fallacy of generational attitude stagnancy



“… we are raising a generation of precious little wimps, prissypusses who have never heard a bad word, have always had their gut full of food, have had cellphones and laptops at an age where we rode bikes and climbed trees, and have always had the heater on at 80 in the winter and the airconditioning on at 60 in the summer, have had their game cancelled because it rained, and at the age of 15 are still being driven everywhere instead of making it anywhere on their own.

Protected from the big bad world and indulged in every which way.

It will be a rude awakening when the real world comes calling.”




Ok. This is a rant <and rambling observation> on the wacky labeling of generations. Millennials, Boomers, Z, whatever. go on LinkedIn or read some wacky marketing piece in some business journal and you will see some overly simplified bullshit.

That said. I will say discussing attitudes and generations can make your head hurt.

I have a love/hate relationship with generation discussions. As a 4th Turning  generations <Strauss & Howe> advocate I an delighted when drawn into a discussion about different generations and their attitudes over years & history. On the other hand I hate the labeling and generalizations and the overall fact once you apply a label it almost enters into pop culture as ‘fact for everyone.’

Look. Every generation has its own attitudes, values and even quirks. Frankly, it is almost like discussing a person <just a shitload of persons … and now called a cohort or generation>. And, exactly as we discuss individuals and feel comfortable ‘slotting a person in our mind’, once you gain a label, once you gain some ‘reputation’ <deserved or not>, once you gain some perceptions, it seems like it takes an act of God to shed it.

Even with regard to generations.

In addition. There is a sometimes wacky belief that a generation which acquires an attitude in youth carries it through their entire life.

Attitudes like …

They are risk averse because they were sheltered.

They are entitled because they were pampered.

They are x because of y.

<pick your poison on this one>

Well. Let’s be clear. That’s bullshit.

thinking attitudes changeGenerations do not stay stagnant attitudinally as they mature <and gain new Life and societal experiences>.

A generation may maintain an overall cohort personality trend <which implies attitudes will follow a change pattern as they age>, but that’s it.

On that last point I will admit that despite the fact it may seem an oversimplification dividing and defining people by their birth years I don’t mind labeling generations or cohorts because, in general, they do travel together thru time based on mutual life event arching experiences.

However. People sometimes simplistically label a generation attitudinally from birth to death. They attach some of the wrong ‘carry over’ characteristics.

That’s nuts.

Attitudes are not like tattoos.

Just as youth tends to make you more risk acceptable, maturity brings on some risk adversity. Lots of attitudes ebb and flow as you age and the world provides more and more experiences. Lots of attributes ebb and flow as the world changes <this is sometimes called ‘environmental context‘>.

I say all this because it is a fairly rare situation for an attitude to be carried year after year despite running the gauntlet of experiences and aging. Mostly because as we learn we, well, unlearn.

And, yet, we label a generation over & over again.

attitudes generation benchWe always think the young are doomed <because of the way they act and think now>.

We always think the middle aged are … well … caught in the middle <too old for the young and too irresponsible for the old>.

We always think the older generation are doomed in their stagnancy & refusal to let go of what was.

I believe we tend to do this simplistic labeling as a filter to real attitudes because it is easier to have a ‘go to’ response for ‘it is what it is and they are what they are’ <always have been and always will>. I also believe we do this because we confuse attitudes with maybe some personal ‘character’ type attributes.

For example.

As a generalization I am not a huge believer that ‘age broadens or brings wisdom’ with regard to personal character. I tend to believe character is character. The truth actually appears to be that time, aging, actually makes people grow more like … well … themselves. Become just a ‘more version’ of who and what you were in your youth.

If you are lazy in youth, you are lazy in adulthood <napping & Tv behavior simply stretches across the years>. If you are a workaholic in youth, you are a workaholic in adulthood <and all the behavior flaws/trade offs that come with that>. Stuff like that. But those are personal characteristics residing within an overall generational attitude cohort.

Attitudes change.

Behavior changes.

Character ? … well … that may not so easily change. And this applies to not only individuals … but also generation cohorts.

