Generations –
Does When You’re Born Shape Who You Are?
By Bobby Duffy
Atlantic Books – £20.00

We are teetering on the brink of a generational war. Wherever you look, battles and betrayals across the generations are poisoning relations between old and young. Older people have stolen the future from younger generations, while the young are killing the traditions that older generations hold dear. Emerging social justice warriors’ find themselves facing a ‘war on woke.’ Baby Boomers are selfish sociopaths, while Millennials are narcissistic snowflakes.


A generational frame helps us to understand the impact of major demographic trends too, such as our greater life expectancy and increasingly ageing societies. This is one of the most significant changes we’ve seen, and it has huge implications for how we should understand the future. In Japan, the median age (the age of the middle person, if you lined up the whole population, from young to old) was 46 in in 2015, and by 2050 it will have increased to 53. This increase of seven years may not seem like a big shift, but it reflects an incredibly aged society; 33 per cent of Japan’s current population is over 60, but by 2050, 42 per cent will be.

(‘The Question of Our Generation’)

Hmm, talking about my or ones’ generation – one cannot help but wonder what Pete Townshend might have to say about this book.

As is, Generations – Does When You’re Born Shape Who You Are?, attests to the vertiginous vortex of generational change; as underlined by a difference in culture and (current) complacency, economics and (a clear-cut, current governmental lack of) ethics.

The latter of which is surely bound to change endemic social behavioural patterns within the UK at least – if it hasn’t done so already.

To varying degrees, an example of said behavioural change is touched on in the chapter ‘Stuck in the nest – Home Affront’ (especially within the high-octane realm of economics), wherein the author Bobby Duffy writes: ‘’While owning your own place remains the clear aspiration in many countries, an increasing number of young people are not even making it out of their childhood bedrooms. The vision may be of a swish downtown apartment or a cosy suburban house, but the reality for increasing numbers of young adults is sleeping in their old single bed, surrounded by tatty posters of pop bands from their teens. As one 28 year old who had recently moved back in with her parents says: ‘It’s hard to feel like an adult when you’re living with the people who used to brush your teeth.’’

From living with those who used to brush your teeth, right through to the likes of Greta Thunberg (the renowned environmental equivalent of Paul Weller, only without the musicality), Generations is as resoundingly thought-provoking as it is all too clearly stated: ‘’We aspire to be ‘the generation to end world poverty.’ We want future generations to look back on how we’ve responded to COVID-19 and, as Queen Elizabeth II suggested in her address to the Commonwealth early on in the crisis, recognise that our generation was ‘ as strong as any.’ We also sometimes call on other generations to make a difference, as when Greta Thunberg argues that it is the responsibility of today’s adults to save the planet from a climate change disaster that may determine her future’’ (‘The End of the Line?’).

As The Guardian’s overtly knowledgeable Polly Toynbee has already written: ‘’Startling, witty and erudite. This is a must-read, complete analysis of our times – a portrait of the way we live now in all its changing confusions down the generations. Read this to explore the myth of manufactured generational wars.’’

Manufactured generational wars eh (why don’t you all just f-f-f-f-f-fade away)?

David Marx

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