Boomer Celebrity Spokespeople… Please find some different products…

Better not "break a leg" says Blythe DannerBlythe Danner (not officially a Boomer, but close enough) won’t say “break a leg” anymore because she’s afraid her poor old frail bones will really break… that’s after Sally Field spent years telling us how frail we’re becoming…

Tommy Lee Jones seems to care only about his retirement finances…after all, what else do we old coots have to think about?

Henry Winkler touts reverse mortgages….see Tommy Lee Jones above.

Whoopi Goldberg can now happily miss one of those frequent trips to the ladies’ room as the spokesperson for Poise Pads…no bladder control in our generation…

Geeez, are we 47-65… or 98??

I’ve said so many times that it’s up to us to end the final, big societal “ism” that still runs strong: Ageism.  Boomer celebrities showing us a group of pants-wetting, retirement worrying, bone-breakers is not helping – at all.

Others, like Andie MacDowell for L’Oreal and Kim Catrall for Olay, are on a far better track.  We’re beautiful at our age…and we know it.

Hey, BC’s, how about doing ads for computers, cars, clothing, jewelry, vacations, and the plethora of other products and services that make up Boomerdom – that are far more emblematic of who we are than bladder control pads?

That’s something you can do to put an end to ageism from your neck of the woods.

Boomer Mojo; Our Time Has Come Again

The guest on this past week’s show (11/6/11: David Mills, author of 10000 Days: A Call to Arms for the Baby Boom Generation that asks of us “what do we plan to do with the last 10K productive days we have left after turning 50?”) believes we Boomers can use our past activist experience, combine it with the wisdom (hopefully) and decades of knowledge we’ve accumulated, and once again fix what’s wrong with our country.

This inspired me to ask this question of our followers on the show’s FB page: “Do you think we Boomers still have the collective to power to make great changes to society like we did in our youth?”  (feel free to go to the page and be heard)

Here’s a few of the responses:

  • “We have the collective power to make tremendous change. Need strong leadership and lots of people talking and sharing ideas.”
  • “We can and we are…”
  • “Sorry I believed we did in my youth but in the end I don’t feel we made a difference.”

Now, admittedly we’ve gotten the proverbial bad rap from the younger generations, feeling that we pursued what was in our own best interest at everyone else’s expense.  And indeed, as I mentioned in my last post, once we got into positions of power, we did all the things we derided our elders for doing (bespoiling the land for profit; taking kick-backs for influence; filling our corporate coffers at the expense of our workers’ well-being) – only bigger and with less discretion.

But as a generation, we also propelled more positive societal changes than any other generation in the history of our nation.  Hey, younger ones, enjoy the freedom to live together before you get married, and divorce without societal derision if you find you married the wrong person?  Thank us.  Ladies, glad you can no longer be overlooked for that big promotion simply because of your gender?  Thank your local Boomer.  And, for those of you who think clean air and water is a nifty idea, that river in Ohio would still be so toxic it’s on fire if not for our unwillingness to accept such polluting ways (for you kids, here’s the link for the back story on the burning river thing).

Well, my fellow Boomers, our time has come around again.  We have the numbers, the power, the finances, and the experience, to make this country proud.  We know how to use activism as an efficient tool for change.  Unfortunately, right now, the only members of our generation using it well are the members of the tea party (45% of which are white, male Boomers).  And I say “unfortunately” not because I disagree with their positions; it’s unfortunate because they are a minority of us – the rest of us are remaining dangerously disconnected from our immense ability to influence positive change.

Here is a brief list of powerful things we can do, individually and collectively, to regain our generational greatness as propellers of the social changes needed today, just as we so famously, and successfully did for those that were needed in the 1960’s/’70’s:

  • Lead by example
    Keep your promises; say what you mean/mean what you say; give more than you receive; be a mensch
  • Get involved in something that betters things
    Now that the kids are grown and if you’re not taking care of an elderly relative, give some of your time to something designed to make our world better, whether volunteering for a cause that tugs your heart, or pushing for needed changes in your community; at the very least, regularly communicate with your representatives so they know just what you want from them, and if you don’t get it, find someone who will do what you know needs doing
  • Agitate for changes to the way Congress handles our nation’s business
    A great place to start is by insisting on changes to the way Congress treats itself; if our little Princes & Princesses in DC are treated like the rest of us, we will have more true citizen representation – those who simply love the power will no longer want the job, and those who want the job will want to get the job done and go home.  Here’s a petition I’ve started circulating to insist on just such changes; download it, sign it, and pass it on: 
    Petition to Congress
  • Be a resource champion, not a resource hog
    Did you know that the improvements to the environment we fought for and won 40 years ago, are in the past few years being undone?  Air pollution is now worsening.  Go back to your roots of good earth stewardship; we can start with eliminating our own wasteful habits, from things a simple as reusing rather than immediately disposing, to driving a more fuel efficient car and downsizing everything.  And, become a proponent of both clean and renewable energy sources.

