GenX Just Doesn’t Care
Welcome back! In today’s episode, join the boys in laughing about tweets regarding Fox News and GenX before diving into the true meaning and intentions behind cancel culture.
The Teaching Transformations Podcast. Join Tim Desmond Ryan Wooley as they help teachers in their late forties or fifties to design a post-academic life.
Seize the Day!
Welcome to Teaching Transformations: Designing Your Post-Career Life with Tim Desmond and Ryan Wooley.
Wooley, I’m canceling you.
You’re canceling me?
How could you do this?
It’s what I do these days. I get outraged, and I just cancel shit.
Yeah. Do you pay attention to cancel culture?
I don’t even really know what it is. I think I have a sense of what it is.
It’s funny because I don’t really have a clear sense of what it is either. I thought that’s what we used to call political correctness back in the day. You remember that?
Yep. That sounds about right.
Yeah. I think the difference is back in the day, political correctness was sort of like calling out objectionable behavior or language, and it was derogatory, right? Like, I don’t think most people were excited about political correctness. It was almost a derogatory kind of term that was used in sort of implying that you were oversensitive or that not everything had to be correct.
Right, like there was some arm twisting going on. You had to have your arm twisted to say things properly.
That’s right. I think cancel culture is like political correctness on steroids, and it’s an active, aggressive campaign to destroy the career and/or life of people who are not politically correct. That’s my interpretation of cancel culture.
Yeah, that sounds about right. You’re no better than your worst moment, and it doesn’t matter if that was twenty-five years ago.
It doesn’t matter if the cultural norms are different. Mark Twain is getting his ass canceled. Dr. Seuss is getting canceled. It’s this idea that pointing it out isn’t good enough, that you have to completely de-platform whoever said it or did it, you have to erase them. You cancel them. That’s what cancel culture is about, like you’ve said something so horrible that you no longer deserve whatever it is you’ve built or earned, including your livelihood. It’s over. That’s cancel culture. This is a bit of an interesting episode because I saw this come across BuzzFeed, and I had heard about it, and then when I read the article on BuzzFeed, this has come out in middle March, and whenever you’re listening to this, we’ll have a link in the show notes to it, but the headline is, Fox News Called on Gen X to Stop Cancel Culture, and it didn’t go the way they hoped. Here’s the idea. Fox News did a segment. I think the correspondent was Jillian Turner, and the headline was Cancel Culture Spreading like Wildfire: There’s a Call for Generation X to Lead the Charge to Save America from the Social Media Mob. Can They Do It? For some context here, I think cancel culture has lined up to be a battle between millennials and boomers or maybe even Gen Z and boomers, maybe both, right? The overgeneralization is that the young folks are special snowflakes. That’s what boomers like to say about millennials. They’re special snowflakes, they get their feelings hurt all the time, you can’t say anything without offending somebody. That’s given rise to cancel culture, so instead of just being offended or not listening, these millennials or Gen Zers are demanding people be canceled. It’s funny that the baby boomers are represented by the far right, political Fox News. Again, these are all generalizations. They’re pushing back against that. They think that the millennials and Gen Z’s are being just way too sensitive and that it’s gone too far there. As Fox said, it’s a social media mob. All of this I find highly amusing considering that it was the baby boomers who were putting Parental Advisory stickers on our albums when we were growing up which is kind of cancel culture. It’s funny now. Isn’t karma a bitch, right boomers? What you were doing is like now coming back to you. Fox News looks to Gen X to step into media, and this is funny because we talked about being in this middle generation and how we’re sort of refereeing this generational warfare between the boomers and the younger generations, so that’s where we are. We’re right in the middle of this. Thoughts about that before we get into the specifics of this particular battle?
