Honorary Members of the Silent Generation

... and Certain Persons Non Grata

Rev. 3/18/06

As the election of 2004 drew near I received more and more comments about the failure of the Silent Generation, as defined in years of birth by Strauss and Howe, to produce a President for the United States. Most were complaints that the Boom Generation did not really start until after WWII, and that, therefore, Strauss and Howe were in error by ending the Silent Generation on December 31, 1942. Recently I have received another "deluge" of similar complaints. Clearly this burr is still under the saddle causing people to confront themselves, sometimes a very annoying task.

The birth years for the Silent Generation in Generations (Strauss and Howe) are 1925 through 1942, and this is based on a selection of facts which are not in serious doubt. The selection of these facts is according to a very well reasoned theory, which is about as internally consistent as one could hope for given the subject. It is this simple: no one born between 1925 and 1942 was older than 17 years of age at the end of 1942, and therefore, none of them was eligible to participate in the armed forces and fight. The Strauss-Hower thesis depends on such galvanizing experiences, as I am sure everyone basically agrees. Silents are "silent" because Silents had no war stories to tell. Moreover, the Boom Generation definitely started in 1943 as a result of the progeny-securing marriages during anxious military leaves in 1942. The Boom Generation is characterized by the effect its much greater numbers had on society and themselves. Please rest assured, therefore, that I am not going to try to change Strauss's and Howe's book or theory. It is not mine to change. But there is a germ of an argument present, and I will suggest a way of interpreting their work that might satisfy some people.

I think generational identity is most important in areas where the subconscious is operative, like courage and sensitivity. Members of generations display their generational identities before they make overt decisions. These identities are made up of "dispositions" that are easily overwhelmed by the flash and clatter of contemporary events. It is only in the longer run that you see the generational identity shining through, and even then you may see it evolving on its own into something new and unique.


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