Saturday, September 6, 2008

The view as a boomer

OK, I am guilty as hell about this, but I am a boomer.

Unfortunately, there is not a thirteen-step program for this malady. Even worse, after taking the first step (recognition of the problem), there comes a precipice, nothing you can do about it, mute embarrassment all around.

So I am fifty-four years old. I have always thought that the way that my age group acted was bizarre, taking out too much debt and buying things they really could not afford. I won't even start to address how odd I thought the governments behavior was. The whole generation seemed to be playing out the theme for Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", without the ending epiphany.

Don't get me wrong. I went out and did some foolishness myself. In the 90's I came to the conclusion that the system knew more I did. Did what was expected, paid a harsh price.

So now I am sitting in the waiting room with my generation. Let's be brutal here. We are getting old. As a society, we have been mouthing banal platitudes about "the golden years" and how people don't lose anything and they are in their prime in their sixties. It is a load of crock.

The boomers are the generation whose main expertise is Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, there are welders and steelfitters and tool and die guys and railroad engineers in the cohort, but they are all trying to figure out how they can get a couple more years out before their body breaks down. Nearly all of them live on ibuprofen to get through the day.

I feel that tomorrow's world will be different in one big way, you will probably have to put in more physical labor than you do now. The percentage of folks physically making stuff and actually working will go way up. There will still be needs for middle managers, but they will be the engineers and the smart boys. Mid-level junior mailroom engineers will find their job prospects somewhat constrained.

But that is then. The ending for this part of the big game that the boomers presided over isn't here yet. The nudges that will take us to the next world will take about 20-30 years and the greater bulk of us boomers will be well-digested compost by then.

So our main task to aid the transition will be a passive one. We have to realize all the different ways that we have failed and get the hell out of the way.

I think that this election kind of points this out. McCain is the vote for folks who don't trust the boomers and look to the old guard. Obama is on the tail-end of the boomers and is not really recognized as such, so he is the choice of those looking for new blood.

It is even more telling that the ultimate boomer poster children, Billy and Hilly and Big Al were rejected before the big game. These, along with Mitt Romney are the boomer's boomers. The aging love children and the clone of Gordon Gecko. If you got these four together in the same room, there would be such a concentration of boomer essence that paisley and bell bottoms would spontaneously appear out of the continuum.

So fellow boomers, I would recommend that, like myself, your keep your little mid-management paper shuffling job. It will be there for a bit yet, and you are too old and self-absorbed to be taught anything useful. Save your money ruthlessly and prep like hell. Your preps and your savings might be able to help you through your retirement.

But mostly, we need to get out of the way. We need to recognize our faults and our mistakes and teach our children not to make the same. If we grow up now, maybe we can become adults at the same time our children do.

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