The worst thing a doctor could do is to prescribe a “one size fits all” to everyone who walks through the door, without a prior examination. We’d suggest that a similar approach would be equally problematic when working across generations.

One size does not, as they say, fit all.

The next 25 sentences describe a generation born in the 70’s and 80’s, commonly known as Generation X (Xers).

These 25 sentences will go a long way to assist you in your encounter with a generation that, if you aren’t one of them, you possibly have difficulty understanding.

1.Relationships matter the most



Nothing is more important to today’s youth than relationships. Generation X live in a world that is increasingly devoid of solid, dependable relationships. They have grown up as children of divorce, starved for closeness and intimacy as the family has deteriorated. Abusive, neglectful, busy, absent, non-emotional and working parents have no time for relationships. Because Xers have been deprived of intimacy they value it more highly. They value relationships the most, even though they do not have the skills and ability to have true and meaningful relationships.

Most Xers are the children of Boomers, parents who were so deeply involved with their own “selves”, working by day and raising consciousness by candlelight, that they were unable to give us their full attention – leaving us alone much of the time. And, like their own parents, our parents listened to Dr. Spock – they were permissive, they gave us room to explore. While both parents got ready for work every morning, Xers made cereal for breakfast and stared at photos of our peers on milk cartons, our own MIAs.
Tulgan 1995:50

The concept of the “latchkey kid” is one that was defined for this generation. This is a generation that has arrived home to an empty house, with both mom and dad working, or a single parent home where the remaining parent is having to work to survive. Often, especially in the latter situation, the Xer has been forced to take on part-time employment as well.

“The international phenomenon of children and youths living on the streets has also become an issue of concern in South Africa. A related phenomenon is ‘latchkey children’, i.e. children who are left to their own devices usually outside school hours. It is alarming that studies indicate that nearly a third of Johannesburg’s children, and nearly half of Soweto’s fall into this category”.

van Zyl Slabbert 1994: 3.20, pg. 76f

This is also the generation that has spent every other weekend at their other parent’s home, and has seen a profusion of different family relationships, such as “dad’s girlfriend”, “mom’s previous ex-husband”, “my second step-father”, or “my step-brother’s father’s ex-wife”. This has caused Xers to be sceptical of relationships, yet still feel the need to fill the void with something else. Friends and peers become surrogate families, as a small number of dependable relationships are valued highly.

Many of the characteristics below arise out of this one. They will do anything to get loved, but they don’t know how to love properly. This affects how they behave, as they will do anything to be loved. They have become more sexually active to get love and closeness, but just end up getting used, and therefore lonelier than they were before. They are a visual generation, with TV, video, computer games, etc., yet, although sophisticated, do not know how to talk or communicate their feelings. They do not know how to have the very thing the want the most: a relationship. This causes problems resulting from a spiral of behaviour that leads to bad relationships that leads to bad behaviour, and so on. Their best attempts leave them empty and lonely, and loneliness is the thing they fear the most. They are desperate for relationship, even if they can only have it for a little while.

2. They will do anything to be loved

Although this could be an application point of the previous statement, it is so important as a defining characteristic that it needs to be separately stated. Much of the behaviour of Generation X is as a result of this, often subconscious, need to be loved. This generation is starved of genuine love, and will do anything in their quest to find it.

For all the idealistic “free love” of their Boomer parents/elders, X’ers have largely not been the recipients of much genuine love, and have been brought up in a world that uses people.

“My generation inherited not free love, but AIDS, not peace but nuclear anxiety, not cheap communal lifestyles but crushing costs of living, not free teach-ins but colleges priced for the aristocracy”.

Beaudoin 1998:10

If relationships matter the most, then acceptance by a group of people who will validate them is vital. They feel that they must fit in. This is only really possible within small groups, so one of the characteristics of this generation is that they get together in small groups, united by common interests and mutual acceptance. These small groups act as surrogate families, and offer a sense of belonging that cannot be found elsewhere in a world that is devoid of relationships and real love.

