NEW YORK (AP) — The generation that gave the term “slacker” new meaning is looking with measures of rivalry, regret and tart bewilderment at a movement its successor mobilized in the name of “the 99 percent.”
For some members of Generation X, the cohort sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the so-called Millennial age group of many Occupy Wall Street protesters, the demonstrations represent a missed opportunity in their own youth to take up the cause of combatting economic inequality.
But for others, the Occupy movement is at best a showy rehash of similar recessionist angst they weathered with self-sufficiency and little more public display of disaffection than grunge rock and goatees — and at worst a reflection of a younger generation with a whiny, overweening idea of its own importance.
“Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. “Generation X also graduated during a recession … and actually had to pay for its own music,” declared Mat Honan, 39, a San Francisco-based writer for the technology blog Gizmodo.
He said by phone that he’s sympathetic to the protesters’ complaints about the financial system but felt a “generational disconnect” after reading a New York magazine story that portrayed the demonstrations as a response to a distinctly Millennial plight.
With its “we are the 99 percent” slogan, Occupy doesn’t particularly see itself as a youth movement. People of a range of ages have joined some of the demonstrations. And plenty of 20-somethings, as well as their elders, want no part of them.
But with concern about student loans and post-graduation job opportunities a frequent theme, the protests are often seen as having a youthful face, and the limited demographic data available point to a heavy under-30 presence.
The median age was 28 in a mid-October survey of 301 people at Occupy Wall Street’s former base camp in New York’s Zuccotti Park, said Costas Panagopoulos, the Fordham University political science professor who conducted it. Separately, Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen surveyed 198 people at the park in mid-October and found 49 percent were under 30.
Another 38 percent were between 30 and 50 — the bookends of Generation X, in some generational researchers’ view. They define it as those born between 1961 and 1981, encompassing nearly 88 million Americans; others bracket it a bit differently, often as 1965 to 1981.
Still, there’s a perception among some Gen Xers themselves that they’re at a generational remove from the Occupy protests.
“Our moms and dads witnessed the great advances for women and minorities born from the rebellion of the ’60s. … We learned how to blow up digital aliens with a joystick. Occupy Wall Street, can we believe in you?” recession blogger Lynn Parramore wrote, praising the protests, on the left-leaning online news service AlterNet.
A Gen X apology to the Occupy Wall Street contingent, expressing regret for conceptual hand-me-downs ranging from implying that going to college begets a good job to “taking away every reason to go outside,” has gotten more than 1.7 million online views on the humor site Cracked.com.
On the other hand, Washington-based economics writer John Tamny branded the young Occupiers’ mindset “an obnoxious repeat of Gen X” on the financial news site Real Clear Markets.
Some Gen Xers, after all, entered the workforce — or tried to — during recessions in the early 1980s and ’90s, only to benefit from economic growth later in those decades, noted Tamny, 42.