Scapegoating Baby Boomers….Or Not…?

Scapegoating Baby Boomers….Or Not…?

I’ve noticed that much of the turmoil in the two most powerful Western Countries in the world, the US and Great Britain, is blamed on Baby Boomers:

  • In the US, the rise of Candidate Trump is blamed on angry, White middle-aged menangry Boomers (Boomers) who make up a bulk of his supporters (and the Tea Party before that), believing the system is “rigged” against them, wanting a political revolution that includes walls, bans on Muslims, a return to “the way things were” in younger days, and a possible exit from NATO;
  • In Britain, the majority of Brexit “leave” voters were Boomers, dissatisfied with such things as all the refugees crossing their borders and money going to the European Union that they want to keep for Britain alone.

We’re not the only generation voting for such controversial issues as leaving a union and banning an entire culture from the country, so why do we get all the blame?

Most likely because we’ve earned it.

As the first generation in modern history to:

  • think only of the present, not the future (the reason we were the first generation to make having lots of debt very cool…)…
  • have been raised to believe we’re quite special and therefore deserve great things (then passed that onto our children), and…
  • have grown accustomed to getting what we want when we want it no matter who or what is harmed along the way (from the environment as we also made waste cool, to the Great Recession fueled by our desire to live far beyond our means…

…we changed the landscape from sacrifice to satisfaction now, from ensuring the greater good to preserving what’s mine… and we replaced thoughtful debate with a good whine.  Remember, we still hold much of the power in both countries, from being the majority in legislatures to holding the most leadership positions in industry.

In the US & Britain, it’s mostly Boomers who want to close the borders to brexit-boomersrefugees/migrants, claiming fear for their safety and loss of jobs.

Yet, in the US, manufacturing workers are only a small portion of overall employment, accounting for just 9% of the workforce; instead, service workers account for more than three out of four American jobs and contribute to 60%+ of employment in 434 out of 435 congressional districts.  No opportunities lost there since Boomers are not about to starting cleaning hotel rooms or busing tables anytime soon. As for Britain, where socialization stops at industry’s door and Boomers have a nice pension, the only people at risk of losing jobs thus income to refugees were Millennials, who wanted to stay in the Union.

In the US, Boomers in the labor sector want those high-paying for un/semi-skilled manufacturing jobs back!…taken away by all those trade treaties vilified by Trump.  In fact, most manufacturing job loss came from advances in technology. Boomers in government want only to ensure their own political longevity which usually entails ignoring their constituents’ best interests, and those in industry make fistfuls of money by keeping their workers’ wages ridiculously low or moving their operations overseas where labor costs are far below what US workers would need to make a decent living.

In both countries, the majority of those who commit acts of terror are citizens or nationals.

For a generation here in the US that had the gumption to protest the Vietnam war to an end, the stamina to handle the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, the fearlessness to live through the Watts riots & Kent State massacre, and the prescience to push for thus achieve the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Women’s Liberation movement of the early ’70’s, and in Britain set world-wide trends in music/fashion/socialization, we’ve clearly lost our ability to go for the gold, replacing it out of fear with a determination to settle for the mediocre.

Because that’s what fear breeds…mediocrity…and we’re leading the way.

Let’s Hear It For…The Tea Party?!

angry white boomerAh, the “Tea Party” – known somewhat facetiously but mostly factually, as a group dominated by White male Boomers with too much time on their hands and not enough accurate information about either the US Constitution or the Founding Fathers, who want a whole lot less government for everything other than those items they deem needing a whole lot more government intervention (such as women’s choice, definition of marriage, etc.); and of course, who want no changes to their SS & Medicare no matter how much updating these two worthy programs need in order to remain solvent.

Phew!

But…. There is one very important reason to have great respect for our Boomer brethren even if we don’t agree with their positions.

They are fully involved, organizing for the things in which they believe – and it’s working.  No doubt most of them didn’t do such things as youth – that was a hippie thing.  But they’re doing it now.  And those who were activists in our youth, make up the vast majority who are doing so little today.

So, hip hooray for the Tea Party for being actively involved – pushing for those things they believe to be in the country’s (well, mostly their) best interest.

To the rest of us who hold a different view of what’s good for our nation, I say… don’t knock ’em…. emulate them!

Protest Poor Behavior – Don’t Forward that Email…

There’s an email forwarding around the nation with the heading: “This Senior Citizen Nailed It!!!!” and a final proud recommendation that you “pass it on” – it being so good and all.

It’s in response to remarks purportedly made by WY Senator Alan Simpson while he was on President Obama’s Deficit Reduction Committee, calling “senior citizens the Greediest Generation” and comparing Social Security to a milk cow with 310 million teats.  Here’s an excerpt of that email:

“I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying into Medicare from Day One, and now you morons propose to change the rules of the game. Why? Because you idiots mismanaged other parts of the economy to such an extent that you need to steal money from Medicare to pay the bills.

I, and millions of other Americans, have been paying income taxes our entire lives, and now you propose to increase our taxes yet again. Why? Because you incompetent bastards spent our money so profligately that you just kept on spending even after you ran out of money….

To add insult to injury, you label us “greedy” for calling “bullshit” on your incompetence.  It is you, Captain Bullshit, and your political co-conspirators called Congress who are the “greedy” ones.  It is you and your fellow nutcases who have bankrupted America and stolen the American dream…And you can take that to the bank, you miserable son of a bitch.”

To start, here’s what Senator Simpson actually said after noting that, while every interest group that testified before his committee agreed that the mounting federal debt is a national tragedy, they would then insist that government funding for their interest area shouldn’t be touched:

“We had the greatest generation (meaning his, he’s 79) – I think this is the “greediest generation” (meaning we Boomers).  “I really believe there are more patriots in America than selfish… people.”  So, in reality:

  • he wasn’t talking about “senior citizens” as no Boomer would ever consider him/herself one,
  • he never mentioned cows or their teats,
  • he actually voiced his belief that these “greedy”  folks coming before him did not represent the vast majority of Americans, and
  • his primary recommendation to save SS/Medicare, against which this supposed writer was railing, was to raise the age of eligibility a few years to stay true to the original formula for benefits disbursement, one based on life expectancy (which has lengthened by almost 15 years since SS was first passed in 1935)….

But what’s even sorrier than yet another email making the rounds that is raging against something that didn’t happen (in this case, wasn’t said), is the raging itself as an acceptable if not laudable trait.  The use of rhetoric not even becoming of a 17 year old  is elevated, embraced, celebrated…forwarded (how many parents do you know who would allow their child to talk this way?…well, let’s say how many whose kids aren’t now in foster care…?).

Had Senator Simpson actually said those things, this writer’s point would have been much more powerfully made by allowing the facts to speak for themselves, presented in a more respectful fashion (I have paid my dues and am not greedy to want what I’ve earned; here’s some examples of Congress appearing “greedy” that belie your point).

Nelson Mandela biographer John Carlin, found that this man, one of the greatest world leaders our generation has known in part by being able to impress even his arch enemies, became great because “he learned that succumbing to vengeful passions brought fleeting joys at the cost of lasting benefits” and that “…respect (is a weapon) of political persuasion as powerful as any gun.”

We need not first be Mandela’s – imprisoned and tortured yet able to bring an end to his country’s egregious practice of apartheid through his own forgiveness and generosity; or Ghandi’s – able to bring an end to British imperial occupation of his country through peaceful and passive (fasting/hunger strike) protest – in order to voice our discontent.

But we can at least refuse to admire words…and emails…like this one.

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)