Xers make decisions on the basis of what it will take to get people to accept them. They do not bother with what is right or wrong, but what they can do to be accepted. Therefore, Xers are not asking “what must I do to succeed?”. They are asking “what must I do to be loved?”. They are looking for a safe place, where they can feel important and where they can be loved.

3. Sex is expected

Their general understanding is that love is found in sexual intimacy. This message comes very powerfully from Hollywood. Sex is viewed as inevitable, and as condom manufacturers and even government health authorities say there is no way to stop kids having sex, we are urged to help them to do it safely. The concept of “safe sex” has been invented for this generation.

The problem is that Xers who try to use sex to get love end up getting used, and feeling less loved than before. This becomes a vicious cycle. In addition, the birth control pill and condoms have not brought on an era of “free” love as anticipated by the 1960 Boomers. AIDS has dealt a massive blow to that. But, where older generations look at AIDS with fear, it does not seem to be changing the attitudes of Generation X. In fact, an added dimension has been added to sexual encounters, “turning orgasmic thrill into something akin to Russian roulette. Forty years ago, young adults associated sex with procreation; twenty years ago with free love [recreation]; today, with self-destruction” (Strauss and Howe 1993:149).

Xers are marrying later, but having sex earlier than any previous generation this century. There is also an unprecedented level of cohabitation before marriage, and of “open marriages” after marriage.

4. Individualism is valued

Generation X are very individualistic. This is expressed not only in the fact that as a generation they are comfortable with an unprecedented number of different music styles, fashions, and self-expressions, but also in a fierce demand for individual freedom and rights. This is not a rebellion against authority, but rather an expression of self-confidence arising out of a lifetime of learning to fend for themselves. They want personal empowerment to be a keen factor in their worlds.

It should also be noted that this is the first American generation to lack a common cause. Previous generations rallied around Vietnam, World War 2, the Great Depression, and World War 1. This generation has no such rallying point. It is just too young to have been involved in the great historical moments of rebellion against apartheid (in South Africa) or Vietnam, but just too old to view these as history. This generation lived through them, and was shaped by their images and their futility, but never really connected with them.

5. They are racially diverse

This generation is one of the most racially diverse generations to grow up in human history. Because of the mobility of people, there is a major movement of groups of families immigrating and emigrating from one country to another. America has become a melting pot of cultures, with immigrant populations reaching new highs. In South Africa, racial integration is not really happening among the adults, but the integration in schools and clubs is enabling a new generation to grow up without the prejudices of the past.

Many of the institutions that Xers should be looking to for guidance are showing blatant flaws with regard to racial harmony. This is seriously tarnishing their image. For example, “racial segregation in South African churches is likely to persist for two reasons: first, as a protective reaction to increased social diversity, and second, because it has become deeply ingrained in local religious tradition” (Massie 1993:21). This is just not acceptable to a new generation who are generally colour blind.

6. They are self-sufficient and do not trust

We have already seen that divorce, having reached almost epidemic proportions in all countries of the world, as well as abuse and neglect, have significantly impacted Xers. It has forced them to grow up very quickly, and become adults before their time.

“Xers not only personally learned about the fragility of commitment but were also forced into a premature – and untutored – adulthood”.

Beaudoin 1998:8

In addition, this generation has seen that those in charge really don’t seem to be able to control the world. Having grown up in a world where it seemed to them that they were on their own, and that they had to look out for themselves, they are carrying this self-sufficiency into later life. “We trust ourselves, and money – period. A lot of this money fixation can be attributed to this generation’s premature affluence and its poor economic prospects down the road. [They] trust hard green because their earliest life experiences taught them that you can’t trust anything else” (Strauss and Howe 1993:114).

They have been denied the time normally given to young people to work out a fully developed sense of self, and have what Elkind calls a “patchwork self” (1984:5). They do not only distrust others, but also distrust themselves. “[They] are cursed with the lowest collective self-esteem of any youth generation in living memory. Lacking the ego-strength to try setting agendas for others, they instead react to the world as they find it” (Strauss and Howe 1993:85f.).

