Thinkin’ About The Atlantic Article THE CHEAPEST GENERATION

I found a few articles recently, one in The Atlantic titled “The Cheapest Generation.” As someone who came of age in the tail end of the fabulous 1960s, I have always prided myself on having an open mind. After graduating from high school in a small central Illinois town in 1969, I went to college when the anti-war protests and the counterculture were both booming. I learned that there are many kinds of cultures, many kinds of norms, and that tolerance up to a point is a great virtue. Although I soon left behind the outer signs of being a hippie freak (long hair, granny glasses, bell-bottoms), I felt like each new decade brought new challenges and changes and I always kept up with pop culture, music, technology, and social change as the decades passed.

As each generation gets its own name and character, I find that sometimes I feel close to the younger folks, sometimes not so close, but I can usually find ways of relating. The 1970s, for example, were a difficult time for me, having blossomed in the height of the previous decade. But the 1980s were a welcome breath of fresh air, and I still love much of the music of the decade, while not feeling much akin to the conservatism and greediness. The current generation of young people present a special challenge, and again I feel many connections and many disconnections as well, things in common and ways I am completely different.

Two recent articles show how even the best thinkers have a hard time figuring out the younger generation. In “The Cheapest Generation,” the writer expresses a certain sense of loss, with some hope for the future. This generation (called millenials) seem to have no interest in buying houses or cars, the cornerstone big purchases deemed necessary by economists and politicians alike. Instead they use networking technology and software to live in such a way that these things just aren’t needed. But they are interested in making money, at least enough to pay for the latest gadgets. When I hear about the way these folks disdain the big ticket items that keep them chained to a desk, I definitely feel that I share some of their beliefs and approaches to life.

Things are very different with another strata of millenials, “The Street Kids of San Francisco.” I must admit I feel a great sense of relief to know that there are young people like these, no matter how misguided they may seem to some. To me they are trying to carry on the virtues and tenets of the best of the 1960s, cooperating and communing and living a life of non-attachment. Of course there is a dark side to the lives of many of these young people, but I believe that they would feel right at home living the full time RV lifestyle someday, at least the cheap version.

So here I sit near the middle of the second decade of the 2000s, running out of names for the decades and the generations. The people that I read about and feel a kinship with might be surprised to know that I’m a fairly old guy, driving and living in an older RV with my lovely wife beside me, our beautiful cat Spot sitting in the sun under the cracked windshield and a music collection that spans the decades (thank god for mp3s). Like the young generation, I feel a disdain for new cars and big houses, and I like the idea of bartering and communing with nature in my travels. So while I certainly don’t look like a millenial generation member, I feel that I have an understanding of them, and that I have a lot in common with them. Hopefully, they would feel the same about me.


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