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Shannon Moon

Shannon Moon
Location
Ruraltopia, Pennsylvania, USA
Birthday
December 31
Bio
I am a librarian, teacher, writer, philosopher, mother, daughter, granddaughter, perpetual student, recluse and lover of literature and music. What else is there? Really.

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NOVEMBER 2, 2011 2:34PM

Lost Generation Set Adrift

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Lately, commentators have been referring to my generation as the new Lost Generation (the Atlantic and Bloomberg, for example).  This once referred to the generation lost to the Great War, but it’s now being flung, draped over today’s young adults.  Including myself.

 

In the past, I have bemoaned the current child custody arrangements in our society (you can read about it here).  After the great cultural revolution of the sixties, the rate of divorce increased and an entire generation of children were told that their families weren’t good enough, that they weren’t normal.  But what is normal?  For the vast majority of human history, half your siblings died in childhood.  Significant portions of mothers died in childbirth.  Dads died in war.  Families were NOT made up of biological mom and dad.  It really was grandma and grandpa, or uncle Henry and auntie Em, or one parent that married the neighbor. 

 

Children today live in a world where there are two of everything: two sets of parents, two houses, two sets of clothes, two sets of rules.  Some of us know what this is like because it’s how we grew up too.

 

And we grew up being told that money was king.  We worshipped at the alter of greed, becoming exactly what our religious teaching cautioned against.  


We were shown images of the perfect family, framed by a white picket fence.

 

But instead of being raised by Ozzy and Harriet, we were raised by our OCD mom trying to perfect her impersonation of Superwoman, working 40+ hours a week, taking classes at night, and somehow simultaneously maintaining the perfect face and figure, all the while being the perfect mom and housekeeper--with dear old dad somewhere in the distance, either in a house across town with his new wife and kids, or sitting on the couch watching football and drinking beer after working 40+ hours himself at his job (or two).  They called us latchkey kids and made fun of our long hair and strange Madonna-inspired clothes.

 

And now we are the adults.  Our kids are reviving those strange fashion trends, ignoring us while they text their new best friend, that may be the boy down the street, or maybe the pedophile across town.  They have more gadgets than we ever dreamed of having, even growing up during the so-called Me Generation.  Only theirs are purchased on credit, probably still on our cards when we buy them the next great thing to replace it.  We’re passing on our passion for possessions, even though we can neither afford it financially or environmentally, as their production is brought to reality by debt slaves and by pouring massive amounts of pollution into our already damaged ecosystem (from start to finish).   

 

And we can’t seem to see ourselves as anything but losers.  We’re divorced (married too early) or perpetually single (can’t afford the time to look, ever find anyone that fits our idealized image, or simply can’t afford the wedding).  We have huge student loans to pay off for degrees that we may or may not have gotten, and even if we did they aren’t helping us to find gainful employment.  So we’re unemployed or stuck at some low wage, underemployment gig that can’t feed us, let alone pay the mortgage.  We lost the American dream, if we ever had it, in that great mortgage bubble burst, even if we didn’t actually own a house.  So now we live with our parents, they’re showing early signs of dementia, their pension was lost or stolen by corporate greed, the politicians keep screaming that social security is a bust, and we’re putting thousands on our credit cards just to make ends meet, so forget saving money for our own retirement.  

 

But was it our parents fault?  Could our mothers have been anything but that stressed out woman, screaming at our failure to wash the dishes after school one minute and unsuccessfully attempting to help us with math homework the next?  Or could our fathers have been anything but ghosts?  They were just trying to live up to the ideals that they were allowed.  Dad couldn’t have suddenly started washing the dishes and giving his little girl baths (for fear of being seen as either unmanly, or worse, a pedophile), any more than our mother could have let go of her youth worship (and be seen as unfeminine), her full time job (they needed the income), or actually helped with that math homework (she’d always been told that girls couldn’t do math).  

 

Maybe it’s our concept of what is ideal that is amiss.  Why don’t we ever wonder who decides such things?  Why don’t we question the validity of it all?  Maybe that's where the revolution has to really begin.

 

Could we have done anything differently?  We went back to school.  We did what we were supposed to do.  We studied hard, got into a good school, made the grades, worked long hours, and did what our bosses said.  We educated ourselves again.  But that didn’t stop our jobs from being shipped to China.  

 

Maybe we really are another lost generation.  Only we weren’t lost due a world war and battles to fight the “good” fight, but instead because a few wealthy people decided that they wanted to see just how far they could take it.  Maybe it was all the money that they grew up with, or maybe it was having two sets of rules that made them forget both.  Or maybe it was just that they did question the ideals, and maybe they just bought into the American dream that they could have it all.

