The Generation Gap

January 22, 2010 4 Comments

Having just come off the holidays, when family members are likely to be gathered around as captive (and hopefully not tortured) audiences, we experience those stand-out moments of the highly anticipated and often dreaded….intergenerational conversation.

And if you’re like me, you realize that although these conversations on issues we care about  are often hard, emotionally charged and possibly frustratingthe common spaces and skills set many of us used to draw upon to talk,  solve problems, pray, play and laugh together — across generations —  are dwindling. The generation gap is widening.  When it comes to movement building, community organizing, and wisdom-sharing in particular, it seems that in my community and life, it’s at an all time low.

Find yourself within this listing of generational names, based on birth year, commonly accepted by demographers:

2000/2010-Present – New Silent Generation or Generation Z
1980-2000 – Millennial or Generation Y
1965-1979 – Generation X
1946-1964 – Baby Boom
1925-1945 – Silent Generation
1900-1924 – G.I. Generation

And please share your thoughts:

What’s up with The Generation Gap from where you sit?  How do you experience it? Do you care? Do you believe, as do I, that it’s one of priority we (who believe in freedom, justice, our culture, our cause, our legacies, etc.) need to tackle and resolve?

I’m particularly interested to hear stories and musings on what people feel are its implications for social justice movement building, cultural transmission, organizational development, community problem-solving and so on.  Personally, I’m grieved about it in my own community and life space. And, I know that in these times of paradigm shift, turn of the century, and complex challenges, there are national, and global, implications as well.


  • Gibran says:

    Thanks for the invitation Melinda, I have two thoughts to share – first I’ll share my pain. The preceding generation of activists still makes the state, its direction and governance, its central point of reference for progress. This has permeated our own generation but it is the boomer generation that “holds it down” on this front. I think state power matters immensely, but I see no progress possible until we shift how we relate to it, making it one point that matters but not the end all be all.

    Beyond this pent up frustration, is a whole lot of hope, see my blog post on the “Purpose Bubble,” boomers are looking for meaning, millennials are more diverse than any other generation, and we, the Gen Xers have the tools to bridge them – time to come together!

  • Jen Willsea says:

    Thanks, Melinda. Your post makes me realize that I’ve been really drawn to autobiographies and memoirs of radicals from the generations before me lately. Most recently, I’ve read Assata Shakur’s and Diana Block’s. Currently, I’m reading Grace Lee Bogg’s autiobiography and it is so nourishing and inspiring to read her story of activism that goes all the way back to the 1930s and continues through today.

    I so crave the stories of those who’ve come before me. I’m sure that part of the reason for this is that the elders in my family weren’t connected to progressive movements, and part of it is because in my own work for social justice the circles are so overwhelmingly dominated by people in their 20s and 30s. I love my peers, and more intergenerational dialogue and work would be so enriching.

  • Melinda says:

    Amen and Amen, my brother and my sister! I can feel your deep passion around this. Thanks for sharing both the pain (@G) and the cravings (@J). I feel that, too. And, Gibran, I sooo hear you re: Boomers’ fixation with certain and orthodoxies/frameworks (whether The State, “the Man”, “the System”, etc.) that some will not adjust/abandon to suit new and changed realities and resources. Its all part of the work of community and legacy building. I love it. And, I LOVE being a bridge — yes! Gen X’ers are the bridge. Sign me up!

  • Liz says:

    Thanks Melinda, I am a member of the silent generation. I really see the ‘generation gap’ between me and my 30-something daughters. Part of it is just the technology, which I admit is hard to keep up with, nor do I care a lot about keeping up with some of it. The other part is that what seems to be called social networking, and is facilitated by the new ways of communicating. They don’t just sit down and talk. Where as, I think anyone in my gereration would say that face to face talking has it way over the form of communicating I am doing right now for instance.
    And, yes, I lived through the 1960’s, a time of where there truly was a generation gap. And being in my 20’s I was right there, ready for the fight. So now i look at the 20-somthings and think, where is the passion. And, you will say right off, for what?

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