(Note: I wrote this on Jan. 9, 2010. To update it, there’s a Post Script at the end)
Some writers have categorized generations of people according to the year of their birth.
- Lost Generation (1883–1900)
- Greatest (or GI) Generation (1901–1924)
- Silent Generation (1925–1942)
- Baby Boomer (1943–1960)
- Generation X (1961–1981)
- Generation Y (1982–2001)
- Generation Z (2001–)
These categorizations are from the book Generations by Strauss and Howe.
The last 2 US presidents before the present one – George W. Bush and William “Bill” Clinton belong to the Baby Boom generation. The seven presidents before them belong to the Greatest Generation (also called the G.I. Generation), namely, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy.
In the last US elections (2008), the protagonists belong to neither the Greatest (G.I.) Generation nor the Baby Boom Generation.
Historian and best-selling author William Manchester (American Ceasar) described the people of the Silent Generation as “withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent.” TIME Associate Editor Gerald Clarke, 32 (in 1970) wrote:
“We are renters still, taking as our own the values of both old and young—and not thoroughly comfortable with either. Many of us now feel quite at ease with pot, rock and permissive sex; many of us reject the youth culture categorically. Most of us, however, occupy the unhappy position of being undecided: we want to enjoy, but deep down in our pre-Spock psyches, we feel we shouldn’t. We puff marijuana at parties when we would be happier with Scotch or gin; we don bellbottoms when we would rather be in tweeds; we jump into affairs when we would rather be at home in bed—asleep. The visible result often is a compromise: the staid Wall Street lawyer, in vest, rep tie and cuffed trousers in the daytime, who turns Bloomingdale hippie in the evening, donning tie-dyed pants and tank top to weed the garden.”( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Generation )
The Silent Geners were the Artists of the century as epitomized by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan. They were really not that silent. They led the civil rights movement and the Women’s Rights movement in the US. They were the bosses of the Baby Boomers.
In the Philippines, they were the pioneers of Pinoy Rock like the Juan de la Cruz Band. They were also the leaders of the socialist / communist movement like Jose Ma. Sison, Satur Ocampo and Crispin Beltran. They were also the kings of Philippine movies – Fernando Poe, Jr. and Joseph Estrada.
In the US, nobody from this generation became president. John McCain belongs to this generation.
Perhaps it is unfortunate for the Philippines that three of its presidents belong to this generation – Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada.
The Philippines only had 3 presidents from the Greatest or G. I. Generation. But in 1953, Magsaysay became President way ahead of the first US President from that generation. But after Magsaysay, the Lost Generation (1883-1900) regained its leadership for the generation’s last hurrah. The Greatest Generation’s Kennedy won in the US elections of 1960 as did Diosdado Macapagal in the 1961 Philippine presidential elections. Then Marcos held on to it for more than twenty years, finally losing it to the next generation – the Silent Ones through Corazon Aquino. Cory passed on the torch to her fellow Silent Gener who was succeeded by another Silent Gener.
In 1992, the Philippines lost its chance of having another president from the Greatest Generation in the person of Jovito Salonga of the Liberal Party.
It appears that the Silent Generation was better off leading movements like human rights, women’s rights and civil rights or doing music, films and the other arts. When they lead countries, they tend to be conservative, authoritarian and second-rate. France’s Jacques Chirac is the epitome of Silent Generation world leaders. For decades, he struggled against the Greatest Generation’s French leaders Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Georges Marchais and Francois Mitterand. He finally won when these guys left the political scene.
Of course, many people disagree with Strauss and Howe’s overvaluing the GI or ‘The Greatest’ Generation and underestimating the Baby Boom Generation. Leonard Steinhorn came up with his own book, The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy.
Twenty years for a generation is long enough during the first half of the 20th century. In the 19th century or earlier, a generation would be around 30 years. This is because life did not change rapidly then. However, the rapid advance of technology in the second half of the century makes the experiences of people sharply different even if their age differs by only a decade or so. One decade in today’s epoch equals to generations in previous eras in terms of change in one’s daily lives.
Just a decade ago, we did not have HD TV or broad band internet or video-capable cellphones or DVD’s. A decade ago, personal computers have 2 Gigabytes of memory at best. Today, PC’s can have more than 300 GB!
The Baby Boom generation, whether it is defined as people born from 1943-1960 or 1946-1964 (the more common definition), could not possibly contain only one generation of people. The elder half of this generation is so vastly different from the younger half in fundamental ways.
From wikipedia, the Baby Boom Generation is described, defined, categorized in several ways:
The Baby Boomers were the generation born just after World War II, a time that included a 14-year increase in birthrate worldwide. Baby Boomers in their teen and college years were characteristically part of the 1960s counterculture, but later became more conservative, eventually gave birth to Generations X and Y. Most academic and demographic literature uses 1946 and 1964 as the cutoff years of the Baby Boom generation.
