Boomer Humor? Maybe not…


Yesterday, I received an e-mail newsletter from BOOMERING_jaLouthain that said the following:

A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of that crazy TV show Boston Legal. The law firm, Crane, Poole & Schmidt, was defending a radio “shock jock”. He wasn’t a very young man, maybe in his late 30s, and he had made a statement on the air that old folks (like Boomers) should “just die” before they cost the nation so much in social security benefits and medical expenses. The radio station had fired him because he offended much of their listening audience which was in the Baby Boomer category. Shirley Schmidt, (aka, Candice Bergen, the quintessential Boomer, born in 1946) defended him and he won, because the radio station hired him to shock and that’s what he’d done.

Despite the fact that I totally believe in freedom of speech, I was shocked–shocked to think that he had a point. Boomers have always been the darlings of society–pampered, educated, admired, envied, even patronized. But now we’re just old folks like every other generation before us.

You audacious Generations Xers, Yers, XXLers, and Zers! Have you so quickly forgotten that we’ve given you the Internet, video games, remarkable health care, excellent working conditions and infinite electronic and satellite capabilities? Now that we’re old and retiring, you just want us gone?

It’s true, we will put a tremendous drain on Social Security and Medicare, there’s no question of that. And don’t expect medical and insurance costs to go down until the last one of us is a flower child in heaven. But have a heart, “Younguns,” we still have feelings, and we hope to have a lot more years to live as your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And don’t forget the most important aspect of all this: Someday you TOO will be old.

While this is being said in a tongue-in-cheek way, after the things that I have been reading in cyberspace, the comments here have a sting to them. I’m particularly bothered by the comment of the “things” that we have given as well as the comment that both, Social Security and Medicare will be nearly depleted. In all honesty, I’m not sure what to say or how to react. While a baby boomer will find it funny, the fact that we also brought a lot of pain to our children cannot be dismissed. Many of the articles and blogs that I’ve read speak of the pain caused by broken homes as a result of divorce. Other articles ask what will be left for them after we are done using up Social Security and Medicare and who is going to be left footing the bill.

I think that it is time for the Baby Boomers to look at the Generation X’s square in the face and say “I’m sorry.” Beyond that, I think it is time for the baby boomers to stop and listen to what the Gen. X’es have to say – they are , after all, our children.

Your turn to talk – What do you think?

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Generation Y – Do they really hate authority?

angry gen yThis article is a follow-up to Generation Y – Are they really as bad as we say they are? The information age and the information economy has flattened out the structure and hierarchy of organizations.  Gen Y is intimately in tune with this and, since they grew up into it, it is second nature to them.  The rest of us, the baby boomers and Generation X are definitely not there – we are in a different world from them.  One of the things that I am constantly seeing in the blogs and articles that I read about Generation Y is that they are constantly connected.  This is an important piece of information when trying to understand the “Gen Y’s” in My Generation – take two:

Generation Y is known to be able to multitask effectively. They also like to be constantly connected. So of course they are seen to be on the phones and instant messaging clients constantly, sending text messages, checking websites, etc. GenYers are information addicts. They’re used to knowing everything immediately and can quite happily be updated on several different topics while doing their job at the same time. They think, if I can still stay informed, and get my job done at the same time, then what’s the harm? Baby boomers come from an age of letters and newspapers. They don’t understand this information addiction, it’s like trying to do your job while reading a newspaper at the same time. So when GenYers are staying connected, baby boomers think they’re slacking off. Hey, admittedly, a lot of them probably are slacking off some of the time. But most of them are used to dealing with huge amounts of information at a time from several sources, and if they have to focus on one task at a time then they’re likely to get bored.

This is a very insightful and accurate description.  The information revolution, like the Industrial revolution before it, is completely changing how we relate to the world and each other.  For Gen Y’s, they have literally extended their lives to include cyberspace; for them relating in cyberspace is as normal and natural as breathing.  I imagine that they must feel very annoyed at having to explain to the rest of us what, to them, is something that is very obvious and natural.  Here is the thing that we, the Baby Boomers and the Generation X’s need to understand – the Internet has become the great equalizer.  Information is no longer the purview of a privileged few; the cat is very much out of the bag and information has been democratized.  This is what the Gen Y has to say about this (also from the ( My Generation – take two ) article:

Generation Y is said to have a problem with authority. This is probably true to an extent, but I believe it is more of a problem with respect. These days complete strangers will call you up on the phone and start chatting to you like they already know you. Back in the baby boomer days they were all about “sir” and “madam” and they’d address you by your surname, like “Mrs Jones” or “Mr Parker”. These days it’s all about “What’s your name? Robert Johnson? Well Rob, I’d like to talk to you about this amazing deal on cable television…” Everyone treats you like a peer. So Generation Y treats everyone like a peer. I think part of the problem is that GenX and baby boomers only see one side of it, they just see some young upstarts treating them like they’re on the same level before they’ve earned it. What they don’t see is Generation Y treating their subordinates like equals too. It’s not that they have no respect for authority, it’s just that everyone is the same to them and nobody is better than anyone else.

