Gen X marks the spot
On the trials and tribulations of the last good generation
Their talk was endless, compulsive, and indulgent, sometimes sounding like the remains of the English language after having been hashed over by nuclear war survivors for a few hundred years.
-Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Now that Boomers and Millennials have both ganged up to cancel Joe Rogan on Spotify, can we finally agree that Gen X was the last, good American generation?1
For those unfamiliar with the contours of the ongoing cancelation drama, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell —the hippy music your parents listened to, fellow Gen Xer—have made common cause with the millennial employees of Spotify to cancel Gen Xer Joe Rogan, whose audience is larger than that of CNN and the populations of all the countries CNN has encouraged us to invade in the past 20 years. The biggest threat here though isn’t really the man who used to sing “Rockin’ in the Free World” like he meant it, it’s the millennial (and younger) employees at Spotify that CEO Daniel Ek has recently addressed in that ship-captain-facing-mutiny genre increasingly common in corporate America.
Not only are Gen Xers the last good generation, but also one in the uniquely weird situation of getting spit-roasted by the power and moral opprobrium of its bracketing generations (as Rogan is now). Gen X went from flipping off the censorious Boomers to losing their jobs thanks to the even more inquisitorial Millennials, a sandwich generation of freedom between slices of pious sermonizing. We went from Tipper Gore wanting to censor lyrics and a chorus of warnings about the evils of video games and Dungeons & Dragons, to blue-haired Twitter blue-checks wanting to cancel podcasts and while going on about the society-ending threat of ‘misinformation’ like North Korean apparatchiks.
The Boomers were always hedonistic hypocrites, of course, who spun on a dime from woo-woo, institution-destroying hippies to the ruthless, Sharper-Image yuppies of the Reagan 80s. They then proceeded to defund and de-prioritize the very institutions and infrastructure that the Greatest Generation built—everything from bridges to universities—which form the now-neglected bedrock of our civilization. They didn’t just pull the ladder up after them, they obliterated it and the base it was built on, and by the way, own most of the real estate up top too. And they’re still at it! Boomer-in-Chief Biden is in office, and Pelosi—who trades stocks more than Gordon Gekko ever did in Wall Street—has announced she’s running again at the spry age of 81.
The Millennial story is much weirder and more ahistorical, and represents a bizarre generational inversion. Millennials and GenZ don’t drink much anymore, are having less sex than previous generations, and don’t much care about driving. Consider that for a moment: the young can’t be relied upon to do what they’ve done since time immemorial, which is drink and fuck around. Your average forty-year-old probably gets laid now more than a twenty-year-old.
Ok Boomer2, says the pissy Millennial, an absolutely hilarious quip to those on the receiving end of it for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the Millennial-and-below generations have had their brains so warped by Internet time, they live in an amnesiac Eternal Present. Whether it be the Iraq War, the Nixon Administration, the First French Republic, or the ancient Carthaginians….everything before the Viral Right Now happened in the same undifferentiated blob of The Before Times. The measured directionality of history, an intellectual imposition of textual thought3, has been sandblasted out of their brains by one too many Twitter media cycles. ‘Boomer’ really just means anything from some other historical reference frame they can’t understand from their current blinkered one. Never mind that most of the people they’re leveling the phrase at are at least the children of said Boomers, i.e. Gen X, and not remotely the Pelosi age of those who really screwed us all.
The second layer of irony is that the people saying ‘ok Boomer’, especially to the people they’re saying it to, act largely like…Boomers. Preachy, tight-assed, obsessed with purity rituals, and generally anxious and humorless. They seem old beyond their years, full of cares—the stated corporate values of their laundry detergent, what someone said in some video years ago—that nobody in Gen X ever had at their age. Gen X was the last generation to go flying down shoddily-built plywood ramps on bikes and skateboards with no helmets on, and we somehow now inhabit a world where the youth are less wild and reckless than we were or are, despite being treated more gingerly than newborns.