7. They are skeptical of institutions

Because big government has let it down through scandals (e.g. Watergate), lies and half-truths (e.g. Iran-Contra) and personal failures (e.g. Clinton and Lewinksy), and because big business has let it down, through massive job layoffs and unemployment, this generation is sceptical of any organised institution. In business, they would prefer to be in smaller business units, and not be seen as a cog in a machine. In government, the venture in seldom, and then only as consultants. They hardly ever vote for candidates. They assume that institutional relationships will be short-lived, and therefore avoid them, or treat them as short-term. They are therefore often criticized for their lack of loyalty.

“Recent surveys have shown that only a small percentage of young people belong to organisations specifically geared to the youth”.

van Zyl Slabbert 1994:3.43, pg. 85

In addition, the concept of “paying dues” is seen as outdated, as it was loyalty in exchange for long-term security. Companies can no longer offer long-term security, so Xers won’t pay their dues, either. Paying short term dividends is the key to their motivation.

What Xers are not willing to do is to pay dues which, in any sense, are based on protocols of hierarchy or rights of initiation. The reason is clear – the traditional rites in the workplace have been part of an initiation to a club called job security, a club which Xers are not invited to join. For that reason, Xers are not willing to embrace the bottom rung of the ladder as a matter of course, despite the fact that those of predecessor generations may have done so.

Tulgan 1995:108

Because of this, Xers have gained the unfair label of “slackers”. Spurning traditional jobs, and seeking quick money in short-term relationships with companies, they have been seen as not having any commitment. This, too, is unfair. Older generations look on in disbelief as young Internet moguls make enormous amounts of money out of nothing (or so it seems). The same must have been true when the first service organisations opened, and “white” collars began to be distinguished from “blue” collars.

8. They are wary of commitment

Because they have been let down so many times, and because of what was said in the previous point, this generation does not commit itself to anything, or, at best, commits itself very slowly and warily. It favours short-term commitments to small-scale projects with definable objectives and ending dates.

“[They] get scolded for having no civic spirit; for feeling no stake in the nation’s past crusades or future ideals; for seldom bothering to read the newspapers, learn about public affairs, discuss big issues, or vote for candidates; for just not caring” (emphasis in original, Strauss and Howe 1993:126). This apathy works its way out in an unwillingness to commit.

Unlike the Boomer generation with its high hopes and idealistic notions of “making a difference”, Xers are more content to try to make a difference at a localised level, if at all. They are much more interested in their close group of friends than in the “world out there”, and show little or no interest in causes, political power or status-based group affiliations.

9. They work so that they can have a life

Generation X is determined not to be caught in the economic treadmill that they see Boomers on. They view their friendships as most important, and prioritize their families. This means that their attitude to work is that it is a necessary evil, which is a means to an end. The end is “having a life”. The means is “earning money”. Thus, they are not attracted by office socials, after work meetings at pubs and weekends away with the boss in order to score social points. They work so that they can enjoy a life outside of work. This is in marked contrast to many of the older generations whose life is their work.

10. They are pessimistic about the future

Generation X grew up with the constant fear of annihilation. For the first time in history, mankind has the ability to completely wipe itself out with nuclear warfare. The height of this terror was reached during this generation’s formative years. In addition, this generation was born into a world of terrorism and assassinations. In South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, this generation grew up with bomb scares, and even had “bomb squad” drills and duties as school pupils.

They are the first generation who will grow up to earn less than the generation before them, and the current economic prospects for the world look bleak to say the least. Add to this the global ecological meltdown, increasing over-population, decreasing world resources, and the future is not a bright place. Of course, many of these problems may be solved, and it is interesting that the biggest critique of this generation comes not from its elders, but from its next juniors, the Millennial generation, who are optimistic that today’s problems will be solved. But Xers are not so sure, and are not able to erase from their minds the flickering images of the failures they have seen in their short lives, such as Vietnam, the Challenger, the mini-recession of the late 1980s, the OJ Simpson trial which brought racism to a boil again, and the Los Angeles riots.

