And I understand how you feel. Kind of.
OK, Boomer, you say, and roll your eyes.
It’s easier than trying to explain or argue, right? Your generation is staggering under a load of student debt, an economy that’s about as stable as a drunken high wire walker wearing greased shoes, and a job market that offers you plenty of options — if you’re willing to work for less than minimum wage and no benefits while supplying your own equipment.
Much worse than all of that, you are acutely aware of the crisis hurtling toward you like a runaway train freighted with dirty bombs. You can’t go a single day without reminders all over the place that the planet is undergoing unprecedented shifts in temperature, and it’s all happening much faster than the people who are supposed to know about these things — the economists, the scientists — thought it would.
The future we were responsible for leaving you may not exist. Like, literally. And what is my generation — the generation that’s in charge — doing about it?
We’re busy doing other things, like hoarding our wealth and dismantling environmental protections and social support systems faster than you used to be able to deconstruct your Legos.
Sure, we started out with righteous passion. We hung out in People’s Park. We marched on the Pentagon. We tuned in, turned on, dropped out, and went to Woodstock (Well, I didn’t. I was only 14 and my parents wouldn’t let me, but you get where I’m going with this).My generation invented the Generation Gap — or at least we thought we did. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” was our motto.
What happened to us?
It turned out that 30 wasn’t as far away as we’d imagined. Once we got there, we looked around and saw that we had accumulated the accouterments of adulthood: marriages, mortgages, and most of all, you. Or your parents, if you’re Gen Z.
And even those of us who named our kids Rainbow and Earth Puppy discovered that all the establishment trappings we so decried while we were marching in the streets are things that are actually pretty nice to have. Things like houses and cars and credit cards and careers to pay for them. Life on the commune got old; we drifted away and went back to business school.
We worked hard to get where we are.
But we’ve worked even harder to weight the dice in our favor (your favor too, kid. Who do you think paid for your private school? Never mind; that’s not the point. Did I ever even ask you to thank me? Never mind that, either).
The point is, it also turns out that a comfortably bourgeois lifestyle takes a lot more effort and focus than you’d think. Stock portfolios don’t just happen, you know. Once we had assets to protect, we got protective. Of our stuff, not Mother Earth.We only had time for so much, after all.
We stopped worrying so much about free education for all and started looking for tax loopholes. We forgot about Abbie Hoffman and started voting for candidates who promised to keep the governments’ mitts off our money. We hunkered inside our gated communities and turned inward.
But the world keeps moving faster than a one-legged cat in a sandbox.
Which makes us grumpy and bewildered, while you whippersnappers leave us in the dust with your InstaTweetSnapGramTikToks. Still, thanks to the Interwebs, we can cherry-pick our information, choosing only the bits that make us comfortable and allow us to sit back and make judgments. Mostly about you.
Like, how you’re wrecking cherished American traditions. Breakfast cereal, for example. And how you hop from job to job like a frog in a lily pad race. We’ve rigged the deck so you pretty much have to, but that doesn’t mean we don’t disapprove.
We have the luxury of complacency. You don’t.
With mortality on our side, we simply don’t have as much future to fret over as you do. As short-sighted as this sounds — but hey, we didn’t get where we are by taking the long view, did we? — as long as we can convince ourselves that what we see up ahead is just light at the end of the tunnel and not that runaway train roaring toward us, we’re not going to budge.
Besides, our shoulders get chilly sometimes, so what’s all this hooey about the climate heating up?
You know better.
Those with the awareness have the responsibility to act on it. And that’s unfair. But please, don’t let that stop you. Go ahead and be angry; you’ve got plenty of reason. Just make sure that your anger pushes you toward action.
Make all the noise you can. Put on the pressure and don’t let up. And for the love of all that lives and breathes on this planet, vote.
Our great-grandchildren are counting on you. And by the way, would it kill you to bring them over to visit us more often?
Yes, yes, yes!!! I agree with everything you’ve written here, Jan. And, speaking of dismantling social safety nets, how about this article from Forbes?
Egad!!! I hope everybody reads that article before they tiptoe into the polls come November. Makes my blood pressure rise.
This is such a wonderful post, Jan!! You describe how your generation “discovered that all the establishment trappings we so decried while we were marching in the streets are things that are actually pretty nice to have.” I think a lot of millennials are starting to discover this now too, which is dangerous because it means we will become even more complacent.
Also, for the record – you are definitely not the stereotypical “boomer” that my generation seems to resent. You show so much compassion for our struggles, and acknowledge the nuance of generational gaps.
Aw, thanks, Hannah! I hope to not be “that” boomer 🙂
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