Monday, July 5, 2010

A Boomer Apologizes

I recently turned 56 years old. My generation dominates the political stage and the management of business large and small. We run the biggest companies and the non-profits and we fill up the upper reaches of bureaucracies across this land. We dominate the Congress of the United States and most state Legislatures. Our President is a Boomer.

And we, as a generation have screwed our children and theirs. We weren't even subtle about it. Our children are inheriting a world where global warming will probably kill millions and displace even more. Much of the Gulf of Mexico becomes a dead zone every year because of the crap we put into our water. Same for much of Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. Most of our rivers have excessive levels of mercury in them from burning coal. We are in the middle of a mass extinction that will rival the worst of the mass extinctions in our planet's history. Most of the major industrialized nations have large accumulated national debts that our children and theirs will have to pay for. We are bequeathing to generation X (or what every you want to call those who are destined to follow us) such horrible eating habits that our children will likely not live as long as we did because we seem to insist on feeding them crap that only barely resembles food while at the same time starving our school systems of the resources they need to have active physical education programs and healthy meals. We were more willing to spend money building prisons than finding ways to prevent crime. Coming out of this recession, those who follow will be faced with years at least of sluggish economic growth and little or no growth in real wages for the vast majority of our people. And the debt that we are leaving them will prevent them from taking some of the bold actions that might dramatically alter the world they will have to deal with.

I can point to people and policies that my generation put in place as the cause of many of these problems. I can talk about this policy or that policy that could have prevented some of these problems. As a Liberal I would make a good case that Liberal policies would have prevented or reduced these problems.

But we as a generation didn't effective address them.

We still have time. We are not yet leaving the stage. We can still make things better. But based on what we have done so far, I am not hopeful.

So I apologize to the generations that follow the Baby Boomers. We appear to be leaving you a massive mess. A mess that some of us predicted but we, collectively, could not muster the will or consensus to fix. I hope you do a better job than we did. I have to believe that, right now, our parents generation, sometimes called the Greatest Generation, are pretty disgusted with us.

I hope you, the generations that follow, can forgive us.


Smaktakula said...

As an unrecognized spokesperson for Generation X, I accept your apology.

In all seriousness, this is a subject to which I have given a great deal of thought recently. Everything you say is true, and while at times I do find myself bitching about the Boomers (who didn't have to pay back their *&!$@? college loans like I did!), we all need to step back and look at this with perspective.

Humans, like any living creature, will use as much of their resources as are made available to them. Being reactive rather than proactive, humans tend to wait until something has become a problem before they fix it.

Now, where I have an issue with your generation, my generation and the generations that follow is the expectation that we will be able to CONTINUE to live like this just because previous generations did.

It may get worse before it gets better. As selfish as the Baby Boomers were and are, Generation X is probably moreso. And Generation X seems positively altruistic when compared to the "Gimme Generation" that's coming up now.

We'll probably all have to tighten our belts for a while. Those who remain of the Greatest Generation may have the easiest time of it. They've been there before.

Thanks for the post, Walt! Look forward to the next one.

Steve Harkonnen said...

I can talk about this policy or that policy that could have prevented some of these problems. As a Liberal I would make a good case that Liberal policies would have prevented or reduced these problems.

We hear it from both sides. But does it really matter? I sometimes get the feeling that government is controlled by a higher order than any of us can imagine, and no, not talking about religion either.