Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Boomers versus Millenials...lest we be too quick to judge.

There is a popular trend these days to do the 'Millennial Bash'.  Many authors and commentators are typically critical of those born in the period of 1980 to 2000.  Case in point is a recent Time magazine article that labels this generation as lazy, entitled narcissists.  While I may not have a problem with this generalization, we Boomers would do well to take a long look in the mirror before we become too quick with our criticisms.  Let me offer some sobering thoughts.

The Boomer generation is typically defined as those born in the period of the late 1940's up to the early 60's.  That range means that this group of Millennials is largely the offspring of the Boomer generation.  That being the case, what does it say about the job that Boomers have done in raising children that we now want to call lazy, entitled and narcissistic.  Clearly the burden of responsibility lies more with the creator than with the created.  The old saying suggests that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  So have we created that  which we ourselves truly embody but are unwilling to acknowledge.

Consider what we have done.  As Boomers we entered a workforce that was over-run with opportunities.  The fact of the matter was that there were so many jobs that even the marginally competent had no problem finding employment that paid very well and offered opportunities for promotion on a regular basis.  Even the lazy found work and could buy a car and a home and raise a family.  By comparison, Millennials have been entering a work place that, over the past decade, has been dominated by the Great Recession, a period of economic malaise that has been almost as destructive as the Great Depression which effected the parents of many Boomers.  We are far from being out of these woods as many Boomers hang on to jobs rather than retire thus further depriving this next generation the opportunity to enter the work place in a truly meaningful way. 

Even with this significant employment advantage, Boomers have done a poor job economically.  We inherited a theme of thankfulness from our parents.  They were thankful to have survived both a depression and a war.   They established for us a society of opportunity.  Yet we Boomers have turned thankfulness into entitlement.  And in that process we have created much of the economic misery that exists today,  Governments around the world are in crisis because of the massive accumulated debt that has become increasingly unmanageable and certainly is unsustainable.  But an analysis shows that the genesis of  the majority of that debt was established as Boomers entered the workforce.  We lobbied for more vacation time; for greater pension benefits; for more social benefits and all without any real understanding of how we should pay for all of it.  Now we have debts and future obligations that we are unable to pay off except with IOU's for our children and grand children.  We may not be lazy, but we sure as hell are greedy.  The real issue is that Millennials will finally get it and become more conscientious whereas Boomers have no way to renounce their greed and make the debt go away. 

For Boomers it is and always has been '...all about me...'  If that is not a reasonable definition of  entitlement and narcissism, sue me.

Along the way Boomers have turned a blind eye to anything that might challenge their perceived rights.  And so, in addition to debt, we will also pass along a world mired in a dramatic climate change.  Boomers consumed at a rate that will only be fully grasped when we are gone and others such as the Millennials go the cupboard only to find it bare.  Whether it was cars or homes; food or gasoline; clothes or electronic toys, we denied ourselves of nothing.  At least nothing that could not be acquired on a credit card.

Boomers can legitimately look to our many accomplishments with a measure of satisfaction.  We have been the architects of so many technological advances and we have overseen the volume of accumulated knowledge that continues to double at an astounding rate.  But far too often these efforts have lacked any altruistic value and rather have served to fuel that greed which I have earlier addressed.

Lazy...entitled...narcissistic.  Yes, Millennials often deserve these criticisms.  But those in glass houses ought not to throw stones.  So Boomers would do well to tone down the rhetoric and rather begin to focus on their own shortcomings.  We cannot undo that which has been done.  But we can become the example we should have been.  And in this way we can influence the Millennials and the future generations and thus, hopefully, leave something of a legacy for which we can be proud.