You kind of have to believe this … if you think about it in its broadest sense … such as with “good and bad behavior.”

We know people are not often wholly good or bad.

Those of the worst behavior are capable of redemption.

Those of the best behavior are capable of making bad mistakes.

The world, and generations, is a reflection of a quirky complex mix of characters & thoughts & beliefs. Sometimes meshing and sometimes conflicting. And within the moments of meshing, as well as the moments of conflict, attitudes change.

Simply put … what you used to think you no longer think.

Look. There are all sorts of people in the world and the more you become exposed to all of them the less you rely on opinion, innuendo, and prejudice. The more you get exposed to new people the more you encounter new words and ideas. Your vocabulary and mind and thinking expands <contrary to opinion – attitudes generations puzzleit never shrinks into solid unmoving opinions & prejudices when exposed to a variety of fresh thinking people who are not trying to convince you of anything – just exposing you to new & different things> and inevitably you come to realize that adults have issues greater than nice <being nice> and not nice <not being nice> to contend with.

You realize that attitudes vary beyond the world beyond home, school and neighborhood.

You realize there is a mix of people with good and bad motivations and that appearances, impressions and labels can be deceiving.

You will realize that throughout the world, throughout generations, there are characters you like and dislike and that gives you much better critical thinking skills stretching beyond what you accept … or what you think is unacceptable.

Flexibility and active curiosity are essential to changing attitudes. Shielding yourself, or cocooning in some way,  limits exposure to the unknown which might be the spark that motivates someone to not only think differently but maybe to pursue an ambition or dream differently.

Sure. Not everyone is flexible nor interested in ‘investigation’ of new ideas, but not everyone has to be <and clearly within a generation there are more who are than those who are not> and everyone <or 99%> are at least exposed to the changing world around them.

Inevitably, whether someone is flexible or not, some change seeps in to who you are and how you think.

The world is constantly changing and has never been 100% right. Nor is the world 100% wrong.

And, whether we like that or not, it will continue to be that way. But that will not mean that as we age we won’t push back against the right versus wrong in a variety of ways.

For example:


Growing up, Gen Xers had notoriously poor diets, and as adults have been swept up in every diet craze that has come along.

Now, as parents, they question the industrial food system that failed them.
Many Xers challenge where their food comes from and want to understand the potential impact of food on the well-­‐being of their kids.

voice of generation protestCoupled with emerging research on connections between sugar, wheat, etc. to ADD, autism, etc., the next generation is being raised to understand exactly what they are putting in their mouths. 86% of Moms turn to multivitamins as a ‘one stop shop’ to provide nutrition they fear to be lacking in regular diets.


Anyway. I got a little philosophical with all of that because how we label generations is part of this ‘opening ourselves up to new thinking.’

I do hope that not only do we stop the silly childish lazy ‘labeling’ of generations but also that we don’t raise another generation of people who are constantly offended all the time.

By the way.

This is a ying & yang thought.

Labeling makes people assume they SHOULD think some way <and therefore they are more likely to be offended in a variety of ways>. Avoid the silly labeling and I tend to believe we will be offended less.

Regardless. We waste so much time on nonsense issues & discussion while there’s so much work to be done in making the world a better place. We should worry more about raising a generation not only with a desire to be better than us but also with a true belief they WILL be better than us.

Bottom line? People need to get over simple generational labeling. And people need to get over themselves.

I sometimes think we are all suffering from a form of chronophobia – this is the fear that time is moving so fast you’ll never be able to catch up.

I don’t care what generation cohort you are, I don’t care when you were born, everyone at any time in history has felt like time is moving so fast it is next to impossible to not only keep up … but catch up. Some of the generational bitching <about other generations’ attitudes> is clearly a reflection of our overall angst with regard to a changing world.

Its natural. And it’s natural for us to want to label a generation with an attitude.


Natural or not we older people need to get our natural heads out of our asses and realize that attitudes change and that we can actually impact attitude change.


We either become champions of attitude change or we become a detriment to societal & cultural change.

As we cast dispersions against another generation we should look in the mirror and be sure that it isn’t them … it’s us.

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Written by Bruce