I know what baby boomers are. I’m less clear about all the new lettered generations and Millennials. Who are they? And who cares? Not us baby boomers. Everyone else is just a prequel or an afterthought. We’re the ones who count, which is why we find it so baffling that we’re dropping dead.
But I got to wondering about all the names we give our generations, and time periods in general, and it occurred to me to look into the historical record. Here’s the thing about me and History. I don’t know any. If I ever did, I’ve forgotten it. And that’s a problem, because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
Not that I’ll be able to tell.
Anyway, I’m not at all certain what or when the Middle Ages were. Or the Dark Ages. Or Medieval times. So I looked them up.
Guess what? They’re all the same thing! The Middle Ages started in 476 CE when the Roman Empire fell, with what I assume was a freakishly specific thud. See, I didn’t even know the Roman Empire fell all at once. I assumed it sort of dwindled away; everyone misplaced their sandals and the gladiators started doing lunch instead of fighting and the paper boy quit even trying to hit the porch. Turns out it fell, like, on a Tuesday.
By the way, that CE thing? That’s what we used to call AD, Anno Domini. Most scholars nowadays prefer to take the religion out of the time references, so Year Of Our Lord is out the window, and Before Christ is out the window, and we have Common Era (CE) and Before Common Era (BCE) instead, although, coincidentally, they are still divided by one particular year when somebody was born under a great star. But it could’ve been anybody, I guess.
So the Middle Ages began in 476 CE, and ended with the Renaissance. The Middle Ages were when everyone forgot how to make concrete and we were overrun by Christians and people threw their poop out the windows. There was a whopper of a plague that took out a third of everybody and, times being what they were, was generally blamed on sinfulness rather than fleas. People started beating themselves and each other up to atone for it all, and even engaged in wanton murder of those suspected of insufficient piety. For your garden variety heretic, the Renaissance couldn’t come soon enough.
Actually there was a ton of cool science and math going on during the Middle Ages, but it was going on in Muslim countries, so the Europeans wore red crosses on their sweaters and had themselves a Crusade. They thought if they could murder enough people they would be assured a spot in heaven. They fought Muslims for, like, 300 years, nobody particularly won, and lots of people died, although, in fairness, they would have by now anyway.
Meanwhile, back in Europe, for the entirety of the Middle Ages, nobody clever or important was born, except for Hildegarde von Bingen, who didn’t count, for ovarious reasons.
It’s the Renaissance folks who named the Middle Ages: some dull, middle interval between the great Greek and Roman civilizations and their own enlightened selves. It’s a bit dismissive. And now the Middle Ages have been further subdivided into Early, Late, and Right Spang In The. It was dull. Many of the participants weren’t even aware they were in the Middle Ages at the time. So you see the level of sophistication we have to work with.
Those ancient Greeks themselves thought there were five Ages Of Man: Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron, and Leatherette. All of those people BCE had to figure something was up as they were running out of years, but when they got to zero, lo, time miraculously started up again.
Anyway, now we’re naming generations hand over fist because we don’t have time for ages anymore. We’ve got your Greatest Generation, also known as the Dark Ages because it didn’t have any boomers in it; we’ve got boomers, yay boomers; we’ve got Generation X, named after what needed to be solved for; then we have Generation Y, which is the same thing as Millennials by the way, and now, ominously, we’ve got Generation Z, and no more alphabet. It’s all winding down, folks.
Thanks for the history lesson. Being your elder, I will tell you that many of us of the age to be included in your "Greatest Generation" prefer to be included in the "Silent Generation" because most of us were not that [great].
Boomers = generation of my children
Millennials = generation of my grandchild
Generation Z = generation of my great-grandchildren
Since I don't yet have great-grandchildren, I'm not sure to which generation to ascribe them.
It's possible we're at the end of the line…
Oops! I should have said that I don't yet have great-great-grandchildren. (My great-great-grandmother would have chided me!)
I did sort of wonder what my Grands were going to be called. But you kind of make me think it is going to be a Doomsday ahead and no need for generational icons. I did learn that CE thing when hubby and I studied the history of China a few months ago. Now China goes waaaay back and does not seem to need to name generations.
That's why it's Generation Z. Last letter of the alphabet. No more to come. Why, YES… I AM a buzz-kill…. But it all just depresses me no end. Glad I lived during the time period I did.
We've had some awfully lucky timing in a lot of things.
Emphasis on the “awfully,” really, if we’re in fact one of the last generations born when most folks didn’t know we were to be one of the last generations to generate in the belief that the only thing we were doing wrong was having sex, and we couldn’t wait to dispose of that cultural norm along with most of the others we were born to. Heavens, even I’m not sure what I just said. Tricky things, these End Times.
I thought that the concept of 'generations' (i.e., dividing people into clumps of years-born) was a recent and possibly American thing. I mean, in the year 1200 AD/CE, did Samoans lament to each other "Teenagers! I'll never understand this younger generation!" I always thought that until recently, older people just looked upon younger people as part of the continuum of life. Really now, when did people start grousing about the younger generation??
"You shut that bear-flap when you come in, young man, firewood don't grow on trees. Uh."
I think that teen-agers were invented in the Roaring '20s; but, Adam and Eve probably groused about how the world was going to pot with their grandchildren.
Looked at another way: until the 20th Century (I'm making this up because I'm too lazy to research it), the teen years were when girls were procreating. I remember one of my great-great-grandmothers, not because anyone in my family lived to be so old (I'm "only" 81) but because my granddaughter is the 1st daughter of a 1st daughter going back nine generations that I know of.
I was thinking about that very thing today and imagining that the '20s was probably when teenagers were invented. Seems to me that the requirements of life and the maintenance of ritual adulthood ceremonies kept the generational discord to a minimum before all that.
I think we boomers were the first recently named group when the education system said, “Holy shit, where did all these kids come from?” Then the previous generation got tagged as the greatest because they fought to free the free world. All these little upstarts started labeling themselves because they felt left out. Not sure what they will do after Z…
We may soon have the Cyrillic script to borrow from.
Thank you for clearing up that BCE nonsense.We. actually, it's still not very clear to me, but it really doesn't matter, because I'm still not sure whether I have to put the BC or AD before or after the numbers…
And what happened to The Bright Young Things?
Hey, I never hoid of 'em! Was that us?
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” ~ Socrates
Yeah, what a grump.
Yet it continues, not with letters but with words. After Generation Z, we now have the newbies, the Alpha generation. I suppose the one after that is going to be called Beta.
They should do the Beta first, to make sure all the bugs are worked out.
I find it especially funny to listen to one Young Thing grousing about how another Young Thing (from another elusive generation) has no Work Ethic. I love being in my generation–I've loved being "old" since I hit my 50s!
Beta, that's good… they will be sorely tested.
There were a lot of people born in that year between BC/AD, CE/BCE. Seems to me one of them was named Brian. And people are born constantly so where do they make the line between generations?
And was that year Zero or One?
Exactly! Where does a decade begin and end?
Wait. Didn't someone say, 'I am the alpha and the omega'? So, lo, it's gonna start all over again with 'a'.
Apparently it already has.
As a side note (only kind I do) the plague caused the greatest redistribution of wealth (property) ever. Particularly in Italy, the country (then city states usually warring with each other) hardest hit by the plague suddenly had villas, mansions, houses left unoccupied, the owners now dead. Other citizens, usually poorer, moved in and assumed ownership.
Wow! I need to read about that.
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