Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two-and-a-half-glass-of-wine rant: Shelley's kids fail to launch

If you know my main character Shelley (Corners, a novel - right?  Blogged below), then you pretty much know me as I was when I was a kid - although I am not entirely Shelley.  Not entirely.  :)

You know, then, that I'm a boomer.  And I think popular wisdom tells me I'm supposed to be disheartened because my two adult children (a twenty-five and a twenty-three with pregnant fiancee) live at home.

KIDS: if you're reading this, you'd better read the whole thing before you get mad at me.  So keep going.

Now, back to business.

However, my feelings are exactly the opposite of disheartened.  In fact, I'm glad they're still home, my kids.  This is why.

Every so often, in a national way, the really big pendulum swings.  We go from boom to bust, from comfy to chaotic.  We prosper.  Then stuff happens, maybe a war or a "military action" or an energy crisis, perhaps all balled up together.  Economic pressure happens, sometimes suddenly; then, splat (we usually call that a crash, or some other painful term).  We recover, after what seems like forever, but it's not forever, really.  Prosper a little, then a little more.  And the beat goes on.  Splat.

Since no two things that happen are exactly the same - not in the wild cycles of nature, in economics, or in anything else - no two swings are just the same either.  Still, the circle only seems to tighten, with the energy crisis and then the crash of '79, then again in '87.  The real estate crash of 1990.  The bottom of the housing market in 2008.  I'm not an economist, but this is what I've felt over my ever lengthening life. Splat.

On top of this repeating revolving (ow - torque) economic canvas dances the human painting, creating and recreating itself before our very eyes.  When the crucible heats up, the culture changes.  And right now, the crucible is hot, and some of us are melting.

Now, my generation - we are boomers, and in our youth we were many.  We grew up in a time of prosperity.  So as a nation populated mostly with prosperous children, we as a nation questioned the system.  We could afford to do this, because we were financially comfortable, largely employed from an early age, not desperate.

So we questioned "the man," and his fairness, and we believed in our capacity to make things fair through the work of our own hands.  We engineered the technology that allowed for the birth of the information age, and then we gave it to our children to push it out to the next level.  People may not connect boomers with the techno era, but hey, Steven Jobs was my age, God rest his rebel soul (loved him).  So is Bill Gates.

But did we really make the difference we wanted to make?  Are people really different?  Are the systems we live in really different, more fair:  the economic system, the judicial system, the public services systems, over it all our system of representative government?

Is prejudice dead, or does it live on as an arm of the system?

Do the children, the sick, the helpless, the hopeless, the disenfranchised have an even chance at improving their lives, or do the systems we've created keep them pressed to the mat, instead of freeing them?

The economic crucible is hot, and getting hotter.  It's time for change.  And I think I see it coming, and wonder if it's just me.  I smell it in the wind.

I hear it in my twenty-something children's beliefs about government, right and wrong, fair and not fair.  They and their friends are fascinated by the sixties, the seventies, and all that they implied.  Hollywood and fashion, which belong to them now, are equally fascinated with those times, and reflect these things back to them as with a mirror held up to their fascination.

Joblessness in the Great Depression
These "children" struggle economically - unlike us as children - for obvious reasons.  They can smell the disdain of the small percentage (most of them my age) who already have theirs - the ones who have theirs and will pay to buy the vote that keeps it that way.  This minority of oldsters and their minions will exploit the very information highway X-ers and Millenials have laid, and buy the very media system we built for them to lay it on, to keep what they have in their own aging pockets, and keep the system structured so the young and disenfranchised stay pressed to the mat.

I believe this new group of young people is not going to tolerate it, this locked system that has a huge membership fee and a secret handshake.  We raised them not to tolerate it.  They are not worried about staying pressed to the mat because they don't buy the system's right to keep them there, nor do they buy that they have a requirement to acquire a membership card.

Sure, there may not be real jobs out there right now.  But they are ready to opt out if they have to, open their own small companies, educate themselves in the trades they need to do it instead of in the liberal arts colleges that have fueled the system at its worst.  They are ready to change jobs if the jobs they have don't meet their needs, to train and retrain, and to work more than one job if necessary to feed their dreams. They are about start-ups, entrepreneurship, individual fulfillment and freedom. They are about survival, and sticking together with the team they have brought with them on life's highway.

We boomers can take pride in the fact that we gave this generation the tools to take it to the next level:  we gave them all of the information they need to get to the heart of what is true and fair at their fingertips, whenever they need it; all of the information they need to redesign their lives over and over again as many times as they want to, whenever they need to.  All that, and guts.  That is their power, and I don't believe that even those of us who handed them that power appreciate the drastic difference that these things will make in their lives, and in our world.

Most important, they also know that we, their boomer parents and all that entails, will not fail them in these times, and they rely on that fact.  Does that smack of a "me" generation?  Maybe, but I'm not sure I have a problem with that, because for them, me means we, much more than it ever did for us boomers, aka the divorce generation.  I sure hope they do that part better than we did, no kidding.

Will they ever launch?  God, I hope so.  Really, I know so.  But if my house, when I am ninety, turns out to be filled with family that spans over three generations, I know I will count myself blessed.

No comments:

Post a Comment