Although insightful, I don’t think the author goes far enough in explaining the authority situation of Generation Y.  While the paragraph above is correct, the basic issue is not authority per se but, something more fundamental and powerful enough to change a society, a culture and a civilization.  What is happening here is nothing less than a re-definition of what is authority and just how is authority derived.  Let’s define  authority in this way: it is our personal, individual willingness to submit.  In the information age, the “coin of exchange” is information and whomever has the must up-to-date, the most insightful information has the most amount of “coin” and Gen Y’s understand and respect this.  The underlying reality is that Gen Y’s do respect authority but, in their world, the one who is in authority is something that is very fluid.  Gen Y’s understand at a very gut and instinctive level that submitting to authority is their choice and under their control – this is a direct result of the information age.

Information is the most elemental part of any society but, it is how we process this information that makes it useful.  It is that “we” that is important because Gen Y’s do this instinctively and at the speed of the Internet.  Their perspective is this – all information has the same value and, by extension, all information givers have the same value.  It is only after “I” make some choices about the information that it will acquire additional value for me.  Gen Y’s take this empowerment process and project it to every aspect of their lives.

For us Baby Boomers and Generation X’s, it behooves us to understand this if we want to help them to sort out the difficulties of life.

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Generation Y – Are they really as bad as we say they are?

gen y

In my blog A TIME OF PONDERING – A TIME OF RECKONING I comment on the level of resentment towards baby boomers that I’ve found in the blogosphere. In that post I mentioned that I had no clue that generation X’ers as well as Generation Y’ers resented us so. I am fairly intrigued by this and as I dig deeper into these attitudes, I’m finding that the resentment seems to go in both directions. In the blog Generation Y, the author (kfulljames) lays out fairly clearly some of the reasons for the attitudes and beliefs of the “Gen Y’s” and Steve Olson in his article A Message to Baby Boomers and Generation X puts the responsibility of the attitudes of Generation Y squarely in the shoulders of the Baby Boomers and the Generation X.

As I read the ‘Generation Y’ article, I can’t help but think that these kids have a point! First, the “loyalty” that we are talking about is very much present in Generation Y – the difference is that they invest their loyalty in those things and people that will be in their lives for the long run. From what I could gather in the articles, it looks like for Generation Y loyalty is given first and foremost to the family. That loyalty extends itself to a very old saying, “to thy own self be true.” In their minds, being true to themselves encompasses the workplace and the value they bring to the business.

Generation Y rightly states that they grew up seeing how the loyalty given to the business institution was rewarded by lay-offs, by sending the jobs over to another country, by raiding the retirement funds and depleting them. In other words, the business institutions expect the individual to be loyal to them but they do not give any loyalty in return beyond the paycheck of the latest pay period. We are the ones that need to understand that Generation Y is the spearhead generation of the information age and the information economy. They are doing what our great-great-grandparents did when the industrial revolution got into full swing – they are creating! Generation Y talks in terms of being a contractor rather than an employee, having multiple income streams rather than one company paycheck; forgive me for pointing out the obvious but, isn’t this what we usually call entrepreneurial spirit?

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I’m a boomer – what do I aspire to?

I love the title Angela used to talk about aspirations (Ok, As a Boomer, My New Aspiration for the Future Is…)! Even though her blog is very light- hearted and humorous, it got me thinking about what I want to aspire to now that I’m a boomer.

The more I think about this the more I come back to the one thing that did not finish, the one thing that was very important but, life got in the way. I never finished college; in fact, I had just barely started when I left for the army. Now that my kids are grown up, I keep hearing this voice saying “unaccomplished, unaccomplished!” like an itch that I just have to scratch.

The logical part of me says “are you out of your mind?!”; how are you going to pay for it? For that matter, what are you going to do once you finish? You’ll be almost sixty by the time you finish, what are you going to do? What if you can’t find a job that can pay the expenses of the college loans?

My gut, however, keeps gnawing at me saying, “take the chance, take the risk, you don’t know what you can find at the other end…” And it just keeps itching, and itching, and itching…..

What do you think?
Are you thinking about going back to school again?
How would you feel being among all those youngsters?
Would you “go for it?” 

Selling the house or The Real Estate Bust!

We have been hearing it for a while now, the real estate bubble has burst and the prices are going down. Alongside this, the levels of foreclosures has skyrocketed and buyers who, 1 or 2 years ago would qualify for a mortgage, are finding themselves being denied. The real estate lender industry classifies potential borrowers as “prime” or “sub-prime.” “Prime” borrowers being the more desirable ones while “sub-prime” borrowers are more at the margin of their borrowing and repaying capacity.

