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The Greatest Generation, and the Worst Generation

I have been very fortunate in my life to have known many men and women from what many in the USA call the “Greatest Generation” in American history, those individuals born from 1900 to 1925.

These men and women grew up for the most part in a country that was emerging from the last vestiges of a true agricultural economy, and had transitioned into an industrial economy. They were born into a world with little, or no, electrical and phone services at their general disposal, outdoor plumbing was still something many used, and home garbage service entailed you taking the trash to the backyard incinerator for a quick burn. The men in this group fought in World War One, a time where one in ten men didn’t come home alive. Twelve years after their return from war, the Great Depression hit and they muddled through. A short ten years later, World War Two.

These men and women, from normal Joe’s and Jill’s on the street, all the way up to the politicians that led them, found a way to make things work, even when the odd’s were truly stacked against them.

After the First World War the powers-that-be had the foresight to permanently ban many contrivances of warfare that were truly inhumane. No longer were people to suffer under mustard gas, notched bayonets, and other weapons of hideous power. The Red Cross was finally solidified as a force for humanitarian good throughout the world. The Geneva Convention was ratified.

The Great Depression was a lesson to all who lived through it. More frugal monetary policy was adopted, the Social Security System was put into place so that there was finally a social safety net for all Americans, restrictions were placed on the greed of Wall Street, and Farming policy and practices were revamped in order to prevent another Dust-bowl situation from occurring in the future. The works Progress Administration was enacted to get Americans back to work, and subsequently became a dynamic force of engineering, art, and progress throughout the USA.

World War Two, besides being yet another devastating blow to all the people of the earth, with the deaths of perhaps 20-30 million men, women and children, yielded tales of humanitarianism, compassion, heroism, and brotherhood that had not been seen before on this Earth. What we gained by this experience: The United Nations, nuclear regulations, human rights, compassion for other religions and people. Most importantly we gained the right to be free, that right given to us by those who shed their blood for freedom. Shed their blood.

Who were the people behind these great accomplishments? The Greatest Generation, a group who cared more for a way of life, than for their own lives.

The progeny of the Greatest Generation are called the Boomers.  I myself am a boomer, having been born in 1964, the last class of official Boomers. The Boomers are who I will contend are The Worst Generation to have ever inhabited the USA.

Things went well for a while, the 50’s were the great period after WW2, the country needed to relax a little.The babies started coming. The Boomers were arriving.

Businesses began to flourish, fortunes were made, empires were established. This is when things started to go wrong. Instead of the ethos being, “let’s do this for the greater good”, the ethos became, “let’s see how rich I can get”. 

The gated community never really existed prior to the 1950’s, before that there were nice neighborhoods, good neighborhoods, and bad neighborhoods. But due to individuals becoming increasingly wealthier than their neighbors, there became a need to segregate themselves from the riff-raff, a need to hide their wealth so that others couldn’t see just how much richer they were than the average Joe. 

The sixties are now thought of as the Age of radicalism and change. It was, it was also a time were the wealthy became even more so. The military industrial complex, the very one that Dwight Eisenhower warned of, had become a world unto itself. And those who worked within the confines of this world got richer still. The Vietnam War was a tragedy on many fronts, the worst of which is the lasting presence of the Military Industrial Complex, and the wars they have spawned since.

What then happened to all of the Boomers who were protesting the War in Vietnam, who wanted change in the government, and the world as a whole?  Where are they now?

Many of these same Boomers are now ensconced in gated communities, shielded form the masses. These same Boomers are currently the recipients of what has been called “the greatest inheritance monetary windfall, IN HISTORY”. Where is the radicalism, the fight for human rights, the quest for equal rights for all people? Where are the ideals professed by the Berkeley students in 1969? 

I’ll tell you where these ideals are: Maui, Florida, Cabo San Lucas, Phuket Thailand…  These same former radicals are now safely ensconced in their retirement world, safe away from us, the riff-raff. They got theirs, and they left the rest of us behind. They have become the Worst Generation.  The problems that have been sown by their generation during the past fifty years, have now all come back to haunt us, and we now have to deal with it. Instead of standing up and saying, “we messed up, WE need to do something about this…” they instead say, “well it’s not really our fault, it’s the government’s fault”. Weren’t you fighting for a more just and equal society? Weren’t you looking for peace for all man? Didn’t you want to see a better world? That’s not what you left us. You pillaged and pilfered, collective bargained, and stole from the rest of us. YES I said stole, because now I, and my daughter have to pay for the mees you all got us into.

History will be on my side on this one, because you won’t look back on it and say, “yeah they did the right thing”, you didn’t, you ruined a way of life, and now like spoiled children you have picked up your toys and said, to hell with all of you, I’m going back home, to palm Springs, to count my money.

At this time I have little hope that the current crop of politicians can, or would really do anything substantive to remedy things, after all the average age in Congress is 55-60 years old, prime Boomers.  I wonder where they’re retiring…?

Posted on September 13, 2011

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