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Who's to blame? Why the "Boomers" of course. Really?
Oh, but we’re in such a mess! Who’s to blame?
Isn’t that the way we do things?
Our first and foremost response to any problem is to seek out who’s to blame. Government has stalled. Is it the fault of the left or the right? We’re in a financial crisis. Shall we blame the bankers or the government? People are suffering, losing their homes; children are going hungry. This side says it's all is due to the policies of the other side; the other blames this. And they're not very nice about it.
Finger pointing, name calling, smear tactics, vitriol of the worst sort.... Blame, blame, blame.
Let’s not try to fix the problems. No! Let’s waste all our time, energy and resources to find out whose fault it is and then…. Do what? It seems we rarely get passed the blame assigning stage. Apparently, we can do diddly-squat about anything until we find out exactly who's to blame for it being the way it is.
It's what passes for action these days.
So I decided I would find out. Yes, I, lmmartin, would answer that all important question. Then I'd write a hub and once we all knew the definitive answer, we could move on, and possibly come up with solutions. It would be my gift to the world.
So, all fired up with zeal, I asked Mighty Google -- for where else would one find the truth? -- "Who is to blame for the bad state of the economy?"
The answer, when it came, staggered me.
Apparently, we are to blame for all the evils and ills of today’s world. Yes – us -- the "boomers." Everyone between the ages of 47 and 65 – each and every one of us, are responsible for the downfall of western civilization as we know it.
How do I know this? I read it and not just from one source, or one article but many.
Talking 'bout my generation!
I’m a full member of the “Boomer” generation (those born between 1946 -1964) – no doubt about it! I travelled through life smack-dab in the midst of the biggest bulge in human demographics ever seen, or ever likely to be seen. By sheer virtue of our numbers, we have dragged society and its fashions, tastes and politics along behind us as we moved through the various phases of life, from our tempestuous youth to our staid middle age, and now into the ‘golden years." (More likely our 'lead years' the way things are looking.
Everyone else is mad at us.
I'm trying to figure that out. Why not be mad at our parents? They're the ones responsible, having so many kids in their post-war euphoria! I mean its not like we had any control over it!
We are, as I read, “the most selfish, self-indulgent generation in American history.” We have been dubbed the “Me Generation”: the greediest, most unwilling to sacrifice, unruly, whiny, most populous (and least popular) generation ever known in this country, constipated by political correctness, addicted to pharmaceuticals, obsessed with acquisition, possessed of an overblown sense of entitlement, full of liberal-commie sh*t, not to mention we were bad parents -- and we invented disco. Well I’d hate us too for that last one.
Well, as you can imagine, I was blown away. It's bad enough being hated for your race, your gender, your nationality, your religion. Now we are hated for the year in which we were born. And I do mean hated.
I read the results of a survey where an overwhelming majority of young Americans want us to "just up and die" – tomorrow, please! Here are some of the comments posted there:
Said one Gen-X'er: "They [boomers] brought us up to believe that if we did all the right things, went to college, got a degree, we'd be rewarded with a good job, a comfortable life-style -- and instead, we were lucky to get ahead at all. We look at those in power, and they don't have near the qualifications we do, but will they make room for us? No. They hang on and on. And then, they expect us to support them in their old age! Nothing will get better until the last boomer dies."
A Gen-Y complained: "You [boomers] f---ed it all up with your self-indulgent, drugged out, materialistic, short-term focused life-style. We're sick of our McJobs and McLives, all you left for us.You people are old now. It is time to put down the microphone and get your sorry ass to the nursing home. You ever notice younger, more attractive, and less obnoxious people walking around? Here, I will introduce you. Meet your kids and grandkids. They are much more responsible and worthy than you ever thought about being. Grandma Pamela, I don't really give a shit about Woodstock or how good the free love was. From there, it was one sorry trend after another. Yuppies? Disco? Aerobicizing? You can't defend any of it.Do everyone a favor and exit center stage gracefully for once. Extended bows for applause aren't necessary."
And then, the Millenium kids spoke up, expressing confidence in their ability to lead, and dissing not only the Boomers, but also Gen X as"whiny and spoiled," and Gen Y as "lazy slackers." They, the product of the second baby boom in the early 90's and currently in their teens or early twenties, know nothing will be right until they are in charge. Said one young woman: "Like they're all so stupid! I mean, like, does Pelosi or Boenher even know what they're like talking about? LOL I mean, like, we are so much more smarter than them!" Added another: "Epic failure, baby boomers. Epic failure."
Well! There's only one thing to do. Set the record straight.
Yes, I am about to tackle a most difficult task: defend my generation. But not all! Certainly not. What these descendents of ours don't seem to understand is that broad-brushing an entire generation, particularly one 76 million large in the USA alone, is not wise, nor possible, nor applicable.
