Generational Warfare

Over at Amatopia, Alex wrote a post titled On Boomer Hate. It’s a good post which I recommend reading. Here’s a sample:

t’s trendy to hate Boomers. Literally, everyone is doing it. I did as well. But when something is trendy, it’s usually garbage. But a funny thing happened on the way to critical thinking: I’ve changed my opinion.

The more I thought about generational struggles, the more I realized that generational warfare hurts us all: What I’m getting at is that I think generational warfare is stupid and counterproductive. And I’m not just talking about the young. Us older folks do it too and we should to stop it.

The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that the righteous Gen X indignation against Boomers is pretty hypocritical, especially since many of us express the same sentiments towards Millennials.

As they say, read the whole thing. What I find interesting about this is the way my mother—who is towards the end of the baby boom, but still solidly inside it—spoke about the demonization of her generation and the lionization of her parents generation. She objected to both.

The “greatest generation” were the people who endured the great depression then fought in World War II. It is certainly true that they went through a lot. However, they didn’t do it voluntarily. It was not an ascetic practice, nor (in the main) a job they volunteered for. It happened and there was nothing to do about it and they put up with it as best they could. The great depression, which overlapped Prohibition, was filled with crime, both organized and disorganized. If you look at divorce statistics they had been trending up since the 1860s and showed a dip during World War II followed by a much larger spike afterward:

marriage_and_divorce_over_time 1867-2011 new _with-trend

That spike in divorces afterwards is somewhat typical of how much mother characterized the generation before her: finally done with deprivation, they finally wanted to get theirs. By the way, I added that trend line, and it brings us to another thing blamed on the boomers. People complain about the introduction of no-fault divorce, but if you look at the data, it really seems that no-fault divorce led to a spate of divorces on stocked-up divorces which then let off once the backlog had been processed. Granted, marriage is down and so one would expect divorce to be as well, but it’s very far from obvious that the boomers had any real causal relationship to the boom of divorces which happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Especially when you look up the history of no-fault divorce and find out it was done because people were lying about having cause for divorce so often that people feared that respect for the truth was going to disappear.

And so it goes with many of the problems of the boomers. To quote a famous boomer/songwriter, they didn’t start the fire. And they were handed quite a lot to deal with in the form of a deeply racist society, too.

Did the boomers do a lot wrong? Of course they did. Every generation does a lot wrong. We live in a fallen world. Which brings me to where it brought Alex: inter-generational warfare is stupid. There’s no way to judge the raw materials that any given generation was given to work with, and in any event it’s deeply ungrateful. The previous generation gave us life. Imperfect life, to be sure, but life that’s quite a lot better than nothing.

And thinking about it as a parent, it’s painfully obvious to me how imperfectly I’m raising my own children. I suspect something like this applied to every generation. Our children always suffer for our mistakes. It does no good to blame our parents. What we really should do is ask God to have mercy on us all.

One thought on “Generational Warfare

  1. True. Good post. You do have to take generational warfare with a grain of salt. It’s a bit of fun, really. I think much of it comes from the way our perception of life changes as we mature and age. The world looks different as a teenager to when you’re in your 20s, then 30s. So it’s not surprising that older generations call younger generations entitled and lazy, and the young blame the old for being self serving and short-sighted. If we better remembered the charges we levelled at our elders, perhaps we’d be less judgemental in our older years! Thanks mate.


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