Book Review: ‘Generation X’
‘Generation X’, by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson, Tandem Books, 3s. 6d.
The authors’ avowed intention is to get young people talking about war, sex, marriage, drugs, politics in fact, everything that makes the jolly old world go round. Recent developments in mass communication mean that problems are more concentrated, more universally shared, quickly absorbed, used up and cast aside. This, say the co-authors, is the young persons’ problem; the pressure of social and scientific development at the expense of biological time.
According to which random selection of this book is sampled, one could emerge with an attitude of great hope for a glorious future in the hands of an up-and-coming generation, or leave one’s money to a dogs’ home and hightail off to a Trappist Monastery. The authors’ claim that their collective work destroys the myth of the existence of the so-called average teenager is made good.
Hamblett and Deverson interviewed characters ranging from stalwart christians to thugs so mentally sick that they see salvation as a big punch-up; a young high-class tart who aspired to marriage and children; the deb, who thought the world was fab; haters of the status quo; one dreadful youth who wanted to sponge on his parents and others for the rest of his life. (The pity is he lives in Stoke-on-Trent, and not Belgrave Square, so he will not get very far in his vocation.)
Not one of the young people interviewed seemed to be aware that teenagers having no great family liabilities, are a golden egg for the purveyors of certain forms of merchandise. They frequently expressed a fear of war, and blamed their parents for the world’s mess. They did not hint that this attitude was common in the 1920s and that the youth of those times supported a second world war, and enrolled in movements like the Nazis, which would have left the maligned Edwardians aghast.
They regard their youth as a time for enjoyment, without a damn for the future, or as a personal Gethsemane before entering the adult age. The long years of wage earning are not looked forward to by the lower income groups but there is a sense of resignation, a need to find a “nice” partner later on, and settle down. This same adult world they see as false, hypocritical and unctuous. The Bomb is blamed for the sense of restlessness and indifference; way out sensations, drugs, sex and speed are candidly recognised as forms of escape from this possible doom. Is it just the Bomb or is it a vague realisation of the frustrations of working class life that awaits these young hopefuls?
All sorts of the youngsters expressed sympathy for coloured folk, and some put the opposite view with an extremity of violence. Few showed any signs that the sum total of their ideas is vastly different from their parents’. Fears of the future, contempt of past generations for their follies, a desire to adjust to new techniques unrestrained by past morality, are nothing new. Young and old have yet to learn that the way to a new society free from poverty, race-hatred, war and class antagonism is by the abolition of private property. This can only be attained by understanding the nature of the problems and the social relationships we experience, and by acting accordingly—in short by political organisation and action.
The mass of ideas expressed in Generation X spring from a support, no matter how qualified, of propertied society. When all is said and done it’s much ado about nothing!