Generation Q

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Generation Q



This article, [url= the New York Times,[/url] discusses Generation "Q", the quiet generation of youth, who are apathetic to politics and social issues.


I just spent the past week visiting several colleges -- Auburn, the University of Mississippi, Lake Forest and Williams -- and I can report that the more I am around this generation of college students, the more I am both baffled and impressed.

I am impressed because they are so much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be. I am baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.

I particularly enjoyed [url=]the response [/url] by Courtney Martin (whose book I am currently reading, I might add) which contests that "Thomas Friedman has mistaken my generation's absolute paralysis in the face of so many choices, so many causes, and so much awareness, for a mere quiet."


We are not quiet. Molly, the passionate environmentalist, Daniel, the bourgeoning theologian, Ben, the political communicator -- all of these kids have big mouths and lots of ideas. We don't hesitate to assert opinions. We are often outraged -- outraged, in fact, to the point of tears about the war in Iraq. I have lived this outrage since March 20, 2003. And I have had countless conversations with my friends, my mentors, my family, and my own pained conscience about what can possibly be done.

Any thoughts?


It took me a moment to figure out that this did not in any way relate to Jian Ghomeshi. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

Is Generation Q what we're calling the younger generation these days, or is that what they're soon to be called if the ideas in this article take hold? It's hard to keep track of the single consonant social groupings of young people after Generations X and Y. But what they all seem to have in common is a patronizing attitude from older generations monosyllabically characterizing them. In the case of "Generation Q" isn't "quiet" just a nicer way of saying apathetic? The standard of judgment for political engagement tends to be the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I don't know how fair that is in light of a changed political climate and expanding definitions of activism many years later.


Compared to the endless self-absorbed blather of the boomers of course you'll sound quiet. Just when we thought they would be gone through retirement they phase out manditory retirement, manditory euthanasia anyone.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I don't think the blame for apathy should be shouldered by our youth today.

wage zombie

From the [url= Time article[/url] linked to above:


When I was visiting my daughter at her college, she asked me about a terrifying story that ran in this newspaper on Oct. 2, reporting that the Arctic ice cap was melting ''to an extent unparalleled in a century or more'' -- and that the entire Arctic system appears to be ''heading toward a new, more watery state'' likely triggered by ''human-caused global warming.''

''What happened to that Arctic story, Dad?'' my daughter asked me. How could the news media just report one day that the Arctic ice was melting far faster than any models predicted ''and then the story just disappeared?'' Why weren't any of the candidates talking about it? Didn't they understand: this has become the big issue on campuses?

No, they don't seem to understand. They seem to be too busy raising money or buying votes with subsidies for ethanol farmers in Iowa. The candidates could actually use a good kick in the pants on this point. But where is it going to come from?

Maybe it should be coming from the so called journalists who should be doing their frikkin jobs. What a piece of crap Thomas Friedman is. Berating young people for not being out in the streets protesting that the country has gone to shit while wankers like him serve as enablers for herr bush.

Here are some more [url= from Thomas Friedman:


What liberals fail to recognize is that regime change in Iraq is not some distraction from the war on Al Qaeda. That is a bogus argument. And simply because oil is also at stake in Iraq doesn't make it illegitimate either. Some things are right to do, even if Big Oil benefits.


So pardon me if I don't take seriously all the Euro-whining about the Bush policies toward Iraq -- for one very simple reason: It strikes me as deeply unserious. It's not that there are no serious arguments to be made against war in Iraq. There are plenty. It's just that so much of what one hears coming from German Chancellor Gerhard Schrцder and French President Jacques Chirac are not serious arguments. They are station identification.

They are not the arguments of people who have really gotten beyond the distorted Arab press and tapped into what young Arabs are saying about their aspirations for democracy and how much they blame Saddam Hussein and his ilk for the poor state of their region. Rather, they are the diplomatic equivalent of smoking cancerous cigarettes while rejecting harmless G.M.O.'s -- an assertion of identity by trying to be whatever the Americans are not, regardless of the real interests or stakes.

And where this comes from, alas, is weakness.


Sometimes I wish that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council could be chosen like the starting five for the N.B.A. All-Star team -- with a vote by the fans. If so, I would certainly vote France off the Council and replace it with India. . . . France is so caught up with its need to differentiate itself from America to feel important, it's become silly.


In talking with Bush administration officials of late I am struck by an incredible contrast. It is the contrast between the breathtaking audacity of what they intend to do in Iraq -- an audacity that, I must say, has an appeal for me -- and the incredibly narrow base of support that exists in America today for this audacious project.


Saddam Hussein poses no direct threat to us today. But confronting him is a legitimate choice -- much more legitimate than knee-jerk liberals and pacifists think. Removing Saddam -- with his obsession to obtain weapons of mass destruction -- ending his tyranny and helping to nurture a more progressive Iraq that could spur reform across the Arab-Muslim world are the best long-term responses to bin Ladenism. Some things are true even if George Bush believes them.

How does this wanker have any more credibility? Still regarded as an expert and still employed with the NY Times.

Here's another quote from the Generation Q article:


But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country's own good. When I think of the huge budget deficit, Social Security deficit and ecological deficit that our generation is leaving this generation, if they are not spitting mad, well, then they're just not paying attention. And we'll just keep piling it on them.

People are spitting mad, it is hacks like Friedman who aren't paying attention.


There is a good chance that members of Generation Q will spend their entire adult lives digging out from the deficits that we -- the ''Greediest Generation,'' epitomized by George W. Bush -- are leaving them.

Fuck you Friedman. Absolutely shameful.


