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October 18, 2011

Comments

Alix

Beat this. My friend is a history teacher whose class of 11 year olds didn't know what 9/11 was.

Tom Addison

Noah And The Whale?

And generations feeling foreign to one another? Don't pubs exist to cure this? I've always got on alright generations older than mine, but I suppose my favourite music is 60s blues/rock, and I used to work in an old man pub.

Anyway, there's a generation of United fans that can't remember Eric Cantona. Sickening.

Boursin

Alix: I recently heard two ten-year-olds on the back of a bus pity themselves and each other for not having been around for that truly epoch-making event, the Millennium.

I have often wondered whether the fading of the stereotypical collective memory of the 20th century will not increasingly open up new opportunities for leftist mobilisation. For instance, some popular forms of cheap emotional blackmail with which we on the left are all familiar - such as associating any vaguely Marxian-sounding analysis of present discontents with the Soviet Union - will obviously not be working with generations to whom the Soviet Union is as remote as the Holy Roman Empire.

Keith

I agree Chris that you suddenly reach a point in life when you are the old fart. I am so old that I can remember when The Labour Party had policies that were not identical to the Tory party. When Labour wanted to help poor people by giving them more money and providing council houses and free health care. Seems a very long time ago now, I may even be dreaming and it may never have happened. Maybe the Labour Party has always been run by arrogant anti democratic toss pots from Oxbridge who want to win elections by selling out their former supporters with right wing policies and PR spin.

Alix when you are 11 events ten years ago are not memorable. How could they be when you would be one year old in 2001? It is also more to the point possible to dispute the importance of this event. Millions of people have been badly affected by the financial crisis and millions are being impoverished by our deranged far right Government with their plans to cut cut cut. In the proper measure of things the 11 year olds will suffer far more from our Governments economic disaster by the time it plays out. The probability of dying in any Terrorist event is tiny in the UK or USA. The probability of right wing economics damaging your happiness, health and security very high unless you have the offshore trust fund like the Chancellor of the exchequer. Dramatic TV pictures distort reality and lead to bad policy. Over a few years thousands of Americans die from having no health insurance. That is a self inflicted injury. No need for Bin Laden or his replacement to lift a finger when the Americans prefer self destruction via Marketised medicine.

ed

Even at 50 I don't think I'm quite the old fart my dad, now 79, and others of his generation were at that age.

I think anyone who was a teenager from the 1960s onwards has a different outlook on things. Youngsters I know do make fun of me for my age - and my baldness, but there is a culture which we share if only slightly. None of us can remember a time before pop music, TV, mass car ownership etc.

My dad is one of the last of the old guard who will wear a shirt and tie all the time, even if he's staying in the house all day. WW2 is only yesterday for him and all pop music is still new-fangled and awful. His friends are just the same.

tomslee

ed - Look at the comments on any YouTube video of a Top of the Pops from the 1970's and you will see just as much "don't make'em like they used to" and "kids' music today is rubbish" as ever.

Churm Rincewind

Ed - "None of us can remember a time before pop music, TV, mass car ownership etc"

Who, exactly, are "us"? Do you mean to support Chris's point that different generations are foreign to each other, and that he and the contributors above are locked into the prejudices and conditioning of their own lives and have little understanding of the perspectives of other generations?

I'd go along with that. Can't remember Eric Cantona? Disgraceful. Can't remember a time when the Left was cravenly acquiescent to the diktats of the Trades Union barons oops sorry I mean had policies which differed from the Tories? Appalling.

They probably also think that bands like Nirvana and The Smiths made a major contribution to the nation's musical culture.

Boursin

"I think anyone who was a teenager from the 1960s onwards has a different outlook on things."

Well, anyone except, miraculously, the members of the political class. They are a tiny minority of outliers who in their youth were already so busy being political that they seemingly just missed out on the ordinary experience of youth.

I myself live in a country (Finland) where the finance minister is a 36-year-old woman, but she often puts forward the mien of a 56-year-old one. The prime minister just turned 40, which means that his youth is already half his current lifetime away, but he is still considered refreshingly young. I am a 36-year-old non-politician, and regularly socialise with people half my age far more than most people my age; nevertheless, even I often have to struggle actively to understand them.

In Britain, witness also the by now overtly familiar spectacle of a politician quoting the lyrics of a pop song hilariously out of context to support a point and the withering disavowal by the writer of the quote lyrics that always follows shortly thereafter. The stereotypical trendy vicar may be a figure who has been on the way out recently compared to earlier cultural periods, but the political class is his last refuge.

It's certainly a psychically intense experience to realise that there are people younger than you are yourself who are already old enough to have formed a shared generational experience, which experience is completely different from your own. But the fact that so few politicians seemingly ever come to this realisation is alarming, and significant.

Churm Rincewind

@ Boursin: "It's certainly a psychically intense experience to realise that there are people younger than you are yourself who are already old enough to have formed a shared generational experience, which experience is completely different from your own." So in your 36 years on this planet it never occurred to you that there were people older than yourself with a shared generational experience different from yours? The fact that you still do not seem to realise this is, as you say, both alarming and significant. So why do you blame politicians especially?

