Cranky Post No. 203: Boomer-oriented commercial

Sorry, can’t gear up much sympathy for the Baby Boomers in these John Hancock ads. You’re 60 years old having a text-message conversation with your spouse about “We’re not even close!!!” when talking about how much you need to retire. If you hadn’t been running around spending your children’s inheritance 15-20 years ago, you know, you might be in a better place, ya think?

(And no, by “spending our kids’ inheritance” I’m not talking about the meme du tea party, but about those bumper stickers people from my parents’ generation used to have on their cars in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But you know, it might as well apply in the reverse for the Glenn Beck/Carl Paladino/Christine O’Donnell-addled, since, if we don’t spend some money to create jobs now, all your worries about government debt hurting your kids in the future will be irrelevant if your kids can’t get jobs now, in the present. But I digress.)

And why don’t you just end those messages to your spouse with a few LOLs and BRBs, just to confirm your lameness.

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Stuck in time

Not much more to comment upon after reading this New York Times article, except that, with their greater numbers population-wise, it’s no surprise that we’re still debating the issues of the Sixties, and will continue to do so until the Millennials are running the country and we’re all in the Gen X old-age home.

“In part, it is probably because so many of the Americans most engaged in politics — as well as those who run campaigns and comment endlessly on them — are old enough to remember Altamont. It is your classic self-fulfilling prophecy: the more the ’60s generation dominates the political discourse, the less that discourse engages younger voters, and the longer the boomers hold sway over our politics.”

—NY Times, Matt Bai, May 25, 2010


On generations and immigration

The New York Times had an interesting article on yet another issue that (apparently) splits the Baby Boomers from the younger generations — the Arizona immigration law. What I like about this article, unlike typical “trends” stories (often, as not, from the Times as well as from other outlets) is that it delves (as well as a 1,200-word article can, anyway) into the potential sources of this particular generational divide:

Immigration, which census figures show declined sharply from the Depression through the 1960s, reached a historic low point the year after Woodstock. From 1860 through 1920, 13 percent to 15 percent of the country was foreign born — a rate similar to today’s, when immigrants make up about 12.5 percent of the country.

But in 1970, only 4.7 percent of the country was foreign born, and most of those immigrants were older Europeans, often unnoticed by the boomer generation born from 1946 to 1964.

Boomers and their parents also spent their formative years away from the cities, where newer immigrants tended to gather — unlike today’s young people who have become more involved with immigrants, through college, or by moving to urban areas.

—Damien Cave, NY Times, May 17, 2010

Certainly, like everything else, this is an issue that divides those within a specific generation. And of course your perspective may well depend as much on geography as anything else.

While the article specifically cites the Baby Boomers, and quotes people along with naming their ages, it does not name the younger generations — probably a safe approach. Still, it’s easy enough to decipher.

It’s interesting to see that most of the representative “young people” quoted in the article are in their early 20s and teens — Millennials (Generation Y, if you must).

That’s no slight to us Gen X’ers, by the way. Our worldview is trickier, and we’re firmly the middle child between the Boomers and the Millennials, which should be a surprise to no one, least of all, my fellow Gen X’ers. My best suspicion is we’re collectively more conservative-leaning, at least economically, though I’d also say it’s safe to say we’re also more tolerant on social issues, probably without even realizing it. Perhaps it’s merely by being exposed to a more diverse America (I hope) as well as our own Sesame Street upbringing, to cite an example in the Times article.

Cranky as we can be, hopefully we won’t follow the example of the (seemingly) increasing conservativism of the Boomers (marching in Tea Parties after marching in the 1960s). But neither will we go as far in the other direction as the Millennials seem to have gone, for the time being, anyway.

So where does Gen X stand on immigration? This post is my roundabout way of saying, I have no idea. I really do think we are generally more tolerant of diverse backgrounds, but we also want to see people working legally; though we busted our butts and bent a few rules to survive in the job market (both at our entry levels and even now), we felt we did it legally. However, we’d be blind to assign the blame at the job takers, and not the hirers. Laurie at PunkRockHR nailed it more than a month ago when she wrote:

Let’s stop employing people who don’t have a right to work in America. Isn’t it illegal to hire illegal immigrants? Isn’t it immoral to pay people below the minimum wage solely because they can’t speak English and they’re in a position of weakness?

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Oscars, John Hughes, and generations

Not much to say about Sunday’s Oscars show, though I thought Slate.com did a fine job of capturing the generational divides on display during the televised ceremony. Troy Patterson, Slate’s TV critic, hit it right on the head in writing about the segment honoring the late John Hughes. Patterson writes:

In witnessing the canonization of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, those of us who came of age in the ’80s (or were trying to, anyway) were watching the very soul of our collective adolescence pass into history. We’re getting old, and we must resolve to do so with more grace than the awful boomers, represented again last night by James Taylor and his tediously gentle guitar, which ruined the in memoriam segment.

Though, Dana Stevens, Slate’s movie critic, and herself a fellow Gen Xer (I believe), had a good line, too:

“When you grow up, your heart dies,” Ally says in a clip from The Breakfast Club. Whether you hear that line as one that ironizes adolescent self-pity or lionizes it, to scan the faces of those middle-aged actors was to confirm that when you grow up, your collagen tissue dies and takes with it your roseate bloom of precocious gawkiness.

Ouch, but a good shot, nonetheless.

For me, the best part of the Oscars show was seeing that John Hughes segment. Ironically, Hughes, hardly an Oscar-type director, received his due from the Academy after his passing with this presentation. Though it was a little unsettling to see the aging stars from my generation up on stage (and even more unsettling with the death this week of Corey Haim at age 38), what they said on stage — about Hughes, about growing up, and, by extension, what that all says about our generations — still rings true.

