Monday, January 19, 2009

A Lesson in Generational Dynamics: Gran Torino Style

Those who study Generational Dynamics undoubtedly have a name for the theory. Although I find the field interesting, I don't spend as much time as I should researching the concepts behind the cycle. But I do have thoughts. And I have heard the following generalization that goes something like this:
  • The Greatest Generation sacrificed themselves for others
  • The Baby Boomers sacrificed themselves for themselves
  • The Gen Exers & Gen Y's sacrifice others for themselves

Gran Torino explores these themes in subtle threads; woven with precision, it's a tribute to a generational who -- for all their faults -- were ultimately less hypocritical than we're taught in our sociology classes...and far more deserving of the respect we often deny them.

Life is complex, it's true. But many times the answers are there if we look for them. Easy to find, but difficult to act on.

Those who study Generational Dynamics believe that those born in these years will be the next Great Generation of the United States*. That, if you're paying attention, doesn't bode well.

* Different countries are on different cycles. For my friends outside of the USA, your generational dynamics may be a generation ahead or behind in the cycle.


laughingwolf said...

will be going to see clint's latest, thx

the gd is interesting too, alex :D

Jaym said...

On the other hand, it could bode very well. There is no greater theatre for greatness than great trial.

stu said...

Speaking as an (occasional) historian, I can say that almost every generation throughout history seems to have had horrible things to say about the next one.

Alex Moore said...

@laughingwolf: I wasn't sure what to expect, actually, but ended up truly enjoying it.

@Jaym: you are so correct. I believe it was Thomas Jefferson & John Adams who, in their end-of-life letters, commented on the fact that for years they'd thought that they were great men who had made the times...when actually it had been the Great Times that had made them Men. On the other hand, no matter how much the intellect understands the price of greatness, actually living through the great trial isn't exactly one's childhood dream :P

@stu: it's human nature, no doubt. and yet, i would almost say that those of my generation look at the next one and don't even blink. in fact, i don't think many of my generation have decided to grow up at all. of course, i was listening to NPR last summer, and the contention on that day was that it was simply the males who weren't growing up... who knows. :)

Nils said...

"Everything was better in the past" is just a variation of the greener-grass proverb. If it actually was true, then human civilization would've completely collapsed a long time ago. In general, I think, we can probably assume that things do improve over time. Yes, we still have injustice and warfare, but we are trying to lessen the horrors of it all with international laws and treaties.

That said, there's probably a merit to short-ternm variations. The WW2 crowd did make a lot of sacrifices, whereas the generations afterwards had a pretty sheltered life, by and large. The generation currently growing up not only has a very sheltered life, the people who knew what starvation, social upheaval and war really mean are dying or are dead already. Talking in person to someone who shipped supplies to concentration camps just gives you a totally different appreciation (if that is the right word) for the horrors mankind has witnessed. When the worst you hear about World War 2 is Return to Castle Wolfenstein, then, well, that lesson is missing.

I believe that is also why we see such a revival in fascism, religious fanaticism, state surveillance, torture, internment camps; the "general public" simply has forgotten history, and you know what they say happens next.

Oh, well. The pendulum will swing the other way again, and I can just hope the lesson will not be quite as tough as in the past.

PS: Read more Heinlein. Starship Troopers ftw.