I just found out I’m Gen X. Better to find out late than never. Nah, I won’t tell you my age. Confidences have limits.
According to the classification of William Strauss and Neil Howe, two American authors specializing in generational facts (Millennials Rising: The Next Great GenerationNew York, Vintage, 2000), generation X designates, with some variations, the group of Westerners born between 1965 and 1980. Initially known as the “baby bust”, due to the low birth rate that characterizes it by Compared to the baby boom period, this generation is therefore sandwiched between the baby boomers and Generation Y.
The term was first launched in the UK in 1965 by British journalists Jane Deverson and Charles Hamblett. The journal editor Woman’s Own, a magazine which at the time put societal issues and those relating to women’s rights in the foreground, had asked Deverson to carry out a series of interviews with teenagers, the results of which allow us to draw the outlines of a generation “that sleeps before marriage, who does not believe in God, who does not love the Queen and who does not respect his parents”. In 1965 these results are disturbing and the magazine gives up this project. To save his research, Deverson will publish with Charles Hamblett a book which they will decide to name Generation X (London, Anthony Gibbs & Philipps Ltd., 1964). The term was then popularized at the end of the 1970s by the British punk rock group Generation X (which would later become Gen X), with Billy Idol, before the latter began his solo career in the United States in the 80s. It then serves as the title of a novel by Canadian author Douglas Coupland: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1991) which depicts the anxiety of a class of individuals born in the 1960s, their desertion of religious values, the economic instability with which they have to deal and which make them a generation of individuals who are not connected with the previous generation. The X, which here refers to the anonymity of a generation aware of its break-up, would have been taken from the book Class (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1983) by Paul Fussell, American historian of culture and literature, who designates by “category X” a class of American society. Coupland explains: “In his final chapter, Fussel names an X category of people who want to get out of the status-money-social-ascent wheel that characterizes modern existence.” Coupland introduces us to the world of Clair, Andy and Dag, three characters in their “twenties” living in Southern California. Their disenchantment with the world of work constitutes the background against which stand out the tragic and fantastic stories they tell themselves throughout this romantic journey.
On the Internet, I therefore learn that Generation X is at a time of social decline, but also of the decline of colonial imperialism. I also learn that she was among the most severely affected by the economic and social changes of the 1980s and 1990s and that she had difficulty finding stable and well-paid jobs, the members of this Generation X having had a bumpy career path. We often also speak of a lost or sacrificed generation, after the spoiled generation of the baby boom.
Yeah. I do not hide from you that all this does not affect me very much. Not that it’s false, but this description is decidedly and indeed very Western, which for me brings it closer to a view of the mind. The concept of generation designating a population whose members, having roughly the same age or having lived at the same historical period, share a certain number of practices and representations, generation X for me is first of all the experience in the shelters, the count of the bombs falling on the neighborhood, the fear of crossing the street under the sights of a sniper or of crossing the city from east to west, life which goes on in spite of everything and the ability, cultivated day by day, to deal with the extraordinary (to the point that it has even become a skill), because we have all the same “grown up”, physically, morally. Such are, seen from this side of the bezel, the data with which the famous generation had to negotiate. Because yes, to put it more simply, Generation X is the one who, in Lebanon, lived through the war. They were between -2 and 13 years old at the start of it. Suffice to say that the youngest lived there all their childhood and part of their adolescence, and that the oldest spent part of their childhood, all their adolescence and the beginning of their adult life there. For those born in the middle, no story other than that of war preceded their adult lives. Yasser Arafat, Camille Chamoun, Pierre Gemayel and Kamal Joumblatt (in alphabetical order) are words that have largely supplanted the nursery rhymes of their childhood which, next to them, lacked action. They are matched only by the hushed tones of Charif el-Akhawi’s advice flowing from the transistor. Yes, then, for the lost or sacrificed generation. That it is for different reasons does not change anything. It is also this generation that has today seen its wealth slip away, that which it has accumulated during its years of activity, which correspond to the post-war years.
But there are of course universals: agreeing that this generation fits into this moment when pollution, environmental degradation, overexploitation of natural resources and unsustainable development are essential issues, and that it is marked by the phenomenon of oil spills and nuclear accidents with, in particular, the Chernobyl tragedy in 1986. Yes also for the increase in divorces, the increase in the number of women on the labor market, the availability of the contraceptive pill and a tendency to want to slow down the increase in populations. I also learn that, in the field of mass culture, this period will see the advent of “devil-child films” (horror films where children play the role of “bad guys”): born at the same time that we, the young heroes of The Exorcist (1973) or The Omen (1976) or the two twins in The Shining (1980) are our contemporaries, our alter egos, our double villains, our dark side.
