Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Blame the Boomers Game

"The time has come, Senator Barack Obama says, for the baby boomers to get over themselves." - Shushing the Baby Boomers, Journo John M Broder

Baby Boomers, Manhattan, June 2011
"The time has come," Obama said,
"To talk of many things:
Of jobs and tips  and  too-much-tax
Of mortgages   and things
And why it's all the boomers' fault
And whether pigs have wings." *

A hundred years ago at Mac.Robertson Girls' High School in Melbourne Australia, we had a headmistress called Miss Barrett. Miss Barrett used to glide around the school's corridors as if she were balancing a book on her head. I remember thinking she was really really old, and fantasized that she had never married because she'd lost her fiancé in the trenches at the Somme during WW1.

Looking back with the benefit of experience, I now think she never married because she was a world-class bitch, but back then I was a bit of a romantic, and no doubt a more tolerant human being than I am now.

We had school assemblies where we'd all have to stand when she entered the hall. She'd be wearing an academic gown and would stand facing us on the stage, fixing us with her stare so that we'd all freeze. We were not to move.

When she commanded, "Sit!" we all had to sit down at precisely the same time. And then she'd give us a lesson in morality.

Vinyls for Sale - Manhattan June 2011
I remember little of her talks, except for one. It struck me at the time and became etched in my memory because it was so blatantly unfair. I was all into fairness at that time.

I used to get really annoyed for example, when the RI teacher would tell us that when we died god would judge us, and depending upon our score would let us into heaven. Or not. I was pretty sure I'd be unjustly accused and not be allowed into heaven. "Why should it be just up to HIM!" I'd think to myself. Of course that was when I thought god was a man as women's lib was yet to enlighten us "gals" as Miss Barrett called us.

I'd imagine myself arguing with god. No way was I going to take his decision lying down. I imagined everyone else going along with the decision and me, alone, defending myself. I'd been studying the Reformation and thought of myself as a modern-day Martin Luther, standing on my principles.

I'm pretty sure now that I know why I was like that. My mother worked and I had to manage the buying of groceries and purchasing house-hold items. So I was constantly having to return items to the store, and being a kid, the customer-service people would argue with me. I'd stand my ground. Martin Luther was my hero. And I envisaged that it would be much the same when it came time for god to assess my earthly performance. A celestial customer-service sort of thing.

The only morning assembly morality talk that I can remember in any real detail, was when Miss Barrett explained to us that we were all "bad gals" because SOME of our parents had brought us up according to (horror of horrors) an American! - a pediatrician called Benjamin Spock, whose book "Baby and Child Care", published in 1946 advocated such "permissive" practices as feeding babies 'on demand'. According to Miss Barrett, this had had the effect of turning us into selfish gals who wanted instant gratification and if we weren't careful we'd all get pregnant and never go to university.

At MacRob - Indulging in an Apple
Little did Miss Barrett know, but she was a trend-setter. A woman before her time. Later Spock was to be blamed by the Right for causing the anti Vietnam war demonstrations, Janis Joplin, the contraceptive pill, drop-outs, sit-ins, and the Summer of Love.

And now, as we near retirement age, the Miss Barrett's of this world are multiplying daily. You can see them in the Tea Party and on the morning news. You can see them on websites, on television; they are everywhere. Even in the Whitehouse. I wrote about Obama's dislike of baby boomers way back in 2009 in Slowing the circle down - like a rolling stone.

Quite frankly I'm getting a bit sick of it. After ALL we did - fixing the post WWII mess, marching for peace and civil rights, working long hours and slaving over hot stoves. And what thanks do we get?

None. Zero. Zilch.

It's gone on long enough. Now it's apparently OUR fault that the U.S. budget isn't balanced. It's our fault that the U.S. debt ceiling is a ceiling. We are responsible for S&P downgrading the U.S. economy. We are responsible for S&P NOT downgrading the U.S. economy earlier.

Are baby boomers to blame for debt crisis? writes Ed Hornick of CNN. But wasn't it boomer Bill Clinton who balanced the U.S. budget?

"Nice going Baby Boomers/Tea Partiers! The Great Depression 2 is here! Looks like you are going to lose your 401K and hopefully job! You voted in these idiots last November and now you have to face the consequences of your actions!" wrote someone signing themselves as "Nice going Baby Boomers/Tea Partiers!" on's news article, about S&P downgrading the U.S. Credit Rating.

Generation Xers Looking for Bargains, Manhattan, 2011
Last week while I was getting ready to go to work, I was listening to CNN. "One good piece of news," a twelve year-old anchor was saying, "with the baby boomers having to downsize their apartments in order to retire, there are lots of bargains to be had! They are forced to sell at rock-bottom all manner of things, dinner sets, couches, appliances."

Uh-err, watch out my fellow boomers! The vultures are out. I'm reminded of a movie I saw back in the Dark Ages. Some Greek movie or was it Zorba? Where people in black pretending to be her mourners, descend upon some old lady's house fighting over her posssessions.

"But we aren't dead yet!" I cry!

As they say in New York, "What can I tell you?"

"O Boomers," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none --
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd beaten every one.*

* Apologies to Lewis Carroll (Jabberwocky)


Anonymous said...

Well, Kate, I'm not a Boomer, my kids are. But I cannot believe that they should shoulder any blame for the current state of affairs. But as Rollo of the Katzenjammer Kids (The Captain and the Kids funny paper of the 40s and 50s) would say, "They brought it on themselves Miss Twiddle!"
We ALL brought it on ourselves, if 'we All' are bankers and pollies kicking the can down the road so they could get re-elected. I do believe that the pollies encouraged the fed to allow Fannie and Freddy to permit non-credit worthy borrowers to buy homes. Banks who allowed them then to use houses as piggy banks to buy lollies, sweets and things with 2nd mortgages predicated on the inflated value of their homes. And yes, there were lots of others with their fingers in the pots - State and Federal governments, municipalities and cities who were allowed to promise retirements and salaries they couldn't afford. Lots of blames to go 'round including a gross lack of financial regulation. So who'll take the hit? Not the Big Guys but the battlers who were persuaded that the party would never end and there were musical chairs for all the players.
So now what's happening in Oz? They are mortgaging the soil and what's under it for what? More lollies and drinks and things?

vanessa said...

Extremely well said!

Brilliant. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Vanessa. BTW, do you know where that quote comes from?

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