“His genius was taking the pain of growing up and relating it to everyone,” Ringwald said on stage.

Yes, of course, we weren’t the first generation to grow up and to feel awkward and unsure as teenagers. Nor were we the first to have films or mass media aimed at us at that age — Hughes didn’t invent the teen flick.

But John Hughes’ films spoke to us in our place in time and history with comedy, sentimentality, pathos, and most importantly, understanding. Simply put, those films were ours.

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Brokaw’s Boomers

While it took curling and hockey to get me to watch CNBC tonight, I noticed a promotion for a post-Olympics report Tom Brokaw will be doing on the Baby Boomers entitled (duh) “Boomers” (or, if you prefer, “Boomer$!,” as CNBC has it). Wondering if one of the Boomer contributions Brokaw will investigate is a paralyzed political system and fractured economy, with ostensible (and ostentatious) hand-wringing about the debt they’re going to leave their grandchildren while pushing to cut anything designed to help their own children — today’s under-45 workforce, who of course, must be in great shape and therefore not need help — while not touching a dime from pensions, Medicare, etc. (though, in fairness, today’s economic meltdown appears to be as much Boomer eating Boomer as it is anything else, but I digress), and, oh yeah, twisting the future of the educational system for the newest generation, to boot.

(Aside 1: I know it’s CNBC, so other than the Olympics, its programs probably need to seem to be at least slightly related to finance, but is it a bit much to call the show “Boomer$”?)

From their Web site:

In a landmark two-hour documentary, Tom Brokaw tells the story of history’s wealthiest and most influential generation. From hula hoops to civil rights, in war and politics, Brokaw chronicles the extraordinary impact 78 million baby boomers have had on American society over the past six decades, and explores the challenges they face as they begin to approach the age of retirement.

The press release has more, and makes it seem like must-see-TV for this geek:

For years, by their sheer heft in numbers, baby boomers altered the economy, and now, it has altered them.  After experiencing historic wealth, many boomers now find themselves likely to outlive their money.  Brokaw captures the stunned disbelief of a downsized generation that never saw it coming and that now confronts rising unemployment and dashed dreams of retirement.  He also examines the boomers’ unique and unyielding quest to preserve their youth, leading one writer to describe these children of Woodstock as, “Generation Ageless.”

Sorry, I’m cranky today, but Brokaw ends the promo I saw on TV with “I’ve been curious about how they see their lives and what is left for them to do.” I’m quite tempted to say the answer to the first question is “heroic” and the answer to the second question is “get out of the way,” but I’m trying to watch Canada-Norway and keep my grouchiness in check and tongue firmly in cheek.

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Plumb idea: Two generations, same influences?

Additional evidence, perhaps, that the Millennials and the Baby Boomers have more in common with each other — at least, in whom they look to for inspiration — than with my fellow Gen Xer’s.

From Saturday’s New York Times, writing about the gonzo-conservative, Eighties-born Watergate Jr. quartet accused of intending to interfere with Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office phones while entering a federal building under false pretenses:

But that approach was precisely the kind that he and others have been perfecting for years, a kind of gonzo journalism or a conservative version of “Candid Camera.”

Those methods took root on college campuses in the latter half of George W. Bush’s presidency, fostered by a group of men and women in their late teens and early 20s with a taste for showmanship and a shared sense of political alienation — a sort of political reverse image of the left-wing Yippies of the 1960s. They studied leftist activism of years past as their prototype, looking to the tactics of Saul Alinsky, the Chicago community organizer who laid the framework for grass-roots activism in the ’60s, as well as those of gay rights and even Communist groups.

—NY Times, Jan. 30, 2010

While Nixon’s Silent Majority is rising again (and ain’t being so silent), and while not commenting on the political leanings of any of the generations, it’s interesting to see these Millennial men, ages 24 and 25, looking to the twenty-something years of Baby Boomers for inspiration.

Of course, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Abbie Hoffman were from the Silent Generation, and Saul Alinsky was even earlier, from the G.I./Greatest Generation. And one could quite easily say that the arrested Millennial quartet has more in common with the merry band of plumbers led by the Silent’s G. Gordon Liddy (born 1930) and the G.I./Greatest’s E. Howard Hunt (born 1918), neither of whom were anything close to Baby Boomers, but I’ll digress on that point.

Because, according to the Times article, it’s not so much that they tried to emulate Thompson, Hoffman and Alinsky, per se, but, as I read it, these earlier writers and organizers influenced the Watergate Junior Four in largely the same way as they did the college radicals of the Sixties, only on the opposite political side and taken to a Nixonian extreme.

On the other hand, my own fellow Generation Xer’s couldn’t be bothered to (allegedly) try to wiretap phones. No, our own embarrassing bad boys just made shit up (figure I’d get that in there before some else did — touché).


Our Conan, ourselves

Almost week-old hat tip to my man at Latchkey Man for pointing out that the excellent JenX was quoted in the Washington Post regarding the generational split that underscored the Conan-Leno divide.

My fellow Gen X writers have written about this better and with far more insight than I can at this late stage, except to add one point.

Ours is a fractured, scattered generation, and that goes beyond our upbringing. Or perhaps it goes straight to our upbringing. I don’t know. Our smaller numbers, in comparisons to the generations ahead of us and following us, already puts us at a disadvantage in setting the tone in arts, business and politics. To make things worse, our only cohesiveness, perhaps, is our lack of cohesiveness.

Maybe our generation simply has too many entertainment options, and though that is true, too, of Millennials, it seems a bigger problem for a generation over age 30, than for a generation still in their 20s, and younger. Here we are now, entertain us, indeed.