For some people, the world is divided racially or economically, along gender lines or by political borders. For me, the big divider, at least in the United States, has always been generational.
I was born in 1971, smack in the middle of what would later be called Generation X. I was part of dropoff generation, the calm after the storm, the first generation to undergo wholesale tranquilizing at the hands of school districts and the first generation to come of age under the threat of AIDS. I was also part of the generation that had the unfortunate task of following behind the Baby Boomers.
I don't need to tell you about the Boomers, and I'm disinclined to rehash their legendary exploits. Let's just say that they were the ones who defaulted on student loans while my generation was left begging for college money. They were the ones who complained of censorship while we had to crawl out from under the heavy blanket of classic rock. They were the biggest generation in American history, and one of their number spat on my mother when she was pregnant with me, stating that having children was "irresponsible."
Not that I bear them any ill will, mind you.
As the Boomers have hit every generational milestone, two things have remained consistent. The first is that their growing pains have monopolized the media. Their adolescence became the adolescence, the model by which all others have been measured. Ditto their college years, their young adult years, their years of parenthood, and now their years of old age. Every time they've had a birthday, the news has gone out across the land. We've all been invited to the parties, and woe betide the poor bastard who's too self-involved to wish them mazel tov.
The second consistency is that the Baby Boomers have demanded that every life passage be eased for them. They went to college, so cheap loans became the norm. They wanted houses, and easy mortgages became standard. As they've gotten older, they've continued to demand the same level of attention, and now that they're beginning to to stare into the face of retirement, we can count on the unwillingness of many of their members to step aside for the next generation.
As a consequence, I was hardly surprised when I heard about the Supreme Court's recent ruling regarding age discrimination. In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, the court ruled 7-1 that when an employer makes decisions that "disproportionately affect" older workers, the employer has to prove that there was a reason, other than age, for his or her actions. While this particular case involved workers as young as 40, it is pretty clear that its repercussions will fall very heavily upon up-and-coming workers who attempt to supplant the boomers. If age is no longer an acceptable reason to let somebody go, then how, exactly, can we pry jobs from the fingers of the Woodstock generation?
I hope you weren't planning on taking over the corner office any time soon!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. Nowadays, he doesn't trust anybody over 55!
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