I must confess that I have a difficulty with the concept of generations, which is why I was troubled when I heard Blindboy of the Rubberbandits using the term My Generation on the Late Late Show last week.
Outside of a family, I don’t know what a generation is or how it can be defined, and yet people use it as if we all had a common understanding of the word, leading to endless confusion, since the first prerequisite of rational debate is that everyone shares the same definition of the terms being used.
Can somebody please tell me what a generation is?
Blindboy, when asked what generation he belongs to, replied the current one, and I couldn’t quite grasp what that meant. Surely we’re all part of the current generation, I thought. Isn’t everyone from the age of zero to 109 part of the current generation? Are some of us non-persons?
Or did he mean something else? Was he actually suggesting that some people are not relevant?
I don’t think so, because he’s not that sort of guy and yet I don’t know, since the terminology is too woolly.
We need a definition of what a generation is, or else we need to dispense with a useless concept and instead adopt some other more meaningful way of looking at our society.
Blindboy went on to explain that the 1916 revolutionaries were the same age as his generation. They were aged from 18 up their mid-thirties, he explained, and the resultant questions are obvious. Does that exclude intelligent 16-year-olds? Does that rule out somebody approaching 39? The definition seems to be full of holes, and when that happens it’s often a sign that the underlying concept might be a little creaky.
I’m driven to ask the overwhelming question: what on earth does physical age have to do with it? Are there not eighty-year-olds with precisely the same concerns as 20-year-olds? Why do we define generations in chronological terms? Doesn’t the average 20-year-old today relate well to Jimi Hendrix who would be 73 if he had survived?
I’m driven to ask, why do we allow ourselves to be slaves to the age-apartheid imposed on us by the PR world?
David Bowie died last week. Is he not of the same generation as Blindboy, or should he be banished to the outer darkness of irrelevance because he wasn’t in his mid-thirties? Is it that arbitrary? When Blindboy hits forty in under a decade, will he become part of the great irrelevant mass who are not part of the current generation, no matter how much he has to offer?
Is my elderly aunt not part of the current generation?
Decide for yourself, but in my mind, this arbitrary idea of generations is nonsense.
When does a generation start? When does it end?
That question has no answer because there is no answer.
Let’s free ourselves from such trite pre-packaged thinking.