Tuesday, 18 March 2014

It's taken 50 years, but I've finally discovered the generation gap

And while you're at it, give us this back.
I've finally discovered the generation gap and I don't like it. Those 'you're not going out like that'/'fascist' dialogues from the teenage years? That's nothing to how I feel now.

Do you remember a thing called middle youth? It was one of those spurious marketing things invented around the same time as yuppies. The idea was that you might be middle-aged but you still thought the same about culture and leisure as when you were younger. Or to put it more unkindly, you didn't really want to grow up.

In fact, I don't think that ever goes away. I've got friends in their 50s and 60s who still buy music (or even records) on a regular basis. I still like the same music as I ever did, admire the same people, find the same things 'cool' (in the sense that we used the word, not just to mean 'nice'). But suddenly, my culture is different from everyone else's. Different, anyway, from people younger than me. And maybe it's just because I feel like an outsider, but I find theirs profoundly annoying.

So I started writing a rant about young people today. It went like this.

Dear young people:

1. Beards are not cool. They've never been cool and they never will be. Beards are not rock'n'roll. Did Elvis have a beard? Did James Dean have a beard? Did Jim Morrison have a beard? (Yes, and look what it did to his rock god status.)

2. 'Entrepreneur' is not a job title. A 'start-up' is just another word for being self-employed and waiting for someone to give you money. Being able to write an app doesn't make you a business person.

3. Working in 'tech', calling yourself an 'entrepreneur' and wearing a beard don't make you a hipster. They make you a yuppie.

4. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur anyway? Who said money was hip? You might be wearing a  black T-shirt but I suspect you are really a Suit.

5. You don't own the internet. Older people can do 'digital', too.

6. 'You guys' is not a suitable way of addressing someone you are trying to sell things to. 'Lol' is not appropriate when you're on a Twitter helpdesk dealing with an angry customer. (I'm not making this up.)

7. You are not the first generation to be poorer than their parents. My parents were the last generation to have a job for life. I've scraped a living ever since Thatcherism. I daren't even think about pensions.

8. If you're so badly off, how come you feel entitled to travel? When I was your age, nobody went to Thailand. Or even Europe, much.

9. Listen to me. I've lived, and I know a few things.

10. But don't believe everything I say.

Then I remembered that I don't believe in generation theory. And I remembered that I'm trying to be more tolerant for Lent. So I wrote something else. I wrote to myself, aged 20.

Dear young people of the 1970s:

1. You've got a baby face, and chewing the end of a matchstick won't make you look cool. (And when will you stop obsessing about 'cool'?) Have you thought about growing a beard?

2. Here's a chord. Here's another one. Now start a band.

3. If you can't start a band, start something else. You will end up successful, poor or doing something completely different. But you will have tried.

4. If you try to get a normal job, you'll probably be told you're 'over qualified'. But at some point you'll need to start thinking about money. Otherwise, you'll regret it when you're older.

5. Someone around your age will invent the world wide web. It will be wonderful, at least for a while. Don't be afraid of it.

6. Don't be scared of older people. They are only people. But treat them with the same respect you would want from them.

7. Start a pension. It sounds like the most uncool thing to do but you won't regret it.

8. There's a whole world out there. You can't afford to visit it, but try watching more television. Your parents were wrong about TV. It can broaden your mind.

9. Listen to your parents. They've earned that.

10. Remember they are not always right.

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