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!

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Hey Kids, You Want Us Out of the Way? Really?!

how Boomers are annoying the worldPerhaps you’ve noticed… an increasing number of notable bloggers are yelping about how unfaiiiirrr it is that we Boomers refuse to retire, purportedly keeping the unemployment rate high as a result, and some news sites are now jumping on the whine wagon.

Then, there’s Congress, bemoaning our life expectancy as ruinous to Social Security; if we’d just die sooner all would be solvent!  By the way, this one would be laughable given that a majority of Congressfolk are Boomers, except they don’t have to rely on SS so they really don’t care…

Hmmm…. so unless we head on down to FL for early bird specials, or better yet, head on up to that big early bird special in the sky, we’re (fill in the blank):

  • greedy
  • selfish
  • uncaring
  • unscrupulous
  • thoughtless
  • all of the above

Well, kids, bloggers, pundits, Congress, and news folks, here’s another take for you to ponder…and write about if you’re feeling generous:

  • over 60% of Boomers are supporting their grown children in one form or another…you sure you want us to stop working?
  • If you paid as much into the SS system as we did over the last decades, just to have the fund raided by Congress year after year, which is the only reason it’s not solvent (back in the ’80’s President Reagan even made sure that preparations were made for the influx of Boomers he knew to be coming…), and then be told that you really ought’n to expect the return you paid for, you would no doubt really be whining
  • oh, and keep complaining….that’s the way to get an inheritance….or our vote.

We’re here.

For many a year.

Working without fear.

Get used to it.

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.

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)

Boomers & The Work Place…A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…

boomers needing work…in a great land known as The USA, there were a whole bunch of people known as “Boomers” – in fact, there were almost 78 million of them!  They partied hearty as youngsters, and worked just as heartily when they got out into what was known as “the world of work”!  They worked and worked and worked, for many decades, and many of them rose to higher paying positions as a reward for all that hard work!

But alas, one day, The USA experienced a terrible “economic downturn” called The Great Recession, and as a result, businesses started closing up or getting rid of lots of their employees, so lots of people lost their jobs.  And the people who were hit the hardest were the Boomers.

That’s because the Boomers were now getting older, and because they were making the most money at these companies, they were the first to get what was called “the boot” meaning a kick in the a** out the door so the company could save lots of money on their salaries.

Alack, when those Boomers tried to find new jobs, they had great difficulty because of a number of “factors” otherwise known as “myths” that employers used to keep from hiring them:

  • Myth #1: Boomers cost more for health insurance (in fact, younger workers are more likely to get sports injuries, get pregnant, or have children in need of costly medical care)
  • Myth #2: Boomers are too old to learn the newest ways of conducting business (in fact, Boomers were always learning the newest ways of conducting business, including being the first to use computers)
  • Myth #3: Boomers don’t have the same energy as younger workers (in fact, Boomers are quite vibrant even at middle age, unlike any generation before them)
  • Myth #4: Boomers will take the job and then leave in a year or two for retirement (in fact, many Boomers plan to work for at least a decade to come, and with Social Security set to raise its age for qualification to 67, even those who didn’t want to keep working will have to)

The saddest thing of all was that of all the people businesses could hire, the Boomers had the most knowledge, experience, and skill-sets, something that “whippersnappers” as the young workers were called, wouldn’t possess for another 20 years….  And Boomers were willing to work for the same salary as the whippersnappers if that meant getting hired.

Even a child could see that hiring a Boomer would be a really smart business move!  Alas, children weren’t running the businesses…what a shame!  They’d probably be run much better if they were!

Well, our fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending…yet.  9 officials known around the land as “The Supreme Court” made it pretty much impossible to prove age discrimination, so the Boomers weren’t able to change businesses’ hiring practices that were really obviously discriminatory…another one of those things that the children could see…

But, there may be a happy ending after all!  If the Boomers learn the facts vs. the myths, they can use that information to greatly increase their chances of getting hired!  They can cover these concepts in their resumes and cover letters, and during the interview!  They can show a prospective employer that they are the best thing for the company, not the worst!  They can change what are called the employers’ “perception” about hiring an “older” worker by the way they present themselves!

Will the Boomers be able to do it?  Well, we have about 20 years to go to find out.