When Generation X thinks about the future at all, it normally does not feel good about it. But they care more about today and this week than next year. They are saying, in the words of a country song: “help me make it through the night”. They are looking for an anaesthetic to ease the pain, not a cure for their disease.

One particularly distressing outcome of this pessimism is the dramatic increase in teen suicides over the past two decades. In America over 50,000 young people committed suicide in the 1980s. In 1976, the teen suicide record was broken for the first time since 1908, which was the previous peak of Lost Generation angst. Virtually every single person in this generation will consider suicide as an option. Those that live will do so because they have chosen to do so, but this does not necessarily remove the pessimism.

11. Pain and anger are rising

Due to divorce, neglect, broken and bad relationships and abuse Generation X carries emotional pain. They feel like they are victims, and they act like it. Generation X have a reputation of being whiners and slackers. They have self-destructive deeds, but under the deed there is a need â€? the need is a need to remove the pain. The deeds are worse than previous generations, because the needs are much deeper. They will do anything for a few minutes of relief: alcohol, drugs, sex, turning music up, smoking, and many other things are being used as symptomatic relief agents. They don’t see a cure so they go for the anaesthetic. The problem is that these “anaesthetics” often bring a whole new set of problems.

Because of their pain, Generation X is characterised by anger which is simmering and sitting very near the surface. It does not take Xers long to be pushed over the edge, where they show meanness and verbal cruelty towards each other. Xers are exceptionally cutting and verbally cruel to each other. They are also physically cruel, with the extreme cases leading to recent stories of guns at school, school shootings and beatings and many more violent deaths at school than ever before. This is often masked in terms of jokes and catch phrases, but an underlying anger can be discerned.

Because of the pain and anger, hardness comes a lot sooner for Generation X. They are cynical and often express deep bitterness. This hardness often comes out in their arrogant and dismissive manner of dealing with each other and with older generations.

12. They live with change, and embrace it

A common cliche is: “The only constant is change”. For Generation X, change has been a constant theme as they have grown up. Fashions and fads change very quickly, and today’s young people are prone to perceive something as out-of-date very quickly. They do not expect today to be the same as yesterday. In fact, anything that does not change is viewed with suspicion.

They have not only accepted this high level of change, as Boomers before them have done, they actually embrace it and enjoy it. They look for something different each day, and get bored very quickly. They need innovation and are easily attracted by gimmicks.

13. They are “Adrenaline Junky” risk takers

This is the generation that invented sports such as bungee jumping, and have made outdoor pursuits, such as river rafting, free cliff climbing, downhill mountain biking, rollerblading and the like, mainstream activities. This generation’s drugs of choice are not the high-inducing, spiritual-based, hallucinogens of the 60s. Rather it is speed and ecstasy, which are high energy-boosting drugs that allow rave dancers to sustain unbelievably raised levels of energy and dancing throughout an entire night. Tom Cruise, in the movie Top Gun, summed up this Generation X’s addiction to thrills and adrenaline when he arrogantly boasted about flying air force jets: “I feel the need, the need for speed”. Christian Slater once said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away”. He was talking for his generation.

On a more sinister note, as we saw above, this need for a thrill is seen in the blatant disregard for “safe sex”, and the added kick that many Xers find in having unprotected sex with multiple partners. This risk propensity also finds itself worked out in their approach to business and life in general. They are prepared to take many risks to achieve a desired goal. Many Xers are working as consultants, being paid only for work done. They are prepared to accept the risk of financial instability in return for the rewards of high-paying jobs.

14.”Truth” and reason don’t matter – pragmatism rules

Xers don’t ask “is it true?”, but rather “does it work?”. Something may be true, and even accepted by them as such, but they don’t care, unless it really affects their lives. They want real answers to their real-life issues. They don’t care about the truthfulness of the answers, but rather about the workableness and applicability of the answers. They care more about answers for their loneliness, for their relationship hassles. They care about giving their lives meaning, and filling the holes in their hearts.

