On Boomer Hate

It’s trendy to hate Boomers. Literally, everyone is doing it. I did as well.

But when something is trendy, it’s usually garbage.

But a funny thing happened on the way to critical thinking: I’ve changed my opinion.

The more I thought about generational struggles, the more I realized that generational warfare hurts us all:

What I’m getting at is that I think generational warfare is stupid and counterproductive. And I’m not just talking about the young. Us older folks do it too and we should to stop it.

The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that the righteous Gen X indignation against Boomers is pretty hypocritical, especially since many of us express the same sentiments towards Millennials.

Does repeating the same mistakes you decry really make anything better?

So back to Boomers. I had these thoughts, and then I read Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. One of the most important thing I gleaned from this book is that while generations have some commonalities, they are hardly monolithic. Even Boomers.

Continue reading “On Boomer Hate”

A War Nobody Wins

When you approach middle age, you find yourself in this interesting position where you still have a lot to learn (and I mean a lot), and yet you’ve lived and experienced enough to have some kind of wisdom to impart.

You might even also be a parent.

It got me thinking about generational war and how, quite frankly, stupid it is.

For example, everybody seems to dump on Millennials and Boomers, with Gen X somehow avoiding a lot of hate. I’ve written before how Millennials are victims of systems set up before they were even born—as all generations are, really—and deserve sympathy more than anything. Maybe they even deserve, dare I say it, help?

You see, legacies are both personal and societal. What kind of legacy you leave for your children spills over, of course, into the kind of legacy your entire generation leaves for the next one.

The young always clash with the old. But usually there’s some kind of reconciliation as the old realizes that they, too, were once young and prone to mistakes—as well as exuberant flashes of brilliance—and the young realize that their parents and grandparents were right about a lot of things and just wanted what was best for them.

Based on my observations, this war/reconciliation cycle seems to have been skewed at some point (sigh) in the 1960s. It’s not like all young people of that era hates their parents, but completely rejected them and their values enough to affect society as a whole. Remember: you only really need 10 percent to start a movement.

Anyway, the funny thing is that the Gen Z/Generation Edgers seem to share a lot in common with the Silent Generation…if you buy the Strauss-Howe theory where generations cycle. I myself need to read their book before I form an opinion either way.

What I’m getting at is that I think generational warfare is stupid and counterproductive. And I’m not just talking about the young. Us older folks do it too and we should to stop it. Continue reading “A War Nobody Wins”

Unique to Death

Check out this “Generic Millennial Ad” a friend of mine passed along:

Pretty funny, right? And accurate. “You’re so special . . . just like everybody else.”

Hold that thought for a moment.

Back to the ad: While I do think it’s a bit unfair to target Millennials as if they’re the first narcissistic generation in American history (I mean, you’ve heard of Boomers, right?), the ad, joke though it may be, raises some interesting questions about individuality.

I am generally to the right-of-center when it comes to things like the role of government in our daily lives. And much like the Founding Fathers who enshrined the primacy of the individual in the Bill of Rights, my belief, based on experience and observation, is that the government which governs best is that which governs least. Generally.

But we all grow up. We all change. And we all re-examine our beliefs. If you are not doing this, then you’re stagnation. What I thought was axiomatic at 20 doesn’t ring quite as true at 36.

Most of us generally go through phases in our thinking, from incoherence to ideological purity to a more pragmatic approach that discards that which does not work. Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman made more sense to me then than they do now.

Oh, I think Rand’s warnings against collectivism are as vital as ever. But to claim that all altruism, charity, and religion are soft, weak, and destructive struck me as incorrect and harmful then, and it does even more now.

And Friedman . . . I think we’ve seen where profit-over-all, society be damned has got us. If you still trust big business and think they’re always working for our best interests in an unfettered, purely voluntary free-market where competition reigns supreme, please pass me some of what you’re sipping on.

The point is, people change. So back to the ad.

Individualism is the best, according to American tradition. Go out on your own. Leave home. Make your fortune. Self-reliance.

I agree with this. Self-reliance is paradoxically one of the best things for a society, at least if you want it to be relatively free. Otherwise, we need a huge nanny state to provide for all of our needs, and who wants that?

About 65,000,000 people, actually.

Here’s the thing: Being unique, special individuals in charge of our own destinies with not a care for the world at large may have lead us into this quandary of depression, atomization, isolation, and eventual loss of moral confidence as a nation.

