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Generation Trump

April 1st, 2017

For years now, I’ve been railing against the generation game, that is, the practice of labelling people born in some period of 15-20 years or so as a ‘generation’ (Boomers, X, Millennials and so on ) then making various claims about their supposed characteristics. A generation or so ago, I made the point that

most of the time, claims about generations amount to no more than the repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups ­ the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on

But this, and a stream of similar articles and blogposts have had no impact that I can see. Since I can’t beat the generation gamers, I’ve decided to join them. And, rather than wait for a new generation to leave school and enter the workforce, as is usual, I’ve decided to jump ahead and identify Generation Trump, consisting of those born after Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the US Presidency.

The crucial thing about this generation is that their character is formed entirely in Trump’s image. They are hedonistic, totally self-centred, have a short attention span, are prone to mood swings, and are almost entirely ignorant of the world beyond their own immediate concerns. On the other hand, they can be loving and affectionate, and many are totally family-oriented.

Astute readers will observe that, in a slightly toned down form, this is very similar what is now being said in contemporary depictions of Millennials, and was said about the ‘Slackers’ of Generation X when they were in their late teens and early 20s. That’s great for me, since it means I should be able to pump out marginal variants of the same cliches about Generation Trump until they mature into boring middle-aged adults. That is, of course, unless Trump himself does so first.

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  1. John Brookes
    April 1st, 2017 at 15:53 | #1

    You have a repeated paragraph, but that is forgivable, because you are a baby boomer, a generation known to be getting on a bit and losing attention to detail 🙂

  2. April 1st, 2017 at 16:10 | #2

    And it’s April 1

  3. John Quiggin
    April 1st, 2017 at 16:34 | #3

    @John Brookes

    A Senior Moment!

  4. David Irving (no relation)
    April 1st, 2017 at 17:08 | #4

    @John Quiggin
    At your age, you’re entitled.

  5. Ronald Brakels
    April 1st, 2017 at 19:30 | #5

    An April the first article that is entirely accurate. If only more people followed your lead, John.

  6. Suburbanite
    April 1st, 2017 at 20:35 | #6

    Since we are on the topic of the generation game this an interesting read “4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump”
    https://medium.com/@DaleBeran/4chan-the-skeleton-key-to-the-rise-of-trump-624e7cb798cb

    It’s mostly new to me, but if it’s accurate then it goes some way to explaining the ghoulish satisfaction many people appear to be having in Trump’s election. I’m beginning to wonder whether the US is turning into a failed state that might drag the rest of the anglosphere down with it.

  7. Suburbanite
    April 1st, 2017 at 20:41 | #7

    Perhaps next years April fools post can be about how monetary policy is successfully curbing inflation.

  8. Tim Macknay
    April 1st, 2017 at 23:52 | #8

    As a generation X-er, I’m a little bit nonplussed at your open acknowledgment of our depiction as ‘slackers’ in the early ’90s, since it disarms my generational propensity to feel overlooked.

  9. John Brookes
    April 2nd, 2017 at 00:07 | #9

    On any post about the generations, I always have to put forward my observation that todays university students are much better behaved than we were in the 1970’s. I think its because we took the lead out of petrol.

  10. Julia Perry
    April 2nd, 2017 at 00:10 | #10

    Generationism is one of the stupidest of stupid ways to categorise and divide people. It is frequently confused with stages of the life course. It overlooks class, race and attitudinal variation within cohorts. It conflates the political and economic environment at particular times with the reaction of people of different ages to those environments. It encourages conflict between people of different ages and understates their common interests.

  11. April 2nd, 2017 at 01:00 | #11

    Toddlers in a good mood are capable of sharing food and toys, and responding to the suffering of other people and animals with spontaneous sympathy. Trump is an adult sociopath not a normal child.

  12. David Allen
    April 2nd, 2017 at 14:10 | #12

    I just assume that all people are idiots all the time. Then, occasionally, I’m delighted that they aren’t.

