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Lost in Translation Vol 30

December 12, 2013

If you turn off your communication appliances during conversations, you must be a Boomer !

To a Boomer child these days, trying to understand your parents seems easy. Unfortunately, it compares to trying to write a book review of something you have not read yet. Un-intelligible. To a Boomer, trying to communicate with their kids seems easy. Unfortunately, its like trying to teach them a new language, something they have never heard before.

This generation gap is not new. Being a Boomer, I can definitely remember trying to understand my parents. The old fuckers still don’t get it. I am sure my parents still consider my lack of understanding of their station to be amazing. What, am I not listening ?

What do I mean, and why is not griping essential to our future ? Consider the idea that rewards look different to succeeding levels of rewardee. Just surviving the great depression was a reward to our parents. Now, becoming a member of the 1% is our reward for sacrifice and hard work. I can not imagine having to go through a depression, and my parents can not imagine all the wondrous toys and benefits we get from our richness. Both are rewards for the same acts, but look different to the rewardee. This lack of translation, both up and down the generational ladder, is not new, but it seems different this time.

Our Boomer parents, now mostly in their 80’s, expected to be dead by now. What with eating red meat, no seat belts, smoking, and natural selection, they hoped to outlive their finances and health regimes. No-one wanted the ravages of dementia, or the long term effects of Parkinson’s to take hold. Jesus, even cancer , however bad, was thought to be a quick killer. Now, they sit like war veterans, survivors of the battlefield, coming home from surgeries or injuries that were supposed to kill them outright. I guess an honourable death is no longer allowed in the military.

I am not trying to be completely negative. Long life does have it rewards, but only if you build the appropriate family infrastructure, something a 50+% divorce rate did not plan for. I can not imagine the wonder of seeing spacecraft land on MARS and what it must mean to someone who saw air fight in its infancy. Think of giving women the vote, and you have a comparable analogy to us Boomers.

To be negative would be for us Boomers to look upon our ancestors and recognize no learning lessons. We should take the time to look beyond the frailty and learn some survival lessons from the masters. In my view, the first lesson should be for us to never give up. Technology is such that we will probably live a long healthy life. This has more ramifications than I can probably logically think through. Take healthcare for example. I would want to be kept healthy for all of my life, using whatever surgeries or medicines are available, until my mental facilities stared to go. Then, pull the plug.  This may sound like death panels, a type of Solent Green ( remember that movie ? ), but once we all see the ravages of dementia in our parents or extended family, the choice will be easy.

Financially, how are we supposed to plan for 30 years of life if our work or government pensions are not geared to supporting that type of longevity ? Did you know that General Motors has retirees who have collected their pensions longer that they actually worked for GM ? Who planned for that ? Well, based on the fact that there are over $4Trillion in unfunded public pensions in the US today, I guess few of us did. Yes, $4Trillion. That’s a lot of promises that are being broken across the land, with Detroit being only the latest example.

Society itself holds lot of pitfalls for Boomers in the future. We are the large demographic moving through our prime voting time, hoovering up all for available funds, and then some. How do we reconcile leaving such large debts to our kids, a crumbling infrastructure, second mortgages on the family assets, and no vision for them to follow ?  Ignore the day to day changes like gay marriage, legalized pot, mixed culture grandkids, and secular religion. These societal upheavals are only window dressing, stuff we started and now must live with. Really, they are all good things we need as a culture, but they will be seized upon by some to stop, or hold back, the fundamental changes Boomers need to start soon. Perhaps we can categorize these expectations into a bucket list. Some Boomers are proud to have allowed, like gay marriage. Some, like mixed kids, we are pretty sure that this is a good thing for society, until perhaps when your white son brings home his Black, or Asian, baby !

The real positive is that we can continue a path of optimism going forward. Just letting things occur will give us some time to figure out things, give us time to retool, and re-invent ourselves. Thankfully our usual drug regimes most of us are on will assist this transformation.   Stress will have to be managed, but its doable, and is arguably our greatest generational skill. Boomers need to learn the lesson their parents did not, and, to coin an old phrase, “use it or lose “.

So, is “Plan for Success” the real Boomer pledge ? Let’s try it on for size, next on Boomers – wtf!.

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