Well, I mean, I’ve heard that characterization. We’ve been called the sandwich generation, and until we started talking about the Gen X stuff, like, I think I have a good handle on what Gen X is, but I didn’t really know about this whole battle between millennials and baby boomers. I just didn’t know that was the thing, but it is making so much sense to me now the more we’ve talked,and the more I’ve read about it. I just spent a week with my father in law who is definitely a baby boomer, and when you spend a lot of time with somebody, especially if you’re listening, you get a sense of their perspective. Sometimes it’s not what you expect, and you know, there actually are good reasons for people’s perspectives if you give that a little bit of chance to air. I’ve always felt like I’m in between. I didn’t know it was a generational thing, but I feel like I get both perspectives when it comes to stuff like this, and maybe that’s part of what it is to be Gen X is we’re just right in between, and we can kind of relate to both extreme perspectives.
Yeah, I agree with you there. We talked about this before. The whole generational thing I never really paid much attention to up until a few years ago, and I think that’s part of being in Gen X is not paying attention to the labels, right? Like, don’t you dare classify us or categorize us.
We’re an enigma.
Yeah, you can’t figure us out. So, yeah, this whole thing kind of exploded. I want to pull up some of the tweets that BuzzFeed collected because the twitterverse exploded after Fox News made this play. There are some just incredible Gen X responses to this that I wanted to kind of share. Again, we’ll have a link in the show notes if you want to check these out for yourself. I think the funniest thing is this made news not too long ago, but I guess it was CBSN, and this has happened multiple times. They put up a graphic about generational guidelines, and they kind of showed like, if you were born in between these years, you belong to this generation. They have the silent generation from 1928 to 1945, baby boomers from ’46 to ’64, millennials from ’81 to ’96, post-millennials ’97 to present. There’s no Gen X on this chart. That’s just so us, right?
Dua Fupa, who tweeted this, said, “Y’all know we already got canceled ourselves, right?” And there’s a screengrab of that chart. The fact that we’re not even acknowledged when it comes to talking about generations says worlds about the hypocrisy of Fox News asking Gen Xers to come in and save them from cancel culture.
I laughed my ass off when I saw this last night. That graphic, that tweet just captures everything. Perfect little box.
Exactly. One tweet from Monique who is openly black said, “Gen X is trending because Fox News thinks we are the ones who can kill cancel culture. *laughs in Two Live Crew and Nate O’Connor*” All canceled by the boomers. Do you remember the Two Live Crew?
Of course, yeah.
Oh, my goodness. I mean, it seems ridiculous now. I think it was in Florida where these court cases were. Luke Campbell. That’s what his name was. Luke Campbell was from Florida, and there were all these decency laws supposedly Two Live Crew was violating, and you look at what’s out now and what’s on the internet, and it just seems laughable. That’s the point is like you’re turning to the people whose culture you tried to cancel. This next one came from Blaine Capitch. He said, “Gen X saving America is funny. We can’t even save for retirement.” Oh my goodness. Fred Wallman said, “Gen X: Wait, what? Leave us out of this bullshit.” Oh, this might be one of my favorites. Maria Get Rid of the Nazis Wilson tweeted, “If there’s one thing Gen X loves, it’s being told who they are and what they should do.” What’s beautiful about that tweet is it tells you everything you need to know about Gen X. It’s like that snarky sarcastic tone. Really driving it home.
Exactly, like what it says, the way it says, that’s it in one little line.
Yep, that’s great. Another one along those same lines is Ebony Elizabeth Thomas tweeted, “Stop trying to make Gen X care about things.” That gets back to like the whole slacker attitude and perspective about how we don’t really care about things. Causes or anything.
Man. Let’s see here, some other ones. There’s some great memes, like Star Wars memes about boomers asking Gen X to save them from cancellation. This one’s a bit edgy. Dr. Ward Cue Normal Throat, “Pretty sure Gen X is not going to swoop in and save racism.” The Horse Whisperer says, “Gen X hates whiny ass babies. We were latchkey kids whose parents smoked in the car. Try us a river about some old Seuss book.” These are just great on both sides of this debate. Just some hilarious tweets. That’s about all I want to share from the BuzzFeed thing. We’ve talked about sort of the role Gen X plays in what we’re doing and who we’re serving, and this just crystallized everything in one little news blip from Fox News. Do you have strong memories or examples of political correctness, and how do you see that? Like, do you see that in your kids today? Because our kids are Gen Z, and they are much more aware of social and other types of inequities than I was at that age.
