Am I justified in being angry at previous generations?

TL;DR version: I’m pissed off at older generations for screwing up pretty much everything that can be screwed up, and want to know if A) it’s just me and B) am I wrong to be pissed off?

Earlier today I was reading something online (I don’t even recall where) about how one of the biggest demographic groups in opposition to a public option in the health care debate is the elderly. I find this pretty much impossible to justify, as a huge number of these people benefit from Medicare, which is essentially socialized health insurance. What I hear from these senior citizens, basically, is “Well, you all should have to pay for my health care, but I shouldn’t have to pay for yours.” A large number of them presumably also benefit from Social Security, which I am paying into without any real expectation of ever getting anything back from it.

This got me thinking about prior generations in general - I’m 23, so pretty much anyone born in the late 70’s or earlier. I’m paying into their Medicare and Social Security; I have no expectation of either of those programs being around when I could benefit from them, as these prior generations have so grossly mismanaged them.

The global environment is under constant attack, because prior generations decided to hollow out mountains and burn all the coal within, drill for oil wherever they could, spill that oil into the ocean, slash and burn the rain forest, pave over everything they could, and dump the runoff from all of this in the ocean.

Medicine is arguably a victim of it’s own mismanaged success; antibiotics are wonderful and I’m glad polio’s not around in the first world anymore, but now we have XDR-TB, MRSA running rampant in every hospital in the first world, and every kid in the country is saddled with some pointless psychiatric diagnosis. (And, of course, while executives of pharmaceutical companies make massive amounts of money, people in the third world die of treatable and even preventable things like malaria and diarrhea).

The American economy, of course, is still trying to pick itself back up after a massive disaster, which my generation for the most part had nothing to do with. But even back when things were great, we had cities like Detroit and Camden, areas of cities like South Central LA, and parts of the country like much of Appalachia, where people live in abject poverty, in fairly hopeless situations. This was not a situation my generation had anything to do with, and ignores the even greater poverty outside of this country (cf Eastern Europe, much of Latin and South American, almost all of Africa, much of Asia).

So basically, at least in my opinion, prior generations have progressively messed up more and more of the world, to the point where it’s questionable whether or not we as a species will be able to undo this damage (eg, climate change). My generation has inherited this.

Now, I know that complaining about it is as useful as literally banging my head against the wall, but am I wrong for sometimes getting really pissed off about all of this? I created none of these problems; by and large everything was messed up or on the path to being messed up by the time my generation was old enough to vote.

I’m old enough to be your dad (43), but I feel much the same way. I don’t remember where I saw it, but I read once that my generation is the first generation in American history to not be better off (economically) than the previous generation. I see that issue having one primary reason:

Vastly increased lifespans.

In the past, one generation would retire/die off and pass control of things on to the next generation. But thanks to these longer lifespans, we still had the WWII generation, many of them still operating from a 1950s-60s mindset, running things in this country in the 1990s. If I had ever produced offspring, I might have had kids in the '90s, and those kids would have been three generations removed from WWII, yet they would still be governed largely by the WWII generation, their great-grandparents.

In the past, many people could, as relatively young adults, look forward to benefitting from an inheritance when their parents passed on. An inheritance that could provide seed money to get themselves settled in their own home, or what have you. Not to sound heartless or insensitive, but I can easily see myself pushing 70 before both of my parents finally kick off. Receiving an inheritance at that age is not going to be anywhere near as significant or useful as it would have been in my 30s. Not that I expect much of an inheritance anyway. My parents divorced when I was in my late 20s, and my dad married a woman who is only nine years older than me. I can expect her to continue living long after my dad passes away, and she’s of course first in line for the loot. My mom and stepdad, OTOH, sold their house and bought an RV, which is just going to depreciate as time goes on. Not much left to split between me and my two sisters.

Finally, increased lifespans have contributed to a major attitude shift. “What am I passing on to my children?” became “How am I going to provide for my [own] old age?”, which became “I’d better grab everything I can now, while I still can.”

I’m old enough to be your dad, Rik, (OK, not really–56), but I feel the same way. I resent the generations that resisted sensible social policy changes for the vague comforts of “patriotism,” “conservativism,” “'Murrican values.” Say what you want about Jimmy Carter, he was correct in calling on us to embrace alternate energy sources in the 1970s (to take one small example of a prescient policy) but Reagan denounced and mocked him for it, and the 'Murrican people blindly endorsed Reagan’s jingoist arrogance (“We stole those natural resources fair and square!”) and now we’re paying the price. We could have been leading edge in alternate energy, but the oil interests (in the form of Reagan) prevailed.

Don’t mean to start any shit here, that was only one example of the short-sighted results of embracing patriotism over sound policy decisions, which I generally failt all the previous generations for–no sense of perspective, no sense of humility, no sense of world citizenship–just invade, bully, grab, bomb, cheat, steal, overthrow–and then wonder why no one likes us.

People are just human. They try, and they screw up. Do you think you would have done any better? Perhaps you would prefer to have been born a few hundred years ago, before things were so screwed up? Your children will be mad at you for whatever you do too.

Go ahead and be mad, but no, I don’t think it’s justified. We’re people, not omniscient, omnibenevolent super-beings.

Please–find the source for that stuff you read online. A lot of it is crap.

