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To My Generation, Gen-X

The war of the generations is heating up. The fight for supremacy between Boomers and Millenials in social, economic, and fashion is now the key distinction in the Democratic Party and to a lesser extent the Republican Party as well. Bridging the gap, as usual, are Gen-Xers – now poised to become the glue that holds everything together.

How messed up does the world have to be to have it come to this?

People of my generation, we know that no one can speak for all of us. So let me speak for the Gen-X generation and you can decide for yourself. You don’t have the time to listen to me whine so I’ll be as brief as I can:

It’s up to us, like it or not. We can either start leading or stand around and tell the Millenials to get off our lawn while we wait for the Boomers to die off.

You can't define us.  Hell, we can't define us - so we don't try.

You can’t define us. Hell, we can’t define us – so we don’t try.

The easy definition of my generation, Gen-X, is people born between 1965 and 1983 or so. The whole concept of a “generation” is completely messed up, given that a mother’s median age at birth is 26, so we’re not talking about actual “generations” here. This is about the times we grew up in and the attitudes we developed in youth in response to our surroundings.

That’s why we feared our time in leadership even more than our elders did. We know how messed up the world was that created us.

My first political memory was of Nixon resigning. It’s not that he had to resign in disgrace, it’s that every adult in my life was angry and anxious that things had become so bad. He was followed by the two most honest men to be President in recent years, Ford and Carter, who both were eventually hated for shortcomings more reflective of the stagnation and change that whipped over the nation than their own abilities.

Had to have this up.  It's not worth fighting over.

Had to have this up. It’s not worth fighting over.

Our parents were from the “Silent Generation” that remembered the Depression and desperately wanted a world that was ordered and structured. When they got divorced or unemployed we took the lesson from it all: the world is what you make of your own life. Everything else had to find a way to take care of itself, too.

No one ever bothered to sell us anything because we were too few in number – besides, we weren’t buying anyways. Nevermind. Yeah, the one person sold to us as the emblem of our generation wound up blowing his brains out over Courtney Love – it doesn’t get any lower than that.

No one thought we’d ever make great leaders, but when the going gets busted the busted get going. This looks like our time.

We, as a group, have little time for BS because no one ever fed us a line of BS that made sense to us in the first place. We were actually taught well by the chaos of the 70s and 80s when the postwar world first started falling apart. Right now, the world is awash in BS and cheap solutions to complex problems that we know have been with us for a very long time. The Boomers refuse to recognize the flaws in their “system” and the Millenials are too young to have anything other than a vague understanding that it’s messed up. We’re the ones that saw it get this way. You can’t BS us.

What does Neel Kashkari know that you don't?

What does Neel Kashkari know that you don’t?

Take, for example, Gen-Xer Neel Kashkari, who recently gave a speech on how to fix the banking system. As President of the Minneapolis Fed he looks like “the establishment”, but he’s a purely no-BS guy. He sees a system that is better than it was but still not good enough. He outlined the meager tools we have to improve it and said it’s time to pick one. And he’s going to put staff time on this to come up with something like a plan.

That’s our generation at work, folks. He’s a guy who has had at least four careers and brings a little bit of his experience from each one to the problem. He’s an engineer, a bond trader, a government administrator, and now a banker all in one.

You might say, “I don’t have the time or the skills to contribute anything, it’s all too crazy and I have a mortgage to pay.” Allright, you may not want to be a real leader. But you can develop a low tolerance for the crazy that we have and all the solutions looking for problems that get whipped up. You can tell everyone, in the words of the great Samuel L Jackson, to calm the eff down (or something like that).

Is it a market or not?  Pick one.  Please.

Is it a market or not? Pick one. Please.

That may not seem like a lot, but it is. Our voice has always been slow to be raised and too soft to rise above the noise. It’s up to us to turn down the volume and get to the heart of it all. For example, take the healthcare system (please!). What we need is something much simpler so we can understand it and a clear outline of who is paying how much for what. Anyone who has had to pay a bill for something serious knows how crazy it all gets. Let’s start with the obvious and work our way out from there.

Foreign policy also needs our lack of BS and ability to spot a naked emperor. Why do we get tied up in every little catfight around the world? Who made this our job? If that was our idea in the first place, and it seems like it was, can’t we put forward another idea that’s not so insane?

This is what we have to offer the world. And if we get into positions of real leadership over the rotting institutions that run our world, what generation would be better at smashing what’s left and saying, “Here ya go, start over. Have fun with it.” We can then turn it all over to the giddy Millenials with the enthusiastic plans and know that we at least did something.

Yeah, we’re not a generation for leadership. We learned early that leadership is what you make of it not what you’re given. Well, we can make leadership work for us. This really is our time – in age and in calling. The world is that messed up, which probably doesn’t surprise any of us one bit.

Let’s do this, Gen-X. It’s about time for us.