  13. Ikonoclast
    April 2nd, 2017 at 16:13 | #13

    Applied correctly a consideration of generational characteristics is appropriate in some circumstances. If a generation lives through a great event at a basically mature but formative age (let’s say from 15 to 25) then this experience really does play a role in forming their views on life and their actions in some circumstances. People, in the age cohort I mentioned, who went through say the Great Depression or WW2 are really partly formed by these experience and they do form some generational characteristics and attitudes.

    Equally, Aussie baby boomers (I am onehaving being born in 1954) went through eras where expectations and realities were getting better and better. Many Australian male baby boomers, of whom I am one, were in a sense spoiled by their experience of life just getting better and better for them up to middle age anyway and their start from a privileged position compared to women, aboriginals, and minority ethnic groups, assuming WASP males here. On average (there are exceptions) Aussie male baby boomers are an “entitled” lot and entitled to a whole lot in their own estimation.

    Aussie male baby boomers got places work or career-wise, usually, before the shutters of neoliberalism started coming down and disadvantaging (employment wise and income security wise) the generations coming after them. It is typical and par for the course for male Aussie baby boomers to pretend generational effects did not and do not happen. The privileged always act like that and rationalise like that. I can call it like it is because I am one. These male baby boomers should stop pretending they were not and are not privileged, in most cases. Their attitudes are partly formed by an unconscious denial of the fact of this fortune and privilege. Rather, they make the implicit claim (many of them) to being somehow more virtuous, hard working and successful than the following generations or cohorts.

  14. John Quiggin
    April 2nd, 2017 at 16:53 | #14

    “Aussie male baby boomers got places work or career-wise, usually, before the shutters of neoliberalism started coming down ”

    Baby boomers born after about 1954 entered the worst, or maybe second worst, labour market for young people at any time since 1945, due to rise of neoliberalism in early 1970s. Rate was slightly higher in 1991, but by then many more young people were staying on at school and university.

  15. Sunshine
    April 2nd, 2017 at 21:37 | #15

    All of Western society are an entitled lot in one way or another. As with fish and water ,we normally only notice when it is gone .Borne in ’64 I am one of the last Boomers by most definitions but lived more like a Gen X or Hippy dropout. All of my younger friends have it much tougher than I did -we talk about it alot ,they are angry. I wonder how I would have coped under current conditions, I have always had family backup too. I feel lucky .Whenever I admire someone who has come through great adversity they always say ‘you would have made it too if you had had to’ but I dont really believe them.

    I could come to the big city on a whim with some mates and easily rent a house in any suburb- none of us with a job. I could then slot into the arts/ drug/ student /party /music scene. Low commitment part time work was available (in the formal job market) for anyone who wanted it but few bothered. Many of us eventually grew up , lots still havent , some wont be having a very nice later life .I lived in share houses until my early 40’s ,only staying in one for more than 12 months. Its different for kids now, I dont think they can so easily take those chances ,the employment and real estate markets are so different- there isnt much room for error. What used to be happening out there in the real world is now mostly happening online. I feel lucky.

    Of course I also know lots of people my age who didnt make a lifestyle of throwing away opportunities and became asset rich without much more than sustained work effort. Some of them are even openly embarrassed about how much they now get paid.

  16. Greg McKenzie
    April 3rd, 2017 at 09:08 | #16

    When I was still teaching teenagers, I noticed a change after 2001. Suddenly my students had a much shorter attention span and less patience. No idea what caused that but, by 2010, they could not shut up for more than a few minutes. Long speeches became a total waste of time, even at school assemblies. These students used to time speeches and make fun of all long winded speakers. If there really is anything like a Twenty-First Century student, then this stereotype is: mostly female; intolerant of time wasters; and addicted to their smartphones.

  17. Ernestine Gross
    April 3rd, 2017 at 11:53 | #17

    David Allen :
    I just assume that all people are idiots all the time. Then, occasionally, I’m delighted that they aren’t.

    How does strategy work when you apply the criteria to yourself?

  18. Svante
    April 4th, 2017 at 00:55 | #18

    “..until they mature into boring middle-aged adults.”

    There’s not much chance of that, I’m afraid. There’s every indication they have more ‘interesting times’ ahead of them in middle-age than any prior generation.

  19. may
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