Yeah, of course. That’s what it means for culture to evolve. I mean, it’s going to change over time, and that’s why I don’t really like holding people accountable for today’s standards, you know. When they were twelve years old, twenty-five or thirty years ago or whatever it was, that feels unfair to me. Things have changed, they will continue to change, and progress will continue to become better people. When I think back about some of the things I heard come out of my grandparents mouths, I mean, by today’s standards, they would be awful.
And I loved my grandparents. They were good people, I just think that they’re from a different time, and I don’t know, I sure wouldn’t want to hold them to today’s standard.
Yeah, I mean, don’t you think all of our grandparents would be canceled by today?
They’d have to be, yeah. It’s interesting, and I think we talked about this in our Gen X episode, but it’s one thing to be who we are or have these characteristics when you’re an adolescent or when you’re in high school, but like we’re in our forties and fifties now, and everything means something different now. It is hilarious, but it’s not actually a big surprise that they’re looking to us to do something because we’re of the age. We’re sort of the stewards now, so it kind of makes sense. It’s just funny the way it’s coming out, and it’s so antithetical too and so full of irony and hypocrisy because of who we are as a generation.
So, I want to ask you about this because this is something regardless of like, I’m with you, there are certain things I hear, and I think, yeah, that person deserves whatever they’re gonna get for saying that, right? There are clearly situations where you go, yeah, you’re an idiot if you thought you could say that publicly and not have repercussions. There are other instances where I go, what is the point? The Dr. Seuss book is a perfect example. Are the images in that Dr. Seuss book racist? If you wrote it today, yes, but he didn’t draw those in 2021. Now, does that make it okay? No, it doesn’t make it okay, but here’s where I come back to. I remember getting into an argument with a professor in college because this was a time when Body Count came out with their cop killer song. Do you remember that controversy?
So, it was a song about killing cops. Not literally killing cops, but it was like, you could look at NWA as another example. I remember getting into an argument with a professor in college. I was saying, well, first of all, this is an artistic expression, and that doesn’t mean people should be able to say nasty things, but it’s a work of art, sso if you don’t want to hear it, don’t buy it. It just seemed like a really obvious and simple solution, right? If you’re raising your kids today and you feel like Dr. Seuss is racist, don’t buy Dr. Seuss books, but why do you feel like you have the right to remove those books for everybody else? That’s the issue with cancel culture where I maybe side with the boomers is like, well, who gives you the right, and where does that slippery slope end? Who gets to decide what is over the line or not? Where does it stop? So I think once you start down that path, nothing good is gonna come from it.
Right. Well, you start thinking about things like freedom of speech and just intellectual intellectual freedom. I feel like to a certain extent, we’re all just walking on eggshells all the time, and life shouldn’t be like this. We should be allowed to make mistakes, and there are a lot of people who hurt other people’s feelings but don’t intend to. I guess, you know, I do see it both ways. Ignorance is not really an excuse, but at the same time, I do personally think intent matters. I think that people can make mistakes and get feedback and become better people. I think that’s possible, but if you sort of shut everything down right out of the gate, you prevent that growth from happening. I don’t know, I’m wandering a little bit, but do you know what I’m trying to say?