19 thoughts on “To My Generation, Gen-X

  1. What I see in GenXers is a lack of interest in politics. You should write more about that and less about leading. Its not that we don’t care its that we don’t see any point to it and who can blame us.

    • Yes, absolutely. That’s where the populism comes in, a totally apolitical political movement. A lot of Sanders’ supporters are actually former Ron Paul supporters who just want to smash “the system”.
      That’s why I stressed getting involved, or at least speaking up, on very apolitical themes. Insisting that we do things well, with an emphasis on outcomes, would be more our style as a generation. Martin O’Malley should have caught on more, but didn’t.

  2. The younger more educated people are for Bernie and the older less educated people are for Hillary.

    Note that nothing in today’s blog affects Barataria economic optimism that starts in 2017, the year everything changes. : )

    • So, you still haven’t figured out that a Gen-Xer figures that everything gets better the year the Boomers retire, right? ‘Cuz the easiest charge you can level is that I’m just a hater. 🙂

  3. What I like to do is see how the different threads of thought get woven together.

    For example,

    The economy has been getting better and better in the US and that will continue notwithstanding China and trends in global trade.

    The stock market is rigged but we pay attention to it, the explanations for it are all wrong, and it doesn’t affect the real economy.

    We have a corrupt political system. Everyone is really down on politics. They don’t trust politicians.

    We need to start getting serious about thedeficit. I’ve had it with politicians spending our future.

    Overhead for benefits and taxes is too high but we need to expand benefits to address income inequality.

    But our economy is in better shape than Europe and basket case Japan.

    • All in all, there’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America.
      And the stock market isn’t as important to the economy as people say, or even a reliable gauge of it. But it is important to investors, which is to say it winds up being important in the long run. So much of this is image and attitude.
      The deficit is both important and not important. Until we separate capital expenditures from ordinary expenses we’ll never know how we really stand.
      How’s that?

      • The first sentence is optimistic. We need that belief so that we can unify on working on problems. A part of the conservative v liberal ideologies is a difference in the dividing line between public and private. So the difference is serious.

        The sentence on the deficit is a bit too zen like, so it is too shifty for me. Now the sentence on capital vs. operating is somewhat valid, but then you are being somewhat agnostic on the issue, because the attitude you generally have is that the political system is corrupt if we have a deficit and national debt.

        Correct me if i’m wrong but apart from federal government buildings and military facilities and equipment, things like roads, bridges sewer and water provision can involve federal monies but usually not wholly federal. So the argument is that states and localities would not build the right level of infrastructure since their are regional and naitonal spillover benefits.

      • What do we need a Federal Government for? I would say primarily for infrastructure, which we are way behind in. The system we have now short-changes it in so many ways, so I would say that this is a critical reform all around.
        The dividing line between what should be public and private could sort itself out a lot better if we understand the role and funding of infrastructure, if you ask me – along with some honest talk about what we spend on Defense.

  4. I think economically, we are in for a shift of values, from paper assets to physical holdings. I see this and hear this every day from Gen X’ers – and in fact I am doing the same thing.

    It seems to me that generations are an every other type of thing, where we Gen X’ers are more like our grandparents, who really felt the effects of the depression. We don’t buy much, and what we do buy, we hold on to.

    The current state of the U.S. economy is stagnant, and frankly until the next great tech idea comes along, I don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel.

    What is the net effect, long term, of these shifts?

    I think that real estate values in Central and South America go up, while stocks go down.

    Think about it. If, as a Gen X’er you can’t afford to retire any time soon due to a lack of a career path like our parents had, or a pension, or sustainable social security, you have to pare down expenses. What is the biggest expense of most Americans?…a mortgage. What if you could retire with no mortgage, much lower medical costs, and much lower taxes. I know of many people my age who are looking twenty years down the road, and thinking – How bad will it be? Maybe I should hedge and buy a place in the Tropics while it’s still cheap.

    I see many baby boomers buying real estate in the Tropics, but doing it boomer style, with the pool next to the beach, sipping blue drinks in glasses with fancy, colored straws.

    But, I am starting to see more 40 somethings buying rural property and building, brick by brick, a lasting lifestyle. We shall see how it plays out, but I’m betting on real, physical property going up, and digital “money” going down.

    No, I don’t sell property in the Tropics.

    • A good point. There is more interest in things like venture capital, too. All around I see investors going more with Warren Buffet’s advice – invest in things you can see.
      But there are also investments in lifestyle more than just money. Resiliency is a good watchword all around.

  5. Remember the old “Your mom is so fat…..” jokes? I’ve got an idea. Feel free to add or expound.

    I’m so Gen-X I think the Presidential election is rigged.

    I’m so Gen-X I think that the Cold War was a marketing effort by the military industrial complex.

    I’m so Gen-X I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart.

  6. Pingback: The Next Economy – An 8 Point Plan | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

  7. Pingback: Break Big Banks? | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

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