I have more in common with my grandkids, just starting out in adult life than I do with the wealthy members of my own generation, and I think these children will find the same, once they mature enough to understand the big picture. (Really, the division is more along class lines than generational though the absolute reality of class is denied in this country -- another of those American myths that live larger than life.)
"We've come to see the values of the boomers' parents as being the real American values, not the self-indulgent, greedy ethics of our parents." -- Gen X quote
First, let me ask you, our children -- Gen X -- how would you like to follow a generation entitled as "The Greatest Generation?" (An epitaph that many of us who grew up under them would debate.) You didn't know these people, 'cause let me tell you, those you knew as grandparents were not the people who raised us. Some strange metamorphosis took place about the time you were born, and the demanding social climbers living from acquisition to acquisition (time payments having just come into fashion,) with a constant "Manhattan" or martini in hand we knew as parents grew very soft-hearted and accepting.
I can't speak for my entire generation, obviously, but from my own experience and observation of the private lives of my peers, the mantra we heard went like this:
"We had it rough growing up in the Great Depression -- you don't the meaning of hardship. We went to war -- the Big One -- to fight evil (aka Hitler) -- you don't know what it is to sacrifice -- and prevailed, came home and built this Great Nation -- for you! The least you could do is show some gratitude -- you don't know how lucky you are. We made this nice home for you to live in, not that you appreciate it. You don't know the value of things. And where do you think you're going dressed like that? What will the neighbors say? Show us some respect! We didn't go through all that for you to walk around dressed like some bum. Don't slam the fridge door. Show some appreciation for the things we've given you!" [Whack! -- hitting kids was still in fashion then.]
You want to talk about materialism? The myth I read on your blogs and comments is that our parents lived through great hardship and wanting to spare us the same fate, spoiled us and set us up to be a "greedy, entitled, blah, blah, blah" generation. Yet, the root cause of teen-age angst in my milieu was that our parents seemed more involved with material gain than in our welfare. We (that part of my generation I observed and knew) lived without supervision or attention through most of childhood; were rarely hugged or caressed; never had a real conversation with our parents about anything, particularly not sex; spent most of our time out of our parents' sight, but were showered with lavish gifts at Christmas and birthdays for which we were ordered to be eternally grateful.
We grew up in suburban middle-class comfort, yes, but often with parents who were absent, even when they were there. (By the way: both my parents worked in order to provide me with things. Things for which I was never appreciative enough or so I was told.)
It's a known fact that those who've faced starvation often grow into gourmands (gluttons) once their status changes and our parents appeared to be living proof of this axiom. The fifties and early sixties seemed dedicated to serving our parents' acquisitive appetite. Home was not "Leave it to Beaver," or "Father Knows Best." Nor "The Brady Bunch." No, it was "Don't go into the living room and sit on the good furniture. Your place is the basement "rumpus room" where there's nothing of value you can destroy. After all, we put the old TV down there just for you. And we've been working all day and want some peace and quiet. Keep it down!"
I was expected to do my share of chores around the house -- a commendable way to teach responsibility, to be sure -- but I didn't expect to get paid for doing so, unlike kids now. I never had a dime in my pocket until I started baby-sitting at age twelve. I had a real job at fourteen, working in a dumpy cafe where my first task was to wash the urine off the walls in the men's room. I earned fifty cents an hour.
At age sixteen, I worked the summer months in a factory that made glass bottles, hot, hard work, so that I could buy my own clothes for the school year (and thus satisfy my own tastes and not my mother's which were still circa 1946 and ran to mid-calf pleated grey skirts with white blouses sporting a big bow under my chin -- and white ankle socks! (Yeah -- try showing up for high school in 1968 dressed like that!)) I learned to sew and made my own psychedelic colored 60's shift-dresses ending six inches above the knee. My money went further that way.
Later, I used those same skills to dress my two toddler daughters -- and for the same reasons. Of course, as teens, my Gen-Xers no longer wanted hand-made clothes, preferring the mass produced "labels" and walking around like advertisements for "Club Monaco." Which was fine, so long as they had jobs, which they did, I'm proud to say and paid for their desired things themselves.
So, excuse me if I don't feel like I grew up spoiled, entitled, selfish and greedy. I now refuse to accept that label. Quite the contrary. Like so many others of the time, I eschewed the idea life was a grand chase for the material, and went looking for something of real meaning. I never did quite lose that 60's rebellion against the cult of things, never did devote my life to acquisition, and now, in my soon-to-be-here old age, you'd be surprised at how little I can live on in my modest little two bedroom house.
I have all I need and what I want has little to do with things and a lot more to do with people and the development of my intellect and skills.
