If you were born between 1954 and 1965, you’re not a Boomer. In high50’s taxonomy, you’re a Bloomer. In America, you’re a Generation Joneser. You might be part of an engaged minority that’s aware of (and very beholden to) this generational distinction. But more likely than not, you’re a Joneser and don’t know it.
That’s because the term Generation Jones didn’t exist until relatively recently, when social commentator and historian Jonathan Pontell put it on the map.
I was unaware of this generational distinction until the launch of HuffPost50 was announced last year. A flurry of comments ensued on the main HuffPo site. Boomers were bashed, presumably by Gen-Xers, for having trashed the economy and the environment. A minority of Jonesers stepped up to the plate to speak on behalf of their ‘lost generation’, sandwiched as it is between Boomers and Gen X-ers. A lively and, predictably, slightly vitriolic debate ensued.
I was too young for Woodstock and Civil Rights protests. I was a toddler when JFK was shot. I didn’t take LSD and ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’
Pontell, who is fascinated by generational self-identification, was amused when I told him about this. Pontell is the spokesperson for Generation Jones and a supernova of information on the subject, much of it available on his Generation Jones website.
It was he who first identified the differences in personality traits between Boomers and their younger siblings, and he who chose the moniker, because of its various connotations. Among these were anonymity; a neutral balance between Boomers’ idealism and X-ers’ scepticism; the generational sense of irony that could make such a name cool; and the collective competitiveness that makes us ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
He is often in the national spotlight speaking about the socio-cultural and political implications of Generation Jones, much of it galvanized by the world’s most famous Joneser: Barack Obama.
“For 16 years, Baby Boomers occupied the Oval Office,” Pontell wrote in USA Today. “Conventional wisdom holds that… Barack Obama’s inauguration, once and for all, ended that tumultuous era’s long grip on American politics. But are the Sixties really dead? Hardly.”
Hardly indeed. Like many Jonesers, I was born in 1960, when nearly half the population of the United States was under 18 years of age. I was too young for Woodstock and Civil Rights protests. I was a toddler when JFK was shot. I didn’t take LSD and ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’.
Vietnam raged but my peers were far from getting drafted. I remember the slogans: Make Love, Not War; Question Authority; Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty. But the reigning popular icon of my day was the Happy Face button, not the Flower Power badge.
In fact, my formative years were less about Vietnam and Watergate and more about Iran-Contra and the death of John Lennon. More about pop culture than counterculture. I was shaked and baked in the Reagan era, with disco, the Brady Bunch, and The Beginning of The End of Everything: oil reserves, ice caps, polar bears, clean air, unpolluted oceans, terror-free air flight – the list of things on the brink of demise seemed to mount every year.
When the Seventies veered into the go-go ‘me’ decade of the Eighties, the mechanisms that currently threaten to bring down the welfare system already had a vice grip on our culture. Even the You Can Be/Do/Have It All zeitgeist of feminism (‘I am woman, hear me roar’) was about to succumb to reality – which is that you can’t really be/do/have it all, at least not without getting some form of whiplash.
That said, despite the cynicism and disillusionment of those decades, like many Jonesers I was still infused by the can-do idealism of the Sixties, since it was the bedrock of my early childhood. If I am typical of my generation in any way, it’s safe to say that Jonesers were weaned on a cocktail of both cynicism and yearning. And so it is fitting that, in coming up with the term Generation Jones, Pontell was inspired by, among other things, the slang term Jonesin’ that we popularised as teenagers, which connotes intense craving or yearning.
It is partly this yearning and sense of inspired optimism, seeded in the Sixties and passed on to politically-engaged Gen-Xers, that made Obama’s presidency a reality. It remains to be seen how this will play out in the new election year. Pontell, whose positivity is infectious, remains hopeful.
“We are practical idealists, forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part,” he writes. “While the Boomer moment may be over, most observers have misread the generational significance of Obama’s inaugural. It really marks the 1960s’ second act. The difference is that the torch has passed from that decade’s ‘flower children’ to its actual children.”
The children of Boomers are today’s Gen-Xers. The children of Jonesers are part of an as yet unnamed generation. What will their appellation be? How will they change the world and how will the world change them? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Further reading Boomers? No, we’re bloomers!