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Opinion

Redub Gen Y as The Humbled Generation

The last decade has been rough on my generation. We've been taken down several notches by economic bubbles, wars, and debt. Let's call ourselves The Humbled Generation. And if we're smart, we can tackle today's problems with humility.

By Justin D. Martin / August 18, 2011



Orono, Maine

America has gotten away from naming generations in ways that convey meaning. Labels like the Lost, Greatest, and Boomer generations have been replaced by X and Y, which describe little more than temporal order.

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As a 31-year-old representative of “Generation Y,” also known as the Millenials, I sometimes wonder whether historians will refer to my American generation with any creativity. I think an appropriate label is emerging, but it doesn’t bring me joy to suggest it. My cohort might be called, The Humbled Generation.

My grandparents’ generation is called the greatest, and for the most part this is true. With the exception of feet-dragging on important social advances, mainly civil rights, this war-hardened group that safeguarded for decades America’s security and economic eminence was pretty great.

The baby boom that included my parents is known as privileged and activist. Growing up when American might was unmatched and new Chevrolets kept rolling into the suburbs, boomers found they had time and financial freedom to push the country toward greater social and racial equanimity.

Theirs is an entitled generation, though, that has gleefully dined on federal debt and is now sliding the check across the table to younger folks like me.

The formative years of The Humbled Generation in the 1980s and 1990s were marked by self-esteem coddling and projections of everlasting American economic and military power. We were told that we could do anything, and that our country did everything. We were told that failure was not an option, or at worst, not at all likely.

And we believed it. We came home from school to see the Berlin Wall chipped to pieces on the evening news and the Cold War won. On CNN we watched US forces easily expel Iraq from Kuwait in the early 1990s. We saw the instrumental US role in achieving meaningful agreements in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

Also that decade we would see American tech companies drive the digital age, further expanding living standards and putting the world we were told was ours at our fingertips.

But the last decade has been rough on my generation. The early tech boom became a bubble, not an empire. Then our country was attacked in spectacular fashion and mired in two wars for most of our adult lives.

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