Thursday, April 28, 2016


I'm in a weird place.

Not physically weird like the furniture is nailed to ceiling or anything like that.  No, I'm stuck between two human generations that are vastly different but more alike than they realize.  I believe time will bear that out but for now it's just a hunch.

I hear a lot about how millennials have an entitlement mentality.  Well, I can tell you that such condemnations aren't exclusive to them nor are they anything new.

The civil rights movement was accused of similar "transgressions" against society until the accused flipped the term around on their accusers.

Damn right that people shouldn't be judged based on their complexion!  That's as legitimate an "entitlement" as expecting to be able to walk down the street without a bunch of morons wearing sheets hanging you from the nearest tree.

It really boils down to a heartfelt belief in social justice.

Social Media, the Internet and information overload in general have enabled social activism for causes a world away.  But for many millennials it seems that it's enough to tap the "Like" key and call it a victory for the cause.

The problem is is that somewhere along the line social justice has gotten mixed in with Beyonce' videos and video game streams.  Just another element of a social profile.

Worse, it's my generation that caused it.  We are the helicopter parents who banned the word "No" and instilled the belief that everything our kids did was wonderful and had a higher purpose.  Even if the brat was a borderline sociopath.

I've frequently used the phrase "T-ball trophy" to express my disdain for this kind of parenting.  There's a narcissistic undertone that comes out of it that says that because a belief is dearly held and popular that all others are invalid.  It all goes straight back to my generation who were determined to throw out the lessons of 100 generations of procreation and somehow expect a better result in our offspring.

It's where the entitlement charge comes from as well.

How can we blame millennials for dearly held left-field ideologies when we never told them they could be wrong?

Ladies and Gentlemen of Generation X.   You've raised a generation of suckers that will believe and suffer anything so long as it plays into the fantasy world we created for them.

I've seen nothing that better illustrates this point than the groundswell of support for Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. Most of which comes from millennials.

There's nothing wrong with that per se' but when asked about the reasons for supporting him you hear a chorus of anti-establishment rhetoric with little substance.

Hey, I'd love to see all those things that Bernie is promising come to pass too.  But reality says that he's pushing an ideology.  He's selling a product no different than an IPhone or  a designer handbag.  It's promotion without substance with a marketing program that promises instant gratification.  Offer anything less at your own peril.

In fact even President Obama suffered a backlash shortly after transitioning from candidate to President because many supporters thought he should be doing more than he was.  As though the heavens were supposed to open up and vanquish all the evils of the world the moment he took the oath of office.

I've gotten into discussions with millennials over this and the common thread always comes back to a hyperactive belief in the need for immediate change without delay.  Consequences be damned!  We're going to save the planet and bring income equality to the world in a month.  If only these old "establishment" types would just hurry up and die already!

I can appreciate the commitment and the ambition especially when it's focused in a direction I happen to personally agree with.  But I don't buy anything based on its marketing.  I dig deeper which runs headlong into the entitlement mentality.

It seems just because you want something it should happen regardless of the consequences.  Ideologies are great for those weened on instant gratification but they ultimately end up as little more than lip service.

It's not that I believe that the millennial generation is any more naive or less intelligent.  I think they're responding to the programming we gave them.

Which is interesting because at some point in life you throw off that programming.  They say as we age we tend to get more conservative and cautious simply because we have more to lose and less time to recover.

I wouldn't be surprised that at some point when I'm just about ready to collect my paltry social security check of $1200 a month, the millennial generation is going to look a lot more like my parents, the baby boomers.

Remember that young baby boomers were just as much social activists as millennials are now.  In fact my generation spent years dodging the barbs for having no social conscience.  We were the "Do nothing" generation while our parents were lauded for changing social conscience and their parents for ushering in the modern age after winning world war 2.

But our parents eventually got older and with it more conservative.  For the  most part they took advantage of the trappings of the civilized world, raised families and relegated their activism to collections of Time Life "Sounds of the 60's." CD's.  Social justice was important but the climb up the corporate ladder even more so.

If any generation got idled it was theirs.  We still deal with pay inequality for women, stagnant wages and erosion of personal liberties.  What happened to all that activism in the 40 year's they've been in power?

Knee jerk legislation, mandatory sentencing for minor offenses and a income inequality unrivaled since the days of the 19th century robber barons.

I see a similar future for the millennial generation.  At some point you have to look past the packaging if you don't want to end up with maggots in your Twinkies.

If Generation X is to be saddled with the label of "doing nothing" it was simply because we didn't have the power or the cause to do to otherwise.  The world was finally made in an image acceptable to our parents and for a long time we didn't know any better.   As their children we didn't really have anything to complain about other than possible nuclear annihilation from cowboy politics..

