Notes From a Native Son: The Intergenerational War is Warming Up and We Must do Something About it Now

Hal Austin

The global demographic time bomb, or more correctly the problem as it is developing in the developed economies, now looks like spreading to those economies such as Africa and Latin America, where those aged under thirty far outnumber older workers. As we know, this pending crisis is leading to an intergenerational battle, as the baby boomers – those born between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1960s – continue to grab all the goodies for themselves: occupational pensions, homeownership, investments and leisure activities.

As the southern Europeans have shown us, particularly Greeks and Spanish, young people are not taking this laying down. The closest I can remember of this kind of social upheaval was the student rebellion at the end of the 1960s; with students in Germany, France, Britain and the US creating mayhem in protest against the Viet Nam war. There was also the Black Power movement in the US, the rise of the Anarchists and out of these powerful social uprisings came the feminist movement, the Greens, Gay rights and the general shift in popular sentiment to the Left. However, I recently attended a meeting of students movements here in London at which I was asked to address the question of intergenerational conflict. Someone had heard me speaking at a meeting at the Trades Union Congress a few years ago, that time in relation to pensions and home ownership, and though I could add a bit of spice to the debate.

But this is no laughing matter, it is serious. In Britain, young people are finding it very difficult getting on the housing ladder, yet their parents’ and grandparents’ generations are buying every empty home then renting it at exorbitant rents to the very generation who cannot afford to buy a home. The big policymakers, misguidedly, are banning 100 per cent and interest-free mortgages, making it even harder for these young people, even though it is pointed out that making the mortgage payments is not the problem – the rents more than pay the mortgages – but the down payment.

But the divide goes further than this. We do not even speak the same language: adults believe the young grunt, wear their trousers below their bottoms and take no interest in the welfare of their elders. It is what Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, in their book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement”, call the Me Generations. In this selfish Me culture, the young and those who refuse to grow up, indulge in obsessive habits, from plastic surgery to tummy tucks, to re-shaping noses, to adjusting their eye sight, to farming out child birth to poor women in underdeveloped countries, to do it yourself divorces, to ‘secular’ religions; everything about modern culture, they suggest, is focused on satisfying the greed and selfishness in young people and nothing at all is about out collective social needs.

But the symptoms are worse, according to this narrative. Everyday you read some of the more popular newspapers about some brain-damaged person talking about how their parents abused them by not buying them designer toys, or reading fantasy stories to them at bed time, or not putting enough sugar in their corn flakes. How they were abused by class mates who would not tell them the answers in arithmetic tests, or share their homework with them; they were abused by local shopkeepers who told their parents they were caught shoplifting with their school mates. After a lifetime of having parents drooling on them, telling them they are the best in the world and wonderful, line managers at work who reject their work as grossly incompetent or simply just bad are bullies. The Me Generation is a generation of takers, but not givers, the first and only word they fully understand is me, me, me. It is a generation which believes in entitlements, but not obligations, in receiving, but not giving, in rights, but not duties.

Most parents have the little stay-at-homers pests nestling in their bedrooms, sometimes not getting up until mid-day, if they have to meet friends, and if they do not, just coming out long enough to ask what’s to eat. If they are fortunate enough to be working, no matter how much they are earning – especially the ones with their degrees and exaggerated sense of self-importance – they believe to contribute to the household budget is further parental abuse.

A friend of mine, a senior Fleet Street journalist, every time we meet up, his first words, said rhetorically, are always: we were not like that them when we were younger, were we? And we were not: we were in to playing, in my case cricket, setting fly sticks and down falls, shooting our gutter perks at innocent birds, and, by our mid-teens, smarting up and looking for girl friends. Our conversations were around passing our O levels and going on to university and studying some terribly important subject; we thought we knew about politics and fancied ourselves as athletes, or sportspeople of some other kind, we certainly were not in a hurry to grow up. For some of us, the generation ahead were our heroes. Again in my case, people such as John Connell, Aldon Lloyd, Don Blackman, Keith Miller, and loads more, most of whom went on to Harrison College and Combermere and ended up in law and politics or now reside in North America or Britain. Our heroes were Harry Sealy, Leroy Harewood, Frank Collymore, Tom Clarke (especially his essay in the independence issue of New World, which my father sent to me as a symbolic rite de passage). What is it that separates us so profoundly culturally from this current generation of short-memoried young people with little attention spans?

Even in terms of education, with their grade inflation, they digitalised short attention span would not allow them to read a book, however central to their education, from cover to cover. They started out reading chapters, now they only read sentences and paragraphs. They ‘google’ everything, incapable of retaining anything to memory; if they cannot ‘google’ it then it is not important; they follow trends and fashion like gaggling turkeys, incapable of stopping even when they can obviously see trouble ahead.

