What Comes After Z?

Maybe we need a zombie apocalypse.

Would an influx of our generations past be SO bad? Really?

I’d often found myself wondering how the passing of our elders seems to impact individuals, families, communities, regions, and the world in sequence. Here in the United States there seems to be a lot of emphasis on how much we need to go “back”. In some instances it seems like “back” means back to when everyone used an outhouse when in others it just seems to mean back far enough to when people simply knew better.

My great-grandmother was a wonderful woman. I remember as a child going to her house out in the country and sitting at her feet, just watching and listening. Though she wasn’t able to bear hug me anymore, I felt her affection and heeded her words. She was loving, devoutly religious, kind, and wise. Even better, she kept our clan in check. As the matriarch of our very large family, she was the example and the unspoken word. You knew what she expected and were afraid to disappoint such a good woman. None of us wanted to step out of line and dishonor our name and legacy. Everyone tried to uphold the standard she set for our family.

Many families were like this, I realized. A lot of American families had an elder at the helm that had a distinct impact on morals and behavior. Generation X and Y had a preceding generation so distinct that they needed no collective name. Hell, it begs to be questioned if being handed monikers so close to the end of the alphabet was a warning. Did the passing of the Wardens (hmm, Generation W fits this) create an excuse for Generation X and Y to fall short?

When my great-grandmother died I remember standing near her grave watching my family and the many people she knew. The loss was profound and lingered heavy for a decade. But as I watched them I knew something had been triggered. In the eyes of people I’d known all my life I saw sadness and uncertainty. It took almost two decades to detect the pattern and what I concluded was the trigger. There are choices I’ve made as an adult that I’m sure I’d have never had to make had I been of the same disposition I was in while my great-grandmother was living. I can make the same observation of others in my family. There was very literally no way we’d have slipped up in the ways I’d witnessed and participated. Not to say that we became a bunch of thugs and thieves, but our standards of right and wrong slipped. Was this what happened in other families across the country?

Without those people who built the foundation of industrialized America and could remember the remnants of slavery, child labor, and immigration from the East, people started to change. Our generation of humanized superheroes is almost all gone. The people who laid the foundation of moral values, religion, and what it meant to behave in a post-modern era died away. And as I write this, I realize how good a term Warden is. Those examples of being were also the last consistent generation of cut and dry discipline. There was little grey area-right and wrong were not up for broad interpretation. Even jumping into political issues was very much “one or the other”.

Society has changed its expectation on the cut and dry principles. In some ways I think this is wholly acceptable as science, technology, and even psychology has made it clear that we are no longer living in a “one or the other” world. But I don’t think right and wrong are part of that. I think the volatility of American society’s take on politics and acceptable behavior went from being molded by matriarchs and patriarchs to money and pundits. So used to needing guidance, the demographic guided with discipline and fortitude of a warden were left less able to draw distinct conclusions without being lead to it. Think about this if you’re 25-35 with parents who have public figures they listen to with the same weight as a trusted family member…maybe one that is no longer there to guide them.

I probably just pissed someone off. But really think about it. Generation X was largely made to obey (despite our view of 1960s) a set of rules and values. While this may have been a major contribution to the modern trend of questioning authority (which is actually as ancient as our species), it’s probably Generations Y and Z most impacted by freedom of information and the influence of that information. I really wonder if the death of Generation W gave way to dependence on pundits/public figures by Generation X. Does that dependence hint to why the value system of yesteryear failed to take root with their children…Generation Y, who began birthing arguably the most impressionable generation of kids to date…Generation Z.

I’m no historian, psychologist, or geneologist. What I’ve said/asked is totally observational opinion. I find myself wondering things and playing them out to see if they make sense to someone else.

Politicians, figures, media entities, and CEOs all once had someone who would have raised an eyebrow or wagged a finger for being unethical…which is the adult version of behaving. I think we all had someone who used to call us when we tried to justify things we knowingly did wrong or would correct us if we thought for a second we could get away with lying by omission or cheating someone. There are people who really cannot positively function without a person that they love or respect holding them accountable. In case you want to argue that point, I will point out the large number of constituents and customers who are negatively impacted by unethical policy of Gen X individuals. See Wall Street 2007 to current public policy for reference.

Did the death of our (I’m Gen Y) great-grandparents create in our parents pundit dependency and in our children impressionability high enough to make right and wrong a completely different set of ideas? Are we all now so highly influenced by people and things outside our intrinsic family values that we’re witnessing a decline in our entire society?

It’s quite sad to think that either a good haunting or a zombie uprising by our great-grands might have more of an impact on cleaning up modern America than faulty regulatory processes….


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