15. They are spiritual seekers

Generation X are interested in spiritual things. They are not religious by nature, nor are they interested in institutional religion. They do not live spiritually (i.e. by any spiritually controlled code), but are interested in the new-age, satanism, occult, crystals, and the like. They seem to know that the answers they are looking for are to be found in the spiritual part of life.

They have a non-traditional approach to spirituality, which often comes across as very irreverent. This notwithstanding, their search for real meaning beyond the visible is genuine. Research has shown that “young South Africans are serious about religion” (van Zyl Slabbert 1994:3.46, pg. 86).

They believe in the supernatural, and have no difficulties in understanding the concepts of transcendence and mystery. In fact, they thrive on mystery and enjoy being in situations that seem to be beyond them, and that tug at their spiritual side.

16. There are no boundaries

There is no sense of things being right or wrong with Generation X. They do not have moral boundaries, and many moral decisions that we take as self-evident, such as the sanctity of life, the value of ownership, etc., are just not understood by this generation. As far as they are concerned, they are never out of bounds. How can you be out of bounds if there are no boundaries? This is a post-Christian era, where morality is subjective. Nietzsche’s concept of the superman has taken root. The superman is able to enjoy any action he undertakes, whether it is altruistically assisting an elderly lady across the street or beating up the old lady to steal her handbag. As long as this is what the superman wanted to do, he is truly “super” if he feels no feelings about either action except self-fulfilment.

Because they do not have any boundaries, they often find themselves in a confused situation, living with the paradoxes inherent in Nietzsche’s “superman” model. It is not uncommon to discover that an Xer will say and truly believe one thing in one environment, and something completely contradictory in another. When this is pointed out, no problem is seen. Xers can live with internal and external paradox very comfortably.

17.  They want rules from the right authorities

As just described, Generation X has grown up in a world with no road map. As much as they live within this paradoxical world, they nevertheless are tired of a world of total freedom which is characterised by chaos and confusion. Total freedom has turned out to be total confusion and brokenness. They really do want someone to give them a road to follow. But they don’t accept just anyone giving them direction.

People used to have positional authority: “I am your father, boss, pastor, and president – therefore I demand your respect”. The authority of someone was based on the position they held, not on their own personal merits. The Boomer era changed this for us, by rebelling against such authority structures. But Boomers rebelled when they saw these authorities messing up, and their rebellion was simply to gain the authority for themselves. As much as Boomers railed against “the establishment”, they have done nothing to change the establishment now that they are it. Boomers actually saw nothing inherently wrong in the structures per se, but rather in how these structures were being abused. Thus, once they had obtained the power, they began relying on positional authority. Boomers see the position and the person as separate – so that they can respect the position, but not the person. Bill Clinton’s polls (in 1998) show this trend in Boomers – “a great president, a bad man!” is what people are saying.

Xers, by contrast, hold no truck with positional authority at all. Their rebellion against authority is against the entire system itself. Xers are looking for personal authority, where authority is derived from personhood, rather than position. Authority is always earned, never inherited and can never be demanded. They respect people because of the way that person treats them and because of who that person is. There is no such thing as positional authority. Authority is granted to those who earn it by their character and relationships, not because of their position or job title. Position and title are nothing! Person is everything. They want someone to tell them what to do and how to live – but that person must be someone they can respect.

Unlike previous generations, however, this negative view of authority structures does not lead them to radical action. Rather, they are more apt to whine and moan, and yet do nothing at all to change anything. This has earned them the titles of “slackers” and “whiners”. P J O’ Rourke, in his inimitable style sums up the frustration many older generations have with Xers when he says parenthetically at the end of the introduction to All The Trouble In The World, “And memo to Generation X: Pull your pants up, turn your hat around, and get a job” (1994:17). It is this kind of attitude that puts Xers off totally. They want relationships and acceptance, and that basis will choose to grant authority to people in their lives. Those who earn the right to speak into their lives will be given the privilege of helping this generation to navigate the waters of confusion that they are currently engaging.

