As a Boomer I wish to comment. Mine are in parenthesis and italics.

As an X-er, I faithfully followed nearly all the advice given by my boomer parents, (as did your boomer parents) and it got me diddly-squat (most boomer parents got diddly squat as well). Gradually I came to understand why: Nearly all the advice they gave me would have been terrific advice for someone with a typical boomer life trajectory (tell me, can you see the future?  They couldn’t either), when mistakes could easily be erased and every tree looked like it would grow to the sky (My parents used to tell me that money doesn’t grow on trees.  How about yours?). Taking on ruinous debt for a fuzzy degree just so you’d have a diploma with your name on it was probably great advice in the 1960s and 70s (Did you ever look at the cost of a degree in the 60’s and 70’s vs today and who was paying the bill?). Buying more house than you really needed or could reasonably afford would have been a killer investment strategy in 1982 (As it was this was true, but for the wrong reasons.  Boomers were told that bigger was better.  Then came gas lines and huge home interest rates.). Everything boomers did was a dumb gamble that improbably succeeded (It can be hard to see the forest for the trees.), and they never wondered why; they just accepted it as a convenient law of nature. To this day, I still get these kinds of useless tips from my boomer parents, though by now I’ve learned to ignore them.  (How large is your circle of “friends” compared to theirs of that time?  What was the news cycle like in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s compared to today?  Did they have an internet with which to compare millions of bits of information or just ABCNBCCBS and their local newspaper?)

This is the great theme of the boomers’ life: They could always take a lot of wild, irresponsible chances on everything, because nearly every bet they made seemed to pay off handsomely, at least within their lifetimes (Were they “wild and irresponsible if they continued to pay off time after time?). The completely predictable and obvious long-term costs were always way, way over the horizon (How many economists did your Boomer parents know?  Which economic line of thought did that economist follow?) — a problem for somebody else. The bill, if it ever came due, would be paid by their posterity, and who cares about those losers? They don’t even like the Beatles, and they’re too whiny and lazy anyway.

Which leads to the root of their endless narcissism. Many boomers believe the incredible advantages they enjoyed were not hard-won gains of previous generations that could easily be squandered, but the inevitable fruits of their own virtuous awesomeness (You disagree with your parents, who disagreed with their parents, who disagreed with their parents…). It never occurred to them that they were both the beneficiaries of and the caretakers for a fragile legacy, and that an economy where anyone with a pulse who was willing to bust their ass could enjoy a solid middle-class life was a historic anomaly that had to be carefully safeguarded (Have you ever heard of manifest destiny?  They were told, and believed that it was the their destiny to succeed.). No, it was all just a well-deserved reward for boomers because of their own industriousness and moral goodness. Those whiny kids could have the same thing if they’d just work harder, is how boomers see it.

The cynicism of us X-ers comes from the fact that we grew up really believing this stuff, so finding out it was a lie (Why was it a lie?  What changed?) was kind of a rude awakening. We fully expected that following the rules (Whose rules?) and ticking the right boxes would automatically give us the exact same life our parents had enjoyed, and we didn’t even have a hint that it might not be true (Oh, so you can’t see the future.). It also stings because, as another commenter alluded to, X-ers are old enough to have actually seen and gotten a taste of that vanished world; our younger cohorts know it only second-hand. They never lived through it, so the loss doesn’t feel as bitter for them.

I’m not bitter about it, but I, too, was somewhat snake-bit by Boomer cluelessness about the changing world. When I wanted to drop out of college halfway through my sophomore year to sell my 16-bit, 8-channel, stereo 44 KHz sound card that an engineer and I already had working in both hardware and software, my parents aggressively lobbied for me to “stay in school” and “get my degree” because, as every Boomer knew, college degrees are so important. (They trusted the past.  You saw the future, but you loved and believed in your parents.  Was that bad?) Which, in retrospect, made absolutely no sense in light of how they wanted me to continue working for my father’s company after graduating, which I’d already been doing every summer.

So, instead of selling 200 million dollars worth of sound cards more than two years before Media Vision did with a vastly inferior product, I now have a BS in Economics with a second major in East Asian Studies and a minor in History. None of which has ever profited me so much as a single dime.  (Given that you seem to use historical facts as a basis for your books, is that true?)

The responsibility, of course, is mine. It’s on me, not them. I should have ignored their advice, dropped out, and ploughed ahead to pursue the opportunity while the window was open. But I didn’t, because I trusted what I assumed was their greater experience and wisdom and because it is always easier to take what passes for the normal path in one’s social circle. And that is why Generation X is so little inclined to pay any heed to Boomers now. We listened to them and we took their advice in our youth, and now we see how doing so led us astray.  (As we all know:  Hind sight is 20/20.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s