Generations

Millennials and Baby Boomers (RL241, RW62)

John is fond to criticize the Baby Boomers, a generation now in their sixties (RW62), because of the execrably awful experience the world has suffered under their leadership (RL241). They thought they were incredible, they ended Vietnam, they gave us Jimmy Hendrix and The Doors (RW62) and their cultural identity when they were 16-26 was understood by everyone as an anti-war, music-loving, pot-smoking, free-loving, progressive, tearing down the walls, advanced new society (RL241). But some years later, the same people supported Reagan (RW62), invested in the stock market (RL241) and came with "Greed is good" (RW62). They said it was time to grow up and get serious. The same people who went to Woodstock now worship the army, scant "Support our troops" and this feels like the last chapter in the Vietnam story. According to them, the reason we lost the "war" in Vietnam was that the home front didn't support it. (RW62) Today the exact same generation makes up the Trump universe which shows that the boomers are not monolithic, but they react to their time. (RL241)

Millennials, according to Merlin, are spending a lot less money on clothes, but more on food and events. When Merlin was a teenager, he poured as much money as they possibly could on clothes. As a study has found out, Millennials have a stronger believe that the woman should stay home than previous generations. The study has been around a very long time and every year they ask the same questions to the same-age people. The Millennials are probably tired of being called Millennials to begin with. They are educated in public schools based on a platform developed by people who went to college in the early 90s. They are tired of being lectured at and want to return to a traditional thing that never existed, but they imagine it did. Maybe they want stability. When Merlin was young, most people were married and only very few were divorced, but being divorced is very normal now. It might be that people stayed in their marriage because they were middle class church people. (RL241)

When the Greatest Generation lost their cultural primacy (RL260)

John's dad was born in 1921 and was member of the Greatest Generation. His cohort includes Sammy Davis Jr, John F Kennedy and Johnny Carson. They continued being the prime movers of the culture all the way through The Beatles around 1968. We normally look back and think that the youth of America was in Rock’n’Roll since the time of The Beatles or Elvis, but those people were just children in terms of who was really driving the culture forward. Only when the kids in college had their protests in the late 1960s, everybody's liberal dream in John’s dad’s generation including John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Lyndon B. Johnson got killed. Following that, the steering wheel got taken from the Greatest Generation right about 1970.

John’s dad was as far left as he could be, but it took him several years to understand that you could protest against the army being in Vietnam. It had never occurred anybody in his generation to be against the war, which was pretty awkward, especially after the Veterans Against the War March when things got further radicalized, as can be seen in episode 9 of the Vietnam War TV Series. Even though the tide of opinion across the nation was turning against the war, now they were radicalizing everybody by telling them that they were doing the protest wrong. It must have been hard to know what kind of footing to find. John’s mom was against the war from the very beginning and it was a contention within their marriage, but that is the way liberals still are: She was against the war and dad was like ”You can’t be against the war!” John's dad’s first wife is the mother of John’s older brothers and sister. At one time his dad was running for a major position in the Washington State Democratic Party and his wife, Gene, decided to run against him from the left. Can you imagine how it was around the dinner table between those two? He was running and she said ”I don’t think so!” and threw her hat in the ring. This is the early 1950s and their marriage didn’t work out. They were married for 8 or 9 years, though, which is not nothing.

In 1968 John's dad was 47 and that was the moment when the culture just went past him and his friends. From that point on the Baby Boomers were determining the dialectic and the Greatest Generation gradually had to realize that they were no longer laying it out there. They didn’t have any veto power or utter primacy of opinion anymore and a lot of people weren’t automatically going to agree with you just because you were from the Greatest Generation or because you were the dad or the mom. Carson retained his cultural presence and felt comfortable when he had guests like Dean Martin, but when he had young people on throughout the 1970s we was like ”So what are you young folks all up? What are you kids doing today?” He would see people like Tiny Tim mostly as a curiosity. Dick Cavett was more on the street. That is the age that Merlin and John are now.

Unfortunately the Generation X was small and too resigned to ever have the feeling of making the culture. No-one ever cared about what they thought. You watch the reigns get handed over in front of you and didn’t even get to touch them. They are like the Prince Charles of cultures, sitting in his double-breasted jacket until the sleeves are all frayed, waiting to be king even for a minute. The man is in his 70:s!

The generational conflict (RL260)

John believes the children are our future, the question is if he is prepared to let them lead the way. His challenge is to continue to be useful, which he has always tried to do, while also acknowledging that it no longer matters whether or not he thinks a thing matters, is good or sensible. You don’t want to be Homer Simpson’s dad, yelling at clouds. At a time long before John’s dad’s generation, the understanding was that people accrue more wisdom and are more useful as they get older, even if they aren’t down in the trenches doing things anymore, but you still go and consult them. For centuries, the pace of change would not exceed two generations and you could say that mom and dad had seen some shit and we should listen to them! Grandpa would know how to fix the wheel on the wagon or how to water an older horse. Today, grandpa still wants to tell us how to water an older horse while the kids are going around on hover-boards. How can the older generation be useful without being grouchy?

