It seems odd that so much focus, and even research, has been spent on the generation called The Millennials. This generation of our youngest adults is widely known as entitled, lazy and socially inept.
But just like any generation, we were all that age once, and our elders were annoyed with us. We saw many of our elders as grumpy old people and they saw us as young entitled punks. Of any generation alive today, the Baby Boomers should be able to relate to that scenario the most. In their young adulthood, during the 60’s, a wave of progressive music and ideology captured them and gave way to protests and rebellion. There was activism effective in making some social progress.
The Baby Boomers are a unique generation, and at the time of their birth they made up 40% of the US population. They now make up 20% of the US population. Ironically, The Millennials also make up about 20% of the US population. The Boomers had the numbers and the momentum to build the world they wanted, and now that it’s built, they want to blame the dysfunction on the young adults. What’s with that?
A Little Boomer History
The Baby Boomers are those Americans born between 1946 to 1964. When we take a look at what was going on in during their childhoods, we can see that the foundation for what the United States has become today, was actually put in place by their parents’ generation. And the one thing the Boomers didn’t want to become, was their parents.
The Baby Boomers were the first generation to be exposed to television broadcast during their young childhood. Television began to broadcast the in United States in 1941, and didn’t become a part of people’s lives until after World War II, and especially in the 50’s. Leave it to Beaver aired in 1957, and that was the birth of television programming that we’ve come to know today. From a very young age, the Baby Boomers were receiving images about what family life should look like in America.
Childhood for the Baby Boomers came during an era of post war nostalgia along with a boost in the American economy. Fast food started its uprising during ‘The Swinging 50’s” and had really taken off in the late 60’s. By 1968 there were over 1000 McDonalds restaurants. This is the era where mass consumerism was born, as well as the seeds planted for greed and hedonism amongst American culture.
The 60’s were a formidable time for the Baby Boomers and despite the social and political tension in the air over Kennedy’s assassination the Vietnam War, the young folks were calling for change and equality. The young generation did not want to see wars over power, money & resources at the expense of American lives and for the gain of The Man.
The 70’s was a huge decade for women’s rights. Persistent activists made headway founding services that gave women equal access to education, increased participation in politics and the workplace, access to abortions and birth control, resources for victims of domestic violence and rape, and legal protection of women’s rights. While progress was made for women, there was a lack of full followthrough from all parties after the fact.
In 1982 The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), drawn up in the 1923, failed to pass with state legislatures and therefore did not become a part of the Constitution. By the time the 1980’s hit, the political and social rights activists had fizzled and the Baby Boomers were now busy raising kids of their own. This is the decade where the Boomers created the kind of economic system they rebelled against. It was also a time where feminism faded into the background, while women found ways to cope with and compete fiercely in a patriarchal society.
Divorce rates in the US peaked from the late 1970’s into the 90’s. By the 90’s, 2 of every 3 marriages in the US had ended in divorce. Whether good or bad, for better or for worse, it happened and with it came a lot of single working moms. In many cases receiving less pay than their male counterparts, living with sexual harassment in the workplace, and unacknowledged inequality in the workplace. This is the decade severe denial took hold.
When 1999 flipped over into the year 2000, you could see how Baby Boomers may have felt like someone hit a switch, and the old world was over. This is right when the Internet came out in full swing and the Baby Boomers were starting to become the grandparents of the screen generation called The Millennials. All of a sudden, they went into retirement age wondering where the time went, and wondering why they don’t have more of a nest egg.
From A Gen-Xer’s Perspective
As a Generation Xer, The Baby Boomers were our parents, and The Millennials are our children. Talk about being in the middle of an entitlement sandwich. My generation is in the middle of it all. We’re different from our parents in that it’s not complacency that keeps us from organizing with the intention to change the economic system back to fair play, equal opportunity capitalism, patriotic capitalism, while instating a true democracy. What hinders us is that we’re the generation completely stuck in the mud of debt, heavier workloads, trying to spring back from the recession, and staring corporate fascism in the face every day, while trying to figure out how to survive financially and how to best raise our children.
We simply don’t have time to do much about the state of our socioeconomic and political situations. We’re trying to hold it together while feeling like we’re going to implode and our coping skills amount to overeating and/or numbing out by self medicating. We’re the kids of parents who said things like “do as I say not as I do” and “that’s just the way it is” – this is how fascism became the norm, and Generation Xers are used to it, we don’t feel like arguing with our parents, whose noses are also stuck in the screens and whose minds are stuck in the old way.
To a Gen Xer there are some similarities between the kids, The Millennials, and our parents, The Baby Boomers. Both have their noses in the screens of devices, addicted to games and social media. Both generations are pissed off about the revealing, through this technology, of the ugly truth about our judicial system, economic structure, law enforcement, corrupt politicians, scandals, and a government overrun by big business.
Both are only human. Yet, elders should not blame the youth who haven’t yet had the chance to prove themselves. Boomers had the chance, and they proved themselves – the result is here.
There are huge differences as well between these two generations. The Millennials are just getting used to life in the real world. The Baby Boomers are just getting used to the ideas of retirement, aging, and death. These two positions are opposite one another.
If you’re on The Millennial end, you’re just confused because the world makes no sense. How are you supposed to overcome the wealth gap and have any measure of success when you’re starting out with a bunch of debt? If you’re on The Boomer end, you’re looking back at the path you took and you either deal with or deny the reasons why the future of our youth looks bleak.
Boomers – sorry, the USA as it is right now, is because of the principles, priorities and actions of your generation. None of us is innocent, but do not blame young people. They are your only hope, and more so, my generation’s only hope.