 

How can we see ourselves as anything but losers, when we’re all set adrift in a sea of nameless discontent that we just don’t have the time to contemplate?  We’ve been told our whole lives that we weren’t normal, that our families weren’t normal, and that we are now failing ourselves because we can’t find that job.  Forget marriage and kids and houses.  We can’t buy food.

 

I want to end with a glimmer of hope. . .but I just don’t see one.  Maybe we will finally pick up the revolution where our parents left off, and their parents before them.  But would we ever have enough time for living that American dream we’ve been promised afterwards?  Each generation must fight the battles that are in front of them, but maybe we’ve just been too busy playing the WII, working two jobs, reeducating ourselves, taking care of our families, or whatever it really was that we’ve been doing while someone else stole our slice of the pie and our dreams.

 

 what I'm listening to: (yet again) Fortunate Son, CCR

 

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Another good article! I've wondered what Gen-X means as well, Ours really is a lost generation. We are, by all accounts I can find, irrelevant. I get really annoyed when I hear boomers talk about how they invented the internet, I was there, Gen-X built the internet! but, as usual, our voice is irrelevant.

I don't know how you grew up, but I've talked to a number of other Gen-X'rs and the theme I hear most is "ignored". Kids brought up by hippies who thought it'd be a "cool thing" to start a family, then got bored with it in the late 1970's.

One person I know had lived with several other rug-rats, they were given one pizza for all to share, so, if you wanted to eat, you better cram as much as you can, as fast as you can, before the other kids got it. The parents didn't care, they weren't there. They just wanted the kids to be quiet and out of the way.

Another person I know has permanent hearing loss, her mom got bored, dropped her off outside at the age of ~3, frostbite destroyed her ear and it had to be removed. She was lucky someone rescued her.

Someone else was left to sleep, in her underwear, in the garage. Her parents didn't seem to want her either.

Myself, I can relate to some of that, but not as severe! my parents didn't want me (or didn't seem to at the time) but they were never neglectful, I had the good fortune of having loving grandparents.

But the theme I hear a lot, is of a lost, irrelevant generation of people don't trust anyone, people who never really felt wanted or valued in any way, people who felt they better grab whatever they can whenever they can because if they don't, the pizza will be gone.

Small wonder todays society is greedy and has such a dim view of humanity!

This sounds terribly negative, but when I see the 20-somethings coming up, self esteem is a very big deal. These are kids that might feel a sense of entitlement, true, but is that such a bad thing?

Perhaps the new kids coming to forever seal our fate into the void of oblivion will at least have a positive view of themselves, maybe they won't settle for peanuts. For the most part, they seem compassionate.

I'm not a parent, but from what I've observed, Gen-X parents did a pretty good job, even though they won't be appreciated for it. (the boomers will get the credit for that..)
Trivia, I remember being at a relative's house and watching their child eating pizza that had been left out all night. I asked about it, I was just a child myself, and they said they always did that. Honestly, the family began their lives together selling drugs, so this new life for them (at least drug-free, although not alcohol-free) was an improvement.
I didn't feel unwanted as a child, but I was certainly born the wrong gender. Most of my friends, including myself, were lucky. We had enough to eat, in fact our mothers often made homemade everything (they probably couldn't have afforded anything else), dads were mostly around (somewhere, probably the barn or garage or working a second job--my father worked two jobs all my growing up years), and they had enough. We didn't know we were poor. We thought we were middle class (as most working class people tend to believe). And we looked down on our neighbors that don't have electricity.
Several of my daughter's friends live with their grandparents (or great grandparents). I often feel looked-down-upon because I am a single mother (which sometimes seem strange when the people looking down on me are often desperately poor and definitely poorly educated). Thanks for commenting.
I grew up in the 50's; this country was very prosperous, and wages and benefits were good, unions were strong
People began to take everything for granted, and thought that unions weren't needed anymore, well without them workers revert to peasants, and that is what is happening
they started moving all the jobs offshore and buying foreign goods to destroy the unions.
what we did is give away the huge internal American market
we used to buy almost everything we used here; we were told that foreign goods were better or cheaper
BUT WE LOST ALL OF THE JOBS
if you allow people to bring in foreign goods that were made with slave labor, and no environmental regulation, they will beat us everytime because they are cheaper;
Labor must be represented in the World Trade Organization. They are only representing the interests of business and wealthy people who benefit from sending jobs overseas, and bringing in cheapter foreign workers to undercut American workers.
We need to make a lot more of the stuff we use, and have a time out on immigration.You will see our standard of living begin to rise again.
Kathy, I am open to immigration. There are some jobs Americans don't want and won't do even if they are unemployed. Many of these involve our agricultural and I quite frankly like to be able to afford potatoes and apples.
Otherwise, I completely agree with you. It was so shortsighted of our country (politicians and business people alike, and consumers as they bought all of that garbage so cheaply from overseas). None of them saw the BIG PICTURE. Thanks for commenting!