The Parallel Parliament

by Glen Pearson

Tag: baby boomers

The Future Is No Longer A Gift

Contestants compete in an early round during the 6th Annual LG US National Texting Championship August 8, 2012 in New York's Times Square. A 16-year-old boy retained his title as America's fastest texter Wednesday in a duel of the thumbs staged before yelling fans on New York's Times Square. Austin Weirschke took home $50,000 prize money for the second time in two years when he bested 10 other texting demons in feats of thumb speed, memory and fluency in texting shorthand. One round was performed with the remaining contestants blindfolded and having 45 seconds to type the verse: "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky." The event, sponsored by LG Electronics and using the company's cell phones, took place on a traffic island in Times Square. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

Note:  This post is also available to view on National Newswatch here.

BARACK OBAMA WAS ELECTED ON A GENERATIONAL SEA CHANGE in politics and government. Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, is riding its crest. The American president’s agenda eventually came up against an angry partisan opposition, remaining somewhat unfulfilled. The new Canadian prime minister’s policies have yet to sail through choppy waters.

When the two leaders summited in Washington D.C. last week, there was the unmistakable sense that something new was brewing and that the brief moment in the sun between Obama’s retirement and Trudeau’s arrival was a kind of passing of the torch. But behind each of these men emerged a new social and political force that will make our tomorrow, for better or worse, unlike our present age of democratic underperformance.

For the first time, the abiding and somewhat lackluster political imagination of the Baby Boomers is formidably matched by the Millennial generation – those born from the mid-1980s onwards. We should have noted by now that the key trait of this new political reality is decidedly progressive. Like Trudeau and Obama they view the public estate through a centre to centre-left lens. How else can we explain the massive success of Bernie Sanders with young voters in the American primaries, or Trudeau’s enlistment of over two million new or re-engaged voters in the past federal election? Things are not only changing in both countries, but are transformational in their effect.

Naturally there are many of the younger generation that ascribe to the conservative agenda, but they are the exception, not the rule. Everything else among the Millennials is about a social and economic shifting of gears – the mobilization of the public spirit.

This new force demands transparency over backroom deals, authenticity over authority, social inclusion over historic stereotypes and practices. And unlike their predecessors, who systematically tolerated, even promoted, the shrinking and paucity of the public estate, the Millennials envision a strategic place for government in their collective future. In their own way they are angry, frustrated that two nations that produce more wealth than at any other time in their history would permit so much of it to be frittered away in the pursuit and practice of a narrowing capitalism.

What else should we expect? They face stiffer unemployment than their predecessors, are saddled with unacceptably high student loans, and have watched their wages either stagnate or shrink. They largely played by the rules, went to university or colleges in record numbers in order to secure well-paying jobs to secure their future – the same pattern their parents had employed and enjoyed. Except it didn’t work out for them, or for their respective countries.

And so they are playing the hand they have been dealt with, pressing for environmental renewal, for capitalism with a heart, for a politics that actually includes constituents, and governments that reflect their diverse communities. They shake their heads at a political architecture that still can’t work out wage parity between men and women. They reflect in wonder how countries so resourced and rich can tolerate yawning gaps between the rich and the poor. And they double-down in anger over a political class that has stood by and watched as dignity has been stripped out of hard work.

This new political force has now arrived – revolutionaries, not reactionaries. They want meaning and inclusiveness and they expect their politics and governments to fight for both. They aren’t so much a volatile force as a moral one, and they have the scars to prove it. They are no longer the future we frequently patronize, but the living, breathing present we must now accommodate.

Only months prior to his assassination, Bobby Kennedy made a remarkable observation while addressing a crowd, one that perfectly challenged his generation: “The future is not a gift; it is an achievement.” Fewer observations capture what’s going on right now in politics. Gone are the days when by simply by following a time-honoured agenda that the wealth and individual choices of the future would simply unfold for us. We are living in an era where we must fight back to reclaim the public space, where we get out to vote to change politics itself, and where we link money with meaning again. This is the era which gave us Obama and which propels Justin Trudeau. The recent meetings of the leaders in Washington weren’t so much about the affability of their relationship as this new reality of sacrifice in politics that put them in their lofty positions in the first place. Far from just electing change, this new generation wants to jointly build it.

“Smashing Time” – Community Engagement Podcast (23)

Political policies in the modern era have turned pitting the different generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y – against one another.  At the community level this can have devastating effects, as many cities watch their younger creative classes exiting for opportunities better acquired elsewhere.  It’s time to obliterate the generational barriers that limit our abilities, split our families, and ultimately keep our communities under-performing.  I work in sectors where the generations cooperate together to make significant differences.

Just click on the audio button below to listen to the five-minute podcast.

“Old Before Their Time” – Community Engagement Podcast (21)

About 85% of the world’s youth live in developing nations – and they are growing restless, frustrated at the lack of opportunity afforded them.  In Canada, a greying nation, our younger generations are expressing their own disenchantment over the lack of access to opportunities their parents once enjoyed.  We are slowly witnessing the decline of public policy, public investments and the public good.  In permitting this to happen, we are watching our young generation grow old before their time, worn down by their own lack of opportunities.  It’s time to change that.

Just click on the audio button below to listen to the five-minute podcast.

“Boomer Redux” – Community Engagement Podcast (19)

Call it the “grey tsunami”. It’s about ready to wash over our communities, as within the next decade a quarter of our population will have reached retirement age. That generation, after working hard and providing for their kids, will naturally want to maintain the lifestyles they presently enjoy. The problem is that we are slowly stripping away of solid public policies that once helped the Baby Boomers thrive. How, then, will the next generation rise to success in the framework required for their progress is no longer soundly in place?

Just click the audio button below to listen to the five-minute podcast.

“The Unlit Torch” – Community Engagement Podcast (18)

In a time of diminishing returns, nothing seems sure anymore.  Where older generations took less for themselves in order to pass on more opportunities to their children, the Baby Boomers thought the could have it all.  It didn’t work out.  They watch as their kids come to terms with a future that is no longer theirs.  Somehow we forgot to invest in those public institutions that would provide security for the next generation.  Boomers now refuse to invest in the very public infrastructure that had paved the way for their prosperity.  In handing the torch to their kids, they forgot to light it.

Just click on the audio button below to listen to the five-minute podcast.

%d bloggers like this: