Friday, May 26, 2006

Kids these days

...with their rap music and the pants down to here...

Yes, I too was offended by Hillary Clinton's remarks about my generation:
"They don't know what work is," she claimed. "They think work is a four-letter word."... The former first lady has blamed cable TV, high-speed Internet, cell phones and iPods for creating a culture that "really argues against hard work" and makes today's kids lazy. She says "kids, for whatever reason, think they're entitled to go right to the top with $50,000 or $75,000 jobs when they have not done anything to earn their way up."
Matt has perhaps the best reaction I've seen thus far:
Who, exactly, does she think is fighting her regret-free war? The legendarily hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone baby boom generation?
I have to walk by a Debbie Travis poster every day that says "kids these days have no work ethic." And I think to myself: Which kids is she talking about? My little cousins have a huge workload in high school, much larger than I did - and there's not that much time passed since I was in high school. And one of my cousins is taking extra classes, even though her parents are already worried about her workload. Why? Because she wants to and thinks she can manage.

Now, I'm certain when I'm a few scant years away from collecting my Social Security checks, I'll be just as crotchety as she is. But that's the point: Every generation - no matter how pampered they were in their day - always think that the next generation can't measure up.

There is, however, something uniquely offensive about baby boomers lecturing any subsequent generation - i.e., those born about or after 1970 - about hard work. The baby boomers really did grow up in a remarkable time: the "30 glorious years" of Keynesian economic expansion. It's fair to say that no generation has ever had such wealth created in advance for them to take a share when they reached adulthood. Not only was more wealth created, but it was more equitably shared than any previous industrial economic expansion.

And then, the baby boomers started electing Reagan, Thatcher, and in this country Mulroney. Not all boomers by any means, but the bulk of their electoral support did not come from the elderly or the young adults of the 1970s and 1980s. The electoral support of the neo-conservative revolution overwhelmingly came from the baby boomers.

This same neo-con revolution of course has ended the rapid, sustained economic expansion of the previous era, and replaced it with anemia and speculation in equal measure. Public infrastructure has been allowed to decay, and the public education system has yet to be rescued from the assaults of the 1990s.

From personal experience, I can say that my entire high school experience was one of being constantly told there would be no jobs for me unless I not only passed high school with high marks, and went on to University and performed similar stellar feats. Some of this was undoubtedly asshole teachers being assholes, but in the early- and mid-1990s, high unemployment levels and low economic growth justified those statements.

The election of political parties like Thatcher and Mulroney's Tories, and the Reagan Republicans, is probably the greatest act of intergenerational and class warfare ever conducted, and it was only possible because one side - the generation who were either yet to be enfranchised, or about to be born - were totally disarmed. It was, in effect, an economic My Lai, with the baby boomer generation playing the role of an enthusiastic Lt. William Calley.

So don't lecture us on ethics.


Mike said...

Nice post John.

Amazing how white haired guys on the golf course complain about the damned kids - yet my 7 year old daughter is in real danger of physical injury because of all the homework she gets in Grade 1. Why? Because budget cuts to education means teachers must assign more homework to meet the expectation placed on them by, - you guessed it- the boomers to produce smarter kids faster. Without the money to back it up.

Yet she will no doubt be considered a slacker. We GenX (I was born in 67) already got this when we expected to have a decent job coming out of school so we could pay for the student debt we inccured getting that University degree we were told we needed to get a decent job.

Meanwhile, boomers whine about kids, don;t give a shit about the environment and think they need private healthcare because they have all the money.

But I'm not bitter or anything...

Anonymous said...

Kick an old man on his way out. Will be on my headstone, "Never voted for a Republican, and proud of it."

But let's see 1946 to start, so any eligible baby boomers are between 18-34 in 1980, half of them vote Democratic, many young people don't vote, not too many Congressman under 34, no Senators.
OTOH, over 60s Greatest Generation vote heavily, are likely in power positions.

I think you are being unfair. Hillary was very wrong, of course.

Bob McManus