Yeah. I mean, I think to earlier in 2021, the insurrection at the Capitol building. I think about these far right wing extremist groups, and yes, they’re dangerous, like, there’s no question. They’re dangerous because of their militarization and their ability to organize, but if someone holds those beliefs in their own home and that’s just what they believe, what do you do about that? If you are a white supremacist and you believe that and that’s how you live and you pay your taxes and go to your job and obey the laws of the country, but you believe that you’re a white supremacist, okay, so be it. That’s freedom of speech, like that’s what the Constitution protects. It doesn’t mean I agree with it, doesn’t mean I think it’s right, but if you believe one race is superior to another, you’re entitled to that belief, but when you show up at the Capitol building with weapons and storm it and kill people, that’s the line. For me, that’s where personally I’m trying to figure out how to navigate that. Again, getting back to cancel culture and political correctness, you’re allowed to believe whatever you want. That’s what it means to be an American, that’s what this country was founded on, that’s what we live and die for is the ability to express our own opinion. If you’re not allowed to express your opinion, is that fascism? Is that the other side of that spectrum? I don’t know. I’m sort of meandering in this too because it’s really complicated. It’s nuanced, and there’s not a yes or no or right or wrong answer. There’s a lot of complexity to this, and I think just sort of taking a broad approach and saying, okay, anytime anyone says something that upsets me in the least little bit, we’re going to social media mob and take him down, that’s a dangerous place to be.
Yeah. Well, again, it doesn’t allow for progress. I’ll give you another example that is a little more close to home for me. I’m friends with a late career administrator in education. He’s definitely a boomer and is a super, super nice guy. Super reflective educator, very conscious of what he says, he’s careful, caring. He admitted that there was a time in his career when he would have said something like, he would say this to the students, oh, you’re running around like wild Indians. He’s embarrassed when he says it. Looking back, he thinks of his former self, and he’s like, knowing what I know now, I can’t believe I used to say that. He’s moved past that, but imagine if there was some VHS recording of him saying that. You can imagine in this culture the outrage where somebody could go pull that out and get him removed from his job. That means a career that he’s worked at his whole life to get better at that he supported his family with like, how fair would that be if he were held to that standard? And he really has evolved just like all of us have, hopefully, and I think that should be allowed to happen. I think it’s actually good if it happens authentically that way versus it being forced to happen in an unnatural way.
We were educators, and you’re talking about learning, you’re talking about growth. If you believe the exact same stuff you did ten years ago, you don’t have a growth mindset. You should be changing your mind, you should be learning things, you should be improving, evolving. That should be part of the regular progress. I’m just so grateful that social media didn’t exist when we were teenagers because I think of the things that I did and things that I said that like you said, if someone had a VHS copy of that or a recording of me saying or doing some of this stuff, it would be reprehensible today. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not saying that I should get a free pass, but that was forty years ago, and I would like to think that I’ve learned and grown since then, but how fair is it to hold that standard against me forty or thirty-five years later?
Yeah. Well, another place where there’s a lot of room for interpretation is in humor. There are a lot of people who use humor to make fun of those perspectives by sort of taking them on almost as a costume. I think their perspective is that the humor is really, like I’m actually taking aim at this thing that we’re talking about, whatever it is.
Stephen Colbert is a perfect example.
Yeah, exactly. That gets misconstrued, and when all you hear is the sound bite or actually a written version, a small transcript of a small sound bite, all of that context is lost. Some people wouldn’t get the context anyways, but that’s your point, like who gets to decide all of this? Why should there be somebody that gets to decide that your humor is inappropriate or it means something different than you intended it to? I don’t know, it just feels wrong that everybody’s sort of standing, waiting in judgment on those kinds of things.
And this is not cancel culture, but it’s related to it. You mentioned about walking around eggshells. I really feel like at age fifty, I don’t know what to say in public anymore, and I don’t consider myself a snowflake. I’m not whining about millennials and Gen Z the way some boomers are, like I’m pretty standard Gen X. Apathetic, don’t really care what either of them are doing, but I get into public situations, and I’m thinking about everything I say, and I don’t mean that in a good, thoughtful way. Let me give you an example. I’ve noticed that there’s been a trend recently in not labeling people which on the surface sounds negative, right, it’s got a negative connotation. Here’s an example. You’re not autistic, you are a person with autism. Now on the surface, those two things sound identical. You’re like, what’s the difference? Well, if you’re autistic, you’re basically defining that person with that limitation, and that’s considered negative, so what you’re supposed to say is you are a person with autism. It requires a lot of thought, but hey, you know what, evolution requires work. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have to do that, like you should be thoughtful, and you should have to do that, but here’s the other side of that. You take a look at all the motivational behavior stuff that’s out there. They tell you that you fake it till you make it. You give yourself a label so that you become that. When I went on the Today Show, I told them I don’t call myself someone who runs, I call myself a runner because if I call myself a runner then I’m more likely to do what runners do. In that context, the label has a positive connotation whereas in the autism example, it’s got a negative connotation. You see the level of nuance there? I don’t know how you’re supposed to navigate that in sort of a normal flow of everyday conversation.
