Monday, May 4, 2009

Presenting: "The Barack-ettes"

As I get older, I feel so far out of the loop that I can't even see the loop any more. Things are changing much faster than they used to, and I often feel like I'm on the outside looking in. I remember when VCRs came out back in the seventies. My mother looked at that machine like it was something from another planet that did wondrous things, but that she could never hope to understand. It's not just technology that is changing, but people's attitudes, priorities and values as well. I know it's inevitable that younger generations will experience the world differently than older ones, but that process seems to have accelerated considerably.

I just read an interesting magazine article about how these generational differences play out in the workplace. They looked at three generations: The Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X - 1965 -1980; and The Millenials - 1981 - 2000. (I am considered part of the pre-Baby Boomer generation known by the cutsey name of The Matures born between the year Dirt and 1945.) The article talked about the way each generation views work, and related a story I will share with you that pretty much illustrates how much things have changed. A company President from the Baby Boomer generation (they view work traditionally, pretty much as I do) was out on the office floor when a phone began ringing. All the employees were on the phones except one (a Millenial), who showed no inclination to answer the call. The President took care of the call, and then asked the Millenial why he had not picked up the ringing phone. His answer: "I was down to the last two minutes of an E-bay auction in which I was bidding."

The company President told the writer interviewing him for this magazine article that he took no action against the employee because things were different today. Young people don't look at work or a job the same way that Baby Boomers did. (See, here's where I move way out of the loop.) If I had been that company President, and got that answer from an employee of mine, his ass would have been out in the parking lot in a New York minute, followed by his belongings raining down from the nearest window. I (the company President) had to pick up a ringing phone because you (my employee) were engaged in bidding in an E-bay auction on company time! Not on my dime, Buckaroo.

Another area where I feel out of touch is in understanding the Millenial's addiction to technology. I use my home computer more than most, but don't feel panicked if I'm away from it for an hour. I just don't get sites like My Space and Facebook. Setting aside the risks for teens who naively post stuff on these sites better kept private, the real thing that puzzles me is why people feel compelled to send messages like: "Marcie is feeling blue today" or "What flavor ice cream are you". Who has the time or the interest to respond to this stuff? The same slavish attachment holds true for cell phones and I-pods, why must people be on them incessantly! They walk around with those stupid Bluetooth appendages sticking out of their ears. Us "Matures" are thankful for any quiet time we can get. (P.S. My blogs are not a compulsion; I can quit any time I want.)

I rarely go to the movies any more because my wife gets embarrassed when I shush people who are conversing as if in their living room. I used to watch the Academy Awards, at least until the show became interminably long. It was nice to see real stars (as real as Hollywood gets) with real talent compete for the coveted Oscars. Lately, on those rare occasions when I look in on the broadcast, I hardly recognize anybody. Actors and actresses come and go, with very few like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman showing any staying power. They seem so hallow and superficial, and as for their acting ability, I'll quote an old line from a Dorothy Parker review of a spectacularly ungifted actress: "Her performance ran the gamut of emotions from A to B."

Finally, there is politics. I didn't vote for President Obama, but I'm rooting for him and for the country. There was a 20-page pullout in this week's paper celebrating the success of his first hundred days in office. Please tell me what I'm missing. I thought success was measured by accomplishments. Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking for miracles after three months, after all, he inherited a mess with the economy and the war, but let's wait until he actually achieves something before we celebrate. I can't get excited about sound bites and speeches, but apparently I'm in the minority. At his public appearances, the President is usually surrounded by young groupies who cheer wildly, no matter what he says. (I call them the "Barack-ettes.") I listen, but like all skilled politicians, he doesn't say much. The time for speech making is over; he's got the job and it's time to start keeping all those promises.

I don't like the feeling of being marginalized and out of the loop, but the way things are going, maybe it's a loop I don't want to be in.

LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association


ConnectingTheDots said...

Interesting blog and post, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a lot of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term.

It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
Generation Jones: 1954-1965
Generation X: 1966-1978

Here is a recent op-ed about GenJones as the new generation of leadership in USA TODAY:

Jim Pantaleno said...

Thanks for the clarification. I will check out the article, but I'll still feel out of the loop no matter what we call them.