Generation C(risis): Will Portland’s youngest powerbrokers kill the spirit that keeps us Weird?

By Harriet Rubin March 3, 2009

I’m worried about Portland’s future leaders. After a recent interview with a 20something—a Generation Y’er—who’s made it big here, I was shocked by this person’s arrogance, impatience, and unshakable conviction of rightness. A member of the Y generation—born between 1977 and 2000 and now 76 million strong–this dauphin had the smarts of Obama but his pride was way more insufferable.

Crisis inspires a lot of people to exaggerate their strengths and weaknesses. So what are Y’s potential dark side? They follow Generation X, the slackers, the easy going cohort, so naturally they’ll be reacting against the "no worries" or "all’s good" mentality. But now that Generation Y has now become the Crisis Cohort as the American Dream turns into the American Econom-apocalypse, are they going to become the new rough beasts increasingly calling the shots?

A lot of Portland companies are changing hands. Several developers and entrepreneurs are giving control of fortunes and legacies to their kids. Boomers are retiring. Overall, the anger with the Boomers’ leadership is making them the Skum Dog Billionaires.

Portland may be a young city, but our City Council leaders are not.

Guess the average age of the Council? It’s not an easy question. Only Sam Adams and Nick Fish have gone public about their birthdates. Why not Amanda Fritz, Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman? Maybe we should be grateful that the average age of the Council appears to be closing in on 50 and is Y-free.

Y is at the tenderest age to register the fright of the American Dream going sour. How will they react? Not grabby and greedy like Boomers or spaced out like Xers, but worse: coldly self righteous, perhaps?

This is the one place I’ve lived where bus drivers at night tell disembarking passengers, “Be safe.” Where nobody photocopies your driver’s license as you enter a public building. Are the days of gentle, weird Portland coming to a close?

Will the Ys put a permanent end to the good times, even when the economy recovers?

See the full biopsy of the Y mentality at The Fourth Turning

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