18. They are stressed out and organised to death

Most Xers carry diaries with them, and work to schedules and timetables. And these are not social diaries, but detailed lists of things to be done just to get through all their work and extra-curricula activities. Most of them plan well in advance for events, and are very used to organizing multiple activities into a busy schedule. The carefree days of youth, so typified in 1950s caricatures are not part of this generation’s experience. In addition to their over-organisation, they are also incredibly stressed.

19. They embrace technology

“In loco parentis, television provided daily entertainment”. My generation later reported that we spent more time with the television than with our parents during childhood (Gross and Scott, 1990)” (Beaudoin 1998:5). In addition to the growth of television, and cable, personal computers and video games appeared in the middle of our primary school years, the fax machine and photocopy machines have been part of the office environment as long as we have, and portable video games, VCRs, the walkman, laptop computers and “beat box” portable Hi-fi systems have allowed us to take our media wherever we want to go.

The first e-mail program was invented in 1972, by Ray Tomlinson of BBN. In 1974, the term Internet was first used for the first time by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in paper on Transmission Control Protocol. The personal computer, invented in 1976, has revolutionised life and business. PCs, and the rate at which their prices fell, made it possible for suburban individuals to have access to large amounts of computing power and also, via the Internet, access to huge amounts of data and to other people. The World Wide Web was launched by CERN in 1992, and Marc Andreessen of NCSA and the University of Illinois developed a graphical user interface to the WWW, called “Mosaic for X”. This was the world’s first browser.

In its few years of history, the Internet connected to the PC has changed the way in which we live. Nothing has been the same since they arrived on the scene, but we are only at the beginning of the revolution. Xers embrace these changes and the technology driving them. It may be Boomers who are gaining financially out of being the visionaries of the computer age, but it Xers who are the wizards behind the scenes, making the thing work.

20. They have a new and unique style of learning and communicating

To older generations, “Xers seem impatient for answers, always demanding information, asking questions, and pursuing multiple lines of enquiry simultaneously. What looks to some [adults] like a lack of attention in Xers is, rather, a rapid-fire style of interacting with information which comes naturally to us as children of the information revolution” (Tulgan 1995:173).

This generation have embraced technology and modern telecommunications. This has required them to learn entirely new languages (computer coding languages), and also taught them to communicate in fundamentally new ways. Douglas Rushkoff has brilliantly analysed this change in his book, Playing the Future (also known as Children of Chaos, 1996), where he argues that they learn in a mosaic fashion rather than linearly. They have a rapid-fire information consumption capability. Rushkoff argues that many of the things for which this generation is maligned, such as short attention spans and lack of ability to concentrate on a single task at once are not problems but actually brilliant coping mechanisms for a world overloaded with information. “The skill to be valued in the twenty-first century is not the length of attention span, but the ability to multitask – to do many things at once, well‌. [and] the ability to process visual information very rapidly” (Rushkoff 1996:50).

Tulgan also points out this voracious appetite for information, and the ability to process it at high speeds (cf. 1995:176, 186, 191). “It is not just changing technology which characterizes the workplace of the future, but a changing atmosphere. Xers already know hot to work in the virtual office where the only thing to grasp onto is your log-on password. We’re self-sufficient in the virtual marketplace where meaning is the primary commodity” (Tulgan 1995:174).

21. They are media savvy

This generation knows the value of the media, and how powerful it is. Boomers say, “Image is everything”. Xers say “Everything is image”. Reality can be distorted and manipulated by the media, and Xer journalists and spin doctors are some of the best in the business. Knowing this, Xers are very sceptical of what they see on TV, realising that even the news is rated these days, and carries only stories that will increase that rating. They prefer live broadcasting, which allows them to see things as they are happening, with little time to manipulate it. They were the generation that made the Gulf War the first armchair war spectacle in history.

