Baby Boomers(1946 to 1964); Generation Jones (1955 to 1965); Generation X (1965 to 1980); Xennials (1977 to 1983); Millennials (1981 to 1996); Generation Z (1997 and after); Generation Alpha (2010 and after).
We know all these various appellations used to describe successive generations from time to time. As a generalisation they work but of course they do not reflect the scale of difference within each generation.
I must declare at once that I am classed as a “Baby Boomer”. We grew up under the shadow of World War II. The six years of the war were still forefront in my parents’ minds and the stories were abundant. Quite regularly when looking through photo albums and asking where were the relatives we had never met, the answer was often “the didn’t come back from in the war.” There was no rushing to the western front to see them – just a telegram delivered by the local postman.
The mood of the Baby Boomers over the years has been one of sorrow for the deceased tempered with thankfulness for being alive. And younger generations might not even know that bacon, butter, sugar, meat, and petrol were rationed from the end of the war up to 1954. There were no mad panics about buying toilet paper nor storming of the grocery shop as happened recently in New Zealand. You had your coupon book and that was what you could have.
It is the pattern of human behaviour in an epidemic that contrasts so dramatically with the patterns of behaviour in a conflagration that astound me. Are Baby Boomers fundamentally wired in a different way to Millennials? They must be otherwise how can the contrast in reaction and behaviour of the two groups be so different. And just what are those differences?
The demands of those who wish to avoid quarantine, the strident demands from non-essential retail shops, the exuberant lining up for salary and expense top-ups for Decile 10 schools, the events in Victoria, Australia – all paint a picture of a generation or two that have a highly elevated sense of entitlement.
Contrast, on the one hand, the treatment handed out to farmers throughout New Zealand over the years in times of drought and floods and cyclones and stock disease outbreaks. There seemed to be a view in governments (on both sides) that those events were normal risks of doing business that you had to simply manage. On the other hand, the treatment of coffee shops, bars and pretty well all business seemed to be uncritically in favour of instant recompense for risk.
The point of raising these concerns is to ask how much the education system has contributed to the traits of the community. Education earned some praise for getting materials and devices out to students, developing TV initiative which was novel and, in the tertiary sector, development of a huge online capability was impressive. But I note that students at the universities in Auckland and Wellington are complaining about the in-line tuition. Once again entitlement trumps gratitude. They claim they are being shortchanged, that they want face-to-face tuition. I only hope that these cries are coming only from a small minority who capture the attention of a rapacious media thirsty for doom and despair. Their complaints don’t wash when they immediately flee into Facebook for their social life.
It is at this point that the argument fails – generalisations based on the all-too-easy names for generations inadequately characterise groups born in various decades. It is more the truth there are only good people and some others.