by Amir Hafizi

I grew up as a proud member of Generation X. Gen-Xers have a comic book named after them, the letter ‘X’ in their name and were also taken to the next level by WWE’s Degeneration X, made up of wrestlers Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and a bunch of other people.

Pix Credit:, rights: WWE
That's right's DX. Problem?

When I joined the workforce some eight or nine years ago, some people told me I was not from Generation X but from Generation Y, because I was born in 1980 - the start of Gen-Y.

Distraught at losing my X-Factor, I ran back to my village in Kuantan where my family told me I am from a lost generation, as Gen-X ended in 1978 and Gen-Y started after 1982.

I am from a Lost Generation? Children of the Atom? It was confusing, so I decided to do some reading on the subject matter.

First of all, the generally accepted boundaries for this generation thing are based on Western conventions which are also the basis for ageism and stereotyping. So with that caveat, let’s find out where we stand, shall we?

Pix Credit:
The Lost Generation are people who fought during World War 1(1914), generally born between 1883-1900. World War 1 was unique because it was like the Wrestlemania of wars till then. The Lost Generation was called that because the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder and the after-gloom of the war created very ‘battered men’ as writer Ernest Hemingway put it. He and writers such as Gertrude Stein, William Strauss and Neil Howe (Strauss and Howe wrote Generations in 1991 about this subject) made popular the term ‘lost generation’.

Next, we have the ‘Greatest Generation’ - those born from 1901-1924. These people grew up during the Great Depression (1929-1940) and went on to fight in World War 2. I thought they were a bit conceited, calling themselves ‘greatest' but apparently, the term was coined by CNN dude Tom Brokaw in his book The Greatest Generation.

Obviously, Brokaw hates his own generation - the Silent Generation (born 1925-1945). This generation is characterised by their lack of influential political representatives, but a deluge of artists, poets, civil rights leaders and counter-culture icons. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe all came from this ‘silent’ generation. And Tom Brokaw, of course, who is hardly a church mouse.

Pix Credit:
Quite a surprise that he is from the Silent Generation. Here is the King of Rock and Roll!

Then, we have the Baby Boomers - who are usually blamed for causing the current economic apocalypse we are facing. Baby Boomers also like pushing people into boxes, which is why we have this generation this or generation that - it was their invention. Born after the war (1946) until some time in the ‘60s, the baby boomers grew up in relative luxury and had a more optimistic view of what the world has in store for them. Some consider them selfish, while others bill them as optimistic. Whatever they are, fix the economy NOW!

Strauss and Howe also outline four character archetypes for each generation to go with their cycles - Prophet, Nomad, Hero and Artist. Baby Boomers are ‘prophets’ in the sense they set the stage for things to come.

Pix Credit:
Heroes to the fore!
Then, we have Generation X. Generally defined as those born in the late ‘60s till early ‘80s, though the dates are still not agreed on. If we go with Strauss and Howe’s Generations, Generation X is the 13th generation, born 1961-1981. Gen-Xers are considered to live with a dark view of the future - think X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sin City and V for Vendetta - and are often credited for many elements of counter-culture. The term was made popular in Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, but was first used as early as the ‘50s by Robert Capa and later Jane Deverson as well as Billy Idol.

Pix Credit:
One of the first to coin the term Gen-X: Billy Idol
Generation Y or Millennials, are those born from 1982-2000, though some people put them between 1980-1995 and others between 1985-1995. The term ‘Millennials’ was coined by Gen-Y people who wanted to be distinct from Gen-Xers. Strauss and Howe state in their book that Gen-Y will be more civic-minded, as opposed to Gen-X’s rebellious attitude. Howe and Strauss wrote that in terms of character, Gen-Y embodies the ‘Hero’ archetype and they generally believe in institutions and rules. This is opposed to Gen-Xers who embody the ‘Nomad’ archetype, focusing on attacking institutions and order.

There are many definitions of generations. These are basically Western views on them. In China, anyone born after 1980 is Gen-Y. In South Korea, there is the 386 Generation while in the UK, the term ‘Lost Generation’ refers to those talented people who were killed during World War 2.

I believe that generation-this or generation-that are simply guides to help marketers and are as accurate as Astrology. Try and sell me an iPhone (Gen Y) or an Iggy Pop album (Gen X) - I’m not interested and beyond categorisation.

In that sense, I’m very much a ‘Nomad’ (Gen-X).

For further reading:

Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (1991). Generations: The History of America's Future 1584-2069. New York: William Morrow and Company.