Taking on Nussbaum (Grandparents Gone Ga-Ga)

August 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

About a month ago, Bruce Nussbaum, a popular Design + Business guru and writer for Business Week, wrote an article called F*** the Boomers, Screw the Xers, Give Gen Y Power Now. In it, he proclaims the Boomers need to step aside and let the Gen Yers (a “search-learn-make-share” demographic) take over because they are better equipped than Boomers and Gen Xers to remake and reverse the US’s global decline.

All of which is fine enough. But, Mr Nussbaum goes so far to say that the reason Gen Xers should be skipped over is because “Xers still don’t get it” and that “Sure the Xers will whine but they will follow (they always do). And deep down, they’ll feel relieved of the burden of responsibility and embrace the irony of losing out (once again).”


As one of the younger members of Gen X (I was born in 1976), I fail to see how Mr. Nussbaum’s viewpoint makes any sense at all. I would go so far to say that he is misinformed, possibly delusional.

Sure, it may be true that we are the generation of Slacker and many of us spent many years wandering the wilderness of society, but the Xers I know are nothing like what Mr Nussbaum portrays.

The Xers I know are entrepreneurs, educators, leaders, hard workers, committed to family and community, world travelers, intellectually curious, and perhaps most importantly, fighters.

(Fighters? You must be joking, right? No.)

The oldest of the Xers began their journey in the workforce right as the 1988 recession hit. Some of us were the soldiers in the first Gulf War. We enjoyed a few good economic years in the go-go 90s, where we were the workforce behind the web’s explosion before the boom went bust. We have since led the charge for the much-more successful second generation of the web. All Xers were adults during the tragic events of 9/11 and its ensuing recession and war. We’ve had no choice but to sit by and watch as the Boomers-in-charge began shipping manufacturing jobs overseas. We are now dealing with the “Great Recession” that has caused the greatest levels of chronic unemployment since the Great Depression.

And we did all this while having come of age right as the US was changing from an analog, monolithic, and segregated society to a digital, diverse, and integrated society. We have been (and are) the bridge between the analog-inclined Boomers and the digital-savvy Gen Yers. This is no small feat or task.

Boy oh boy, my rankle is rousing.


We are a rather small generation compared to the Boomers and Yers, leaving us with less people to do more.

While the Boomers may have made it cool to care about the environment, Xers have carried the torch and spread the fire, if you will.

While the boomers may have started the running and fitness craze, it is the Xers who made it mainstream.

We have been leaders in urban revitalization efforts, populating cities left for dead by the Boomers. (This conveniently helps work towards solving both the health and environment problems in one efficient stroke.)

Throughout the recessions and wars, we were given hope the Boomers would start retiring and we would fill those jobs. It hasn’t happened. So, instead, we’ve had to innovate and find new ways to make a living.

All this doesn’t even begin to touch the millions of Xers who work in the civil sector, fight our wars, work in the arts, volunteer for non-profits, went in to the Peace Corps, or simply do whatever they have to do to to feed their families.

Go on, tell me that Gen Xers “don’t get it.” What a smug, careless statement.

Instead of gaining respect for our tenacity and savvy, we’re overwhelmed by a media that celebrates the 60s and Boomer culture while cooing over Gen Yers that have had very little time to accomplish anything. All this while our achievements and cultural touchstones are barely acknowledged in any meaningful way besides infomercials for 80s and 90s pop music. Sweet.

But, ya know, hey, it’s cool. We’re used to it by now.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a rant against Gen Yers. This is about the popular perception from a Boomer culture loathe to admit that Xers, for all our warts and bruises and worries, have earned the right to more respect than a dismissive comment by a popular business + design writer and educator.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, though: Grandparents are always harder on their own children than their grandchildren.

Before all is said and done, Gen X will have left its mark. We are the bridge between the old America and the new one. We are the translators and innovators between two generations within a culture shifting markedly day-by-day.

If anyone thinks the Xers are done or to be passed over, I wouldn’t bet against us. We’re still relatively young and if history has shown anything, we’re relentless. Quite the opposite of Mr. Nussbaum’s blind, bland, boring, and bumbling notion of a generation of irony-seeking slackers.

After all, I would argue that we were slackers not because we didn’t care, we were slackers because we did care, but had no meaningful outlet. That has changed.

Our dissatisfaction is our fuel. And trust me, we have plenty of it.


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§ One Response to Taking on Nussbaum (Grandparents Gone Ga-Ga)

  • AllTheBest says:

    I’m a Gen-X-er, and really not into my generation, I’m afraid. There is no colour or light about them, and there never was when they were young. Their lack of ability to present anything with a degree of bite to it (as opposed to waffle) is astounding. They look upon anything with oomph behind it with distrust. You present a dazzling idea to them and all they can do is procrastinate or present a miserable face. I prefer the generations either side, annoying in their own ways though they may be. I succeed in a number of ways when I match up with these individuals but I have given up on my peers as they are a bunch of losers with questionable taste and duff, insubstantial concepts and ideas clothed in pretentious language!!

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