So, to that last respondent of the FB survey, I say; we absolutely made a difference – refusing to see our accomplishments, and build on them has been our mistake.

I believe it’s not a matter of being unable to make the changes we need, our children need, our grandchildren.

It’s a matter of being willing.

Wall St. Protests….Taking Up Where We Left Off

“How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry…. Yes how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn’t see….”

1969 protest

1969 protest

Whether or not you were one of the protesters in our youth railing against “the man” (corporate greed and corruption), or the pillaging of the environment, the majority of us still agreed that rivers burning with pollution and companies making millions (billions in today’s dollars) by exploiting their workers or the public at large, and forever destroying pieces of the earth for their financial gain, were worth fighting to fix.

And now, we’re the ones being protested against.

We are “the man” we so reviled as youth.  We are the ones in charge of Big Corp that guts the middle class so that CEO’s can buy that yacht and third vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard; we’re in charge of a Congress that votes to bail out Bank of America with our hard earned dollars and then refuses to ensure that the entity cannot ruin our lives again; we are the ones who have turned our backs on the environmental gains made as a result of our protests, through lifestyles that are built on rampant waste.

What happened?!

Some say that we just grew up…that once the realities of making a living and raising a family kick in, idealism jumps ship.

Some say that many of us really didn’t care about those things as youth, so simply continued to live our beliefs (it’s not greed when it’s “capitalism” because we all hope to get rich someday; the earth is here to serve our needs, not the other way around).

But, even if either, or both are true, neither falls even close to a good reason for leaving our children worse off than we are, ensuring that the top 10%  make and keep 93% of our country’s wealth while they continue to lay-off workers and off-shore jobs, or that pillaging the earth of her beauty and resources is right way to get our needs met…

So, to the former, I offer a suggestion; that we think “and/both” rather than “either/or” – we can strive to have a good life without gutting the earth and harming others in the process.

To the latter, I offer this quote, not by a Founding Father or a high profile preacher, but from a comic book of our youth: “With great power, comes great responsibility” – which of course we all understood to mean great responsibility to care for the less powerful, to use our own capacities to better the common good – not line the pockets of the few and the rest of society be damned.

And to those who say that there are just too many things “out of our control” so what’s gone wrong over the past decade or more is not our fault, I offer this idea to ponder: That which you believe to be out of your control…is, even those things that are well within it.  Think Bank of America is a corporate leech?  Close your account with them.  Believe in global warming as a real problem?  Drive a fuel efficient auto and demand/use recycyled goods.  Angry about off-shoring our jobs?  Then buy only “made in America.”

Our kids are taking up where we left off oh those many decades ago.  Which they must, because we left off.

Shared Sacrifice…A Boomer Trait?

flooded homes on the Mississippi“It’s a no-brainer when you look at sacrificing our small community to save New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  I’m not angry…”

This was the reaction of 57 year old Charlene Guidry, who lives in a small LA river town along the flooding Mississippi, when she learned that the Army Corps of Engineers would be opening the Morganza spillway to keep both large cities from being demolished by flood waters, sacrificing her town of Butte La Rose along the way.

Would you be so gracious, willing to accept sacrificing the good of the one for the good of the many?  In your heart, do you agree with the line from Star Trek II, Wrath of Kahn, delivered by Spock right before he sacrificed his life to save the ship:  “The Needs of the Many Must Outweigh the Needs of the Few or the One.”

Or for you is it: “I know this will hurt many other people, but I’ve gotta take care of my own needs/wants, and if that causes suffering to others, well, so be it…that’s not my problem…”

Do Boomers believe in shared sacrifice?  After all, sacrifice is not a generational characteristic, do it’s not something we’ve done very well thus far:

  • That’s what got so many of us into financial trouble (not saving, or not buying that “too much home” because both required a certain amount of sacrifice);
  • That’s why our GenX progeny were labeled “latch-key kids” (because being home with the kids required some career sacrifice which in turn wouldn’t allow us that terrific, vs. just fine, income);
  • It’s the reason so many corporations, of which we are in charge, do exactly what we protested in our youth – line top management pockets at the expense of their workers, or while racking up human rights violations.

Exacerbating this generational trait is an ever more insular world, where we interact face-to-face far less, via texting/emailing/internet chatting etc. far more. Unlike our parents, who, without such technology, relied on personal interactions for socializing and communicating, so were far more “real-life” connected to those around them, we can use electronics to buffer ourselves from the consequences to others of our choices.

Clearly, Ms. Guidry, a fellow Boomer, believes in shared sacrifice.  So much so that she was willing to accept the loss of her home so that millions of others wouldn’t experience that fate.

