COMMENT: Not OK, Boomer
Poppy Prescott – Kicks Back
I saw in issue 145 that Glenn’s been ‘kicking off’ again.
In said column, community legend Glenn, 70, reminisces about the “so-called good old days” and writes on why he thinks the notion that his generation are privileged and lucky isn’t true. Were these the good old days or not? I don’t call them that and it sounds like they weren’t.
He says the hardship they faced and their lack of the technology that my generation enjoys means that those ‘good old days’ were actually very tough and my generation is therefore spoilt and gullible. I think he also implied that we often indulge in drinking, smoking, eating takeaways, using mobile phones and following the football too much. There’s a lot to unpack.
To me, this kind of discussion feels a little hostile and defensive (snowflake alert). Typically of Hastings, Glenn and I are good inter-generational friends and when we see each other – usually Wednesday, Liane Carroll, Porters – we have too many beers and chat about all the interests we share (music, community, Kath) and all our differences (politics).
To strip down to our differing demographics, I’m 22 and Glenn is 70. Glenn has spent his whole life working hard as a builder and I’m an unemployed musician and in £63,000 student loan debt. Glenn voted leave and I voted remain. Glenn believes in individual responsibility and I believe in collective power against the 1%.
What I took away from Glenn’s column is that anecdotal evidence doesn’t prove much, it usually just furthers generalisations. A ‘who’s suffered the most’ match unhelpfully pits our generations against each other and deflects from the bigger picture, which is that we have more common enemies and struggles than differences.
I believe there are legitimate reasons his generation (the ‘Boomers’, born in 1945-1965) are branded more privileged and lucky than mine (the ‘Millennials’, born in 1980-2000). Here are a few:
• Jobs like nursing didn’t require qualifications
• Housing cost less than 20% of your income (now it costs 50% or more of ours)
• You got tax relief on your mortgage payments
• You paid the war-time generation pitiful pensions so most lived in poverty, while expecting from the current working generation far more generous ones for yourselves
• And if you didn’t like it here, you had freedom of movement too. You could emigrate as a ‘£10 Pom’ and set up a new life in Australia: a freedom now denied to my generation in Europe.
A ‘who’s suffered the most’ match unhelpfully pits our generations against each other and deflects from the bigger picture
Of course, this is more nuanced than ‘boomers have caused all the problems’. As Glenn told us, he and Kath struggled and didn’t dream of the technological luxuries and lifestyle I take for granted. But I would swap an iPhone or football season ticket to be on the housing ladder or receive free higher education any day, and it’s patronising to suggest people wouldn’t.
In fact, Glenn recognised that things aren’t exactly easy for my generation. He kicks off his column with austerity and food banks, but writes as if it’s always been that way. Arguing things were just as bad for the boomer generation as this one is lazy and neglects each generation’s responsibility to make the next one better than before.
Because every generation should struggle less than the last one. If it’s just as bad, people like Glenn and I aren’t winning. If we criticise the lack of housing, education and welfare, we are not only going to scrutinise who benefitted from it but who watched it happen. I’m not blaming you boomers, but I think the mature thing to do is to recognise that and, if you’re not already, then help.
I will – for the generation after me.
Features Editor of Hastings Independent Press
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