COLM O'REGAN: Of course you will always assume the generation after you are a shower of slack-jawed ingrates

WHEN were your formative years? When was the time that reinforced habits in you that you don’t think twice about now? 

What are the things that you do now without thinking but that people younger than you find strange? They look at you and shake their heads as if they’d seen you trying to start the fire with some flint and two rocks.

When I’m making the “hey, give me a phonecall when you get a chance” gesture, I still know why we need to use the baby finger because I remember receivers. But, because of technology, who knows what future generations will do when they want to silently indicate to someone to phone them? They might point at their nose or their cat or something.

(Actually for years, I held my hand the wrong way around with the thumb as the receiver. No wonder nobody rang.)

What generation are you? There’s a big publicity campaign at the moment to launch a survey across Europe of attitudes. It’s open to anyone over 18 but it’s primarily interested in Generation Y. Generation Y appears to be from age 18 to 34.

So that probably makes me Generation X although some sources define me as a very early millennial.

I think that means that, while I know in theory that everyone has the ability to be God’s special snowflake, to realise their potential, in likelihood, most of us are kidding ourselves.

When I went to college in 1996, I was probably among the first generation to have a very reasonable expectation of getting a job in this country.

The crowd that came after me had even higher expectations. I remember hearing in one company of a mother ringing up her child’s boss to complain about his wage increase, as if the boss was an incompetent teacher and life could be “fixed” just like school did.

But that generation got a very sore landing when the economy went belly up. The flip side is that behind that group is another cohort of very sanguine 20-somethings who have very low expectations so hopefully they’ll enjoy the next boom even more.

But coming after them will be yet another group of feckless spendthrifts “who don’t know they’re born, they’re so lucky.”

Of course you will always assume the generation after you have it easier, are a shower of slack-jawed ingrates who have no idea of the hardships you endure. All of us at some stage will hold forth to a younger group telling them about the primitive past. “I remember a time before remote controls.“

Previous generations tend to be respected for their toughness. In America, they talk misty-eyed, about the Greatest Generation born before 1924 and who fought in World War 2. You wouldn’t have heard them giving out that their local Mace had a poor selection of craft beers.

They were too busy saving Europe. These were men who all looked like Kirk Douglas and women who looked like Mrs Sullivan from the Sullivans (an Australian soap opera that used to be on RTÉ on Fridays.)

Who would be Ireland’s “Greatest Generation”? Some would say it should be those who fought in the War of Independence but things … um … got a little complicated after 1922 and it … is that the time?

But we have plenty of generations who came after them. If we’re surveying the 18-34s, we should do a survey of the 70+ to find out what they think. Although what they probably think is that “I remember a time when there were no ‘surveys’. Opinions?! You were lucky if you got black tea, dry bread and a clatter in the ear”.


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