Tags: scrapheap

28 Apr 2005, Comments (0)

“Intergenerational” = Shite

Author: Helen

Natasha Cica says this outpouring of spite isn’t “another stone in what’s shaping up as gung-ho intergenerational warfare”. Who is she kidding?

The reasoning in this article, if you can call it that, pretty much plagiarises the Mark Davis theory that horrible baby boomers are selfishly occupying all the good jobs, have all the opportunities, all the money and all the houses.

Would that were true, I mutter as I juggle the bills and the mortgage and comtemplate how long my second-hand station wagon will last. I’m one of the tail end of the baby boomers – Generation Jones, it’s called – and my career trajectory has included McJobs aplenty. I’ve just bought the newest, slickest car I’ve ever had; it’s only eleven years old. Big fuckin’ deal. I’m sick being a punching bag for cut price pundits like Natasha because of my presumed wealth and success.

Natasha’s article contains its own answers, but fails to address them or see their significance. Like the rise of neoliberal economics, like the fact that many of her “best friends who are baby boomers” (Lucky them, eh!) don’t fit the picture and aren’t squatting, toadlike, on success and riches; like the fact that things are not as bad in other countries (no attempt at demographic analysis–or for that matter, any kind of analysis)…

Neoliberal, free-market politics have pervaded our society, government and workplaces now from the 80s onward. That, and technological change, have had a profound effect on how we live and work, who earns, who doesn’t. Technological change and outsourcing have not only thrown thousands of older people on the scrapheap – many of them men – but have contributed to the lack of entry-level jobs such as clerical work in companies with the opportunity to move up, which once provided a stepping stone for younger people. So people at different life stages may feel the impacts of these changes differently, but they all feel it. Cica mentions neoliberal ideology, downsizing etc. in passing, but appears to think the negative effects apply to her cohort exclusively. Breathtaking narcissism.

But it’s so much easier and more fun to blame a cohort of people – the baby boomers. It’s easier to feel put-upon and victimised than address matters like class, technological change and ideology. It’s easier to have a whinge than try to bring about political change – yes, as a blogger I’m guilty of the last, but at least I don’t abuse random elements of the population on the basis of their date of birth.

And if you think Natasha’s a shocker, just listen to her anonymous “colleague”.
“Boomers are sucking the blood out of Xers. We work like dogs, pay hideous rents, have no job security, are so exhausted we have no time any more to think, let alone raise questions about the status quo and take action. Boomers aren’t interested in us, except as a source of tax revenue for their pensions and looming health-care costs. That’s why they’re freaked that we’re not having babies.”

Charming man (or woman). Imagine ending up genuinely infirm and in a nursing home somewhere. If this is what most Gen X’ers really think, prepare yourself for an upsurge in elder abuse. Do Gen Xers (thinking of people like Shauny, Lefty, Gianna) really hate us that much?

You’ll have noticed that Cica is a lawyer, not a sociologist, demographer or statistician. She’s highly trained in being a mouthpiece for one side, but she submits not one shred of real evidence that there is a causative link between “baby boomer” behaviour and Gen-X dissatisfaction.

As Quiggin as been pointing out since at least 2000, this is pop sociology as its worst, but like the John Gray “Women are from Venus” meme, it is widely believed and distorts real peoplesí decisions. I can just see myself at 55 in a job interview, opposite a cynical Gen X-er in a managerial suit (there are more of them in such positions than Natasha would have you believe), seeing me as dead wood and scourge of their generation. Nice.

Yet again I’m going to have to link to John Quiggin’s refutation of the “Baby Boomers Have it all and the Gen X have Nothing” myth, here and here. I guess it’s a public service I’ll have to provide from time to time.

The winners and losers in a world of globalisation, attacks on the welfare state and resurgent market forces cannot be neatly parcelled into age groups, however often commentators on both sides of the debate attempt itÖ

ÖArguments about tax smoothing and structural change may lack the pop appeal of claims that we are robbing future generations. But these are the arguments we need to have if we are to are to formulate a long-term Budget strategy.

But that would be so much hard wooooooork, wouldn’t it. Finding a handy scapegoat is so much more emotionally satisfying.

And doesn’t the Howard government love it. As long as the young and the restless are discouraged by their peers not to look too hard at the big issues, they’re off the hook. Again.