This piece in the National Journal is likely the best thing I have ever read on the generational tension between the Baby Boom and its children. In Generational Warfare: The Case Against Parasitic Baby Boomers, Gen Xer Jim Tankersley thinks he’s going to fight an easy battle against his Boomer father, an attorney who is supposed to advocate for his generation’s performance in leaving a better world to its children. It turns out that the generations might not be that different after all.
I keep bringing him back to the critique: His generation bought homes in a far cheaper market than mine; they didn’t move us off oil; they’ve reaped the stock gains and the carbon externalities and the budget deficits—and left us with the bill. He keeps brushing me off, flipping the camera. “There’s this whole theory in democracy that you get the government you deserve,” he says, readying more verbal jujitsu. “And it’s our fault for not saying, ‘That’s enough,’ just like it’s your fault. I mean, you’ve been voting now for how long?”
By evening’s end, the defense has turned to open taunting. So what, he asks, if it’s his generation’s fault? “What are you going to do with that? Are you going to learn something and not do it? Or are you going to just point fingers, like this article seems to be doing?”
I realize: He’s beating me.
As Generation X is now firmly in adulthood – not young adulthood, just adulthood – we’re getting a chance to see just what kind of leaders we are. Yes, there is room to critique the decisions of others – but in doing so, we might just learn about ourselves.
It’s show time.
I finally got around to reading the piece, and it is really, really good. I love how Jim interleaves the heavy hitting with his camping trip.
It also spoke to me. I am in the same boat as Jim (age, kid etc), and can imagine the argument playing out with me in his shoes. The end is a kicker, the metaphoric knife in Jim’s side. Because what are we going to do about? We have soaked up a couple of decades of “government bad, business good”, and I think have become incapable of believing in government to change the world. And yet we are now being called up to make OUR mark.
I find it really hard. Could I do politics? I doubt it. I think the grinding pettiness and befogged thinking would do my head in. And I think that is part from what I’ve seen, but also what I’ve absorbed over the years (including many working in government).
Maybe we’ll try to argue that we developed a new body politic, a body politic that is swift moving and more democratic. That would be social media etc. Not sure that flies – twitter never repealed a law, facebook never kicked down your door, google+ never decided what you can or cannot do with your own body. But…
Yes, a good article.