We can use her as our inspiration; I do.  Shared sacrifice is a necessity for keeping this country great.  Always was (it was one of the first calls made to an infant nation by George Washington), always will be.

So, start by determining what you’re willing to give up for the common good.  It’s not a Boomer characteristic, but it does fit nicely with another of our generational traits; our ability to instill great societal changes. 

We can start with ourselves.

Why are Boomers so Cranky?!

  • On a beautiful Florida day, at a spring training baseball game, I approached my row and apologized for inconveniencing everyone who had to stand to let me in.  The very large Boomer taking up the end seat responded: “If you want to get to your seat, why don’t you just say so!” and wouldn’t get up to let me in until I threatened to sit on his lap..
  • I placed an upbeat comment to a Huffington Post article about Boomers doing more volunteer work, to which a fellow Boomer responded “You’ve been hitting the bottle too much…”
  • Of all the age groups, from our kids to our parents, we seem to have the lowest threshold for civil discussions, particularly around issues facing the nation/politics; too many of us become quickly “enraged” “appalled” – blaming and unwilling to listen let alone speak calmly to anyone who doesn’t full agree with us.

angry boomerWow, what happened to us?  Are we really that unhappy, disenfranchised, pessimistic?

Yep.

But this is not new.  Boomers were a pessimistic lot even in our “flower power” groovy youth.  It wasn’t optimism, but pessimism that drove our protests, sit-ins, and marches; we didn’t trust “the man” or anyone over 30 for that matter; we believed the earth was being polluted beyond repair; our young women were fed up with “male domination”…

Now, 40 years later, add the stressors of career, paying off the kids’ college loans, tanked 401K’s, and aching joints, and you have a bunch of over the top grouchiness.

Plus, extremism is one of our generational characteristics (think “latch-key” kids on the top of the age-range of Boomer parenting, “helicopter parenting” on the younger end – different approaches, both approaches extremes).  So when we do something, we take it to the max.  Our generational rebellion included extremes like:

  • refusing to “dress up” like our parents did so we became the first generation to go to church or out to dinner in jeans & t-shirts;
  • refusing to accept authority to the point of feeling justified in being rude;
  • living the “better life” our parents raised us to believe we were owed via spending beyond our means, procuring “McMansions” for a family of 3 and ever more “things” (including excessively expensive cars) to show our worth.

Put these two dynamics together, pessimism + extremism, and you get a volatile brew.

This matters greatly because, beyond our sheer numbers (we are 26% of the US population), we are this country’s leaders:

  • 58% of the US Senate & 79% of the US House of Representatives are Boomers,
  • 82% of US Governors are Boomers,
  • as are about 59% of Corporate America’s CEO’s.

This means that how we act determines social outcomes (as it did in our youth), what we feel dictates the mood of the nation.  Which at this juncture is…well, quite peevish, a tad intolerant, and reliant on extremes to:

solve what we perceive as social ills that are only ills because we no longer engage in them (a majority of those against medical use of marijuana or needle exchange programs to curb the spread of HIV, are Boomers who loved the snow and weed as youth);

balance budgets by decimating services we no longer need ourselves (“Support birth control clinics that prevent the spread of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies?  I don’t think so!  You go out and have unprotected sex, that’s your problem!” – we were the biggest users of these clinics, for those exact reasons, in our own youth) while preserving those that only we need (in a recent Pew poll, 63% of Boomers opposed raising the age at which we’d qualify for full SS benefits).

Ah…but there’s more.  Two extremely (had to say it…) essential elements that tie our testiness up in a beautiful bow of justification for bad behavior:

  1. we’re frightened, discouraged, disappointed – things aren’t turning out as we’d planned and we’re in trouble, particularly financially – at middle age that’s admittedly tough to handle, and perhaps too many of us don’t have the healthy coping skills to handle these feelings with even a modicum of grace;
  2. we’ve fallen into what numerous studies have shown to be an increasing tendency for Americans (and moreso older Americans) to refuse to fall prey to logic – even when faced with raw facts that dispute what we want to believe, we simply refuse to believe the facts so we can feel comfortable holding onto our position no matter how wrong it might be.

angry boomer manSo…. Must we be so irascible?  Can we possibly change our generational ways at this stage in our lives after so many decades of testiness gone wild?  Is our crankiness etched in indelible ink?

Well, as the old and very bad joke goes: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?  None…it has to want to change…

Imagine how much better this country would be, how much calmer and enjoyable to live in, how much more we could get accomplished, if we as a generation decided to discontinue the vitriol, talk with instead of at each other, operated from “us” rather than “me”….

I believe we can do it.  Call me an optimist.

(here’s a link to a pew research/census gathering of statistics on “why Boomers are so Bummed…” posted on the show’s website)