Having recently notched up my half-century - in a style more like Chris Tavare than I'd have liked - I was pleased to see Lucy Kellaway write this:
Age continues to fascinate us. Whenever I interview anyone, I do not consider I’ve done the job properly unless I slip in how old they are. Someone’s age tells you something about their experience.
Lucy's surely right to say that "If nothing else, their age gives you a clue about their taste in pop music." But one defining feature of my generation - in common with younger ones but against much older ones - is the belief that popular culture matters. The fact that Joy Division and the Smiths mean more to men of my age than, say, the Beatles or Nirvana or whatever derivative pap passes for music these days surely tells us something. And those of us who saw Debbie Harry when we were teenagers are just baffled by the fuss about Rihanna or Miley Cyrus.
There are other ways in which age shapes our outlook:
1. Spending your formative years in a recession (pdf) - as we 50-year-olds did - makes you risk-averse. The only time I go into bookies is to drag my stepdad out. And when I do, I'm struck that the men in there are either older or younger than me, but rarely my age.
2. Gender relations. My youthful years came during the Aids scare and backlash against the 60s free love, and before women became more sexually confident and more integrated into universities and workplaces: men outnumbered women 2-1 when I was at Oxford, and vastly more when I got to work. This has given my generation a different attitude to women from the slut-shamers and violent misogynists of (some) younger people.
3. Class. During my formative years of the 70s and 80s, class conflict loomed larged. For this reason, people of my age are more sensitive to class than those in (say) their 30s. And we're pleased to see 20-something lefties like Owen Jones revive this.
4. Our intellectual development was a particular one. I studied economics before it became second-rate maths, and at a time when capitalism was in doubt. Also - under the influence of the Andrew Glyn and Jon Elster - I was brought up to think of the social sciences not in terms of models, but as a box of mechanisms. When I look at Post-Crash economics, therefore, I see things turn a full circle.
5. My generation are, more than others, ironists. Perhaps because we saw traditional class, gender and racial roles as forms of oppression to escape from, we see a distance between ourselves and our beliefs and identities. It's no accident that younger people - who have closed the gap between self and identity - are much more likely than us to have tattoos. And it's also no accident that when someone claims to take "offense", it's someone of my age who tells them to fuck off.
Now, I suspect that - in the improbable event of having read this far - you'll be screaming that all this is horribly solipsistic; by "my generation", I mean "me." Maybe. But I'm trying to get at something here - that we're not just products of our genes and/or class, but also of our age. And I suspect that in failing to appreciate the temporal parochialiness of our ideas, we are apt to misunderstand each other.