When John was young, everybody in his dad’s generation grew their sideburns long. His dad went from a James Bond tuxedo to having sideburns and wearing a suede trench coat. They were wearing big white ties on ski trips. It was during the era when his dad was appearing in court and a couple of times the judge would be telling him that his blazer was not acceptable in court. John doesn’t want to end up dying his hair with Manic Panic just to stay in the game. Two things you can do are to embrace curiosity and kindness. Kindness doesn’t hurt anybody. Merlin goes to the bodega a couple of times a week and sees the lady at the bodega, who is a woman in flux, a recent grandmother who is always trying new things. She often has different nails and different eyebrows, she is trying some things out. Sometimes he will tell her that he really likes her hair. That’s it! He should say that her eyebrows are on fleek, but he doesn’t want to be too personal about a specific part. They continue to talk about odd idioms and memes that have probably their origin in somebody spelling something wrong, like John is ending most of his text-messages with ”B” because the ”B” is right in the middle above the space bar. On 4Chan they have replaced ”LOL” with ”KEK”. The word shipping” is used somehow in connection to ”relationship”, which probably means that millennials have many more levels of relationships that Merlin and John had. They might not even have the concept of a relationship, but everything is just hickety pickety.

One of John’s first millennial friends, back when that person was 20 years old, used to brag about how fluid his relationships were. He was making a contrast between the young, cool, groovy people and the old stuck in the mud people. John never had the heart to tell him that he had touched more dicks than the guy had hot dinners at the time. Now that he in his 30s, his fluidity has coagulated and he just wants a girlfriend. You get in the habit of thinking that you are progressive and that you and your friends always are going to pigpile naked and Netflix and fleek all night and day. Eventually everybody wants a white picked fence, except for very few of us. Merlin knew some guys in their late 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s who kept coming to college parties after they had gone there for one semester, which is not a good look in a pigpile.

There was a young kid who had a band during peak Indie Rock times in Seattle and his dad was the bass player in the band. He was probably in his 40s while the kid was late-teens and his dad had color in his hair. It was very uncomfortable with all of them, because they didn’t really want to interact with the kid, because he was a child, and they didn’t want to interact with the dad, because he was a dad, but they would be at parties and events together. Now John can go to these parties. There is usually a padded chair he can sit on in a corner and if people want to come and pay their respects, they can. But John is not circulating, trying to find out who the young bands are and go hang out with them. If they want to come say hello that is wonderful.

John is doing a recording right now and his drummer is a member of one of the young bands. They have a great time together. Music really is an inter-generational language, but then John realizes that he is 20 years older than this person, which is the lifetime of an entire cool musician. These young musicians are already in their late 20s and do already have to confront the fact that maybe they didn’t make it and now they are on the record of some old who is sitting on a chair with his fly unzipped. They are playing with Howlin’ Wolf now, having reached that John Hooker stage sitting on a crate out in front of a diner, which would absolutely be John’s dream. Apparently, John Lee did just keep his fly down in the later stage of his career. The audience couldn’t really see it, but everybody else did. That is a bold place in life! Those are squad goals: A group of men that you can really relate to and you are totally comfortable sitting with your flies down. Nobody talks about it, it doesn’t have to be weird, it doesn’t even have to be coordinated, but it just happens! For John, squad goals is only an internet joke. Personally he doesn’t have squad goals. He does have a goal to have 5 or 6 people around his property in his employ, but he wouldn’t call that a squad. When you think about Elvis or Don Corleone, you think of these people who are in this retinue of characters who move in and out. John was at Hammer’s 50th birthday party and now Merlin is 50, who is the asshole now? Merlin’s birthday party is not happening at the Tonga Room, they are just going to have a quiet dinner and get to bed early.

Both John and Merlin are members of a couple of squads, but there are people who’s squad is full on where they live and belong. Maybe it is a FOMO, the primary existential characteristics of millennials. The squads John attends are not millennial squads, but they are squads of guys who get together to watch football games and play poker. They are mostly rock people and they used to be ashamed that they would watch football because it wasn’t very Rock, but at a certain point they just wanted to watch football, whether it was Rock or not and they made it Rock. John always described it as something people were taking very seriously, they weren’t just allowed to shuck and jive and walk around and play grab-ass. Like Game of Thrones: You have to watch this with a very peripheral mindset. Particularly in Seattle, the professional sports are understood in a kind of George Will context where people intellectualize about sports and have read the book about sports and are not just there for the movie. Particularly when they lost their basketball team it became existential and you could be dark about sports.

Eastern Slovakia is a very mountainous region. The Romanians get all the Transylvania vibe, because it is mountainous and scary, but there is a place in Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland where the Carpathian Mountains are very tall, like icy full of bears tall. People are up there doing very gothy things. Merlin doesn’t doubt that there are metal bands in Prague, but you have to really go up into the Carpahtians to find some serious goths, people untethered from the expectations of the city. Those are not even the serious goths! The Finns hated the Russians so much that the sided with the Nazis, not because they believed in Nazism, but because they hated the Russians that much. There are surely some holes up there in Finland full of dark magic. Island, Sweden, Norway and Denmark has gnomes, but not Finland. The Island gnomes were probably in the hold of the ship that came from Denmark and they snug out, like a brown rat. For them, gnomes are like Pokémons, they are just part of the culture and nobody is going to be freaked out that you believe in gnomes. For a true Russian-hating Finn, their attachment to the gnoming culture is something that is more bespoke in person, like that is their squad goal! In Finland, they probably have wraiths more than gnomes.

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