Millennials. Here’s Our Chance To Take The Torch From Boomers.
The 2018 midterms may be the most important vote today’s generations will cast for science, technology, and the basic social contract in America. The future is at stake, literally.
If you’re an American, tomorrow is voting day. Even though these are the midterms, they may be one of the most important and consequential votes in the nation’s history. Tomorrow, voters will decide if they want to resist the country’s slow descent into toxic, weaponized nostalgia and start building a post-industrial future, or if they want to allow their worst leaders to continue the current slide across every metric in the developed world, effectively rewarding them for failure and sabotage. This is not all about political parties, even though it is to a large extent. It’s about our choice being sane, sober adults vs. a conspiracy-addled retrograde gerontocracy.
As a recent piece in The Intelligencer astutely points out, American baby boomers’ life motto went from “carpe diem” to “adolebitque illud sunt,” or “burn it all down,” as they honestly no longer care what happens after they’re gone. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every boomer out there. In the interest of fairness, we should note that this is primarily seen from white boomer men and a slight majority of white boomer women who favor Trump and the GOP’s regressive politics thanks to nostalgia and their addictions to Fox News and conspiracy theories.
But yet, their actions have tainted the image of an entire generation in the eyes of millennials and Generation Z. They enshrined sociopathic solipsism as a virtue and tore up the social contract, and are now busy rejecting science, education, expertise, and frankly, anything else that stands between them and whatever they want, dragging the rest of their fellow boomers along on their quest to pillage the successful global superpower they inherited.
Like pharaohs selecting their favorite possessions to be buried with them for a luxurious afterlife, white boomers the world over are marching towards their twilight years while taking everything that hasn’t been nailed down with them, and if something they want has, they demand that it be pried from its moorings and handed over as well. These aren’t just the musings of a disgruntled millennial. These are the conclusions of expert studies into the legacy boomers will leave behind which started with trying to quantify the wage and wealth disparity between boomers and younger generations and ended up asking “are boomers intentionally sabotaging their kids?”
No, we shouldn’t judge the boomers on their economic success as a generation. Fate dealt them good cards and they made use of them. But for what we can judge them is the selfish recklessness with which they pursued financial security and power, and the fallout from their actions. You see, white male boomers don’t just want power, which is in and of itself not a damning pursuit since power can be wielded for the common good. No, their quest has been for great power without great responsibility, for all the benefit with none of the cost, for cold, hard cash today and the bills on their kids’ and grandkids’ tab, and for the ability to do whatever they want with no real world consequences.
Basically, they dragged millennials out to a banquet at a steakhouse with a Michelin star and guess what, the meal is going on the millennials’ credit cards while they’re only allowed to have a salad and maybe some fries if the white boomers don’t feel like finishing theirs. The lecture of how they are undeserving of the lamb chops and single malt whiskey they’re inhaling, is on them of course. And so, here we are, in a country on fire as its top financial and political beneficiaries are either pocketing the silverware on their way out, or pouring gasoline on the flames. One of the most important ways they continue this self-destructive status quo? They vote. A lot. Every election, no matter how big or small, they turn out in huge numbers to bend politics to their whims and help the GOP exploit the structural flaws which allow for entrenched, out of control minority rule in America.
If you’re a boomer reading this and are offended at how your generation is being portrayed and remembered, huffing “I don’t think that way! I’m not like that” as you read up to this point, good. You should be offended at what your fellow boomers are doing to your cultural legacy across the world and telling them how their selfishness, narcissism, and paranoid obstinacy will not go unremarked and forgotten. You should be warning them that when the last of this generation passes on, the epitaph on their cultural tombstone will not say “they will be missed” but “they were a blight on this planet,” as their kids, grandkids, and at least their grand-grandkids will scramble to finally fix their mess.
The United States simply cannot survive under a self-destructive, paranoid leadership which divided and conquered the country so they can pillage it for their donors and themselves. Our real problems aren’t secret Antifa agents and political correctness. It’s climate change, antibiotic resistance, runaway automation, deteriorating quality of education, an absurdly expensive healthcare system, and a safety net designed to punish the poor of all ages instead of helping them. We need leaders who understand this and will work to fix these problems by consulting with actual experts, leaders with big ideas and solutions that go beyond “uh, so, have you tried hating people who don’t look or think like you more?” Millennials are just about to become the nation’s largest voting bloc and it’s about time politicians start listening to their concerns about their and their children’s’ futures.
We need to be investing in science and technology, rallying citizens around actual policies that can help us envision and adapt to the future, not denialists who want to turn back time and go to war with half the world with weapons that may not be up to the task for as long as they think, and could be hijacked by foreign powers ahead on the R&D curve. If we fail to rise to the challenges of the future, other countries will, and gladly reap the technical, scientific, and creative potential American politicians seem happy to waste. And you might feel rather jaded and say “good for them, maybe it’s their time to shine if we’re no longer willing,” resigning to go with forces you feel are much bigger than you and beyond your control. But consider the hundreds of millions who will suffer from this defeatism, yourself more than likely included.
For the last four decades, American politics were defined by what we were against, and these midterms come at a critical juncture in history when we need to decide what we actually stand for. With a dearth of credible enemies and a surplus of fear and fear-mongering, we have turned on each other, and are now reaping the consequences of this civil cold war. As we were warned by Abraham Lincoln when he adopted a Biblical verse, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Tomorrow, it’s up to us to cast our voice in whether to let this house collapse, allow it to fall into wilful disrepair as its occupants reminisce over its old glories, or make the necessary repairs so it can remain home for generations to come. The choice is yours. But you have to make it.
(This article originally appeared on World of Weird Things and has been slightly edited.)