Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Propaganda About Generational Warfare Is Dangerous and Wrong

From AlterNet:

You might think that understanding what makes each generation unique, and how those factors end up shaping historical challenges would be of endless interest and concern to parents, educators and politicans. Instead, what we’re seeing today is a rising wave of ill-informed and ugly generational warfare mongering. Led by people such as billionaire investor Pete Peterson, who has long wanted to privatize Social Security, they are trying to incite anger and jealousy in younger Americans by erroneously suggesting that older Americans are stealing their futures.

Newcomers to this bandwagon include MSNBC’s Abby Huntsman, whose commentaries seek to foment Millennial anger; Pew Research Center special projects chief Paul Taylor, who told NPR while hawking his book on the coming Boomer-Millennial clash, “We’ve got to rebalance the social safety net so it’s fair to all generations;” and even, which writes headlines like, “Waiting for a millennial revolution: Could baby boomers’ worst nightmare finally come true.” The list goes on.

More here.

So, as a good Gen Xer I have to admit to being highly influenced back in the day by Douglas Coupland's 1991 book Generation X.  In the book, Coupland lambastes what he perceives as Boomer arrogance and self-righteousness coupled with their seeming lock on decent bourgeois jobs, all against a backdrop of what, at that point, appeared to be a rather bleak future, economically speaking, for the generation born between 1965 and 1985.  I spent more than a few years pissed off at the Baby Boomers, especially as I gravitated politically toward the left, holding them responsible for giving up on the attitude that made the 60s so earthshaking.

As I got older, however, that anger started to fade.  Sure, the Boomers, as a group, certainly were, and to some extent still are, arrogant and self-righteous.  But the seeming lock they had on all the good jobs was never what it appeared to be: rather, in 1991 we were in the midst of what was a multi-decade corporate pushed dismantling of the American middle class.  And the Boomers, as a group, didn't have anything to do with that--sure, a few individual Boomers shared some responsibility, but the vast majority did not; it was about raw political and economic power making the rich richer and more powerful at the expense of regular people like you and me.  Really, the Boomers have just been doing what we've ALL been doing, trying to live our lives, to build something lasting, to raise families, in the face of ever more pressing circumstances.

I mean, how can you make the 60s go on and on when it's always more difficult to put bread on the table?  Arrogance and self-righteousness can only take you so far, so it's no wonder at all that the hippies became soccer moms and stock brokers.  Only the very desperate and the very idealistic can sustain a revolution, and paying the bills when your company keeps threatening layoffs, while not necessarily a desperation inducer, is decidedly an idealism killer.

At any rate, I've decided that these generational tensions the press likes to construct and shove down our throats every five or six years are mostly bullshit.  Well, I continue to be annoyed by Boomer snottiness, but, you know, whatever.  The bottom line is that we really are all in this together.  Boomers are hurting.  Gen X is hurting.  And as Millennials enter the workforce in increasing numbers, they're hurting, too.  The plutocrats don't give a shit when we were born.  They're happy to rip us all off.

Indeed, that's what this new generation tension bullshit is about.  Playing us against each other on Social Security.  Don't buy it.  The people pushing this are the ones who want our money.  That is, it's not stupid human interest anymore.  It's lying propaganda of the divide and conquer variety: the ONLY way Social Security will fail is if we let Wall Street take over.  It has nothing to do with greedy Boomers.  But it have everything to do with greed.