I spend a lot of time reading, both because I like to do it – not surprising from someone who had a dream as a young boy to write a book – and because I need to do it in order to give my consulting clients and what I write and talk about to be current.
In growing up, we learned to respect and care for our elders. In contrast, I experience anger from many younger people, sometimes directed against the boomer generation. You see this in comment sections of blogs and articles as well as sometimes experiencing verbally. Other times younger people, facing difficult life situations themselves, express their anger, living off their parents. This anger is not an accident. First, we’re experiencing a change of generations as boomers retire and Millenials are coming of age. Both groups are experiencing significant problems.
This change of generations has historically produced tensions. Think of how the boomer generations dissented from the prevailing cultural norms of their parents – hippies, the demonstrations at the 1968 Demonstration Convention in Chicago. Generations have different personalities – some generations are more activist like boomers and today’s Millenials. But both have common interests, though it’s sometimes hard to think of this when this generational change is complicated by additional forces, such as:
- The rapid change in technology and trade that is affecting every sector of the economy and life: interconnectedness from smart phones to all kinds of devices, changes in health care, robots replacing workers, food supply and energy. Changes in retailing are apt to result in the closing of stores that have been household names for generations.
- Big-money backed foundations have been stoking anger at social security for years, setting for the idea that it won’t be around for the Millenials. Millenials blame the boomers for too many wars, overusing the nation’s resources and having a Congress that 9 in 10 people do not respect. A dangerous situation for a nation based on consent of the governed.
- Expressions of anger can be felt and seen in flash mobs, the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements. the actions of individuals like Edward Snowden,
Generational anger has happened before. The noted authors of Generations and other titles, William Strauss andNeil Howe, after analyzing 500 years of American history and the histories of a number of other nations, find patterns repeating themselves. This is expressed in ideas, attitudes, dress, music, wars, and in every facet of our lives.
The fact of the matter is that the deep interests of Millenials and Boomers are not different – if we eliminate the blaming game. It’s not in anyone’s interest to allow the problems we face together are simply a matter of the young versus the old. After all the overwhelming majority boomers have had no or little role in the problems this nation now faces. While Millenials are burdened by student debt, older people are being pushed out of jobs and careers as businesses change the technology of work. According to the National Academy of Social Insurance , only one in five seniors have incomes more than $58,000 a year. The other 80% rely on Social Security as their primary income source.
The upshot is we’re all in this together. As Richard Eskow wrote in a recent article, “The generational war is a hoax.” Bridges need building that will foster cooperation, not competition among generations. People of all ages have common cause in finding solutions that will enable a new era in this nation’s journey.
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