There is no hard and fast rule about the sociology of contemporaries. But it goes without saying that despite your individuality you share a lot of influences with your age fellows. That is to say, if you gained consciousness in a given decade, all things being equal, you read more or less the same literature, watched the same TV or movie content, admired the same celebrities, and played or loved the same sports. Because at any given time, especially before the internet age there were only a finite number of options available. Then the same customs and compulsions, the same economic situation, and similar opportunities. You get the picture.
For the sake of convenience age groups are often divided into the following generational categories: Boomers (born between 1946-1964), Gen-X (1965-1976), Millennials or Gen-Y (1977-1995), Gen-Z or Centennials (1996-2010) and Gen-Alpha (2010-on). With slight variations, this is how business demographics age classification takes place. And as will be demonstrated shortly these age groups matter. Because one of them refuses to give up power, one was consumed by the Peter Pan syndrome and for two the sufferings never seem to end. These categories are important to keep track of who is doing what. That is why.
First, the one addicted to power. Boomers. Notice the age group ruling the country for the past few decades and with a few admirable exceptions, the world. Particularly in politics and business. Since job environments usually adhere to some form of discipline that includes a retirement age, bureaucracies, and working-class atmospheres usually witness a steady turnover. Ergo a constant generational shift in the job markets. But in politics where electoral victory and/or successful application of power define the rules politicians often refuse to retire. Likewise, in businesses, the wealthy are often under no obligation to retire, unless they have committed the cardinal mistake of procreating ambitious progeny. Do you see what it means? That your ultimate boss in both public and private work cultures remains someone who is neither from your generation nor who shares your outlook. Hence, the working class remains under pressure to adjust its outlook following the changing whims of the employing age group. Why this age group exercises this much power will become momentarily clear as we explore the dynamics of the second age group under our microscope.
Generation X, with its Peter Pan Syndrome, never stood a chance. The privileged preferred to be coddled. The underprivileged made peace with the realities where leadership positions were always out of reach. Some exceptions do exist. But I am sure many will not see Elon Musk and Peter Thiel as the best role models of this generation. Now it is debatable whether the reason why Boomers still exercise an inordinate amount of power today is the incompetence of the Gen-X or the machinations of the Boomers. Occam’s razor would suggest that since not one but three generations could not take off after Boomers the fault lies with their refusal to let go of power. Hanlon’s razor, however, would beg to differ and humbly submit that Gen-X is incredibly stupid. Fair warning. I too belong to Gen-X. My generation somehow could not wing it hence you do not find any influential leader in the annals of history from this age group. Can it change? Perhaps but certainly at the cost of the age groups that came after them. Our time has passed. It is better than a more grounded and energetic generation takes over.
A friend of mine has an interesting conspiracy theory. She says that when the boomers noticed the pressure mounting on them to quit and hand over the power they unleashed their most radical and unstable versions while also grooming and empowering an equally unstable lot among the following generations. That is how you got Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, and Imran Khan. The lot being silently groomed and sponsored by them is the younger rightwing influencers. America and Europe’s rightwing punditry for instance is being silently bankrolled by billionaire boomers. Otherwise, the business models of the rightwing enterprises make little sense. If you want to see the entertainment value of the right and the rest, just take a look at the rightwing humour. Fox News has a comedy show called Guttfeld. Watch it and then spare some time for Bill Maher. You will see that the right’s sense of humour is insipid, shallow, and without any serious merit. However, tribalism rules and far-right pundits keep running their shows. This to my friend is an influence operation where boomers have colluded with the deep states of each nation to promote so much toxicity in the public discourse that a generational transition only becomes a mirage. I will leave it to your judgment if her theory has any merits. However, one thing is certain. The recent political samples from the generation offer only terrifying choices. We grew up listening to the prediction that there would be a generation that would live forever if it lived long enough. My friend thinks that that prediction was about boomers.
Let us now focus on the ultimate victims. Millennials and centennials. I blame my generation’s dereliction of duty for their plight. When millennials were growing up opportunities started to vanish. For them, practical life was dominated by one crisis after another. Bush’s invasion of Iraq unhinged the world order. The financial crisis of 2008 destroyed any measure of economic stability. And that was only the beginning of their misfortunes. They have only known debt and the gig economy. Only a small portion of the affluent from this age group can afford to own property. Many are saddled with student loans and cannot even afford decent healthcare. And when a good politician tries to relieve them of their burden, rightwing pundits are unleashed upon him/her. We say what happened to Obamacare. And then President Biden’s attempt to forgive student loans. As a result, the following generations are aging in the shadow of incredible pain. This rightwing shtick will not last for too long. Where there is suffering there is revolt. That is exactly why the Marxist/Leninist ethos is returning from beyond the veil.
Now think about the world that is taking shape before our eyes. A world divided between desperate revolutionaries and equally agitated rightwing fanatics. What can possibly go wrong? At least the two generations that have destroyed the future of the young ones, mine due to its incompetence and the one before us for its megalomania and obsession with control, should stand up and take a bow. No one has destroyed so much in such a short period.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2023.