This is the kind of argument that you could stack on either side. Sure, maybe not every teen is a vocal protester, standing up for injustice, but there are also many who are. Nothing but a sweeping generalization.

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

Great rant, wage zombie. I wish I'd said it - and no doubt I will, at the first opportunity.



Sven Sven's picture


Originally posted by M.Gregus:
[b]In the case of "Generation Q" isn't "quiet" just a nicer way of saying apathetic? The standard of judgment for political engagement tends to be the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I don't know how fair that is in light of a changed political climate and expanding definitions of activism many years later.[/b]

Are you saying that the 1960s-civil-rights-movement standard is too high?

By saying that there are "expanding definitions of activism", it appears you believe the standard is too high (if a standard is too high, redefine it). Friedman said, "Virtual politics is just that -- virtual." I would say, instead, that virtual politics is largely [b][i]hidden[/b][/i] politics...there's little public evidence of it. A public protest brings an issue to [b][i]the public[/b][/i]. Virtual politics are largely narrowly confined to those taking an affirmative step to engage in it (the hyper-radicals at either end of the spectrum)...[b][i]with the vast bulk of the public completely unaware of it[/b][/i].

"Virtual politics" may be useful to engage a core political base but it does very little to engage the general public.

Sven Sven's picture


Courtney Martin:
[b]I think that he has mistaken my generation's sense of being overwhelmed, our absolute paralysis in the face of so many choices, so many causes, and so much awareness, for a mere quiet.
We are not quiet.


So instead, young people become paralyzed. (It seems that all of us are a bit paralyzed.[/b]

“Paralyzed”?? Gimme a break. Was the 1930s/1940s generation “paralyzed” by the burdens of the Depression and the threats of WWII? Was the 1960s generation “paralyzed” over the issues of civil rights?


Courtney Martin:
[b]My generation tries to create lives that seem to match our values, but beyond that it's hard to locate a place to put our outrage. We aren't satisfied with point-and-click activism, as Friedman suggests, but we don't see other options. [/b]

What options have other generations had? If you’re looking for options, look to history. It’s not like “Generation Q” has to invent them from whole cloth.


Courtney Martin:
[b]Many of us have protested, but we -- by and large -- felt like we were imitating an earlier generation, playing dress-up in our parents' old hippie clothes. I marched against the war and my president called it a focus group. The worst part was that I did feel inert while doing it. In the 21st century, a bunch of people marching down the street, complimenting one another on their original slogans and pretty protest signs, feels like self-flagellation, not real and true social change.[/b]

Right. Don’t want to “conform” with the oldies. Have to do something “new” and “indie”, or whatever.


Courtney Martin:
[b]When Friedman was young and people were taking to the streets, there were a handful of issues to focus on and a few solid sources of news to pay attention to. Now there is a staggering amount of both. If I read the news today with my heart wide open and my mind engaged, I will be crushed. Do I address the injustices in Sudan, Iraq, Burma, Pakistan, the Bronx? Do I call an official, write a letter, respond to a request? None of it promises to be effective, and it certainly won't pacify my outrage.[/b]

I’ll concede Courtney’s point here about the plethora of issues. There are so many frickin’ “issues” of every shape, size, and color that concerted efforts to coalesce a critical mass of change is difficult, if not impossible.

AIDS, Iraq, the looming social burden of aging Boomers, homelessness, global warming, women’s rights, FN rights, world hunger, pandemics, budget deficits, GMO foods, abortion rights, health insurance, fetal alcohol syndrome, endangered species, taxes (I know, I know—I’m just seeing if you’re paying attention), civil rights, media concentration, nuclear proliferation, workers’ rights, etc. And, those are just [i]a few[/i] of the serious issues. There are hundreds of micro-issues demanding attention as well.

If people tried to “focus” on all of those things, their heads would explode trying to accomplish instantaneous—or even rapid—change.

Or, as Courtney said:


Courtney Martin:
[b]What happened is that none of us can psychologically survive if we pay too much attention or commit ourselves too passionately to affecting change in all of these areas. What happened is that the world became too big and brutal, and we haven't figured out a way to process it all.[/b]

It’s what I would call “issue fatigue”. There are unfathomable quantities of information flying around at the speed of light...with everyone screaming, “We must take care of this, and this, and this, and this, and etc.” that it all becomes so overwhelming that little, if anything, can get accomplished. Everything is a frickin’ five-alarm fire.

The natural and expected result?

“[Y]oung people become paralyzed”.

Normal people cannot worry about—and try to solve—the zillion five-alarm fires being screamed about 24/7 in the virtual world and in the media and, at the same time, do the everyday things a person needs to do in order to survive (work, pick up kids, clean the house, pay the bills, etc., etc., etc.).

ETA: So, there are plenty of options for [i]effective[/i] activism. The problem is, effective activism cannot simultaneously accomplish a thousand objectives. The energy gets too diluted...and, ultimately, wasted.

[ 25 October 2007: Message edited by: Sven ]


I think that statements about "generations" are seldom valid. I don't know why people indulge in this sort of thing, either to praise or to blame.

Sven Sven's picture

Each of those "single" issues is usually composed of many, many complex subissues. "Global warming" is a perfect example. Ethanol, wind energy, conservation, hybirds, mass transit, carbon credits, recycling, solar, nuclear, rainforests, urban sprawl, consumerism, class, etc., etc., etc.

21st Century An...

It is easy to see things that are wrong with the world today. Too easy in fact. At times, the idea of making positive social changes, appears far too monumental a task for any one individual to effect.