they are a selfish, a very selfish generation.”
The online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, defines “youth culture” as: “the ways young people … differentiate themselves from the general culture of their community.” Add to that a healthy dose of shock value, á la Elvis and his pelvis, Mick Jagger and his swagger or Boy George and his eye makeup.
Traditionally, parents love the moral high ground of tut-tutting that things were soooo much better in the olden days, while children enjoy the high of piercing, partying and parading about in something outrageous.
And yet if you look at the interactions between Y-ers and their parents, and their respective attitudes towards politics and culture, the generational war we are bracing for would seem more akin to the Parent Trap - where the separated-at-birth twins squabble stupidly before realising how similar they are - than Children of the Corn, the horror flick when small town teens go on a rampage and kill all the adults.
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