A look at American generations, movements

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By Bob Mount

Demographers have classified Americans as belonging to generational groups and movements. Following are those most frequently described:

1. The Greatest Generation, a term first used by Tom Brokaw to describe the generation who grew up during the era of of the Great Depression. Many fought in World War II and others remained at home and worked in various ways to contribute to the war effort. Relatively few of this generation are still living.

2. The Silent Generation, also known as “The Lucky Generation.” Members of this generation, including me, were also called “Depression Babies” and, compared with earlier and subsequent generations, were few in number. They grew up in the most stable, intact families in the nation’s history.

The men in this group are said to have made the greatest gains of the century in schooling and came closest to having full employment. Professor E. D. Carlson contends that this generation is “the most fortunate group of Americans, ever.” My own experiences and observations lead me to conclude that Carlson’s assessment is correct.

3. Baby Boomers followed the Silent Generation. It is a large group, born after WWII, between 1946 and 1964. The group, attitudinally, is difficult to define but is usually associated with privilege, as a result of widespread government subsidies in post-war housing and education and increasing affluence.

According to Wikipedia, as a group they were the wealthiest and most physically fit generation up to that time. Their high rate of consumerism has been criticized as excessive.

4. The Beatnick era occurred from the mid-1950s into the 1960s. Writer Ray Carney said much of the Beat culture represented more of a negative stance than a positive one.

It was said they were motivated by a feeling of cultural and emotional displacement and dissatisfaction rather than by a specific purpose or program. Beatnicks were relatively few in number. They dressed shabbily and embraced 1960s musical renditions by Bob Dylan the Beatles, and other non-traditional musicians.

5. The Hippie Movement of the 1960s was characterized by weirdly dressed people with long, flowing hair who used hallucinogenic drugs and claimed to love peace and freedom.

They believed in extreme tolerance of sexuality, sexual behavior and use of vulgar and obscene language. They protested the Vietnam War and expressed ultra-liberal views on nearly every other issue. The main epicenters of the movement were in the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco and East Village in New York City.

6. The Yuppie Generation consisted of upper middle class and upperclass people in their 20s and 30s during the 1980s. They indulged in drinking Starbucks coffee, drove expensive automobiles and dressed in stylish clothing. They were resented by the lower classes because of their extravagant spending habits.

7. Generation X or Gen Xers were born between 1961 and 1981. They are usually well-educated, active, balanced, happy and family-oriented. Their views on social issues tend to be liberal.

8. Generation Y or Millennials. Born between 1980 and early 2000, they tend to be confident, tolerant and inclined to be narcissistic. They are likely to have liberal views on abortion, same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana.

Many of this generation are inclined to delay transitioning from childhood to adulthood and live with their parents. They are likely to be addicted to social networking, using their phones or computers. Unemployment in this group is high. They are less religious than members of earlier generations.

Thirty-three percent believe it’s unimportant to keep abreast of political issues, compared with 39 percent of Gen Xers and 50 percent of Baby Boomers.

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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