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My Generation

Three years ago, the German historian Florian Illies published Generation Golf. Eine Inspektion...and I've only now browsed through it, in preparation for the sequel Generation Golf zwei which came out earlier this month.

In his book(s), he charts the rise of the post-Babyboom Generation, to which he himself -born in 1971- belongs. Now I'm not exactly sure to what generation I should count myself, seeing as I'm 9 years older, but I never thought I had much in common with my hippie cousins who are classic examples of Babyboomers (not that there's anything wrong with that), so I thought I'd check out Illies description of the generation that followed and maybe find a way of neatly pigeon-holeing myself.

So I soon found myself ticking off the list and nodding my head in agreement - yes, I do belong to a generation that could pick and choose what they wanted to be and select the schooling/education they needed to follow their dream; and yes, my first car happened to be a VW Golf, too. And yes, I do remember the rise of the yuppie and the notion of cool, the materialism of the 80s and the proliferation of espresso machines (how could I forget, with the constant repeats of Only Fools and Horses going on?).

And according to the text of the press release accompanying his new publication, Generation Golf has lost its money, its jobs and its confidence; and it's all to be blamed on 9/11 and the economic crisis that followed. Now Generation Golf is a dull and scared generation that thinks her salad days were over a decade ago. He also believes that this generation has always been and is even more so now, unable to commit itself politically and wanders through life aimlessly, devoid of hope.

I can't recognise myself in this picture. Not only can't I recognise myself, I can't recognise any of my contemporaries, either.
First of all, when I think of the 80s and growing up in them, apart from the good times and the shoulder pads, I remember that we were very politicised, very interested and very active in politics. We had to be. There were miner's strikes and race riots in Britain (Brixton, Broadwater Farm -or did that last come later?), the war in the Falklands and Maggie Thatcher saying she wasn't for turning; and in my own country there were massive protest rallies against the NATO stationing their nuclear warheads on our soil, and a severe housing shortage that led to the Squatters' Riots (that even disrupted our Queen's investiture with smoke bombs and stones being thrown) - and it was us, people of my generation, born in the 60s, that were responsible for kicking up this ruckus. There was the resurgence of the political right, like the National Front in Britain, but there were similar trends in politics all over Europe going on, that had to be fought tooth and nail by the majority of my generation, the people born in the 60s. We were all left-wing then - and yes, we may have mellowed over the years, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're no longer politically minded.

The 80s were a wicked cool time. Yes, there were a few of our contemporaries who bought into the yuppie hype, who went to the wine-bar waving their filofaxes in everyone's faces, talking about doing deals worth millions...but the larger majority never made loads of money. Or was it just me, was I the only one that lost out on the bounty? I hardly think I could have been such a loser, or could I?

When I think of my what my life was like in the 80s, it was simply this: I went to school, joined the protest rallies during the day, then dressed up and danced the night away. We sang doom-laden songs of nuclear destruction (99 Luftballons/Red Balloons, Dancing With Tears in my Eyes, Two Tribes) but we didn't really mean them. We knew it wasn't going to happen, because we would make the politicians see reason, by protesting in our hundreds of thousands - and it worked! The Wall came down, didn't it?

And a whole new problem was created. Maybe Mr. Illies's view of my generation is so dark, because he lives in Germany...



( 3 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
Jul. 25th, 2003 08:16 am (UTC)
I read this with interest.
I was born in 1960 and I totally don't identify with the hippy generation. The 70's were spent in school. Then the 80's were a time of school and work. I was politically active (still am - but the candidates today just plain suck). I didn't make a lot of money and I still don't have any money. I don't own a Golf - but I sure wanted one in the 80's. Would you believe I just heard 99 Luftballons on the radio this week? Sure brought back memories. . .

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 26th, 2003 05:42 am (UTC)
let's not forget the fact that the Germans love to lament and whine and complain...

In all fairness, they do have grounds for it...I spent a month in Berlin last year, rounabout the time of their last elections. Germany struggles with immense problems, the fall-out of the reunification, and Berlin with near-empty coffers and a promise that hasn't been fullfilled. The thing is though, although I can understand the Ossies's disillusionment and grumbling, I fail to see why they can't get off their backsides and do something about it. Perhaps it's all those years under communist rule that's conditioned them to take a sit-back-and-wait-for-someone-else-take-action kind of attitude?
Jul. 25th, 2003 12:31 pm (UTC)
1966 - a vintage year, and yep, miners strikes, poll tax, anti-apartheid. I think we were among the last of the politicised generation. Maybe Gulf 2 will produce a new generation of activists, hell, we need it.
( 3 Speak Like A Child — Shout To The Top )
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