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Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure - page 4 / 16





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There is no widespread agreement concerning what concepts best characterize contemporary youth. During the 1980s and into the 1990s, the term "Generation X," popularized by Canadian writer Douglas Coupland (1991) has been widely adopted. For us, the "X" signifies the crossroads upon which the present generation stands between the modern and the postmodern. It suggests an unknown and indeterminate future, a fluidity of identities that are being redefined by new technologies and cultural experiences, and a situation of uncertainty and social chaos. Yet if one needs a label to characterize this generation, then perhaps not "Generation X," which is vague and widely rejected by those it is supposed to characterize,5 but "post- boomers" is preferable because they are the successors to those Americans born between 1945 and 1960 and their identities in large part are shaped in reaction to them and their times. Moreover, they are the first generation to grow up in the post-1960s Cold war era, characterized by the unfolding of the postindustrial society and postmodern culture and have been living in the tensions and conflicts of the "post."

The post-boomer generation could also be labeled as "busters," for with this generation the American dream, enjoyed by many boomers, went bust and they were thrown into a world of uncertainty, disorder, and decline. The baby-boomers came of age during the optimism which followed World War Two with the rise of suburbia, cheap education, good job opportunities, abundant housing, the Age of Affluence, and the exciting and turbulent events of the 1960s. Their children, in contrast, matured during more troubled times marked by recession, diminishing expectations, the conservative reaction led by Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, an explosion of shallow greed and materialism, the disillusioning drama of a dot.com boom rapidly followed by a dot.bust. The e-boom was a boom period for youth and by youth, and quite significant for this reason. Though ballooned out of proportion by the financial industries, the Internet boom represented a new economy lead by a young vanguard. The Bush II regime can be seen in many ways as a return to the old guard, the old extraction-based economy that sees economic advancement as a win-loss game best advanced through imperialist expansion –- a shift from the consumer, innovation, and service-driven economy that envisioned (at least) a win-win world economy based on national comparative advantage and world trade. Thus, the restoration of the old order is also an attack on the Young Turks, which also has the flavor in many ways of revenge.

Moreover, dramatically worsening social conditions in the current situation emerged following the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. and the subsequent “war against terrorism.” After declaring war against an “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union speech, in early 2003 Son of Bush assembled his father’s legion of doom and a gigantic military machine to wage war against Iraq in an unfolding millennium of perennial war, one that will sacrifice another generation of youth (see Kellner, 2003 ). Hence, while post-boomer youth faced a life that was more complex, insecure, risky, and unpredictable than boomer youth, today's youth face even more dangerous and anxious times with threats of terrorism, war, and large-scale apocalypse on the horizon, as the global economy sputters and possibilities for a better life diminish. Post-post boomer youth has lived through the fall-out of the rising expectations of the “new economy” and globalization, finding that dotcom.bust, terrorism, and a reactionary U.S. administration bent on a


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