According to the elderly narrative, this younger generation cannot get to work on time, and even if they do, their output is minimal; they complain if anyone asks them to work, they even complain when they get a pay rise, since it is never enough. They want a pay rise, no matter how the firm or economy is performing; they strike if they perceive to be threatened with sick building syndrome, they get to work late, have extended lunch breaks and leave early; and, the cost of any training and further education must be borne by the employer.

Analysis and Conclusion:
If our view of young people is true, who is responsible for the creation of the self-destructive Me Generation? Are the parents responsible for drowning their kids in too much love, making them believe that the world owes them a living? Are teachers responsible, for inflating grades, even taking exams for pupils to make the schools look more successful in the grade tables? Are politicians responsible for the ‘stupid’ over bearing legislation, such as health and safety, human rights, equalities? Or, is it over-reacting employers with their ever-expanding HR departments which encourage even the laziest member of staff to take time off as they are stressed from travelling to work, or from meeting deadlines, or from not getting enough time off to have a smoke or to socialise with their old university pals?

You often see children, who have ignored their parents while they were alive, rushing to hire a lawyer the moment they die so they could challenge their Will. They believe they MUST inherit, but never think it important that they look after their elderly parents and siblings. Are these young people rebelling against the orderly, regimented, disciplined lives of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations? Or is it anything to do with the medicalisation of social problems?

In the digital age, young people have lost all sense of privacy and responsibility, some may say even decency, they think just being famous is an honourable career objective; it does not matter if it means sleeping with every second rate footballer or being caught in compromising positions with B list entertainers. But who are we to judge? The truth is that our generation cannot crown ourselves in glory; we have failed young people, if only simply by not passing on a more prosperous and moral society and sense of moral responsibility.

Maybe the prime minister’s call for a gentler society is a reflection of this awareness, if so, we want to see moral leadership from the very top, and not just people shouting about money and material goods. Let us make Rihanna the symbol of the New Barbados.

0 thoughts on “Notes From a Native Son: The Intergenerational War is Warming Up and We Must do Something About it Now

  1. Yes David. Profound indeed. She(superstar) and Duguid (honourable MP) use the same c word.

    That could be added to the “Bajan” dialect translation booklet for Tourists.

    • @Hantsie

      Do you know that Rhianna has 14 Billboards #1s which means she is up there with Madonna, Beatles, Michael Jackson et al. She can do no wrong. Why would our young people not want to emulate her?

  2. “Let us make Rihanna the symbol of the New Barbados.

    Who’s the us?
    New Barbados for who?

    doesn’t this conflict with “we want to see moral leadership from the very top”?

    I agree that there’s a generational shift. I also agree with researcher Richard Carter who said we can’t go back to the “good old days” and instead must adjust. The extent and direction of our adjustment however is within our choosing. Even with a fantastic boat and sturdy sails though captains and ship hands are needed. We desperately lack good enough captains in all sections of our society and therein lies the real problem.

    Just Observing

  3. @David
    It can’t be separated.

    Professionals, role models, and spiritual and other leaders have dropped the ball in their quest for money, fame, position, power or a better tomorrow for themselves.

    We’re at the point where everything needs to be “managed.”

    Just observing.

    • @Observing

      If our leaders and parents are delinquent then it is about waiting for that time when we have to rise from the ashes.

  4. @David
    “it is about waiting for that time when we have to rise from the ashes”

    Bingo.We shall continue to “burn” until a tipping point comes and real change happens. Depending on what you believe we may have different names for that change, but two things are for sureall of us won’t be ready for it and it’s inevitable.

    what are you trying to say?

  5. I am saying that we reap what we sow and it is apparant that a new generation has taken over with a different set of rules.. the older generation is now being left out in a life of belwilderment and an inability of not understanding what has happen while the “now me generation”forged ahead obama understood their thinking and Capatalise on it

    • @ac

      Obama capitalised on it because he won? Let’s hope we can truly say he capitalised on it after he leaved office and the consensus is that the US and the world is a better place as a result of his leadership. One cannot judge achievement based on the winning of an election, manipulation maybe.

  6. On a slightly off note, there is a picture in today’s Nation newspaper which shows rising Bajan band Cover Drive performing for Combermerians in the school hall. What is wrong with the picture is to see a female student, no more than 13 years old, capturing the performance on an iPhone.

    Aren’t cellphones by students banned during school hours?

  7. “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control.” – Inscription on a 6,000-year-old Egyptian tomb.

    “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” – Plato in the fourth century BC.

    “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint … As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress.” – Peter the Hermit in AD1274.

    “I think morals are getting much worse… There were no such girls in my time as there are now. When I was four or five and twenty my mother would have knocked me down if I had spoken improperly to her”. Charlotte Kirkman speaking in 1843.