James

I agree, Chris: chronology shock of this kind is a real phenomenon.

The stat that always gets me on this subject is the gap between John Lennon's first UK no.1 with the Beatles and his death: 18 years. And that's rounded up.

18 years ago from now is 1993. Almost nothing's happened in the interim compared to the same period in Lennon's lifetime.

Boursin

"So in your 36 years on this planet it never occurred to you that there were people older than yourself with a shared generational experience different from yours?"

No, it did occur to me - already right at the same time the generation coming next after me formed its own shared generational experience, i.e. sometime in my twenties. (Indeed, if it hadn't occurred to me, how could I even have known what kind of experience it is?)

I cannot really respond to a comment that asks me to explain why I haven't done the very thing my original comment described me as having done.

Churm Rincewind

@ James: What? Are you seriously suggesting that almost nothing has happened in the world in the last eighteen years compared to the period 1962-1980? The very notion is absurd. I suspect that what you mean is that the period 1962-1980 was significant to you personally, from which I deduce that you're probably in your forties. Give me a few of your favourite bands and I can be more exact.

Boursin

To clarify further: I referred not to the realisation that there exist people whose generational experience is different from one's own, which everyone of course already has as a child with regard to older people. I referred to the new realisation as a young adult that one is already old enough for some of these people with a different experience to be younger than one's own generation is, instead of older. I personally had this experience almost as soon as there were such younger people, and was referring to the impression given by (some, not all) politicians that they have somehow never had it.

Tom Addison

@ Churm Rincewind

The Cantona comment was a joke, I'm 24. Ronaldo is a much better footballer anyway.

That's also why players like Messi mean so much to people may age, we no longer have to put up with our Dad's telling us how someone like Maradona or Pele is better than any of our heroes. But the comparison is pointless anyway.

As I said, pubs. They're what bridge the generation divide.

Peter Risdon

You touched on a big change without expanding on it when you mentioned the X Factor. PJ O'Rourke also wrote about this after a visit to his alma mater where students were wearing exactly what he wore as a student. It was, he said, as though he and his contemporaries had worn spats.

Students still dress very similarly. It's a dress sense that comes from the 1950s and 60s on, like the music that's still listened to. The 1960s were culturally important in a way that has brought generations together.

How many middle-aged men did you see at popular music combo concerts in the 1970s?

Sean

..And the worse thing is at 14 years old they start talking a brand new language and inventing new words.

I think the Darwinists will tell you its something to do with separation, personally I think every generation has to go through the trial and error process, both culturally and personally.

Personally I think the solution is to bring the age of consent down to 14 and raise the age of suffrage to 25.

patrick

A great post. Similar thoughts struck me when my sixty-something mother was talking to me last night about going to see 'Wild Beasts'. I was trying to imagine my grandmother having gone to see some fey indie band in the mid 1980s and failing entirely to picture it.

And I think part of not being young any more is the point at which you realise there is a whole generation of people old enough to vote, drink and drive, whose cultural reference points, language and way of seeing the world is different simply because they were born later. It happened to me when I was in my late 20s but if I'd been more observant, perhaps I would have spotted it sooner.

Keith

"Can't remember a time when the Left was cravenly acquiescent to the diktats of the Trades Union barons oops sorry I mean had policies which differed from the Tories? Appalling."

No I cannot remember such a time as it only existed in the immagination of Tories. I think you mean can I remember when people worked in the Labour movement to improve society by means of social democratic reforms, yes. I am old enough to remember that and able to do so without distortion.

Brian Knight

"Maybe the Labour Party has always been run by arrogant anti democratic toss pots from Oxbridge"

Ah, you mean Crosland, Crossman, and the great Tony (keep the motor cycle industry going) Benn.

Michael Sweeney

You omit the war. Born in the early sixties, I recall the 70s quite vividly, but the war was as close to then as the Brixton/Toxteth riots and the miner's strike is to now.

There are kids now graduating born after the fall of the Berlin Wall (as a kid I thought East and West Germany had always been there!).

Despite recession, terrorism, fears of climate change (overblown to me), my 14 year old told me only last night that he thinks he lives in the best of times, largely due to the technological advances made during his short lifetime. As Bill Gates used to say, the internet changes everything...

Blissex

"the internet changes everything."

It is indeed a big change, a force amplifier for memory, the brain interconnectedness, on a level with printing, if not writing.

But the main thing is that if we are going toward a future with much more expensive energy it may still be affordable (the Internet itself is relatively cheap in energy, the Web takes a lot of energy for server farms) and counteract the tendency to localization due to higher energy costs. We may still be able to teleconference with France even if actually going there goes up to 2,000 pounds.

4rx

@ Patrick "And I think part of not being young any more is the point at which you realise there is a whole generation of people old enough to vote, drink and drive, whose cultural reference points, language and way of seeing the world is different simply because they were born later." LOL seriously??? I disagree with you totally

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