Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Should Our Kids Blame Us?

     The other night B and I flipped on amazon prime and found The Florida Project, starring Willem Dafoe as Bobby and Bria Vinaite as Halley. Dafoe, as the manager of a welfare motel outside of Disneyworld, garnered an Oscar nomination last year for Best Supporting Actor. Vinaite plays a poor single mother, with a bratty daughter, who is free-spirited and well-meaning, but completely irresponsible and inadequate to deal with the realities of life.

     It's an ambitious movie that succeeds on many levels, although it's slow-going at times and offers (to our minds anyway) a bizarre ending. But I wonder, aside from anything else, is Halley a symbol for the Baby Boom generation? Like her, are boomers idealistic, unrealistic, self-centered, and ultimately unable or unwilling to face the realities of life?

     That might be stretching it. It's just a thought. But if you've seen the movie, does that make any sense to you?

     As Baby Boomers we've heard a lot about the plight of the Millennials who are, after all, our children, and so we should be worried about them. They entered the job market at the height or in the aftermath of the Great Recession, loaded with debt from higher education, laboring in a world where incomes have not risen for 40 years. Their pensions have been taken away and paid out instead to shareholders and upper management. And now Millennials can only look forward to a pensionless retirement even as the Social Security and Medicare systems are projected to be totally broke.

     Is this our fault? Because, like Halley, we are self-centered and irresponsible? Or is this even true?

     A survey from Axios and Survey Monkey says it is. A majority of Millennials blame Baby Boomers for "making things worse," while only 13 percent said their parents have made things better. Meanwhile, boomers themselves are split on the matter -- 32 percent of us give us credit for supporting policies that made things better while 30 percent admitted that we have "made things worse."

     What say you? Remember the Cold War, which was bequeathed to us by our parents? At least our children didn't have to hide under their desks to practice air-raid drills. But, arguably, it was Reagan and the elder Bush who ended the Cold War -- neither one of them boomers. Instead, the two boomer presidents, Clinton and Bush the younger, brought us the anti-West Muslim fundamentalist movement, as well as two major recessions in 2000 - 2002 and 2007 - 2010.

     As for the rest of us, have we boomers improved the economy over the years, in any way, or were we greedy and self-centered, abandoning our youthful ideals to join the establishment and, now, sucking up government resources to pay for our Social Security and Medicare benefits?

    Can boomers take credit for expanding rights for women and minorities? For making the American workplace more humane, and family life more flexible? Or were we neglectful parents, going off to pursue our personal dreams but leaving behind latchkey kids? Or were we instead helicopter parents overprotecting our kids and not allowing them to experience the lessons of hard work, frustration and defeat?

     I do know that very often, we do what's expected of us. My father was one of six children. In his family, back in the 1920s and 1930s, the boys went to college, and the girls got married. But my daughter, his granddaughter, is pursuing a Ph.D. I don't know if she ever felt that was expected of her. But certainly, because of the changing times, the route for that career path was cleared for her. And yet, adjusted for inflation, she doesn't make as much money as I did at her age, even though I had less education.

     Neither does my son, who has a good job in New York City, and works 50 or 60 hours a week, but can barely pay his astronomical rent.

     I don't know what will happen to my kids, after I'm gone. I don't know how much they feel "entitled" simply because they grew up in the relatively affluent 1980s and '90s.

     Much less B's new grandson. Imagine the world he'll be living in 30 years from now. Will he be working as a lackey for the Chinese government, struggling to support one child, unable to afford to take his kid to the doctor or to send him to college? Or will he have all kinds of opportunities we can't even dream of?


Anonymous said...

Well, in 30 years, life on Mars might be better than life on Earth. No kidding!

Snowbrush said...

I'm a boomer from 1949. Those who blame boomers for the world's problems must find validation in Trump who is quite the self-centered narcissist who they claim typifies us.

Tabor said...

It is too difficult to find answers for those questions. Technology changed everything including how we learn and what we know. I don't think you can blame the generation for this.

Olga Hebert said...

My grandson recently informed me, "My mother said the baby boomers are selfish because they used up all the money and didn't leave any for the rest of us." Grr.

Keep the Faith said...

To quote Maya Angelou, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” I have yet to meet a perfect person but I have met many who saw the errors of their ways and tried to change them to be a better person.

Jono said...

In some ways we have made things better, but the distribution of wealth is out of balance. I think it is correctable, but it will take a major concerted effort. Are we to blame? As has been said before, "Nature or nurture, either way it's your parents' fault."

Tom Sightings said...

Gigi, I know Elon Musk believes that. And Jono, I never heard that. It's a good one. If only I'd known it earlier when I still had parents and before I had kids!

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

What do I think? Well, I don't remember things being easy when I started out and I did not blame my parents. The truth as I see it is that the more we encourage our younger people to wallow in self pity the worse it is for them.

I grew up with the nuclear bomb, my mother woke at night terrified that the enemy was coming down the road and McCarthy was on the loose. But, as I remember it, I was oblivious and knew that I would live with what I had, work hard and what happened after that would be an adventure. And it was!

Good post Tom

Rita said...

I saw "The Florida Project." I didn't like it at all. While there are people who never get their lives together, seeing all the opportunities that Halley missed wasn't an enjoyable or productive evening.

As for baby boomers wrecking everything, I don't think boomers have done better or worse then any other generation. With capitalism, it's all about the health of the corporation. It's difficult for people to make progress when the most important thing in the system is for corporations and their leaders to thrive.


DJan said...

I saw the Florida Project and felt it was a sad commentary on the people left behind in our country. The ending was anything but a real ending: you knew those little girls thought they could escape their lives into Fantasyland. You know they didn't. I think one of the real problems we face today is that there are too many people left behind in the shadows, like the ones in this strange movie.

Salvador Ortega said...

The Florida Project was one of my favorite films from last year; Willem Dafoe deserved the best supporting actor Oscar. The article caught my attention as it drew attention to how similar it is to M. Desmond's Evicted. Both show the poor choices associated with living in a culture of poverty. The particular sadness of the Florida Project is showing how kids are being prepared for a similar path- those kids didn't make that bed, but they will lie there.

Anonymous said...

Blaming a whole generation for the ills of the current world seems a bit crazy. Most of us are just living our lives, doing the best we can. I don't have any control over the cost of student loans, a coal company polluting the groundwater or the disparity of income and wealth. By casting a wide net of blame and not identifying the true culprits, it's hard to effect real change.

Snowbrush said...

"Blaming a whole generation for the ills of the current world seems a bit crazy."

True, but it's often done. "Don't trust anyone over thirty" surfaced in 1964, which was a time that older people were blamed for the world's problems, and it was thought that they had nothing worthwhile to offer.

David @ iretiredyoung said...

Thinking of my situation, and that of my kids...
I don't remember life always being easy, we've done fairly well in hindsight, but we've worked hard for it, and made some choices and took some risks to get ahead. Amongst other things, we dealt with recessions, and had better times during booms, just as others have in the past and will also have again in the future.
For my kids, I don't believe they feel entitled, and they know they will have to work hard and be flexible and inventive to get ahead, same as us. It's not bad if it's challenging, and I'm sure the generation will be smart enough to find their way forward.
The parts where I think we should be doing better are, for example, on things like climate change. These are the legacies that we shouldn't be leaving for the future generations.

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