To make it shorter (or longer), we were born when Kennedy died, as well as Abdel Nasser, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, of the Cultural Revolution in China, of May 68, of the decolonization of Africa and the first steps of man on the moon made by Neil Armstrong. Our mothers had inaugurated the pants, the miniskirt and the bikini. Brigitte Bardot made our fathers fantasize (Sean Connery and Alain Delon our mothers), and Charles de Gaulle could have been our grandfather. The Beatles dissolved, Simon and Garfunkel cooed, France Gall sucked his famous lollipops, and François Truffaut made his finest films.
We are the generation of the famous Stan Smith shoe (long before it was revived), the walkman and the Rubik’s cube. Charlie’s Angels was our favorite soap opera (how could we forget Farah Fawcett’s lioness mane?). Punk and Disco tendencies know us all too well. And if it is true that music and television (of tom &Jerry to Twin PeaksPassing by Happy Days and Friends) play an important role in the life of Generation X, before the explosion of digital technology and the Internet that will mark the next generation (Generation Y), I would add that our generation is above all that of video – the famous VHS tape is us too – and video games (pac-man and Super Mario) and, of course, cinema, the real thing.
As teenagers, we looked The Last Metro, The Woman Next Door, My uncle from America, Love to death, melo, The Green Ray and Full Moon Nightsbut also All fire all flames and murderous summer, then Diva, Bad Blood, The Moon in the Gutter, 37°2 in the morning, Danger in the house and No shelter, no law. We never laughed so much again as we watched Rabbi Jacob, The Gendarme and the extraterrestrials and The Under-Gifted. We are the generation of The party and of The Cheekyof grease and of Famousbut it doesn’t stop there: Apocalypse now, Blade Runner, Elephant Man, Monty Python, AND, Star Wars (episodes 5 and 6), IndianaJones, Back to the future, The Karate Kid, top gun, Fatal Attraction, American Gigolo, diehard (the first), Platoon, Rocky and Ramboas well as the iconic LostBoyswere our moments of what we might call happiness, or something like that.
We are also the generation that saw the first victims of AIDS fall, and the one that witnessed the rise of fundamentalism. We even had time to see the Berlin Wall come down before the era of globalization made us, suddenly and without transition, jaded adults.
And to get through all those crazy years, there was only music (the magazines of rock & folk that was ordered to anyone returning from a foreign country are witnesses to this). While providing us with a parallel world, one where, alongside the reality of war and fighting, it was possible to breathe and dream, music contributed to our emotional development, so it allowed us to mature, emotionally , and grow. When it comes to music, then there’s no doubt, Generation X is me. Then came the idea of a tribute, a beautiful tribute to the music of Generation X: Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, New Order, Queen, The Alan Parsons Project, Eurythmics and later Annie Lennox, Phil Collins (In the Air Tonight) or even before that, Genesis, Guns N’Roses, Scorpions, AC/DC, The Police, Electric Light Orchestra (“You’re a 21st century man”, they told us in 1981) , Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (the essential Enola Gay), later REM and Radiohead and Nirvana. But also Blondie (call me), Boy George and Culture Club, David Bowie, Kim Wilde (cambodia), Kim Carnes (Bette Davis Eyes), Foreigner (Waiting for a Girl Like You), Gloria Gaynor – I will survive (predictive?), Kate Bush, Nina Hagen, Klaus Nomi, Michael Jackson and Prince. I certainly forgot some, what a pity. On the French side, it was Noir Désir, Indochine, Telephone (I was dreaming of another world), The Rita Mitsouko, Images (midnight demons), Desireless (Travel Travel), Vanessa Paradis (Joe the cab) and nevertheless Jean-Michel Jarre. Special mention all the same for the makers of “slows”, Abba and Chris de Burgh.
It will be my fireworks for the new year, my gift to all the “X generations” of the planet, in any case to the music lovers and musicophiles among them, those who will never know how to conceive of their existence without music. I hope this new year will be musical and intense for you. From Beirut with love.
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The Lost Boys of Generation X
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