Class Warfare Blog

March 18, 2013

A Generation Uniquely Poised

I told a joke (admittedly a lame one) when I was a young adult that my generation was uniquely poised to be an embarrassment to both our parents and our children. It is quite normal for a generation to be an embarrassment to its parents as there is always enough youthful rebellion against parental mores to account for that. My parent’s generation didn’t invent statements beginning with “Kids nowadays. . . .” It was my generation, for example, that decided it would be a good idea to throw overboard everyday manners (remember the 60’s?), so people have few guidelines regarding how to act in ordinary situations. (My generation invented the college course in how to behave at a business luncheon. Amazing.) We responded by learning how to decline both the noun and verb forms of “dude.” Dude? Dude! Dude- Oh, dude?!

And Americans are longstanding overachievers in excess. Give us a task to chop down a tree and we will cut down an entire grove. What I thought was going to be the major source of that irritation in the generations behind and ahead of us was that propensity elevated to an industrial scale. We were polluting the skies and the land and the waters before, but my generation elevated the scale to disastrous proportions. And while much of the responsibility for the scale of the problem you may lay at the feet of prior generations for having so many children (environmental problems are at their hearts population problems) we sure as heck didn’t do much to change that trend.

Another source was, I suppose, the elevation of greed to astronomical levels. Our parents invented the largest and strongest middle class ever seen. My generation has done its best to dismantle it and elevate the rich back to where they were over a century ago. That the poor and much of the middle class has to go without food, shelter, and medical care, meh and it was all done in the name of Freedom, Justice, and the American Way (aka greed).

But I was wrong about this. Many of the problems my generation did so much to exacerbate we also found ways to ameliorate. Air and water pollution were reduced in places and for a while (the Cuyahoga River no longer bursts into flames, for example). The gas mileage of cars was greatly elevated. The global population problem was (remember the Population Bomb?) mostly solved through the expedient of educating women (go figure). Environment regulations greatly reduced all kinds of pollution. Socially, the rights of racial minorities, women, children and other repressed groups were expanded and lives were bettered, so why have we turned our backs on these movements?

Where we blew it was not in substantive areas, we blew it in, of all places, politics. Politics used to be a place where mildly greedy busybodies could actually do some service while making more money than their skills would have provided them doing honest work. During our watch, we have elevated their greed to making really good money (most congresspersons end up millionaires if they stay in office for a decade or so, way more money than they would make doing honest work) for the mild expedient of serving only the needs of the powerful, the rich, and the corporations. As a consequence, governments at state and local and federal levels are spending as much time working against the needs of the people as for them. At the federal level, absolutely nothing is being done to address the problems of the scale that only the federal government can address. Nothing on Climate Change, nothing on the Jobs Deficit, nothing on poverty or hunger, nothing on national infrastructure. And this inactivity is likely to continue for many, many years to come. The “powers that be,” aka the monied interests, have things they way they like them and if there is no change, that is fine with them. If there is any change at all, they would prefer it to be for their behalf. After all the poor will always be among us.

My generation fucked up politics. And as a young person, I didn’t think it could get any more fucked up than it was. Since my generation dumped manners, I can’t even come up with an apology other than, maybe, “my bad.” Quite probably we allowed this to happen because we turned away from the tawdriness of politics and allowed the most recent crops of politicians (certainly not our best and brightest) to hold sway while the forces of the monied interests gathered armies of lobbyists with wheelbarrows full of money to tempt them with.

It will now take a greater personal investment to elect public servants the caliber of, say, Elizabeth Warren to clean up this mess (if it can be), so the question is: are you in, or are you out?

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8 Comments »

  1. I am such a fan of Warren. Would love to see her on the ticket in 2016.

    Comment by john zande — March 18, 2013 @ 11:36 am | Reply

    • I am a big fan, too. She’s stretching her boundaries a great deal now, let’s see if she prospers in the Senate before we thrust her into an all-political atmosphere.

      Comment by stephenpruis — March 18, 2013 @ 11:46 am | Reply

      • I liked the way the Teapublicans efforts against her backfired. Blocked her from getting the cabinet position (was Consumer Protection a cabinet seat?) and she winds up in the Senate! It’s like when Darth killed Obiwon… he only got 10-times stronger 🙂

        Comment by john zande — March 18, 2013 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

        • Yeah, it wasn’t a cabinet post but they didn’t want someone of “her ilk” you know, a servant of the “people,” to serve as the head of that agency, so instead they got her on the senate Banking Committee. Sweet!

          Comment by stephenpruis — March 18, 2013 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  2. Great post! I am not certain if I buy that your generation ruined politics (just thinking about Mark Twain’s comments about Congress always is a comforting reminder that things have been this terrible since the start) but still it is always interesting to look at how some strange ruptures in political views and activities seem to have taken place throughout the twentieth century. I don’t know how y’all created the situation where kids my age only know an America where people say that “greed is good,” where our political and civic institutions are embarrassing failures, our universities are bloated businesseswith no care for actual education, where our foreign policy is unabashedly imperialistic and there is seemingly no leadership or support, within the Left, from anyone older. I can only draw some solace from the fact that, in the end, the Know Nothings didn’t win.

    Comment by History of Capitalism — March 20, 2013 @ 9:41 am | Reply

    • As with all blogs, much is overstated, mine not being immune. Basically, the current situation has been “on our watch” so to speak. My generation (the Baby Boomers” born 1946-1964) turned away from politics after the Vietnam War and as a consequence, we had a hand in creating the current situation (through neglect). David Brinkley wrote a wonderful book about the disfunction of Congress during WWII (Washington Goes to War) so I am aware of the history of incompetence does extend into the modern era. But, still, some reasonably bright people could lead the ignoramuses toward progress (lineing their pockets somewhat, of course).

      I just started following your blog and am looking forward to spending some time there. By the law: current religionists often quote Clement of Alexandria as “being on their side” unaware, apparently, of his excommunication. Ignorance is still bliss.

      Cheers from Chicago!

      Comment by stephenpruis — March 20, 2013 @ 10:06 am | Reply

      • Ah! Yes! Nor mine!

        I am still trying to figure out what happened to the Left and to American politics writ large during the latter half of the twentieth century, so I will definitely read David Brinkley. Thanks for the recommendation! As for the relationship between American evangelicals and hermeneutical theory… those are strange waters into which I am unprepared to wade.

        Anyway, I am happy to have found your blog, and will, of course, peruse it.

        Cheers from Philly!

        Comment by History of Capitalism — March 20, 2013 @ 11:57 am | Reply

        • I have never been to Philly; it is on my list to places to see.

          The Left got dismantled. We got the New Deal because we had a vibrant Socialist Party and a vibrant Communist Party. Roosevelt used the “threat” of their very existance during the great Depression to cow the very rich into accepting a 90+% tax rate to fund the New Deal. This has resulted in an utter lothing of the New Deal and all of its children and fuels the right’s hate of SS and Medicare today. The Communist and Socialist Parties are no more and the Labor Movement, the third bastion of the left, has been gelded (hard for me to admit as a former union president). The Right got into high gear in the 1970s with the foundation of the conservative think tanks and the plans to institute pretty much what we have now. They have largely won every battle.

          As Will Rogers said about his political affiliation: “I’m not a member of an organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” The Right has completely out organized the Left. Now, it hardly matters who wins the elections, the lobbyists will desend on whoever is there and make sure they do the “right” thing.

          Comment by stephenpruis — March 20, 2013 @ 12:09 pm | Reply


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