Just so you know.
Now, Gen X, let's talk about you for a minute.
Yes, we did tell you to go to college and prepare yourselves for life -- not that we promised you an instant management position, but pushed knowledge so that you could learn to think and analyze, use logic and rational thought and more importantly, to have the foundation that would allow you to question the world around you.
You thought you were entitled to a "position" right off the bat? Why? Because "we look at those in power and we have more qualifications..." I think you'd better take another look at the careers of those in power. Damn few, unless nepotism was at work, walked out of college and into management. I know I had worked at every lowly position there is in business before I became an accounting manager for a large corporation, not because I had a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration, but because I had spent time actually doing the "gut-work" of the many systems that make a business run. (Assistant to accounts payables, same in receivables, moved up into those positions in several different companies, then payroll clerk in another and assistant to the general accounting manager, special projects clerk for yet another company, and internal audit for a large corporation and then, finally, years later: Corporate Accounting Manager, reporting to the Controller, who reported to VP Finance, who reported to the CFO, who reported to the CEO.) I invested years learning the ropes of business. I gave up the security of staying in one job in order to learn all I could in many different industries, much to the horror of my "Greatest Generation" parents, who believed you went to work for a company and stayed there until you got your pension -- and we all know how that worked out!
So tell me: how is it that you, with your spanking fresh college degree, were more qualified than someone who learned by doing, who had invested years in working their way up and built a reputation for ability? Explain.
Why were you so impatient?
For surely you were. Look at your home lives. Whereas I and my contemporaries usually left home taking the old furniture from the aforementioned "rumpus room" and lived with that until we could afford different, oft-times starting off with a mattress on the floor for a bed and an old cable spool for a coffee table where we shared a bottle of cheap wine with friends, seeing as we couldn't afford to dine out... whereas we did this, you wanted it all right off the bat. I've watched you go deeply into debt to buy some fancy living room furniture and the five piece bedroom set from Ikea, (all of which was worn out long before it was paid off).... plus the car (a BMW of course.) You wore only the latest "trendy" labels, ate at the newest touted restaurants.... And by the time you were thirty, you owed $30,000+ on credit cards. (Actually, in 1995, the average Gen-X household owed an average of $60,000 in unsecured debt -- according to a study in Canada.)
When we boomers got married, we did it ourselves. The bride and her friends held parties where they made scores of "Kleenex Flowers" with which to decorate the cars in the wedding procession (usually whatever cars the families owned,) all in the chosen color scheme, of course. (Only those of my age will relate.) Bridal showers provided the new couple with rolling pins, measuring cups, towels and (if lucky) bed sheets. Someone cooked a turkey; another a ham and yet another a roast beef. Others made salads and deserts. A hall was rented; a band hired and the celebrations were wonderful.
When you Gen X'ers got married, you registered your choice of dinnerware, silverware, crystal pattern and desired appliances. The bride's dress cost more than my first car. The restaurant had to be the "trendy" one and a sit-down dinner for 300 ensued. The limos were hired and the most popular DJ engaged. Enough money was spent on that one day to provide a down-payment on a small house. (But then, you didn't want the small house. You wanted the downtown condo until you could scrape together the credit to buy the big house.)
And you call us the "me generation with a huge sense of entitlement?"
But apparently, this is our fault, too. According to what I've read, we were too permissive with our children, too accommodating, too everything -- so we are now told. (Maybe we already knew the old "under my roof my word is law, and go play somewhere and leave me alone" approach didn't work. Or maybe we found ourselves impotent before the onslaught of commercial media that told you this is how you should live.)
Well, guess what? You're not the first generation to believe your parents failed you. We certainly felt the same. But like us, one day you'll mature and realize everyone, our parents, us and you too, did the best they could by the standards of their day. But by then, your over-scheduled, highly-pressured children will have thrown off the effects of Ritalin and will be posting complaints on the internet about how you, too, failed them and what pathetic wankers you are.
Honestly, Gen-X, you're entering middle-age. Tell me, what have you done to make the world a better place? What do your children have to say about your successes or failures? You've been involved in the political process for a couple of decades -- what have you accomplished?
True, there's so many more of us than you that it might be argued your voices have not been heard. Must be tough to live in our collective shadow. Tough! That's just the way it is.
You complain we won't step aside and make room for you at the top. What you've failed to note is that although we boomers are quickly entering our sixth decade, it has only been for the past dozen years we've been at the top. Both G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were born in 1946, the first year of the baby boom generation -- though I'd have to say G.W. was so "old guard," he could be considered one of "them" -- the "Greatest Generation" that have hung on to power for most of our lives.
No, I'd say it wasn't until Clinton came along that our generation had real representation in leadership.
