Monday, November 2, 2009

The Worst Generation?

No, I don't mean the young. I actually mean the old. Or old-ish to be precise: the Baby Boomers. Born between 1945 and 1960.

Why so? Well, unlike their parents, the wartime generation, which, essentially "gave", this is, arguably, this generation that "took". While the generation that followed (Generations X and Y) tend to "cope". In the global time lottery, the Boomers won the star prize: Rising house prices, a growing state, free higher education, good pensions and a massive rise in living standards.

Meet your typical sixty something - Roy. He divorced at 47 (2 kids, then 13 and 15, now in careers) now living with Linda, his former PA who is ten years younger than him. Roy retired at 60 on a final salary scheme and now regularly travels the world with Linda. They own a five bedroomed house and two cars. Roy is investing his inheritance, which his parents (both now dead) scrimped-by over 50 years, in a couple of properties in France. Not that he will be leaving anything for his kids (this is his money) and he wants to live till he is 100!

And the grandchildren. Well, he's so busy he doesn't see them that much. It's never been the same with his kids since the divorce. He does get involved in the community. Sort of. He rings the local council when the leaves are building up on his path. But he's far too busy to sort it out himself. Things to do, you see. Golf, Bridge, garden.

Recognise the caricature? Well, that's because you will probably know someone who fits the mould. For this was the generation which thought it could have it all. Not just materially, in other ways too. You, me, the state, society, the earth even, could be said to be paying the price, now and tomorrow, for the life-choices of people like Roy.

The awkwardness on my part in writing this is, of course, that this is my parents' generation. My dear parents who I love dearly. In truth, they don't fit this caricature particularly well. They are still married. Their pension, like many, is in a mess. They live relatively modestly. And they structure their lives very much around their grandchildren.

But this doesn't detract from my broader point. The generation that lived before and the one that followed face bigger challenges. They took, we cope.

Those born after 1970 face the environmental crisis and the evidence-able knowledge of what happens when families go wrong. We know that flying around the world for fun is literally going to suck the air from or grandchildren's lungs. We know we will probably never fully retire.

Therefore we go about our lives with a little less hubris. Unless, we're completely ignorant, those of us under 45 know that it's not just about us.

The worst generation ever to have lived? Probably.


Mark Griffiths 'ideally speaking...' said...

Craig, you're beginning to sound like a politician of a certain colour. You've said this before and you're saying it again. On this one, youv'e taken one step away from reality and are on the road to turning a whim into a policy. When you resort to scapegoating of this kind, I have to wonder what your agenda is. I'm amused at the neat dividing line you've drawn for those born after 1970. I realise you're being provocative, but I'm not going to stoop to this generalised inter-generational divisiveness. Norman Tebbitt blamed the 60s. When you met him not so long ago, did something rub off on you? That said, don't we all dislike the generation above us? Some of us started doing that around the age of 16. It's just that it's taken you till 40!!

Rob Harris said...

I like a bit of controversy! And yes its clear you are being provocative but i also disagree with you on this one. Mainly because my view of this world and this country within it is one where we are spoonfed, patronised and controlled by our policymakers and leaders. Roy just enjoyed the opportunities that were laid before him and left the government to do what they allegedly do best. The bit that you miss out in your caricature of Roy is that he works hard and contributes to the system that he has little say in. Roy's life is not one built on trying to analyse and generate "social capital", its main focus is providing a good income, maybe a bit of social climbing and basically not meandering over the boundaries our laws precipitate. So what? Hope you had a good life Roy, and there must be some life left in him if he keeps up with Linda! If we are going to caricature, then lets start with people who dont contribute to our controlled society, or those that make the decisions about how that society operates. Dont pick on poor Roy!

Craig Dearden-Phillips said...

Hi Rob, Mark, Very good to read your comments. MARK, I knew this one would piss you off - partly because you are clearly of that generation and definitely not like Roy. ROB, you make a very legit point. Roy isn't anti social in any way - just getting on with his life without bothering other. Something that a political liberal like me shoudl applaude! Thanks guys, this blog is what keeps me sane at times, and your I am honoured by your interest.