While they have been called many things – stupid, apathetic, shallow, greedy, angry – their most important quality as far as media is concerned is a sense of irony and irreverence. The irony was developed through an emotional distance from the subjects of the media. The irreverence for the sanctity of popular cultural ideology came from this generation’s ability to change what was on the screen. They don’t just receive and digest media. They manipulate it. They play with it. They are in a living relationship with it.

Rushkoff 1996:31

22. They love stories

Generation X loves stories, especially true stories of people’s lives. Douglas Coupland’s book, which gave a name to this generation, Generation X (original in 1991), is about three friends who “left our lives behind us and came to the desert – to tell stories and to make our own lives worthwhile tales in the process” (1992:8). Because they have abandoned meta-narratives, they are forced to create narratives of their own to define meaning and to give expression to their selves.

“Stories are intensely important to Generation X. We’re not big on descriptions and adjectives. We want the feelings, the action, the story. “Either our lives become stories”, says one Coupland character, or there’s just no way to get through them.” Our stories give us identity” (Ford 1996:238).

23. Music is huge

A survey in the United States, reported by Ron Hutchcraft, found that in dealing with hassles, young people rated talking to mom number 48, talking to dad number 51 (out of 53) and music was number 1! Axel Rose said: “When I was in high school my best friend was music”. Music is their voice. They are listening to someone who is singing their feelings. Music is one of the biggest way in which Xers tell out their stories. The music is therefore as varied as the stories, from the soulful R&B, the heartbreaking sounds of new Country and Western, through the search for love in pop and soul, the despair in grunge, to the in-your-face sounds of inner city hip-hop and the killer-instinct of gangsta rap. Xers are giving their lives meaning and expressing that meaning through the story their music tells.

Much of their music reinforces their dark sides: for example, they are lonely so they listen to lonely music, and this just makes them more lonely. They feed what they should be staving, reinforcing their bad feelings. Music is more that a beat or a style it is the language of this generation, it is their very soul and an expression of their feelings.

24. They are incredibly ambitious

Taken on their own terms, given freedom within reasonable boundaries, and provided with enough information to succeed, Xers have the potential to be the most well equipped workers in the new telecommunications dominated workplace of the next millennium. They know it, but don’t flaunt it.

Part of the paradox of Generation X is almost contradictory values that are displayed. On the one hand they have grown up in environments, with parents who have given them everything they wanted. They have grown up in homes fuelled by the materialistic 80s, and have watched and listened to the “Material Girl”, Madonna. They have come to expect material things, and are thus seen as very materialistic. This comes out in their desire to wear only designer clothes, for instance. Yet, on the other hand, they don’t believe that the world owes them anything, but everything that they have they have earned and now own by right. They are not given to idealistic dreams of the future as the Boomers were, but they certainly don’t sit back and wallow in self-pity and despair. They may believe that the world is going to the dogs, but they believe that they themselves will be able to escape through hard work, right priorities and a bit of luck.

25. They are part of a Global Youth Culture

The trends discussed above are not specifically American. Although most demographers quote mainly American statistics, this is mainly because of the availability thereof, not because they are only American in nature. These trends above can be seen in many countries around the world, as any brief trip onto the Internet will show. Xers are influenced by cultural trends from all over the world. Fads take off and spread quickly around the globe, as does music and movies.

Even the Great Wall of China which succeeded in keeping out, for a while, the hordes of Ghengis Khan, cannot keep out satellite TV and Internet. The price of modernisation is the opening of one’s culture to global invasion in the form of American popular culture. Not even the French, who are notorious for their efforts in keeping their language and culture pure, can resist this culture invasion. The Euro Disney management confessed that its clients rejected every bit of its attempts at “Europeanisation” and demanded the “real” Disneyland. The good thing about globalism is that it is predominantly a global youth culture which has given young people a voice‌. The bad thing about globalism is that everything seems to be much the same all over the world.

Ooi (nd),

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