Generation Jones, first labeled by U.S. social commentator Jonathan Pontell, is the younger portion of the Baby Boomers. Their early life experiences hold more in common with Generation X than with the Boomers.
- Generation X is the generation born between approximately 1964 to 1979, during the time of the Vietnam War, and connected to the pop culture of the 1980s and 1990s they grew up in. Other names used interchangeably with Generation X are 13th Generation and Baby Busters. Most of this generation are children of The Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation. Those born before 1973 spent most of their teen years in the 1980s.
In the 1985 study of US generational cohorts by Schumann and Scott, a broad sample of adults was asked, “What world events over the past 50 years were especially important to them?” For the baby boomers the results were:
- Baby Boomer cohort #1 (born from 1946 to 1954)
- o Memorable events: assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, protests and riots, experimentation with various intoxicating recreational substances
- o Key characteristics: experimental, individualism, free spirited, social cause oriented
Baby Boomer cohort #2 (born from 1955 to 1964)
o Memorable events: Watergate, Nixon resigns, the Cold War, the oil embargo, raging inflation, gasoline shortages
o Key characteristics: less optimistic, distrust of government, general cynicism
Obviously, there is much confusion here. I would agree with the division of Schumann and Scott but I would not call cohort # 2 as Baby Boomers. I would say, the legitimate Baby Boomers are those born from 1943-1956. These people were born at the end or after WW II. It was a time for rejoicing. It was the post-war boom in the US, the Marshall Plan years in Western Europe, the independence years in the developing world. In the Philippine, the period was called the “Liberation.”
These people were born during a time of plenty. There were enough jobs for everyone and the future looked bright. Their parents were well-off and they grew up in the sanitized world of the 1950s and the mid 1960s.
They followed their elders’ lead in fighting for civil rights and other social rights movements.
They listened to Rock n Roll of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and later, the Beatles or to Pat Boone and Petula Clark. Their Peace advocacies led the younger ones to the hippie movement. They went on to lead revolutions – from the sexual revolution to actual liberation movements.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Franklin Drilon and most of today’s top Philippine officials belong to this generation. My brother Jun Abbas, Nur Misuari and Hashem Salamat of the Bangsa Moro revolution all belong to this generation.
The younger half of the so-called Baby Boom generation is so different from the older half such that they deserve to have a totally different category. Those born from 1955 to 1964 should be distinguished from the Baby Boomers of Clinton, Bush, Jr., Gloria Arroyo or the Bangsa Moro revolutionary leaders. As pointed out by several writers, this group has more similarities to the X-geners than to the elder Baby Boomers.
Those born in the late 1950s up to the late 60s belong to a totally new generation, distinct from the Baby Boomers. The world has become very different then. Russia had launched its Sputnik rockets, America started building its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), the Civil Rights movement had started. This is the period between the First Indochina War (French vs Vietnam) and the Second Indochina War, popularly known as the Vietnam War.
The children grew up in the 1970s and 80s amidst The Cold War between the Superpowers. While the Baby Boomers danced the Swing, and Boogie, they were doing the Disco, New Wave and Break dancing. The elder Baby Boomers listened to Rock and Roll, they listened to Rock Music – from folk rock to acid rock to punk rock, etc.
While the Baby Boomers are unfamiliar with computers, this generation were the pioneers in Personal Computers. Bill Gates and Steven Jobs of Microsoft and Apple belong to this generation. This is the first computer-savvy generation.
David Foot in Boom, Bust and Echo defines Generation X as those born in the US between 1958 – 1964 (post birth-peak Boomers). He calls the X -Geners born 1967 – 1979 as the ‘Baby Bust’ generation. Foot says that the Baby Busters had more economic opportunities than the X-geners.
Are those born from 1958-1964 or thereabouts Baby Boomers or X-geners? Neither. They are more technologically savvy than the Baby Boomers yet they are more historically knowledgeable than the X-geners. I believe they belong to another generation, which I will call the XBoom generation as they straddle the Baby Boom and X generations.
The XBoom generation of people are those born from Oct. 1956 to Oct. 1971. I belong to this generation.
The new world leaders come from this generation: Barack Obama, Russian Pres. Medvedev, England’s Milliband, Cameron etc.
MARTIAL LAW BABIES
In the Philippines, there is a generation that is called “The Martial Law Babies”. These are the people who grew up during Martial Law and is the first generation who has no idea of life in the Philippines before Martial Law.
