Some compare the generational conflicts in terms of speed -- what's slow and what's moving in the fast lane, what we can reflect on and what we must experience urgently in the moment. From this point of view, how we receive information becomes as important as what we know. This pits the digitally hip texters with smartphones and Facebook profiles who get their reading material from the Internet against the older among us who cling to information derived from paper in books and newspapers. The older condescend only occasionally to read on a Kindle or an iPad.
Making matters worse are the Internet activists in the living room who reduce communication to 140 characters and never look up while making plans. Their attention is always somewhere else. Those who want to engage them in extended conversations about the past, such as what happened yesterday, learn they might as well be asking why Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
It's a truism, which continues to be true, that you only know -- really know -- your own generation up close and personal. We see that mostly in the pop culture, with questions about favorites in music, art and books. Huge nostalgia gaps in the culture are determined by the era in which you were born.
The same goes for political events. "You're not a baby boomer if you don't have a visceral recollection of a Kennedy and a King assassination, a Beatles breakup, a U.S. defeat in Vietnam, and a Watergate," writes P.J. O'Rourke, an aging boomer whose generation for one short minute boasted that it would never trust anyone over 30. The culture gave them a pass. There were too many of them for frightened and intimidated adults to assert themselves.
Now that the boomers are far beyond 30, nestled among the 50- and 65-year-olds, they've got a record we can at last evaluate. If, as O'Rourke suggests, they can most easily be blamed for having screwed up the culture, trashing everything from love and marriage to the economy and politics. But he doesn't want to stop there. Writing in The Weekly Standard, he shows there's lots of blame to spread around currently for the stupidity of the pop culture, including all those unmemorable memoirs and "self-helplessness" tracts created and consumed across generations. It's the clever criticism of hindsight, but his argument is more than a demonstration of wit.