What are we, anyway? Continue reading “Unique to Death”

Days of Infamy 

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American military base at Pearl Harbor, culminating in the sinking of the USS Arizona. Numerous pieces have, are currently, and will be written about this day, what it meant then, what it means now, and what it will mean in the future. 

This is not one of those pieces. 

Last summer in a post commemorating the D-Day invasion of Normandy, I discussed why it’s important to commemorate these important national days:

We’ll never know. But it’s important that we keep the memory of those who survived, and those who died, forever in our national consciousness. This country has done so many great things, and is capable of so many more. Black, white, whatever, we’re in his together. We haven’t always been, but we have been longer than not. 

I stand by this, but it’s important to remember that all of our best days aren’t necessarily behind us. 

I remember 9/11 because I was just shy of my 20th birthday on that day. While I didn’t enlist then, much to my chagrin, I knew so many who did because the attacks affected them so. 

Admittedly, my age group is on the older edge of the millennial spectrum. But still, lost in the furor over whiny, spoiled, bitter, vitriolic, and just plain mean special snowflakes is the fact that not all young people are like that

There are some who do imbibe the lessons and wisdom of tradition, who are indoctrinated into the good things in life, who seem so “mature beyond their years” for the mere fact that they aren’t acting like idiots. 

This is the problem: Our culture expects to young people to act like idiots and actively encourages it. 

Think about it: We love to keep young people perpetually adolescent and dependent. You can remain on your parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26. People are routinely in school until the age of 30(!) and still cant support themselves or a family. 

But some “kids” still rise to the occasion. They did during World War II, the did after 9/11, and I’m sure they will do it again when needed on other upcoming days of infamy that are sure to happen. 

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Let Them Lose: Four Lessons from Defeat Kids Need to Learn Early

“Just let him win.”

I am in the middle of game 12 or 13 of Chutes and Ladders with my four-year-old son when my wife says this. At issue is my son’s moaning because he wanted to spin a 4 to land on the huge ladder on square 28 that would take him up to square 84, but he spun a 5 instead.

Me, I’m somewhere near the top, a few more chutes in my path serving as potential pitfalls, but still a good 50 or so squares ahead of my son. He’s won some games, I’ve won some games, but in his little mind, losing at all is a cause for extreme frustration.

And losing does suck. But we all have to learn how to do it.

My son wants to keep spinning until he gets that 4. I tell him I don’t want to play otherwise; after he insists and spins until he does get a 4, I keep spinning until I get the number want.

“You can’t play that way!” he tells me.

“Why not?” I say. “You did. We either play by the same rules, or the game is no fun.”

All of which prompted my wife’s plea from the kitchen.

“Okay!” says my son, throwing his hands in the air. “I won’t do that any more daddy. Let’s play again!”

I nod and smile. I know he would get the concept. It just had to be explained to him.

*     *     *

Extreme? Why should I try to win against a four-year-old? Shouldn’t I just grow up?

I am not trying to win against him. I am trying to teach him how to play by the rules, how to lose, and how to win honestly.

I don’t know if this is a father/mother gender difference, harshness versus nurturing or whatever, but I think my son is old enough to start understanding these concepts.

At a certain point, letting kids win teaches all kinds of the wrong lessons. And if we want mentally tough adults, we have to start young.

I am not trying to be cruel to him, or to achieve any sort of victory over a little kid. I am trying to teach him how to handle adversity and overcome it.

Take a look at this piece from an 1861 issue of The Atlantic called “The Advantages of Defeat” written after the Union Army’s defeat at the Battle of Bull Run during the American Civil War:

The honor lost in our recent defeat cannot be regained,—but it is indeed one of the advantages of defeat to teach men the preciousness of honor, the necessity of winning and keeping it at any cost.

Bull Run was the first major battle of the Civil War, and the Union, thinking it would waltz to an easy victory, got whomped.

Now, we know how the war turned out, but the Union was really on the ropes for a while there at the beginning. Many bitter lessons learned through defeat–and what they did with those lessons–made all of the difference.

Am I really comparing playing board games with my son to the American Civil War? Yes. Because the same lessons are at play.

Learning how to lose is just as important as learning how to win.

Continue reading “Let Them Lose: Four Lessons from Defeat Kids Need to Learn Early”

Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination

We are all born with small brains. But the good news is that brains grow.

We come into this world, quite frankly, ignorant in the truest sense of the world–some might say “stupid”–and spend the rest of our lives acquiring knowledge and wisdom in the hopes of, at the very least, mitigating this stupidity.

