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.

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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.

“Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” & Front-line Homophobia

The survey sent to hundreds of thousands of men & women serving us bravely in all branches of the military, exposed two things about the military culture as it relates to sexual orientation:

  1. The majority really don’t care what your orientation is, so long as you’re skilled and competent
  2. The minority who do care are of the most “macho” ilk: those who are specially trained for front-line combat duty, like Navy Seals and Marine Special Ops

So, the real issue is, do you maintain a policy to keep a minority of your members happy?  The strongest argument for doing just that is the fear of the ultimate consequence: the threat by those service members that they will not re-enlist if the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy changes.  Thus, the argument goes, if we allow a gay or lesbian person to serve openly in the military, we will lose our finest and most trained, elite soldiers.

To which the sane and most effective response is:  We will not lose fine, trained soldiers.  We will simply replace homophobic ones with those who have equal capability but have been barred from enlisting due to their refusal to hide their sexual orientation.

Value added, we will weed out bigoted, small-minded men (the overwhelming majority are men) who may make good fighting machines, but clearly don’t possess other valuable qualities needed to be a truly great soldier & human being: acceptance of differences (really needed in today’s wars that emphasize “changing hearts and minds” as much as brute force); the ability to discern between fact and myth (critical thinking); and the capacity to assess someone or something based on effectiveness vs. personal fears/phobias.

And that is the best reason to overturn this policy.

Do You Have the Courage of Your “Repeal HCL” Convictions?

The newly elected Republicans say that one of their goals is to repeal the Health Care Legislation.  It’s easy to be against it from such a safe distance…so far removed from those who so desperately need this reform.  Consider these Congressional stats:

  • 16%: the collective annual increase in wealth for member of Congress, 2009 over 2008
  • $2.38M: median income for Senators
  • $765K: median income for House Reps

So, for those of you who agree with this stance…who want to see the health care legislation repealed…I hope you have the courage to say that, face to face, to her:

Looking for Someone to Blame…

Talk to the handWe can all understand a national angst around a number of life-altering issues, from our woeful economy & jobs outlook, to food that makes us sick and a growing number of crazed individuals who want to see all of us blown to bits.

And when we get scared, or angry, or feel out of control, we want to pinpoint the source of the problem – we want someone or some entity to blame.

Is it Congress?  Is it one political party or the other?  How about the media, issuing  inflammatory stories, whether ultimately true or not, to keep their market share from falling?

Or, is it that we as a nation, and we Boomers as the current leaders of it, have lost our “moral compass” – that our society as a whole is disintegrating, causing much of what’s wrong with our nation today – as we hear more and more often these days?  How about our own unwillingness to make tough sacrifices thus keeping ourselves reliant on extremely unstable parts of the world?

It’s really tough to resist the natural temptation to look everywhere else but in the mirror for the root cause of our problems.  But here’s the cold truth of our distresses:

  • A bad Congress continues to be bad only because we let them get away with it…and I don’t mean just keep voting ’em out…I mean we don’t hold them accountable when they’re in.  Admittedly that takes time…to write them…let them know consistently what you want them to do – but that is the pesky part of a “representative government”
  • Sensationalism in the press continues because it works…we watch/listen/read it
  • Political parties respond to their loyal and most extreme base because they’re the most vocal; moderates are the least, which is the majority of Americans
  • The disconnect that is now the norm in our communities (our lack of involvement), our spread-all-over-the-world families, or our use of technology more often than face-to-face, makes life a tad surreal, moving ever closer to an imitation of it; this may make life easier, but it doesn’t make it better…
  • Companies that do bad things rely on us forgetting about their bad behavior in short time…and we do.  The best example of this over the past year has been the toxic food that’s made it’s way into our homes as a result of agribusinesses’ unsanitary conditions (being humane and clean takes too much out of the profit-margin).  They also know that we simply do not use our consumer clout to send them a clear message of discontent – refusing to buy from companies with poor track records is a tad inconvenient (shopping elsewhere…keeping track) and they rely on us being too busy, or apathetic, to do so

As the song puts it so well:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

Here’s the link: Sing along with Michael Jackson, and perhaps we’ll finally take seriously the powerful message of this song from so many years ago, that is even more relevant today.