Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Analogy for those who don't "fit" their generation

There is a discussion going on at The Fourth Turning forums about a Millennial who doesn't seem to "fit" into the generation. Of course not everyone follows along with their archetype, but a good way to think of each generation is a block of cohorts in which one of the S&H archetypes (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, or Artist) largely follows at least a plurality of its members. Sometimes (as with for example the 1961 or 1981 cohorts) it's almost evenly divided between two archetypes and generations, while others (such as the 1971 or 1991 cohorts) one archetype has a significant majority and the cohort clearly belongs to a particular generation.

A good analogy to what I described is how certain states lean liberal, while others lean conservative, while still others are almost evenly divided on the political spectrum. Of course in any place you go in the U.S. you'll find some liberals (even in the heart of a bible-belt small town) and you'll find some conservatives (even in the middle of San Francisco). However, in those places one ideology clearly has support from the majority of the people. Even in the "swing" areas where many people are on the fence with regards to political issues, in winner-take-all political races (such as electors for President or Senators) whichever side has the majority of support will influence how these states are seen politically, and on a national level whichever side has the most cumulative support will affect how the federal government will vote.

What happens if your personal ideology doesn't follow the majority in your area? Well, you'd fall under the political equivalent of what is referred to in the S&H books as being a "suppressed" member. If you're not in politics, you have some options like to move somewhere else that is more like your beliefs, to accept that you're eccentric for your area and live as such, or find some way to compromise between your individual and the masses. If you're in politics and want to win elections, the latter is probably how you'll have to go if you want to have any influence in your locale. A perfect example is Mitt Romney, who was a Republican governor in one of the most Democrat-leaning states (Massachusetts) in the country. Many are accusing him of his "flip-flops" when in reality during his term a governor he had to act a bit more liberal than his heart; otherwise he wouldn't get anywhere in liberal MA. For example, many claim he invented the basis for Obamacare by enacting a similar law there; in reality he vetoed several sections of the "Romneycare" bill that all got overridden. Learning to compromise with the masses is what you have to do when you're the executive over a legislature with a veto-proof majority against you. Now that Romney is running for a nationwide office - the Presidency - he can act a bit closer to his actual beliefs because the United States as a whole is more conservative than the single state of Massachusetts, and positions like being pro-life and anti-health-care-reform appeal to a good part of the general USA.

In the case of a generational maverick, you can't "move" to another generation like you can geographically; thus your options are limited to the other two in this case. As with being a "suppressed" individual politically, how much of an outsider you feel or are perceived to be depends on the scale of the particular social interaction. A Prophet-identifying Millennial, for example, probably felt like somewhat of an outsider throughout the schooling years (when most of the socialization is with others close to you in age) but when he/she started working it probably now matters less (since in the workplace you interact with those in other generations too and have someone you can look up to).

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