Categorized | Letters

Are We \’Echo Boomers\’?

Generation Y. The Net Generation. Generation Why? Millennials. Those of us born between the years of 1982 and 1995 have had a myriad of inaccurate and, frankly, stupid names and labels thrown at us by social critics and talking heads. Each name is a seemingly more desperate attempt by the Baby Boomer generation to find some way to label and quantify us, and to make the Boomers look all the hipper while doing it. Their latest attempt is “Echo Boomers,” lazily classifying our generation as a demographic and ideological “echo” of our parent’s generation.
Now, this classification should immediately have one of the following effects on any red-blooded American in their late teens or early 20s:
[1]A) We’re not like our parents!, or, for the more thoughtful, B) You’re comparing us to the Baby Boomers?! Dear God, are we already that shallow?
But before anyone gets up in arms over this latest generational classification, we should take a deep breath, step back, and look at the label: Just how inaccurate is the term “Echo Boomer?”
First, we should look at the generation that spawned the phrase: the Baby Boomers. Born in the years of increased sexual activity and economic prosperity following the end of World War II (roughly, from 1946 to 1959), the Baby Boomers are a generation defined largely by the Vietnam War and the protests surrounding it. They were the hippies and the radicals of the 60s and 70s, the soulless yuppie corporate drones of the 80s and the mindless, vapid Politically Correct Crusaders for Christ, Goodness and Safety of the 90s. They were a dynamic generation: one that found ideals, clung to them, saw presidents and social thinkers die before their time, and fought for what they believed in… only then to betray those same ideals in the pursuit of profit, do a lot of coke and elect Ronald Reagan. Twice.
Enter us, the Echo Boomers. Born too young (thank God) to witness much of the excess, greed, shallowness and depravity of the 80s (along with, paradoxically, rigid social and political conservatism… to quote Don King, “only in America”) the “Echo Boomers” were nonetheless touched and influenced by the attitudes and ideas of the 80s. Raised in the late 80s and early 90s, we were taught to accept others and be more tolerant. Shielded from the dangers of the world by being packed in more protective padding than a shipment of nitroglycerine, and insulated from actual spontaneous human contact and independent thought through an endless series of parent-sanctioned “play dates”, music recitals, karate classes and soccer practices. Our parents did their best to make sure we were the best bunch of overworked, over-achieving, over-caffeinated, over-dependent neurotics we could possibly be. And it worked.
We were deprived of the freedom they received from their parents; the Boomers didn’t so much raise children as they programmed them. Following the 80s bumper sticker ideology of “He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins” (I kid you not, people slapped this ignorant statement on the back of their K-Cars right next to their sucker-foot Garfield and pretentious “Baby on Board” warning signs), the parent who had their kid involved in the most extraneous activities “won.” Child welfare was pushed to the wayside to prove something to fellow suburbanites by trotting out their children for as much crap as their schedule could handle.
So, in a way, our generation is not an “echo” of our parents’. When they were younger, they were afforded a freedom that most people in our generation simply did not have. This also made them less reliant on their parents, which (in addition to looking down the barrel of a tour in Vietnam) helped them organize and protest the government in the 60s. The “Echo Boomers” have no such independence. Our generation is completely dependent on our parents and long for their approval more than anything else. This pleasure with the status quo is also one of the driving factors behind why our generation doesn’t get out to the polls to vote: we simply don’t care, because we figure someone else out there will take care of the problem for us, or that our parents’ generation will make the right decisions and everything will be fine.
Then again, in that way, we are exactly like the Boomers were…just the way they ended up being in the 80s. In the 60s the Boomers were radicals, and independent, rebellious thought was valued. In the 80s business-suit conformity was the order of the day. With our generation, it’s Ugg-Boot-and-NorthFace-fleece conformity. This ready acceptance of the status quo spills over from the relatively benign realm of fashion to the infinitely more terrifying realm of politics. Not since the early 60s has one generation of people so blindly trusted authority figures. For all the marketing talk of our generation being “X-treme!”, the only thing extreme about our generation is our naivety and social inaction.
A prime example of this would be our generation’s reaction to the war in Iraq: because it directly affects very few of us, very few who disagree with the war are bothering to stand up against it. Mostly, Echo Boomers could care less either way about the war. Not that people in our generation don’t have it in them to stand up, but much like the Baby Boomers before them, Echoes are too damn self-absorbed and shallow to care about things that don’t directly affect them. And, I imagine, it will take the threat of a draft and impending death to create a groundswell of political activism.
Maybe our generation deserves the name “Echo Boomers” more than anyone wants to admit.

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