And then what happened? Obama stepped up, and even though he was born in 1961, he seems a lot more like one of you than one of us.
It would seem we just managed to step out from under our fathers and our sons took over. At least that's how it feels.
To all of you: X, Y and millemium: As to supporting us in our old age, tough job considering the sparse spread of current payee to our bulk passing through the system, did you know our generation was required to prepay our social security just for that reason? Did you know that for years the government has taken our money and spent it, leaving a now unfunded program for all our efforts? We can thank the "Greatest Generation" for that. Don't believe me? Read this.
And now a few words for Gen Y: Actually, Gen Y, some of you are the younger part of Gen X, the children of the later baby-boomers and some of you are the grandchildren of the early boomers. Either way, it's apparent you feel you caught a bad break. From reading your words as posted out there, I gather you're truly pissed off. Got it.
Sick of your McJobs, are you? Maybe you'd like to meet my neighbor, Rene, a late-boomer (or early Gen-X: it's often hard to know) whose husband left her for a younger woman some years back, so she went to work for McDonald's. It was the only job this unskilled and inexperienced woman could get. But guess what? She worked diligently for a few years and became a manager, earning enough to launch her four children into the world. Granted, they didn't live large. No cable TV, no current electronic gadgets, no designer labels -- but they had a home, food on the table, a parent who took them camping, to scouts and went to all the parent/teacher interviews....
Said, Joe, manager of a local supermarket I interviewed: "Why would I rather hire baby boomers? Look. See how the "old workers" greet the customers, chat them up, work efficiently. Then watch the twenty and thirty-somethings who mutely push the goods over the scanner, snatching up their phones to text at every available opportunity and talk only to their friends, ignoring the customer. Now, I ask you, if this were your company, which employee would you rather have?"
You know, we're all chasing the McJobs these days: boomers, X'ers, Y'ers and the millenium kids. Is it the competition that has you so mad? Gee, bad break!
You write things like: "Oh this just sucks. I can't see how I can ever get married, get a house and get a life. It's so unfair!"
I don't know what fairy-tale you've been told, but as far as memory is to be trusted, we didn't just fall into jobs. I don't remember the world waiting for us with a red carpet to cushion our dainty feet. We got married and lived in basement suites, worked hard and bought our first house often well after we'd had our first child. And that house was usually an older house, a tiny house or some fixer-upper. We worked our way up. That was our lives.
Gordon Gecko is not representative of my generation as I knew it; Tim the tool man is.
You want to get married? Get married. Live where you can. Get what jobs you can, and when you get one, do the best you can at it. Do it with pride.
If you want to wait until everything is perfect, you're going to wait a long time. Yes, times are tougher than they once were, but they're not as tough as they could be, nor tougher than they have been in the past. Adapt and thrive.
We're told it's so unfair that you will not be better off than we were, than our parents were. (But then, I'm not better off than my parents were either -- though I might consider myself happier.) And it's all due to our generation's spendthrift way. Are you sure that's the truth of it?
Technology's advances have you out there competing with not only the workers of third world countries, but with robots. Technology has decreased the need not only for workers, but for administrators and support staff. Our "global" world grows ever smaller as our numbers increase.
Along with this, changes to our political direction that began under Reagan's (certainly not a boomer) presidential term undermined the "protectionist" policies under which our society once prospered, deregulated many industries and opened the door to the "China price" syndrome. (And if you think you're having a bad time, take a look at what life is like for those workers.) These changes have hurt us as much as they do you.
The truth is, we're in this together. Most of us baby boomers still need to work. A lot of us will have to work until we simply no longer can do so -- until either death or the incapacity of aging stops us. (And if it is incapacity -- God alone knows what we will do -- suicide I suppose.) For we've seen our savings, our assets, our net worth dwindle before our eyes and most of us are not well off.
What do we do? Exactly what I advise you to do: we adapt.
This aging boomer walked into Port Poverty, Florida with a brand new green card, a newcomer and a stranger, applied for any job that came up. Within ten days I had three job offers -- none of them "career" positions, to be sure, but all of them jobs that would pay the bills, providing I lived carefully. If I can do it with my head of grey hair and arthritic hands and feet, why is it young people can't?
And no, we boomers aren't about to go the nursing homes just so you can have our spot. Why should we? Contrary to popular myth, most of us weren't born with opportunity hanging like a halo over our heads, nor with silver spoons in our mouths -- opportunity we squandered, living "drugged out selfish lives." This just isn't so.
Strangely enough, it isn't us boomers that approach life with unrealistic expectations...
On to Part 2
Now having answered my original question: :Who is to blame for the bad state of the economy?" and found out according to popular opinion, it was us, the baby boom generation, I asked the most logical next question: