Okay. We admit it. Guilty as charged. On behalf of the millions of baby boomers all over the globe I hereby accept full responsibility for the terrible mess we’ve made of this planet. Let us be your sacrificial lambs. Go ahead; blame it on the boomers.
So, what is it that we boomers have perpetrated that has been so god-awful terrible? Destruction of the environment, you accuse? Climate change? The greenhouse effect? Hole in the ozone layer? Depletion of natural resources? Extinction of species?
Yes, we have to give ourselves a D- grade in how we have taken care of our planet. There have, however, been some mitigating factors. For instance, we weren’t the first ones to mess up the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of the blame has to fall on previous generations, namely the ones who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries and who gave the world the Industrial Revolution. They were the ones who practically invented air pollution; we were merely the generation to whom they passed the smoking torch.
If you want to fix the blame on anyone, why not spread it out a bit? Why not go right back to prehistoric times? Humans have been guilty of fouling up the atmosphere ever since early Neanderthals started the practice of tailgate parties by roasting pterodactyl dinosaur wings over a hot fire in front of their caves. We boomers just took the idea and ran with it.
Before we go any further with this public shaming, let’s sidetrack for a moment to define what exactly we mean when we discuss the “boomer” generation, and exactly where it sits when compared to succeeding generations. Let’s remember that defining these generations is not an exact science and there is plenty of room for overlap and much grey area between the different categorizations. Nevertheless, according to studies polling western cultural generations, it is generally agreed that baby boomers were born in the post-war era between 1946 and 1964. The boomers are followed by Gen X or “baby bust” generation, born between 1965 and 1979. Next come the millennials or Gen Y (some have named these “the children of the boomers”), who came into being between 1980 and 1994. Following the millennials is Gen Z (or the iGen) between 1995 and 2012. Lastly, we have Gen Alpha, half of whom have not even been born yet, spanning the years 2013 and 2025.
Now that we’ve cleared all that up, let’s get back to boomers and discuss how, in addition to wrecking our world’s ecosystems, we’ve also been screwing up the economy. Millennials might have a point here. After all, weren’t the boomers responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 that led to the great recession? And didn’t the market crash cause companies to downsize by laying off millions of workers in the U.S. alone? And because of seniority and loyalty issues, didn’t most of the pink slips go to millennials instead of us slower, less productive boomers?
If that wasn’t bad enough, boomers came of age at a time when you could still afford to buy a house if you had a steady job (millennials roll their eyes in disbelief when they hear that boomers just needed to work at one job). Not only could boomers afford to buy houses then, but now that they have reached or are approaching retirement age, they can cash in on that early property investment. The shortage in affordable housing has turned the boomer generation into “property millionaires” and has set them up for life when they decide to downsize to something smaller and more manageable.
It’s not as if we were totally reckless and evil. We did give the world a few good things. Take rock and roll, for instance. Maybe the generation before ours created it, but we were the ones who used it to define pop culture. Now all those “oldies but goldies” rock stars have aged and turned moldy. Some, like McCartney and the Stones, can still shake an artificial hip or two and bang out an old tune (provided they get the necessary transfusion before the gig). Others have rocked their way to that big stage in the sky, exiting stage left the way that most rock icons have done: overdosing on drugs, drowning in a hotel swimming pool, or choking on their own vomit. The really great ones have managed to go out doing all three at the same time.
Not that I’m trying to defend us boomers, especially with “boomer bashing” being in such high fashion, but there are a few mitigating factors to consider. Sure, boomers (aka the worst generation EVER) are hurting the economy by not consuming as much as they had in the past but, let’s face it, how much new stuff do you really need as you reach a ripe old age? Speaking personally, I think I’ll forego a cutting-edge titanium skateboard and stick with my “old school” wooden one. I’ve just been using it as a dolly for my groceries anyway.
Besides, there are reasons why boomers aren’t spending like we did in our heyday. We’re either working and saving for our retirement or already retired and living on a fixed income. Any loose change might be going to our kids to help them out financially. Lord knows, we wouldn’t want them to run short so they couldn’t pay through the nose for Starbucks coffee, the latest devices, or more data. In 2014, as a matter of fact, 32 per cent of millennials were living with their parents (probably holed up in the basement to keep any interaction with their selfish boomer mommas and poppas to a bare minimum).
Nobody asked me, but it’s inevitable that the problem with baby boomers will eventually resolve itself through attrition. Already, in 2016, the number of millennials in North America began to outnumber the boomer generation. Nobody lives forever, and although we boomers have been fighting that notion since that first grey hair appeared, at some point we must face reality. But until that happens, we still have time to suck the economy dry with our old age security and health care costs. Call it a “boomer or bust” society. I wonder if our millennial children have any room in their basements.