What was then called the Generation Gap was a feature of my own youth. Was it driven by mainstream media? Hard to say for certain, but we experienced it viscerally as a culture gap with our WW2 or Korean war veteran fathers and our housewife mothers. The draft that condemned 58,000 young men to die and thousands more to suffer a lifetime of moral injury over terrorizing and slaughtering millions in Vietnam drove the disconnect between our generation and theirs. This spilled over into negative attitudes toward “the Establishment” in general and the government in particular (which attitudes, incidentally, eliminated the viability of the draft in the U.S.).
Today’s Boomer v. Zoomer, or Millennial, or Gen X, is a different divide. Mostly, it’s economic.
For example, a poverty draft is what replaced the “universal” draft, and the desire to pay for a college education is a very common reason young people give for enlisting in the military today.
The boomers who tuned in, turned on, and dropped out often did so cushioned by family money. I’ll always be grateful to an artist friend who heard my millennial teenager say he wanted to live like the artists who moved to the country and spent all day in their studios. Friend to my son: “We had trust funds.”
Other boomers invented the derivatives they used to get rich while crashing the housing market in 2008. Some become obscenely wealthy investing in information technology that drove the boom that preceded the bust.
Boomers got college educations with loans we could easily pay off, we bought houses with incomes from full time jobs with lavish perks and benefits, and younger generations got the crumbs of that. They are often disparaged by oldsters because they evince no loyalty to the corporations who exploit them and toss them aside. Retiring after decades of service with a comfortable pension is rare nowadays outside the upper echelons of management.
Most working families today have two full time jobs, astronomic child care costs, and a rent or mortgage payment that is staggering. Add health care that is unaffordably out of reach for many youngs, plus a climate emergency rampaging out of control, and its easy to see why respecting their elders is not in the cards for young people today.
Today, boomers are generally considered to be more racist, more selfish, and ruder than everyone else.
Some of this is undoubtedly true, while some of it is perception. I remember a family dinner where the millennials were unpacking #MeToo and one of the males opined that it was payback for boomers being dicks and proud of it. His wife responded, “You think I’ve never been sexually harrassed by someone our age?”
How much generational conflict is driven by mass media in 2022? Quite a lot. Type in the search term “boomers v.” and get 15 million hits.
The oligarchs who own and operate corporate media would far rather have young people resenting the boomers as a group than eating the specifically rich ones.
Did I mention that slogans like “eat the rich,” and images like guillotines, are common in spaces where younger people congregate?
A very interesting generational divide has been the steady movement away from binary gender identification. My grandmother bemoaned the fact that hippy long hairs made it so her generation couldn’t tell the boys from the girls (really? I could). Now, boomers crack jokes like the one above. But younger generations are on to something: the need to reject the mind control of false dichotomies that begin at birth with gender assignment.
Ultimately, the U.S. war of generations reflects the absurd situation families are in: it takes a village to raise a child, and the nuclear family is no substitute. After covid took an ax to already inadequate child care structures, working mothers especially are struggling.
Who can blame them if many don’t want to have children at all?
Boomers, that’s who.