The Martial Law babies are Filipinos born in 1965 (the year Marcos became President of the Philippines) up to 1972 and beyond. Those born from 1965-1972 are still part of the XBoom generation but in a subcategory by themselves. When it comes to Philippine politics, the average life experience of the Martial Law babies is utterly different from that of the older members of the XBoom generation.
When George Herbert Bush fought Bill Clinton for the US Presidency in 1992, it was a fight between the G.I. or greatest generation represented by George Bush, Sr. and the Baby Boom generation represented by Bill Clinton.
Since 1960, only people from the Greatest Generation became US president until then. In 1992, for the first time in US history, a Baby Boomer became the country’s president. And the Baby Boomers led everywhere – in England and other countries, in major business enterprises, etc.
In 1996, the Baby Boomer Clinton was challenged by another G.I. generation leader – Robert Dole. It was the G.I. geners last try at world leadership.
In 2000, two baby boomers fought for the White House – Al Gore and George Bush, Jr. Four years later, George W. was challenged by another baby boomer – John Kerry.
In last year’s US election, the G.I. Geners and the Baby Boomers were gone from the limelight.
The Silent Generation had taken over the Republican Party. John McCain was the last champion of the Silent Generation.
The Silent Generation has often been overshadowed by their elder brothers – those who belong to the Greatest or G.I. Generation. Later, they were taken over by their juniors – the Baby Boomers. John McCain was hoping to finally break the jinx of the Silent Generation and become the first US President from that Generation.
Interestingly, he chose a running mate that did not belong to either the Silent Generation or the first half of the Baby Boom Generation. He chose Sarah Palin of the XBoom Generation.
Meanwhile, the Democrat candidate Barack Obama also comes from the XBoom Generation. And interestingly, his running mate, Joe Biden, comes from the same generation as McCain – the Silent Generation.
And so for the first time since 1960, the two presidential tickets did not include anyone from either the so-called Greatest or G.I. Generation or the first half of the Baby Boom Generation.
Fortunately, the winner of last year’s US presidential election comes from my generation – the XBoom Generation. It is the generation that understands and experienced the past and comprehends the future.
McCain belongs to a generation way past its prime. Obama belongs to a generation that is most capable of leading the world into a new epoch of a world based on peace, equality, prosperity and knowledge.
In 2001, the Philippines had its first Baby Boomer president. And she’s giving it up only now.
The 2010 presidential elections pit candidates from three different generations.
Villar, Gordon, and Villanueva belong to the older Baby Boom generation. They represent the generation of Gloria Arroyo, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair. This generation controlled the world for the last two decades or so.
Former President Joseph Estrada is the standard bearer of the Silent Generation. His generation includes Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos. They ruled the Philippines from 1987 to 2001. John McCain belongs to this generation. Most, if not all (esp. in the Philippines) of the members of this generation do not even know how to use computers.
A young lad, JC de los Reyes is also a candidate for the presidency. He is a certifiable X-gener. He is supposedly almost 40 years old but he looks like he’s barely out of college. Another X-gener, Chiz Escudero, formerly a presidential front-runner, had dropped out of the race. While they bring up the tail end of the XBoom generation, in the Philippines, they belong to the subcategory called,“Martial Law babies”.
Noynoy Aquino, Gilbert Teodoro and Jamby Madrigal belong to the XBoom Generation. Barack Obama is a part of this generation.
POST SCRIPT – the Return of the Baby Boomers
When I wrote the above essay in 2010, the world leaders — Pres. Barack Obama of USA, Pres. Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Prime Minister David Cameron of U.K. — all come from the XBoom generation. I thought that this generation was going to lead the world from then on. But it was not to be so.
In the US, baby boomers made a comeback with Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump battling for the presidency, which Trump miraculously won. In Russia, baby boomer Vladimir Putin returned to the limelight and does not appear to let go of it any time soon. Only in England did the XBoom generation continue to hold the reigns of power, with Theresa May replacing Cameron.
In the Philippines, the XBoom generation leaders – Noynoy Aquino, Gilbert Teodoro, Mar Roxas, etc. – were replaced by older Baby Boomers. President Duterte, who was born in 1945, may even belong to the Silent Generation, according to some thinkers. At any rate, President Duterte surrounded himself with people from his generation – Baby Boomers all.
This could be just a small setback for the XBoom generation leaders. But for certain, they will be the leaders of the coming years. I guess my time is yet to come 😉
Generation Y is now more popularly known as the Millennials. They were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Although some people mistakenly think that they are the ones born in the late 1990s and beyond. They get a lot of media hype nowadays. Perhaps this is due to the fact that many advertisers have them as their target audience.
But they are still a long way to go in terms of leadership, especially political leadership.
(end) 4 Oct 2017