The Selfish Generation

Gail Collins is starting to understand why my generation is so upset:

In 1972, The Times’s Russell Baker noted that the people he had always thought of as “the kids” did not seem to be reproducing. Baker decided that the Woodstock generation was conspiring to cut the birth rate so they would always be in the majority and could “go on being the kids for the rest of their lives…”

My own personal theory is that we’re witnessing a defense mechanism triggered by the current economic unpleasantness.

Since it appears that nobody is ever going to be able to afford to retire, we’re moving into an era in which having your car fixed or your tonsils removed by a 75-year-old will need to seem normal. Meanwhile, young people are going to have to stay in school and keep their heads down since their elders have no intention of creating any job openings in the near future. So it’s better if we readjust our thinking and start regarding everybody as 20 years younger than the calendar suggests. Then you will feel much better when the 80-year-old postman delivers your mail and it includes a request for money from your 38-year-old offspring doing post-post-post-doctoral work at Ohio State.

To every Baby Boomer who wonders why my generation is refusing to “grow up,” I say: We are stuck in perpetual adolescence because it is impossible to mature as society needs us to do. Baby Boomers are uninterested in retiring, so we cannot move up the corporate ladder and obtain jobs that would let us afford children and mortgages. We are stuck pursing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the expensive hope of obtaining such a position anytime soon. Since we cannot settle down, we choose to have fun, travel, and live life for ourselves. There is nothing else we can do. And we cannot pay our student loans and other debts until we are better off.

And it is partly the fault of the Baby Boomers, who have generally become known as the Selfish Generation. They did not have enough children of their own (presumably because they did not want to sacrifice as much), so now there are not enough people in my generation to pay into Social Security and Medicare to keep the programs solvent. Now the Baby Boomers hope of retirement seems to be a distant dream. In Anya Kamenetz’s “Generation Debt,” she reports a statistic: When Baby Boomers were asked if they would sacrifice their own economic well-being to help their children, a majority said “no.” So that’s that.

But there is a lot more. Read my prior essay.

12 responses to “The Selfish Generation

  1. Pingback: 5 Trends that are emerging from the recession | Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist

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  4. greg knott

    speaking of stuck…
    sounds like you are stuck in self-pity… blaming all your problems on somebody else. You clearly have a lot to learn. Your “presumptions” are simplistic. overly generalized and wrong. Try some research, educate yourself, take control of your own life and stop blaming the world for your problems. With you attitude… nowhere is totally within your reach as a final destination.
    …and good luck w/ that! :->

  5. I’m tired of people with Gregs sentiments. We’re all interdependent on eachother and our world shapes our lives to a great extent. I think this is an intriguing, insightful article because this person is wise to understand that bigger forces, including the choices of older generations, are at work in the current situation. Everyones choices effect others. It’s not a matter of attitude or taking control of your own life. That idea is outdated. Most people have seen and experienced that there’s more to our lives than just our own input. Things happen beyond our control. It’s the collective whole that shape life in this country. When you make a decision, in one way, shape, or form, you are increasing or decreasing opportunity or resources for others.

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  7. But every day we read articles and watch commentators from the Baby Boomer generation whining about how lazy and spoiled us kids are. What a sick joke. We can’t pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because we DON’T HAVE THEM.

    This generation was supposed to advance a radical humanistic agenda. In the 60’s they were all about dismantling power from the political and financial establishment. But they chose to consume rather than to change things. So, we’re stuck with a broken health care system, a free market dystopia and no job prospects. Thanks a lot, mom and dad.

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  9. You’ll duly note that the above comment from ‘No BS HR Career Strategies’ is a direct plagiarism from Penelope Trunk’s blog. And the guy is a Boomer.

    How apropo.

  10. Two things are wrong.

    1. People should be forced to retire. Individual “rights” are all fine and dandy, but the good of society must come first. 65 you’re out. If you can’t “afford” it, tough.

    2. All government-funded medical research, along with all government-funded medical aid, should be directed toward the quality of life of young people, and not the longevity of the old. People should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own longevity, by living right (please, no comments about how diet and exercise, and, therefore, health, are beyond the average person’s control). You can be as squeamish as you want, but the longer people are kept artificially alive, the longer these problems will go on, and the worse they’ll get.

    Make ALL medical insurance basically unaffordable for anyone over 65 and people will start taking better care of themselves… and dying, natural deaths, within a reasonable time period. Heck, if people were made more acquainted with their own mortality, they might start to actually live.

    We’ve got to get over the morbid fear of death. There are far worse things that could happen to a person.

  11. Reading this indictment of the Boomers, what I find amusing is how I arrived at similar conclusions rather independently of any organized backlash against this generation. I have struggled for over a decade against the foregone assumptions of an older generation, in the vain hope that we can objectively pursue common goals together. In retrospect, I was naïve to entrust key people in my life as mentors, whose ultimate goals were abjectly selfish and short-sighted. How nice to think I spent all that time on your craven egos. So thank you Boomers for your legacy–some of the worst qualities of human nature.

  12. Don’t forget their micromanaging ways KS. I’ll be glad when the boomers go bye bye and toodles. And for some reason they feel that we have to look up to them( gen-cere that is). I can’t look up to anyone who outsourced all of our jobs, swallowed Vigra and chased our
    panties, thought that having late babies was a cute fad(you produced yet another spoiled
    generation to come boomers), called us names, shut us out of civil service jobs even to this very day. The boomers put us on the greed is good bandwagon and gave us the 60 hour work week. We became latchkey kids and when we turned 30 they decided to swallow Viagra and chase our panties. Go away boomers and you are NOT your parents by a long shot. You are mostly to blame as to why this nation has slipped into greed, a lack of integrity and an alarming amount of corruption and white collar crime. Go away. You are not my heroes. You
    only had to weather Vietnam–which to
    your generation was the ultimate mindf** k! Your parents had to weather WW2. We have had to weather wars, conflicts, Persian Gulf crisises, terrorists attacks and even preemptive strikes!!! Go away baby boom booms!!! We are tired, weary and bored with you!!!!

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