a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘greatest generation’

shaping a generation

I can remember watching the moon landing as a little kid – on colour TV because my father was always extravagant about appliances.  We were the first in the neighborhood to have one.  It did make the whole adventure even more surreal.  At that age, you have only just stopped believing the moon is made of green cheese so it was almost like a fairy story.

And at the time it seemed like a fairytale to everyone.  It’s hard to believe in the days this message I am typing will be broadcast to the entire world in a matter of minutes all via the magic wizards of the internet.  In my mom’s generation, talking about putting a man on the moon sounded like crazy talk.

My mom is only a generation younger than Neil Armstrong.  I heard he died last night and he had always seemed an impressive kind of guy so I read an article about him this morning.  And was not disappointed.

In one of the world’s greatest ironic moments, the box to click on his story was sitting right next to a box about Snooki.  She had a baby apparently.  WHY does anyone care?

It got me thinking about generations.  It’s a subject that interests me a lot.  It all began when I read a magazine article a couple of decades ago that talked about the impact the generation you are born into has on your life.  I am often lumped in with the “Baby Boomers” statistically.  I think they were the first to ever get a “generation title”.

So the sociology of the Baby Boomers always seems a little suspect to me.  I would say a generation is about a decade.  Maybe you don’t cut it off precisely at ten years but, give or take a few years, that is a period of time in which the members will have the same types of life experiences and a shared identity.  Yet somehow Baby Boomers  run from those born in 1946 to those born in 1964.  Eighteen years!  So the earliest baby boomers can be PARENTS of the same generation?  That just doesn’t make sense, people!

I think it means those are the post-war years in the United States where there were a lot of babies born compared to the years before.  It points out a lot of interesting facts about generations and the people who define them.  I lived in Europe for a few years and my biggest shock was going to some of the places devastated by two world wars and seeing photos of the rubble that had been in the place I was standing in 1945.  Most parts of the world were too busy re-building or too poor to be too focused on birthing a bunch of children  spoiled enough to take some of the worst traits of the second generation of wealth and apply them to an entire country.

To be born in the 1940s or early 1950s in North America.  It was as though almost everyone was a second generation Rockefeller.  The ground had been laid.  Jobs were easy to find.  The middle class was healthy.  North Americans still seemed to think there was a place in the world for literacy.  It was a glorious time.  But, as all the children of privilege who end up dead from a cocaine overdose could tell you, having it too easy doesn’t always work out so well in the end.  It ends up in things like Snooki…

I think one of the biggest insults you could do to Neil Armstrong is to put his photo next to Snooki’s!  Neil was born in 1930.  I checked my facts and technically he was too young to be part of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.”  But that’s the thing with generations.  We are all part of one.  And will be labeled whether we like it or not.  And we will be influenced by the economy and culture into which we are born.  It is an inevitable fact of life.  But how we respond – and what we do to improve the image of whatever generations we might get lumped into – is up to us as individuals.

I am sure there will be more talk of generations.  Certainly there will be more talk of economics and culture.  There is more to be said about the “greatest generation.”  But the real lesson we should be learning is that it shouldn’t take strife, hardship and deprivation – and a lot of dead people – to make us act better.  But humans are pretty stupid animals despite our oversize brains so it does seem that we aren’t so good at doing the right thing until we are forced into a corner.

That’s what really impressed me about Neil Armstrong.  He was famous!  Possibly more famous than Prince Harry.  Prince Harry would be wise to take a few tips from him 🙂  Not too many people’s sentences are so famous random people all over the world likely know what you said verbatim.

But he cared about space, about science and engineering, about his country, about his integrity.  He didn’t sell his soul to become a pitchman to make a ton of money off his fame.  He quit signing autographs so people wouldn’t use them for the wrong purpose and gave money to charity when he made a quick buck off something stupid (and made other people do the same).  He finally had a biography published but thought long and hard about who would write it.

He used his fame when he thought it could do good, making public statements protesting the dismantling of the US space program.   It is a little sad that the United States has become such a crass, materialistic place that this level of integrity by someone who could have so easily exploited his fame (Michael Phelps, you might want to take note 🙂 is almost as impressive and rare as the first man on the moon.

Current generation – think about it.  Your generation will be defined by the collective impression left by all its various members.  The more of you who take Neil Armstrong as your role model, the better your rep.

Your parents’ generation comes off as self-indulgent, narcissistic and materialist.  So, hey, the bar is REALLY low.  I see some of you spouting off in the comments section on the internet.  Make sure you spend at least as much time in the real world, finding things you believe in, doing something important with your lives –  and learning some grammar.

The opinions of people who sound smart  and know how to put together a grammatically correct sentence that incorporates facts carry a lot more weight.  “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”  So much more impressive, inspiring and memorable than “WTF” 😉  And people even worry whether he said the “a”… one giant leap for literacy 🙂

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