During the heyday of the real estate boom, the lenders specializing in sub-prime loans went full steam ahead approving loans that looked very shaky indeed. Now, we all know that the laws of interest rates work inversely to the laws of gravity; what goes down must come back up. After several years of near zero prime interest rate, the inevitable happened and the rates began to climb.

As the rates climbed, the problems became more and more apparent as the level of foreclosures climbed to astronomical levels. Several of the more aggressive sub-prime lenders could not take the brunt of the waves of foreclosures and had to go into bankruptcy or out of business. At the same time, the market prices of both, residential as well as commercial real estate began sliding downwards adding fuel to an already volatile situation.

Now the situation is such that you are beginning to see even prime borrowers be squeezed because the market value of their real estate has dropped below the level of their mortgage. In other words, their mortgage loans are higher than the value of their real estate – a condition known as “being upside down” in your loan.

Many boomers took advantage of the very low interest rates and re-financed their homes to take the equity out and use it as they saw fit. If they opted for a fixed rate at 30 years, then they should not be in too bad a shape. However, there is a significant fraction of boomers that chose to get variable-rate mortgages. These mortgages offered a very low initial interest rate that would begin to vary after a set number of years.

Well, for most of those loans, the “set number of years” is up and the monthly payments are skyrocketing to the point where the borrower can no longer afford the payment. What makes it worse is that now the house is probably worth less than when he bought it; this means that, even if he or she were to qualify for a re-finance loan, in all probability the total amount of the new loan would not cover the amount of the previous mortgage.

The borrower is left with little option but to surrender the house to foreclosure and, maybe, even declare bankruptcy. For a boomer, this means that they have just lost the biggest investment of their life and the biggest single producer of wealth. For many, being able to take the equity out of the house is an integral part of their retirement plan and, with that gone, they may quite literally be staring at bare survival income for all of their retirement – assuming they can afford to retire.

What do you think?

Are you part of the real estate “squeeze”?
What are your plans for your home when you retire?
Are you going to be able to take the equity out of your home? 

What happened to privacy – Part II

Here are some additional thoughts concerning privacy, you can read the first part “What happened to privacy?” and you can check the blog from Elias Bizannes that inspired my own blogs “Define Privacy – what does it mean to you?

Part of the discussion concerning privacy is not so much what privacy is but, how is it achieved. Before the advent of the electronic age and before the Internet, penetrating the privacy of something or someone required a great deal of effort. Before, to do this, you had go to where the information was.

Back then, you had to be fairly motivated to want to go to where the repository of information was physically located. There was a geographical separation between you and the information you wanted. Once you arrived where the information was, you had to be willing to spend hours, days and even months wading through mounds of documents to get what you wanted.

A great deal of the privacy that we enjoyed was achieved by the sheer physical and mental effort it took to get to the relevant data. What the electronic age has done is to take all that away. There is no longer effort or sacrifice needed to get the information you are looking for.

Parallel to privacy concerns, another thing that is of concern is the veracity of the information you are acquiring or divulging. With the deluge of easy information has come the deluge of false information and outright dis-information. Where before, the repository of information in physical form, whether implicitly or explicitly, gave a measure of weight as to the veracity of the data, today that is being lost by leaps and bounds.

So the questions become, how do we protect ourselves and those whom we care about from invasion of privacy and false information? In an environment where information no longer has a physical shape or a geographical location, in an environment where the information may be completely false, how do we protect ourselves?

One of the things that we are going to have to review and revise is our attitude towards information. Because of how information was gathered and divulged in the past, we have tended to give it a lot of credibility. Consider the newspaper and newscasts of old; whatever Walter Cronkite said was the truth, whatever the New York Times said, was the truth.

We need to develop what I call a “healthy skepticism” towards information today. We need to develop and internalize some level of skepticism about how the information was gathered, by whom it was gathered and how it is being vetted or confirmed. Doing that will go a long way to curb the explosion of “trash” information that is floating all over cyberspace.

What happened to privacy? – Part I

With the advent of the Internet, one of the things that seems to be in the process of a very fundamental change is privacy. While you can find many sites that discuss the privacy issues in the Internet age, almost all of them miss a very important point. What is happening in this Internet age is a complete re-definition, from the ground up, of what privacy is.

Elias Bizannes has an interesting article in his web site,, where he gives a definition of privacy that is, at the same time, simple and practical. Here is his definition:

As a whole concept –

“Privacy is an individual’s right to determine what information they would like others to know about themselves; which people are permitted know that information; and the ability to determine when those people can access that information”.

As is usual in cases like these, the devil is in the details. Just how can you implement something like this on a global scale is beyond me. Just what would you be able to do if information that you do not want divulged is flooding the internet and it is coming from another country?

I’ve thought some more about this and you can read it on What happened to privacy – Part II.

What do you think?
What does privacy meant to you?
Do you agree with Elias’ definition?
What things do you do to protect your privacy?