The Way We Were….or….Talkn’ Bout My G Generation
One of the main topics these days has been about how to “save the system”. Meaning our current political and economic system here and maybe elsewhere. Or the eventual collapse of same regardless of what anyone does or attempts to do.
And one of the main aspects of this is then context in which this is being done. As if the time after WWII and the depression of the 1930s is the way things have always been and the attitudes there in were the way people always were. The problem here is that anyone who has read any history should know – this is false. But most of us still alive think this way. Those of us born after WWII. The so called Baby Boomers and their off spring.
Before WWII unless you were born into a “Middle Class” family – and I am using the wikipedia definition here, the college educated professional class – your life would be pretty rough. Either working a farm or on one or working in some factory in some metro area for horrible pay and lousy working conditions and lousy housing. And that is if you were white. If you were a minority, it was even rougher.
There were no suburbs or interstate highways or big box discount stores. Health care was minimal, if at all. And the depression made this all much worse. For farmers thing were already getting rough with droughts that precede the dust bowl and the depression. Not to mention that just prior to this in the late 1800s, grain prices had gone down a black hole do to over production caused by the mechanization of farming.
And unless you were born into a very well off family, higher education was pretty much out of the question. There were few state universities and the private ones were beyond all but the very fortunate.
Babe boomers however had it much much better. Our parents got to go to college thanks to Uncle Sam if they were in the service. State Universities were being built along with community colleges. The war and what followed created a huge demand for workers not know before hand. There was a major building boom do to the lack of housing and suburbs popped up like weeds. Unemployment was low and wages were going up. If you were white, during this period, you future was a hell of lot more rosy than you parents was. And most kids then were expected to go to college if they had anything on the ball at all. A major change from previous generations.
Now here is the problem. We were all told – on the radio, television, by our parents and in school – this is the way things are and the ways things will always be. Maybe not on those words, but that was the message. We were not told that this was primarily because the US was the only show in town. That the rest of the world was in the stone age or had been bombed into the stone age. That a very large number of the jobs out there had to do with make weapons to fight those horrible communists. That the cheap gas and oil etc. were provided by US companies that used slave labor to steal it from other less developed nations.
And to tell you the truth few if any of us cared. We were too busy with rock and roll and the beat generation. Hot Rods and girls. The space race. A few of us became aware of racial bigotry and civil rights and began to come a bit more involved with this. Joining marches and protests and singing songs. But with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives.
The Vietnam war geared up and more of us get involved with protesting that – primarily to keep our heads from being blown off. And with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives. But along the way a lot of us became very disenchanted with our government and political system. We grew up idealistic and getting pretty much what we wanted. We expected to be treated well and listened to and when we were not… When we were treated like some kind of inconvenient pest, a large number developed a deep seated resentment. And far too often this was passed on to their children as well.
We were going to change the world…the system and when we could not, felt betrayed by the whole establishment. Government, education, corporate…you name it. But our expectations were unreal. We were unaware or refused to accept that the times and our it’s prosperity were one huge propaganda event. To show the world that our system was so much better that the “other” system. And as soon as this was no longer necessary, tossed aside like a used newspaper.
Because far too many of us – of my generation, the boomers – would not completely see that because we were white that others were not, was a big reason why our lives had been so comfortable. And that as soon as that was no longer necessary, we would become unnecessary as well.
We had the privilege to live a fantasy. A Disney kind of life for a while. But the fantasy is over. Time to get real.