You can, however, point to Generation X as the modern root of anti-corporate sentiment.  The boomers may have hated " The Man" but that pretty much ended when "The Man" started offering up company cars and golden parachutes.  The term "wage slave" entered the popular vocabulary during my generation as productivity went up and compensation went down.

In short, we were sold a bill of goods.  We were promised what our parents had but in the end we ended up being the first generation to have less than our parents.  All this while saddled with debilitating debt caused by an economy built on the premise that you could never really afford to buy anything.

Have you seen those "End of Life" insurance ads on TV.  Now you can't even get away from your bills when you die!  Since when is it commonplace to saddle your relatives with your bills?  Hell, when I go, just throw me off some cliff in the wilderness and let the coyotes get a meal.  How's that for environmentally friendly....

Still, with all that, I'm fortunate to have lived in a time where I saw technology rise from novelty to world changing.

When I was a kid music was still listened to on LP's and Cassette  tapes.  From there I saw the rise of the personal computer, the advent of mobile technology to now where connectivity is expected to be ubiquitous.  

So to millennials I can say this.  I get what you're after but don't dismiss my skepticism at your ideology.  I'm glad that your market power has forced a change in education and social awareness.  Just be aware that what you may think is anti-establishment is the same bill of goods that we were sold some 20 years ago.

And don't beat yourself up too badly if you realize somewhere around your mid 40's that liking a Facebook page wasn't really activism.  Step back and see what you've really accomplished before condemning those who've gone before you.

Yes, I still say it's my generation's fault that millennials seem a bit impatient and naive but so is any young generation just coming into their own power.  You can make the changes you want to see but it's not going to come from YouTube or social media or voting for unrealistic ideologies.

It will come from a unified effort toward real change.  An effort with a foundation that however flawed came from those that walked the path before you.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A passion for the discarded

I've always had a special kind of reverence for old things.  Things discarded, battered and within an inch of being just a pile of scrap.

I'll look at an old car rusting away in some forsaken back lot and think, What was it like when it was new.  What places did it go and whom did it carry there.  What was the world like around it.  No doubt very different from where it is now.

It's a little sad to see such things discarded simply because they've fallen out of favor with their owners.

I feel the same way about anything abandoned, discarded, unloved...

But while I feel a subtle tug at the heart strings I also see potential.  I never believe anything is too far gone so long as someone is willing to take up the challenge to breathe life back into it.

Yes, there are exceptions and some things are just meant to be thrown away but these days it seems we treat everything from the cars we drive to the people we meet the same way.  Disposable when in our estimation they become too cumbersome.

I've been a fan of Science Fiction since I was a kid which is where I first noticed this fascination with the discarded and neglected.  I was a huge fan of Star Trek (the original series) and always watched with intense interest when the good ship Enterprise would visit some derelict spaceship or forgotten world.  

One of my favorite episodes was entitled, "The Doomsday Machine"  Where Kirk and crew set off to discover the fate of their sister ship who had suffered an unfortunate encounter with a world eating mechanized monster.

What fascinated me wasn't the alien device, however.  It was the bruised, battered hulk of a starship hanging helpless in the cold blackness of space.

The destruction was palpable but what thrilled me was when it was brought at least partially back to life ultimately sacrificing itself and providing the vehicle for Kirk to once again save the galaxy.

It was that last gasp of life.  The Phoenix rising from the ashes if not a bit battered in the process but nonetheless once again relevant.

It's taught me a lesson.  Nothing is beyond hope so long as you're willing to try and the rewards can be truly great.  

I have two cars one is over 40 years old and I've owned it more than half of my life.  It's what I call a project car meaning there's always something to be done.  Mind you, many things have been done but part of the joy of owning it is the ever present opportunity to make it a little better.

When I first bought it nobody paid much attention.  20 years later, however, it seems I can't drive it a block without it coaxing a smile or an impromptu conversation.

It seems to bring others more joy than even I get from it.  I can only guess as to why but if I dared to try it's probably this...

It's not disposable.

It's a reminder that with effort,, some patience and a little love anything is within reach even if nobody else thinks it's worth the effort.

That's why I have a special place in my heart for those old, special things. They're a link to a tapestry of memories that can add color to an otherwise mundane present.

It's worth it to bring some of them into our future. 

By the way, I'm not just talking about cars and barns.  Today we live in a society that's far too quick to label everything disposable, even when those things posess a heart and a soul.

Learn to see the value after the luster has faded.  Learn to see the potential in the passed by.