Machine Design

What I don't like about my generation

I'm going to jump into the fray, but in a way that will surprise you. I am not going to complain about young people. Instead, I'll tell you how my own generation has disappointed me.

Machine Design, Editorial Comment
September 21, 2000

In the process of cleaning my office, I came across something clipped from a business magazine three years ago. It was sort of an Ann Landers advice column for corporate managers, and it dealt with the aggravations managers were having with subordinates who were members of Generation X. The managers weren't old fogies but were people in their forties, and their complaints were an interesting insight into the generational warfare that seems to be springing up more and more.

The divisions in this warfare are getting increasingly fine. For example, I recently heard a young manager complaining about the spacey demeanor of her subordinates, recent college graduates in their early twenties. She herself is only in her late twenties but viewed her employees as "a bunch of kids."

That much said,

First of all, I am disappointed about how my generation allowed nerds to take control of the highways. As a teenager, I ran with a pack of kids who mostly were good drivers and really enjoyed cars. We took our Ford V8s out to the country to see how fast they would go in second gear, and occasionally we would have drag races on deserted roads. But we also knew enough to keep a low profile when cops were around. We wanted to appear law-abiding.

I was confident that when we grew into adults we would make sure speed limits were set rationally, with perhaps there being none at all on interstate highways. Well, it didn't turn out that way. When my generation got into the state legislatures and government bureaucracies, traffic laws got even more nerdy than they were before. Then we allowed a generation to slip in behind us with a fixation on air bags, crushable structures, CAFE requirements, and emissions testing. The automobile became an appliance, much to the anguish of us enthusiasts. Shame on us for letting it happen.

My generation also is the oldest to lose all vestiges of class and taste. We were once the quintessential buttoned-down men and women of American corporations. We even wore suits and ties to house parties. Today, the way we appear in public is embarrassing. Women of my generation board airplanes in their pajamas, while men appear at airports wearing gym clothes. We were the most mature generation to become slobs, maintaining not a shred of dignity. We followed the kids instead of setting an example. How appalling.

On the other hand, we did have some redeeming features. Despite Elvis Presley, we weren't obsessed with pop music or rock concerts. When we were teenagers, there was no such thing as "youth fashions." We dressed as individualists without the goofy clothing aberrations you see today. We did not rebel against our parents because we viewed them as accomplished people in control. After all, they did win the War, and then they held back the Communist Menace. A good portion of them had money, nice cars, and privileges that we youngsters also were eager to acquire. We knew we would get our share when we got older if we shut up and did as we were told. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could reinstate that ethic?

-- Ronald Khol, Editor

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