And I weep for Mister Rik, who is hoping he doesn’t have to wait too long for his inheritance. Lots of those previous generations didn’t get anything–ever. Yes, it’s ideal to have a father work hard, earn a nice nest egg & croak at the right age to set you up nicely. What if he works hard & dies when you’re 4 years old–just as mine did? Darn, that Air Force salary didn’t let him build up much of an investment portfolio. His own father died pretty young; at least he left a home for his widow & kids. As a policeman, he made more money that he would have if he’d stayed back in Ireland. Still–no great fortunes there.

If you want to be pissed off at the rich, handing down huge gobs of money through the generations, go ahead.

If you want to change the world, get to work.

My father grew up during a Great Depression for which the previous generation was responsible. His father left him nothing and would have laughed at the idea that he had to pay for his education or help him in any way (other than moral encouragement) after he left high school. When he was 20, my father had to uproot his life and leave the country for four years, to fight in a war caused by the previous generation’s mistakes. And he was one of the lucky ones, since he never saw combat and came back in one piece.

So no, I never felt that I had gotten a raw generational deal in life.

I’m old enough to be your…older brother…but you are making me angry at the newest generation.

To be fair, the generation born in the '40s pushed for tougher environmental regulations, and the generation before theirs enacted those regulations. (The first Earth Day was in 1970.) Our air is cleaner (and I lived in Los Angeles), our waters are cleaner, the Cuyahoga River doesn’t catch fire anymore, species on the brink of extinction have been protected and many are starting to come back, dams are being demolished, our cars and appliances are more efficient, and so on.

Which is not to say that I disagree with you. (Though I see 'Social Security is going to run out of money! :eek: ’ as a scare tactic. I think the money will be found, even if it is higher taxes – which is not necessarily a bad thing.) I’d say that the financial mess was caused by people born in the '40s - '60s, abetted by everyone else who was grabbing for the short-term profits and gambling they could get off the ride in time. I do find it hypocritical for people who receive government benefits to begrudge those benefits to everyone else. I don’t think that health care should be a for-profit venture.

But pay the Devil his due. We’re better off than if the last two or three generations didn’t work to clean up the environment. There’s still a long way to go, but they gave it a start.

I agree with Dangermom - most people just do the best they can with the knowledge and tools they have. Previous generations didn’t set out to “ruin the world”. Not only that, all those folks weren’t some monolithic block of people with exactly the same goals and methods. People disagreed amongst each other about what was the ‘right’ way to do things just as they do now. It’s not fair to blame all of them for how things turned out.

A) It’s not just you.

B) I don’t know if it’s wrong, but it sure is stupid.

The generations immediately before you are the ones who started the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation, environmental awareness and activism in its modern form, the Green Revolution, nuclear arms control, and gay rights activism; they also invented modern computing, space exploration, and a million other things. Before that they defeated fascism and imperialism, got women the vote, so on and so forth; every generation makes mistakes and makes progress, so it has always been and so it shall always be.

Do you want your grandchildren’s generation pissed off for not agreeing with you? I assure you in fifty years some kid will be asking the same question.

I’m not mad at previous generations for the environmental stuff. The world made a lot of great economic and social strides because of scientific breakthroughs that ended up being not so good in the long run.

I do get upset at people who are not willing to admit that we’ve made some mistakes as humans and need to fix them.

I’m also upset with the Boomers who did do all of those nice progressive things as teenagers and young adults, who grew up to be racist, homophobic, money-grubbing right wingers who believe in Death Panels and think Al Gore is a twat.

If the Boomers would have kept their ideals as they grew older, things would be much nicer now.

As someone who is more than 30 years older than you, I was pretty pissed about having to pay for your public education. But you will be paying for my Social Security and Medicare, so it’s all good.

I’m jealous of my parents’ generation. They were maybe the only generation of Americans who could do literally anything. I feel we’re a more economically stratified society now, even if we’re ostensibly more equitable. I feel like a fat and happy generation of Americans let a cynical elite sleaze their way into power without much scrutiny and the average citizen is paying the price for their negligence today.

Yes, and you’re also inheriting all the material wealth that this industry made available. You think that all the existing stock of factories, offices, durable goods, and houses are something you can take credit for, while blaming their side effects on oldsters?

I’m not taking credit for anything, but I don’t know that our existing tracts of McMansions are worth the environmental toll.

What environmental toll would that be?

You have to take the good with the bad. And both of those things are subjective.

Being pissed at history is counterproductive, unless you are willing to do something in the future.

It is not generational. It has been screwed up by the politicians and big powerful moneyed people. They are of many ages and it continues right now. The bankers that brought down the world economy were not old timers. Geithner and the others are not seniors. Clinton, and Bush were not having senior moments.
My oldsters were the people that ended Viet Nam and segregation by taking to the streets.

History is history. It can’t be changed. Some people in the past did good things; some did bad things. Very likely neither had any idea what the consequences of their actions would be.

The only thing you can say for sure about previous generations is that if it weren’t for them, none of us would be here today.

You know what I’m pissed about? Interns your age who bitch about getting to put 20 million dollar+ transactions on their resumes to have something to show for fall recruiting but when I assign you (as in, a specimen of your generation) one and leave for a conference I come back to find not one speck of work done on it. And then when I question you, you whine softly that outside counsel never callllllllllllllllllled youuuuuuuuuuuuu. Hey, don’t worry about it, I understand why you didn’t open up your email or run a five second Google search. Actually I don’t. Oh and the BEST part? Your MOM calls me asking why I took you off the deal. For real. Your mom.

Now get off my lawn, millenial.