Sunday, May 25, 2014

Write me a check before you tell me how to live (Me and my generation)

(This is a US-centric post because it's about something that happens in the US.  It may happen elsewhere, I suspect that it does, but it's about it specifically happening in the United States of America.)

I also accept wire transfers, Paypal donations (button in the upper right hand corner), and cold hard cash. The point is not the method of payment, the point is the payment itself.

You see, people older than my generation like to talk about the failings of my generation. Usually they're of the Baby Boomer generation* or the beginning of Gen X. In fact, in general, there seems to be a thing where older people tell younger people that they're doing it wrong.

They want to tell us how to live, how to act, how to talk, how to think, how to love, how to hate, how to work, how to play, how to EVERYTHING.

Ok, fine. I'm all for getting advice. But I prefer my advice to come from decent sources. The fact that these people are lumping together a large and varied group based on something as arbitrary as age already gives me suspicions that the people talking about my generation (and, often, the later parts of Gen X too) are not reliable.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Say that you can judge people based on age alone.

No president has ever been a member of my generation. In fact, for many definitions, no president of the US has ever been a member of the generation before my generation either and even in the definitions where Obama is a member of Gen X he's on the cusp of being a Baby Boomer. The point is, he's a lot closer to the people telling those younger than themselves how to act than he is to the people being told how to act. (My generation isn't even old enough to run for President yet.)

The average US Senator is a Boomer. Definitely not my generation. The average member of the House of Representatives is too.

The average CEO? Also a Baby Boomer.

What this means is that the people in charge of this country are of the same cohort as the people giving my generation advice. If the people telling my generation how to act are right that we can judge people by their generation, then we can judge them by their generation.

Their generation caused the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, their generation raided pension funds, their generation organized an interstate system of fraud in order to steal peoples homes (see: robosigning), their generation refused to prosecute the people who did that last thing, their generation refused to maintain the infrastructure resulting in the country fucking crumbling around us, their generation deregulated things in what looks like a drive toward a new Gilded Age, their generation is the reason that the US educational system is mediocre bordering on god-awful, their generation is the reason that the government is so dysfunctional it can't pass anything, their generation has set us up with a climate that's headed toward fubar, their generation knocked upward mobility down and proceeded to beat it savagely, their generation is why we have a tax code that ensures deficits, their generation is the reason we have a Supreme Court with members who admit they don't know the first thing about the US Constitution, their generation is the reason that the NSA is spying on Americans, their generation is the one that's trying to take away women’s rights, their generation is the one that's going around trying to disenfranchise people, AND SO ON.

If we really can judge people based on what generation they're in, why should I listen to these people?
(And if we can't then these people are talking out their asses.)

Swaths of my generation can't even get into the fucking workforce because their generation made so many of the jobs go away.

Somebody needs to get these people to take responsibility for their actions and get them to clean up their mess because it's a big fucking mess.

But I'm willing to forgive and move forward. All I need is a sign. Just a tiny little sign. So, people who think they know how my generation should conduct its affairs, your generation screwed up the economy so badly that trillions of dollars simply ceased to exist. Give that money back. I accept checks, wire transfers, Paypal donations, and cash.

Don't worry, I'll make sure the money goes where it's supposed to go. No, I don't trust you to put it there yourself. I'm willing to forgive, but I've seen how you handle the global economy and we're placing that firmly off limits. Just because I'm willing to forgive doesn't mean I'm willing to make the same mistake twice.

If, on the other hand, you're not willing to pay up for the damages that your generation did then I'm afraid I don't have much time for you telling me how my generation should act. I've seen how you act, and screwing up everything while counting on your children and grandchildren to pick up the pieces doesn't appeal to me. I believe people should take responsibility for their actions and work first to do no harm and second to mitigate and repair any harm they have done.

As for why my generation hasn't picked up previous generations' messes yet, there are multiple reasons:
  1. We're not in a position to do it. The same people who made the mess are stubbornly holding onto the reigns of power and will not let go. We do what we can, but there's only so much you can do when policy is decided by others.
  2. There's plenty of mess to go around. The economy is a mess. The political system is a mess. The environment is a mess. The infrastructure is a mess. The human rights situation is a mess. The social safety net is a mess. The educational system is a mess. The healthcare system is a mess. Social mobility is a mess. The tax code isn't so much a mess as a void where good policy should be but instead there's this money sucking thing that causes wealth to flow from the middle and lower classes to the upper class even though it's supposed to be the other way around. (Capitalism 101, people!) The banks are literally organized crime now, that goes beyond mess. Bribes are legal now in multiple different ways. Previous generations didn't spay and neuter their pets. Pay has become decoupled from production. So on, so forth.
    -To focus on everything at once would create diffuse solutions that didn't adequately address any of the problems. Instead people need to focus on single areas. That means that the entire generation can never be brought to bear on any single issue.
  3. Every time we make some forward progress, previous generations use their positions of power to drag us even further back.
  4. We're working on it, damn it. I don't recall anyone breathing down previous generations necks forcing them to make the mess in the first place. Why is it suddenly so urgent that we fix it without any god damn help?
They say we're lazy, they say we're disinterested, they say we think we're entitled, they say we don't care, they say we won't work. They say they know better. They say all of this while living in a cesspit of their own invention and refusing to take responsibility for the smell.


* So, here's the thing:
  • A generation is generally considered to last for 20 years based on the idea that a first time mother gives birth at 20 (in 1970 that was just about true on average in the US.)
  • The “Baby Boom” happened after the end of World War II when people had sexy fun times.
  • World War II did not end on a multiple of 20 but instead in 1945
Which means that people have vast disagreements on when the Baby Boomer generation began and ended.

For example: Glenn Beck.

For some people he was born almost, but not quite, two years before the Baby Boomer generation ended. That would make him an undisputed Boomer. Not even on the cusp, firmly within the lines. For other people he was born more than four years after the Boomer generation ended, that would make him firmly a member of Gen X and not a Boomer at all.

1 comment:

  1. That's why I prefer defining generations using major news stories that marked cultural shifts, rather than a fixed interval. (It does mean generations in different countries don't quite line up... but then why should they?) So the Baby Boom is WWII to the Kennedy Assassination, Gen X is from there to Reagan taking office, and Millennials (ugh, I hate that name) are from there to the September 11 attacks. AFAIK the generation born after that has yet to be named. It makes sense to me, because a generation is defined by shared experiences, and so should be bordered by cultural shift. While big news stories generally don't change the culture as much as people think they do, they often become big because they are signposts of the approximate moment where a cultural change was occurring, so for instance the Kennedy assassination marks the point at which it was getting really obvious that imperial liberalism was a failure, but it took years more to completely lose its grip as the cultural default with the mounting disaster of Vietnam, and the rhetoric of it still echoes all the way down to Bush's wars.