There is nothing wrong with being young. Yet here in America we have this weird obsession with youth.

I can be tough on Millennials, but I also have a fair bit of sympathy for them.

To be fair, I should say “us,” as according to most cut-offs, I am also a member of this generation, being born in 1981 (although some people who study this sort of thing put the cut-off at 1982).

The interesting thing about Millennials is that the exaltation and, indeed, worship of youth is relatively new in history.

Youth Over All

There is nothing wrong with being young. We were all young once, and it is fun to be energetic, vigorous, free from responsibility, dreaming big dreams and beholden to no one except maybe your parents. The young do see things differently, unconstrained by past precedents or logical fallacies that hold many of the rest of us back.

But this is in large part because of their relative ignorance and inexperience. These are not necessarily things that should be celebrated.

Youth should be spent trying to pave the way for adulthood, not remain in a perpetual state of adolescence.

I am 35. I know a hell of a lot more than I did when I was 15, or 20, or even 25. However, when I am 70, I will look back at my 35-year-old self and say, “what an idiot!”

I have a hypothesis about why this youth-obsession is so prevalent, so powerful: The young are easy to indoctrinate and manipulate.

And they are, as my friend Rawle Nyanzi puts ita captive audience.

A large part of this is the cynical desire to sell stuff to young and create lifelong customers who will induce their parents to spend money on their behalf until they are ready to spend their own.

But our youth-obsession goes beyond trying to make a buck. We tend to see everything “young” as “good” and “old” as “bad,” without thinking about the actual issues critically. What’s worse than adults doing this is the fact that the young do it themselves. Don’t believe me? Check out the reactions to two elections that occurred in 2016:

  1. Brexit. Our friends across the pond voted to leave the EU. The Remain vote was heavily concentrated in cities, the Leave vote in more rural areas. There was also a young-versus-old age gap.  How many hysterical did we see by the young for the “old people vote” to be nullified, or the “elderly”–that is, anyone over 35 or maybe 40–disenfranchised?
  2. The U.S. Presidential election. Here in the States, we’re being shown election maps of “what if only Millennials voted?” showing a unanimous Hillary Clinton victory. This has been coupled with bloodthirsty hopes that all old, and usually white, people will literally die (and some are trying their damndest to make this happen).

This is pretty genocidal, to say the least. But it goes to show that the indoctrination is working.

Indoctrination

Everyone is indoctrinated, and everybody advocates for indoctrination. Everyone.

When you educate somebody to have good manners, or to respect their family name, you are indoctrinating them. If you are religious, you are indoctrinating your children into a religious worldview. Patriotism, love of country, military service and respect for it, these are all things that are indoctrinated.

The idea all societies have, from the primitive to the highly advanced, is to indoctrinate children with things that are good for society, and to recognize those that are bad. Continue reading “Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination”

The Money Making Game

As someone who grew up in a cage of safety, I fully admit that dealing with money has been a struggle throughout my life. 

When you grow up comfortably, it’s difficult to realize how affluence is not the norm.

What do I mean? Just that I’ve (a) always had someone to bail me out when things get tough, and (b) believe that there’s always more money waiting to be made. 

The latter is true, and is it a bad thing to have. But there’s also the Millennial curses: (c) being raised with a belief that the good times will keep rolling on, and (d) a sense of entitlement. 

Yup, I’m admitting to being an entitled bastard. 

Oh, not anymore. I outgrew that years ago, and any lingering sense of entitlement exploded after my son was born. 

What this adds up to, though, is a lack of respect for money. This culminated when I went back to school recently after learning my job was soon to end and having to pay bills. What I ended up doing was selling almost all of my musical instruments and other gear, not to mention many other possessions I’d rather have held on to. 

Talk about humiliating. 

Conversations with the guys at the music store were not pleasant:

“Whoa, this is some nice gear! Mind if I ask why you’re selling?” 

“I have to make my car payment.”

Awful. 

I had no savings because I had been on the debt treadmill for a long while. Big mistake. But I’ve learned a lot of lessons since then, and I also made some important mindset shifts prior to pulling the trigger and selling this stuff. So here goes my take on trying to get better at the money making game:

Stuff is just stuff and can always be bought again. This was the big one. Yes, as a musician it hurt to sell my instruments. And some of them have irreplaceable sentimental value. But at he end of the day, will my old guitars really be that much different than the new ones I plan to buy? How important is that stuff, anyway? Continue reading “The Money Making Game”