When it feels like we’re just swimming in roles that we don’t fully understand, we are going to shut down. Like you said earlier, I don’t know what to say in public, so we just start saying less. Maybe we’re going to become the silent generation because we’re going to be afraid of saying the wrong thing, and I think that’s unfortunate because again, it cancels. I actually didn’t mean to use that word, but it eliminates the possibility of all of us growing and of hearing different perspectives, and I just think that’s unfortunate, but I definitely feel that way. As you described the nuance, sometimes it feels too nuanced, and I feel like I’m not as up to date as I need to be on the way things have progressed, so I kind of just become more quiet and don’t engage as much in conversation, and I guess I wonder how many other people feel that way.
Yeah. Another place where I feel completely overwhelmed is in the conversations around us, I don’t even know what to call it, gender? I don’t know, like even using the word gender’s now kind of loaded in certain contexts. Gender, sexual preferences, identification, I have no idea how to navigate that. Here’s where it comes down like I don’t know what to do: pronouns. He and her, him, she, there seems to be a movement towards these nonspecific pronouns, and I don’t know if you’ve ever had an instance where you’ve had to talk about someone who you would identify as, say, a male, but use the plural pronoun. It’s incredibly awkward. Is that just me being an old guy now and not being hip to it, but it’s like talking about you and saying they doesn’t make sense to me.
Yeah, we were taught that that’s improper.
Yeah, it’s improper grammar. Yeah. Right. Again, like, is that offensive if I call you a he and you’d rather be called they, is that offensive or a preference?
Right, and that’s where there’s a fine line. I’ve been taking my son out to baseball practice out at our athletic fields, and they just built a new welcome center out there which has restrooms that are convenient for all the parents who are there and anybody else. Because it’s a new building, they didn’t have the restrooms labeled, so I watched for two days as people open the door, you can imagine there being some embarrassing situations where you don’t know which one this is, and somebody’s standing there, so for a couple days, they were unlabeled. Then finally, yesterday, I noticed they had men’s and women’s signs, but in other places in the school, we have non gender specific restrooms, but because these happen to be identified which is going to help one problem, I guess I looked at that and wonder like, is somebody going to be offended by the fact that these restrooms are labeled by gender? Is that going to be offensive to somebody, and are we going to hear about it in some way? But the fact that I’m even thinking that, I mean, it’s sort of evidence, in my opinion, maybe things have gone too far.
Yeah. There’s conversations about the fact that gender isn’t binary, and I’m like, isn’t it? I honestly don’t know. Like, I’ve grown up in a world where boys had thingies and girls didn’t, and outside of some type of surgical enhancement, those are your only two options. Now, you could identify as something other than what your biological equipment was, but as far as your biological equipment goes, when you come out of the birth canal, I think you have one of those two things, one of those two options. Even that, I’m even hearing now, people are questioning that like, well, gender isn’t binary. I’m like, I don’t even think about this.
Yeah, because you thought it was defined that way. There are, you know, the exceptions. There are people who are born with, for example, both kinds of equipment, but they really are rare exceptions. I think the point is, that for us was the way we defined it, and now the whole criteria for defining gender has shifted apparently away from biological equipment so to speak.
I think we need to wrap up. Let’s just come right back to the top and go and throw yourself a Gen X tweet into this conversation at Fox News because regardless of what you think, “Attention, Fox News. Gen X is not saving anything, so forget about it.”
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Fox News Called On Gen X To Stop “Cancel Culture,” And It Didn’t Go The Way They Hoped – https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/gen-x-tweets-about-fox-and-cancel-culture
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