The Generation Gap

Gen. W: Generation Where-to-next?

It used to be all about the baby boomers. Today the boomers are being left behind in the seemingly unanswerable quandary of how society will be able to develop in a sustainable fashion with such a large proportion of the workforce nearing retirement.

Taking their place is generation X (those that came after the baby boomers), and generation Y; more crudely referred to as 'Tweenies' (kids acting like teens, and teens acting like twenty-something's). Satirical whispers have also been heard about the new generation-I (stemming from the i-pod dependent generation currently spawning amongst gen-Y).

The term 'tweenies' (generation-T?) was coined to describe the ever-decreasing age at which youngsters were entering adolescence, sardonically alluding to how quickly the youth of the day were trying to grow up.

Tweenies conduct themselves as aspiring teenagers, buying into the hype of cosmetics, clothes, music and magazines. In doing so, they are providing a new market for business exploits, causing entrepreneurs to rub their hands with glee at the influx of new consumers contributing to their profiteering. However, from here a 'chicken and the egg' question springs forth; did tweenies create the market, or has the market developed the tweenies?

While the catalyst for this new generational development remains ambiguous, worries reside in many that the advertising industry is viciously thriving on the exploitation of tweenies, shamelessly targeting them (and their relative consumer inexperience) in a bid for capitalistic profit.

In this era of technological advancement, many don't bat an eyelid seeing eight year olds with mobile phones. Nonetheless, seeing six and seven year olds in make-up and miniskirts is strangely concerning.

The cutesy image of youngsters in minis is shattered when one remembers back to the origins of the mini skirt. Originating in the 'swinging sixties', the mini was a definitive symbol of fashion in London, emblematic of the swinging culture of this era.

Having developed today into the even less substantial 'belt skirt' (i.e. many have trouble discerning whether such a garment was intended as a belt rather than as a skirt), it could be said that tweeny fashion targeting is at its peak.

Instead of practical pants, utilitarian overalls and easy-to-play-in tees, the tweenies of today can be found prancing about in boob tubes (which tend to fall down thanks to their somewhat concave chests!), knee high boots (that scream impracticality) and the inadequate 'belt skirt' (inducing questions of whether the maker ran out of material before finishing the garment!).

While Western children have always been in a hurry to grow up so that they may do grown-up type things (such as clonk around in high heels, and drive real cars), the value of childhood differs around the globe.

George Bernard Shaw's quote, 'youth is wasted on the young' could be applied to generation-Tweeny. Despite youth making up less than 10% of the standard life, repeatedly we see youngsters attempting to push through their childhood as quickly as possible, so as to cast off the title of 'kid' and the conjecture associated with it.

Yet, in contrast to generation-T actively seeking to forgo their childhood, are the many children worldwide who have their childhood stolen from them; the children who are abducted to serve as child-soldiers, the children whose families are threatened with execution if they refuse to hand over their kids to act as servants, spies or messengers in provisional armies, the children who are violently coerced into serving as sexual slaves with armed forces and groups such as within Uganda…

With crimes such as theft of childhood so commonplace in localities fraught with civil unrest, how can it be that so many Western children are so willing to throw off the title of youngster, and press on into the callous adult world?

Without seeking to sound overly clichéd, one must seek to savour the power; unbridled splendour, luscious freedom and sheer innocence associated with childhood and youth, and realise how fortunate one truly is to be given the opportunity of a childhood free of fighting, killing and violence.

We should bind together and stand up to the faceless consumer bidding of the markets, and refuse to give into all this tweeny nonsense for the sake of being anti-materialistic, but more importantly to preserve the delicately short yet beautiful time known as childhood.

Rachel Flitman