Reading stories and comments about generational cohorts intrigues me, though I understand the period for Gen Y has been difficult to define. Roughly they came of age in the 70’s and 80’s. They are not defined by events as Sacrificers of the Great Depression were defined or the Greatest Generation of World War II and, of course, the Boomers. Then there was the Lost Generation (late Thirties through the Fifties). This Beat crowd wound up in Paris wearing berets. I belong to the “war babies” or Tweeners — just missing the Boomers by three years. Categories like these have faults — mostly those of human nature itself which turns out hedonists, sacrificers, narcissists, scalawags, and saints on a regular basis without regard to epochs.
Nevertheless, the Boomers due to sheer numbers and the post-war boom stand out as an historical blip. In another way the generation, primarily the male casualties of World War I, represents another more tragic blip. Both groups had major effects on society. Women went to work all over Europe. The millions of war dead, of course, had no recourse to complaining unless it was in the wintry mud of a foxhole in France before they were killed or maimed.
Generally I’m sympathetic to the Millennials whose careers and lives have been disrupted and wounded by the excesses of affluence and the global economy. And now the Boomers prefer to keep on hangin’ on making jobs even more scarce. But not having a home before age thirty doesn’t move me to much pity. The rising cost of the American Dream has become an enormous burden. I don’t know if we deserve the necessities which were once luxuries. I wonder sometimes if they are worth as much as we think they are. I don’t know who is or who isn’t worth mega-millions; but then if it’s there, someone will shake it down. I have an uncomfortable feeling that there’s still a helluva lot of money sloshing around out there and doing a lot of harm and little good. But I also know that our current state of affairs is the logical progression of our free enterprising capitalism — and the Invisible Hand. I do know we can afford and need a decent, efficient, productive public sector and a decent safety net. Question is, does austerity kill the bloat by sinking the boat? Do we have the society we should want? And I really don’t know how free it is for many, BUT it is what we have. Much of it I like and enjoy, but I do not like its crassness, covetousness, greed and smug self-satisfactions. I fear that greedy, self-satisfaction has become one of the fruits of liberty for which so many have fought and died. I have a friend who says, “The beauty of capitalism is the way it harnesses greed.” I don’t know, maybe.
Petri comments sarcastically that “keeping politically active required [the politically active generation] to pay attention when Newt Gingrich said something.” I share her opinion here and regarding Newt, but it saddens me to hear that the Millennials have lost the hope they had in 2008 — that they have let Newt do that to them. Too many opinions from left and right are not worth our attention. Our elective process is a circus and we waste billions on the silliness.
I can only hope that the Millennials and most everyone far younger than I will get their hope back (and it does not have to be specifically Obama’s hope), because we desperately need a new generation to re-invent a capitalism that will fit the future.
S, David Milliken