    “Each successive historical age has ardently believed that an unprecedented “crisis” in youth behaviour is taking place. We are not unique; our fears do not differ significantly from those of our predecessors.” – Abigail Wills, fellow at Brasenose College, Oxford University. Her research focuses on the history of juvenile crime in Britain in the decades after the Second World War

  8. @St. Geroge dragon… thank you!! The waist of their pants may be at their knees but are they the Ponzi fraudsters?, the politicans who corrupt? who sits on boards for decades refusing to budge and make way ? and we dont have to look to far

    • We band aid and justify everything under the sun don’t we? When is something wrong? Is there anything that can be termed wrong?

  9. @ Hal Austin, Sir, having identified, the CORE social, attitude, etc.,problems our younger generation are suffering from, moral decay, laziness, etc, and your are RIGHT on target with your wide ranging analysis of the problems* but, unfortunately, and sadly, you are very inept ‘spiritually’ at the solution you suggest in your final sentence, “Let us make Rihanna the symbol of the New Barbados.” For, this IS* what has happened to Rihanna, her subtle seduction INTO Satan’s world, of Fame, Fortune, and Celebrity, and, outside of a miraculous intervention by Almighty God, she is on her way to Hell, just like Selena, Michael Jackson and many other famous Singers, entertainers, where Selena and Jackson were actually SEEN, by a Catholic young lady from South America whom Jesus took to Hell, then Heaven, before putting her soul/spirit back into her body, to tell the world what He showed her.

    Many of our younger generation, as well as older people are already in the ‘grips’ of Satan in B’dos, to make Rihanna, “…the SYMBOL of the New Barbados.” would be to officially invite ‘Satan’ and his wicked world of occultic symbolism, wholesale INTO Barbados, and seal our path, as a nation of wicked, evil, occultic vehicles, pawns for his ultimate purposes, to ruin any nation, that falls for his evil devices, taking many with him to HELL!

    The following is an accurate analysis, of Rihanna’s seduction INTO, Satan’s wworld, and his specific tactics and deceptive use of the Music Industry worldwide. This is NO joke! See the link at bottom for the full analysis of the dire mess, Rihanna has gotten herself into!

    Occult and Prophetic Messages in Rihanna’s Umbrella
    Dec 14th, 2008 | Category: Music Business | 828 comments
    Warning: the analysis of this song deals with disturbing subject matters.

    What is Rihanna’s Umbrella song about? First times I’ve heard this song, I was confused. Is it about a woman’s unconditional friendship for her man? Is it a “sexy song”? At face value, it seems so. However, if you listen closely to Rihanna and Jay-Z’s words, you might notice that the lyrics do not make any sense. The vocabulary used in this song is not about a relationship between two lovers. The fact is, Umbrella is about a subject matter that is sinister, dark and disturbing: becoming possessed by evil.

  10. BORED OF a Native Son
    BORED OF David
    BORED OF THE TALK AND NO ACTION FROM MOST BAJANS especially the ones who feel they know


  11. @ Zoe
    Rhianna is one of the Illuminati? There are Illuminati at all?
    Complete rubbish.
    The real truth of course is that there is a complex and overarching band of worshippers of the Fertility Goddess Cnut who are in high positions and act as a shadow Government of the world.
    Occasionally you get glimpses of them when they slip up as the other day when William Duguid mentioned the name of the Goddess is Parliament. He was of course wrongly reported as having said “cu**” while it was of course “the Mother Cnut” he was calling upon.

  12. When all is said and done can anyone tell me exactly what 3ihanna can positively contribute to bims old or young people, wat can she possibly teach anyone, something that is mindchanging or a message that can be positively followed. Anyone can get nekkid, that is nothing new, but please wat does she really have to offer the island intellectually or spiritually. I would be glad to listen to the person who can come up with thAt answer. A lot of her defenders don’t want there daughters acting like her, but they so hypocritical, they don’t fear losing their speech.

  13. When all is said and done can anyone tell me exactly what 3ihanna can positively contribute to bims old or young people, wat can she possibly teach anyone, something that is mindchanging or a message that can be positively followed. Anyone can get nekkid, that is nothing new, but please wat does she really have to offer the island intellectually or spiritually. I would be glad to listen to the person who can come up with thAt answer. A lot of her defenders don’t want their daughters acting like her, but they so hypocritical, they don’t fear losing their speech.

  14. Rihanna’s music or lifestyle may not be everyone’s cup of tea but kudos to the B’dos Gov’t and/ or BTA for capitalizing on her celebrity to promote Barbados especially in trying to attract tourists to the Island.

    If not Rihanna who? We have to stop living in the past when attracting tourists was like shooting fish in a barrel. Rihanna is an international celebrity who has name recognition all over the world. I was in a provincial European city (pop approx. 300,000)- where the citizens speak a language other than English and wandered into a store looking over the merchandise and while browsing I heard a familiar voice via the canned store music, it was none other than the Rihanna.

    The BTA should strike while the iron is hot.

    Here is a recent article from the Toronto Star–rihanna-in-toronto-singer-works-her-magic-at-music-hall

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