By Krystal Lambert
A few months back I was listening to NPR and I heard an interview on “Here & Now” with Bruce Cannon Gibney, author of “A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.” I have yet to get my hands on the book because I am a millennial living in poverty, but I have read several articles and interviews since then which seem to assert a similar thesis: That the baby boomer generation, as a whole, took a giant shit on America’s future generations and is still refusing to get off the pot.
“Boomers blew through resources, racked up debt, and brought an end to economic growth, using their enormous voting power to elect politicians who enacted policies that typically benefitted boomers’ interests, rather than future generations. Now, millennials face more debt, fewer resources and higher levels of unemployment than their parents, and are likely to see the fallout of runaway environmental destruction within their lifetimes.” –Bruce Cannon Gibney
Before I get too far into this article I do need to deliver a disclaimer: baby boomers, as individuals, are not (all) sociopaths. Millennials are not all individually lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Gen Z are not all existing on a diet of Tide Pods. Generalizations of individuals are rarely fair or accurate. Many baby boomers are incredible human beings. Where would we be without Barack Obama and Ellen Degeneres? This is simply an analysis of their collective achievements and failings as a generation.
I had never given much thought to the baby boomer generation until I started working in the service industry. I have been delivering pizza, waiting tables, and bartending off and on for a decade now. The main point I have observed is that baby boomers, more often than not, treat “the help” like they are less than human. The “Let me speak to a manager” trope is no joke. They are entitled, demanding, condescending, and rarely gracious or appreciative.
I have observed this in my own father, who is the kindest friendliest person imaginable to people he knows on a personal level, but will bark at the server to bring more napkins without a please or a thank you. As a teenager, I observed this and was extremely embarrassed and would try to make up for his sharp tone with excessive thank yous to the server. Even as a child, I had a sense of empathy for service workers that my fathers’ generation did not seem to possess.
There is a sense that baby boomers not only lack empathy for those in what they perceive to be “lesser” positions, but they blame those people for having these jobs in the first place. If this person works at Dominos, they must be lazy and stupid, therefore they deserve to be treated as such. Many of the people I have worked with in the service industry, including myself, actually have college degrees or are extremely hard-working intelligent people who chose the service industry because it was the only work available to us. Even *if* a Mcdonald’s worker has no education, are they not showing up to a thankless and stressful job that pays minimum wage just to make your food, Jerry? The amount of cognitive dissonance required to look down on someone who provides a service you need or want is appalling.
So, what’s going on in their heads when they behave like this? What has led the baby boomer generation to treat all younger or poorer people with such patronizing superiority?
“There are certain assumptions that are built up throughout their early lives. For the first half of the boomers particularly, they came of age in a time of fairly effortless prosperity, and they were conditioned to think everything gets better each year without any real effort. So they really just assume that things are going to work out, not matter what. That’s unhelpful conditioning.”– Bruce Cannon Gibney
Similar to spoiling a child, if you’ve grown up being given everything you need and want with minimal effort, you are likely to become an entitled brat, guarding your mountain of treasures, threatened by anyone who might try to take them away. Only the treasures are things like Medicare and Medicaid, unchecked Capitalism which ensures the rich stay rich under the guise of “lower taxes,” and an absolute refusal to consider their generation might be responsible for our country’s massive debt. You assume everyone who doesn’t have your privileges must be lazy or stupid or entitled.
I am 32-years-old. I have a degree, a portfolio of work experience from mortgage underwriting to office management to pre-school teacher, server/bartender and more. I have been working two jobs since college. I have come to expect to have two jobs at any given time. I prefer to work between 60 and 80 hours a week. I prefer it, because it keeps the existential doom at bay. I have $20k in students loans I cannot pay on, no health insurance, tons of credit card debt simply from trying to survive, and last year I had to give up my car because I literally could not afford it. Not every millennial’s case is as bleak as mine is at the moment, but there is an overall sense that we have a much, much steeper hill to climb than the generations before us.
Millennials buying their first home today will pay 39 percent more than baby boomers who bought their first home in the 1980s, according to Student Loan Hero. The value of homes has increased by 73 percent since the 1960s, when adjusted for inflation. The median price of a home then was $11,900, which is equivalent to $98,681 in today’s dollars. In 2000, the median price of a home rose to $119,600, more than $170,000 in today’s dollars.
Simply put, baby boomers gained prosperity fairly easily, and can’t understand why anyone would be struggling financially if they just “worked hard” like they did. When I was still a child in the early 90s, a family of four could be supported on one income. You might be struggling, but it was doable. Today, I can barely survive as a family of one without a second job. Imagine if I had kids to feed!
I don’t need to remind you how baby boomers rallied around Trump, an obvious sociopath and human embodiment of what happens when you mix greed, maniacal ego, entitlement, and blatant ignorance. His promise to MAGA was comforting to a generation that insisted they were not the problem and this country was headed for ruins because of Millenials, the gays, the ghosts of Dinosaurs, or whatever else they could think of to deflect blame. In reality, the problems our country is facing today are the direct result of the policies and greed of their generation.
I asked a good friend of mine, a fellow millennial, for his thoughts on baby boomers while preparing to write this article. And he did not hold back. While this is strongly worded, I believe it holds true. I will leave you with his words:
“They’re a bunch of shitheads who ruined the world by entitling themselves to hedonism that grew from free love and sex into open market capitalism and refused to give up their seats of power to Gen-X. Because they discovered a long life span, they continue to control all generations – no matter how out of touch, awful or short-sighted they are. Watch Zuckerberg talk to those idiots in that hearing from a few months ago to get an idea of ‘how with it’ they are. They grew up as hippies with no cares. Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ is representative of them. It’s self-indulgent, blame shifting, and just flat out wrong. So damned proud of minor humanitarian efforts in spite of every other rot they began or sped up to be ‘comfortable’. They may not have been given participation trophies, but who came up with that bullshit idea – and who then treats it like it’s a failing of the kids who got them.”