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?