Thursday, December 2, 2010

Boom Boom Shake Shake The Room

Macleans continues to shock and awe the Canadian public with its hard-headed news reports which look more and more like US style fear mongering. First, we had to be afraid of the Asians taking over University campuses and turning them into places of study rather than the carefree keg parties that we have all been hoping for all of our adolescent years. Now, the focus has shifted to old people, stating that the boomers will leave in their wake a 'screwed generation' of young people unable to make ends meet. It claims that boomers will take every last crumb that it feels it's entitled to and expect the future generations of workers to foot the bill for them.

Well, so much for a fun peaceful lunch at grandma's.

The first problem that I have with this article is the fact that it calls the next generation the 'screwed generation.' What kind of name is that for a Generation? Generations X and Y belie some form of intellectual creativity, while the Lost Generation continues to inspire, beguile and revile people. But the 'screwed generation' is just so literal. It's pure intellectual laziness. Surely we can do better than that.

The second problem that I have with this is that it's incredibly presumptuous. Yes, all the doom and gloom stats indicate that the next generation will be swimming in debt, overstretched from the demands of caring for the elderly and the young at the same time and that there will be a bleak economic future ahead of them. And that's without even taking into consideration the disastrous effects of climate change and the constant threat of terrorism. Oh, it's all so hopeless, just so utterly hopeless. Let's all wring our hands at the same time. Wait, let's not, we might all get the avian flu.

Why would we assume that things would get steadily worse in the future? I'm not exactly a glass half full person, but at the same time, there needs to be some relativity. We are the generation that gets ipods and Xboxes for Christmas. We are Guitar Heroes and our phones do everything short of living our lives for us. Even the most out of touch bumpkins have some idea of what sushi is, even if they think it's yucky and we've probably travelled the world more than any generation ahead of us.

We're also the healthiest, most highly educated generation with the most social choices. We decide if and when to marry, who to marry, we divorce, we leave jobs, we leave town, we live in a world of more choice than people could have dreamed of even 50 years ago. We live longer and not only that, we live better quality long lives, working way into our 60s, 70s and 80s depending on our chosen professions.

Of course, there is the increasing debt, the burden of social services and health care, as well as providing long term care for masses of ageing people. And there are those boomers who feel that they can double dip by working a little bit on the side and collecting a pension as well. But we shouldn't start thinking like they stole that pension; they worked for it. Don't be fooled.

You want to know who's entitled? The generation that thinks that it doesn't have to care about the ageing population, the one that acts like older workers steal pensions and that health care services are being hoarded by the elderly. The one that complains about how much harder they have to work to make a living.

On the other hand, it's clear that the next generation of people is worse off than the previous and this is a disturbing trend. If the politicians were smart, they would know that long term solutions involve a generalized decrease in the cost of living for the next generation of people. It will be up to them to be accommodating of the new demographic, which is part of the reason why keeping the long form Census is such a good idea. They will know where the gaps and trends are and they will have a better sense of what to plan for in the future. Because the best way forward towards an ominous future, is a plan.

But since politicians are opportunists and not planners, they'd rather scare us all off with the idea that greedy boomers are to blame for the ills of our society and they'll shake their shoulders and claim that they're powerless to stop them. Yeah, because the image of a bunch of grown men acting scared of the elderly really inspires confidence in the population.

Painting an ageing population with the image that they're a bunch of free loading entitled bloodsuckers is ageism, pure and simple. Just like calling Asians a bunch of overachieving university degree hogging nerds is racist.

No comments:

Post a Comment