Monday, December 22, 2003

Baby boomers - the next instalment

On this topic, I feel somewhat trapped in an emerging inter-generational arms race with John Quiggin. John's latest Weapon of Mild Rapprochement is here. I would agree with most of it, except that I totally disagree with its premise (which occurs only at the end); viz, that all generations are on a wealth-upwards escalator in the long-term. This probably has been true of every generation in history to date (plagues etc, aside) - but it is emphatically untrue of GenX.

I'm really only blogging about this topic now though, coz of this quite good Age feature on the topic. It points out, better than I have been able to, the salient fact that GenX is not ever going to get its share of the Good Times - there is every probability that boomer wealth and job opportunity is going to leapfrog straight into the worldly mitts of Gen Y (the Boomer's children).

Also, this is a quite sobering quote from The Age article, by demographer Bob Birrell:

"At the moment there are startlingly low rates of full-time work among men in their 30s - only 71.5 per cent are employed full-time". Meanwhile, the 12-13 per cent in this group with part-time work, and the 16-17 per cent who are either unemployed or "not in the labour force" frequently feel they can't afford to marry and have children. As a result, he says, "We have gross wastage of many working people's skills and potentials."

"Gross wastage" is dead right. I can't think of any more important policy issue facing Australia today. Which only makes more obscene the continuing furphy that Mark Latham is a Xer appealing to other Xers. At least in John Howard, today's 30-somethings have someone about their parent's age. Latham is a parasite from outer space, for all I can relate to him.

As for Bernard Salt's anticipating the first round of good anti-baby-boomer jokes sometime between now and 2015, I should point out that I wrote a ms, "101 baby-boomer jokes" in 1998 (immediately post Mark Davis's Gangland, a time when some of us [naively] thought that there might be a velvet revolution of sorts). Here's a sample:

Q. Why did the baby boomer cross the road?
A. To step on it before it crossed her.

Although I've gotta admit I didn't really hawk the ms around too much at the time, there seemed, and seems, little point hoping it would ever get published. Those who would "get" the jokes couldn't afford the book - even more so in 2003 than 1998 - and, as David Caesar reminded us in the Weekend Oz magazine on Saturday, "his generation, the one that grew up with Toranas and pub rock in the 1970s, is now running the media."*

Finally, there's this intriguing article on the strong overlap between boomers and nerds. It gets one thing very wrong, however, when it posits "The Simpsons" character, Comic Book Guy, as an archetype of the GenX man. In fact, of course, Comic Book Guy, a succesful small businessman, is a boomer par excellence.

Which reminds me of something I've been meaning to blog on for a while: Why do so many popular TV shows, like "The Simpsons", "Home and Away", and "Neighbours" have NO 30-something aged characters? Does this mean that GenX has already been written out of history's page, as a sort of demographic aberration best locked up in the attic for the terms of its natural life, and never mentioned in polite society?

* Stephen Lacey, "Bogan's re-run" (no URL)

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