The Last Great Generational War

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Baby boomers ensured that the economy, the planet, and their children are now all in a worse condition than when the boomers were born. This is common knowledge if you’re not a baby boomer and may come as a shock for those who of you born before 1964. All the talk these past few years of avocado toast and the generational anger towards millennials might just be projection. Regardless, the facts about the boomer’s destructive behaviour is evident and now the global population needs to address it.

How can we explain this calamitous, pathological selfishness at the root of the sustained crisis of Boomer mismanagement? Leaning heavily on the fifth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Gibney insists that Boomers, as a whole, are self-evident sociopaths “characterized by self-interested actions unburdened by conscience and unresponsive to consequence, mostly arising from non-genetic, contextual causes.” Boomers have repeatedly put the gratification of their own immediate, generationally specific desires above consideration for the long-term consequences doing so would have for them, the country, and their children. Their manifest sociopathy distinguishes them as a singularly antisocial group, devoid of the lowest-common-denominator feelings of collective responsibility for maintaining a livable society for all.

What’s so good about all of this? Well, it means we can finally stop playing the blame game and get on with focusing on what matters. Plus, knowing the problem means we’re on our way to a solution. And in the end, maybe what we’ll experience as a society is a return to thinking of others and not how we exploit them.

Perhaps then a generation will come to mean something less arbitrary, less focused on a descriptive category superimposed onto one group of people or another, telling them who they are based on what they own and how they earn a paycheck. Perhaps then to be part of a “generation” will mean just that—to feel a collective, affirmative duty to cultivate the as-yet-unwritten force of possibility to make the world anew that comes with being born, the generative potential to shake loose the grip of what has been on what the people could be.

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Boomers Destroyed the Planet & Economy, Millennials Trying to Save Both

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For the first time in a very long time an entire generation will be worse of than their parents. The wheels are in motion for that truth to be a set reality that requires drastic change that society likely can’t handle. Still, millennials are going to try to make the world better than they found it in the hopes that the next generation will be OK.

Over at HuffPo they have a great article that outlines how we find ourselves in this position and what we can do about.

But they’re right about one thing: We’re going to need government structures that respond to the way we work now. “Portable benefits,” an idea that’s been bouncing around for years, attempts to break down the zero-sum distinction between full-time employees who get government-backed worker protections and independent contractors who get nothing. The way to solve this, when you think about it, is ridiculously simple: Attach benefits to work instead of jobs. The existing proposals vary, but the good ones are based on the same principle: For every hour you work, your boss chips in to a fund that pays out when you get sick, pregnant, old or fired. The fund follows you from job to job, and companies have to contribute to it whether you work there a day, a month or a year.

Small-scale versions of this idea have been offsetting the inherent insecurity of the gig economy since long before we called it that. Some construction workers have an “hour bank” that fills up when they’re working and provides benefits even when they’re between jobs. Hollywood actors and technical staff have health and pension plans that follow them from movie to movie. In both cases, the benefits are negotiated by unions, but they don’t have to be. Since 1962, California has offered “elective coverage” insurance that allows independent contractors to file for payouts if their kids get sick or if they get injured on the job. “The offloading of risks onto workers and families was not a natural occurrence,” says Hacker, the Yale political scientist. “It was a deliberate effort. And we can roll it back the same way.”

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Millennials Don’t Want to Work for Jerks

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Generational distinctions are mostly meaningless, although sometime there is a glimpse into cultural trends based on age. One generational difference that is a good one to see (among many) is that “millennials” don’t want to work for jerks. Workplaces used to worship the leaders who pushed people around and were overly assertive; today the standard is changing to bosses who actually realize that humans work for them and they aren’t just disposable “human resources.” Sure, there aren’t as many jobs out there as before, but we must remember that millennials have grown up in an economy without care for them (serially underemployed with no job security, pension, or even a ‘normal’ 9-5 pay cheque), so a jerk boss has little sway to keep employees around since millennials don’t have much to loose by going elsewhere.

Let’s hope that the changing workplace to a friendly space can also make the economy a little more human too.

In some workplaces, making a colleague cry is considered a sadistic rite of passage. In the culture of commerce, behaviour that would be inexcusable in pretty much any other context is not only tolerated, but rewarded.

To what end? What real benefits are conferred on a business when its leaders are nasty? Abusive behaviour sure doesn’t spur productivity: A 2006 Florida State University study of 700 employees in a variety of different roles found that those with abusive bosses were five times more likely to purposefully slow down or make errors than their peers, and nearly six times more likely to call in sick when they actually felt fine. Nor does it do much for employee morale: As Stanford organizational behaviour professor Robert Sutton wrote in his 2007 bestseller, The No Asshole Rule, brutish managers “infuriate, demean and damage their peers, superiors, underlings and, at times, clients and customers, too.”

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A Better Take On The Current Generational Divide

It’s not rare to read in old media that young people these days are worthless, listless, clods. That viewpoint is beyond ridiculous, in recent months there has been a backlash to this attitude from millennials. Instead of being lazy and not doing anything about it – they are now quick to point out the young one aren’t the people who have essentially caused climate change, economic devastation, and a focus on profits over people.

In fact, in a recent article in The Nation it’s argued that due to the rot left from previous generations millennials are motivated to change the world.

The conventional wisdom about your generation and mine, the story that’s retold every day in every way as jobs disappear, debt redoubles, superstorms gather and islands—literally entire countries—sink into the ocean, is not just a lie, but a very useful lie for the lying liars of the world—for those who control the means of production and persuasion; who have helped to usher in this harrowing present; and who are most likely to survive and thrive, at least in the short term, a catastrophic future, should it come to pass. Conventional wisdom absolves them of their very real sins against the earth, against the poor and against their children. It’s a distraction, and an easy way to pass the buck. Finally, it’s an efficient method of controlling us, its targets. It’s a way to keep us in line.

Because in this narrative, we are apathetic and ineffective. We don’t think for ourselves, nor do we band together. We were raised to stare like zombies at television screens, and now our heads are permanently stuck in the Cloud. The global looters and profiteers—they are not well meaning. They operate with full knowledge of what harm they do, and do it anyway, because they don’t particularly care about you, about us or about the future. It’s not their problem. They will be dead, and their children, I don’t know, will be living in a bunker somewhere, alone, with the last of all that glistering loot.

In the meantime, while there is still some oil left to extract, one last blood diamond to mine, they are counting on us to close our eyes and build our apps in blithe resignation. Because this only goes their way if we agree to pretend not to notice what is right here in front of our eyes: that they are fiddling, gleefully, as the rest of Rome goes up in flames.

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