The paradox of generation x is that it is the first generation to have a phase shift in the value of coming of age in a hurry. We were the first ones to stand our ground on calling bullshit on the previous generation. Our parents were never given a real shot at disruption, even though the rumblings began with them, and they ultimately set the stage for the revolution.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Sorry folks, nobody did it better than the 90’s kids. Nobody COULD do it better. Not that they wouldn’t have, they just couldn’t. The stage had not been set appropriately. The pre internet mass media environment was the perfect stage for the 90’s kids to go harder than anyone ever could again. Our parents were outgunned. They had inherited a world that you had to bust your ass every day from the time you were 18 (usually earlier) so you could thrive in the new world. This system forced parents to allow young children to fend for themselves whilst they produced for society. What was the chosen strategy to prepare an unprepared generation of parents to prepare an even less prepared generation of kids to fend for themselves in a world that is exploding with both population and technology? If you guessed a massive education effort to teach children that anyone and everyone that they didn’t personally know intended to take them away, do all sorts of unspeakable things to them and then discard their lifeless corpses “in a ditch” Stranger danger basically put a generation on high alert. Demolished trust in the community, and laid the groundwork for the helicopter parenting the elders would then mock relentlessly.
What happens when you have a generation that gets together and experiments with all of the doomsday advice from their elders and finds it all to be horseshit? The DARE program showed us drugs, explained them to us, and then threatened us if we ever used them. “Why would people use things that were so awful?” asked curious, bored, and self supervised children. Then the bearers of truth emerged. A few years older but infinitely wiser and more experienced.
There was a hidden benefit to this insanity. 90’s kids went as hard as it could be done and there is little to no evidence of it in hindsight. It was a glorious time to come of age, but it was not without its lessons. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but I would never think of raising a kid like that. One thing that technology did quickly was allow us to extend childhood a great deal.
I remember vividly being encouraged by adults to “enjoy childhood” while it lasts. It is a relatively new phenomenon to allow children the ability to savor their childhood for any longer than enough time to get of either working or breeding age. The 90’s was the first generation to really focus on school and pursuing valuable careers.
One reason for this I think is the fact that the previous generation that didnt go to college was abducted straight from high school and sent to die for an illegal and unconstitutional war that none of the guilty parties have stood trial for crimes against humanity for.
and the other was that parents had no idea what their kids were going to do. The job landscape was changing rapidly and had become entirely unpredictable. This is the generation that told us we had to spend years learning rote mathematics in the most boring way possible with zero use case context because we weren’t always going to “have a calculator” with us. They just didn’t know better.
Skipping the sanctioned extermination of teenagers lets focus on the unpredictability. By its very nature technology allows for innovation, and innovation is difficult to predict. It is not difficult to predict that innovation will occur, and it is pretty clear that in the right environments it accelerates rapidly. What is next to impossible to predict is the outcomes they will create. It is like trying to predict what video games would have been designed before the invention of the video games occurred.
Generational trauma aside, parents want what is best for their kids to some degree, but they also want those kids to be happier than they were at the same age. There isn’t a parent worth their title alive that doesn’t want that. One of the biggest struggles good parents face is to find a balance between doing what’s best for them and maximizing their happiness.
90’s kids were the last ones that got to be really feral in the modern age before camera phones and the internet. Email and chat existed but socializing was still done analog. The last of the “come home when the streetlights come on” kids. Our parents would ask us where we had been and had to take our words for it. Visine is a true hero.
While parents always want their kids to have it easier and better than they did there is always the judgement that comes along with it. The easier childhood they provided becomes regret when they realize how often they deferred to happiness instead of good tough prep work for the real world. Just the fact that schools were no longer up hill both ways in treacherous weather was enough to look down the nose at the weakness that has been created by all these fancy gadgets. Soft kids that can’t drive transmissions they don’t make anymore or change their own oil. Let’s just call it what it is, jealousy. No kid is going to reject the comforts afforded to them and no kid is better off because they were subjected to the old ways simply to build “toughness”.
The silver lining to all of this is that 90’s kids make amazing parents. Not that there aren’t those among us who scoff at the weakness that is a millennial, but truth be told those kids are bad ass and 90’s kids are to thank. Parents that were 90’s kids broke with tradition. By and large they came from a perspective of “things are changing fast, let’s just enjoy the ride and do the best we can”. We tend to be helicopter parents but the generational trauma is real. We remember all to well how real shit got when out of reach. How quickly and easily the bad decisions get made and the close calls we faced alone. Shit was scary. I will say it again though, I’m glad it was my experience, but nobody should raise a child like that in todays world.
The world is a better place than it used to be. Don’t get caught up in the bullshit. Read Factfulness and Enlightenment Now, and realize that on the grand scheme of things the world is getting better. That means every time the torch has passed it has been handled better than worse.
So just before the dawn of the internet age, and the implicit obligation for parents to watch their children, we ruled the lands. We were the generation that took it too far and raised the first generation that was ultimately less rebellious than us. We spoke honestly from experience enough to take the thrill out of it. We were less fearful and extreme. When kids are allowed to rebel it takes the fun out of it. When enough people are allowed to explore who they want to be great things happen.
I could go on and on about this and maybe I will. I may just write a book about it, lookout for the kickstarter LOL. More likely there will just be follow up articles. Let me know what you think so far.