Saturday, February 28, 2015

Quakers, Zombies, Propaganda, Boomers

These Zombies have young bodies.

I saw this yesterday:
"Chances are, if you’re a zombie fan, you’re in your 30’s or 40’s. A Gen X-er.
You live in a zero sum world ... You worry more than any other age group about resources, money, retirement. You are anxious about your long term ability to obtain and then maintain enough to keep you and your family going. You’re no slacker, you’re a vigilante of vigilance. More than a little bit stressed most of the time and often flat out afraid.
So who’s coming to get you? Who is threatening your survival with their own survival, their astounding numbers, swelling yearly? Who is just too overwhelming?
The Boomers are the Zombies. I’m dreadfully sure of it.
It’s a grim picture: the Gen X-ers, making their desperate stand against those inexplicably superhuman yet rapidly decaying predators. Hoping without hope for a happy ending: that the voracious, determined and relentless creatures who are robbing them of their future might be magically disappeared. Poof! Zap! Gone."

In Star Trek's "A Taste of Armageddon," euthansia is a way of life--Poof! Zap! Gone!--until Captain Kirk decides he doesn't like it. 

As a Boomer (I was born in 1958) I never thought of Boomers as Zombies or vice versa. I have my own ideas of who the Zombies are ... and my own theories help me realize that, in fact, Zombies are the palimpsest on which we write our own script ... or do we? Or are they part of a propaganda machine?

The piece I quote from above saddened me because it revealed that some Gen Xers have fallen victim to the ceaseless propaganda put out by the forces of evil, propaganda meant to separate and put into competition groups whose interests actually align. Pitting Boomers against Gen-Xers sounds to me similar to the propaganda used  to separate poor whites from poor blacks: those blacks are taking the money from your pockets, the food from your mouths  and they are the Other... better keep 'em down.

The blog post thus mouths all the correct propaganda: greedy, self-centered Boomers are robbing the younger generation of their rightful legacy. 

These Zombies look young to me  ... hhhmmm.

It's true, isn't it?  Social Security and Medicare will take up a larger portion of federal budgets as Baby Boomers retire, and hence, Boomers are sucking tax dollars out of hardworking younger people who could be using that money for other things. At the same time, as fixed pension retirements decline and the ability to survive on Social Security diminishes, Boomers are, by necessity, staying in their jobs longer and longer--jobs that could and should, the logic follows, go to the younger generation.

From where I stand the above is a lie.

Let's say the "burden" of Social Security and Medicare went away: who is going to end up supporting now impoverished parents? Yes, you guessed it: You. Is this going to cost you LESS, financially and emotionally, than paying into the current system? Do you REALLY WANT Mom and Dad--decrepit Zombie Mom and Dad--moving in with you? Or, do you really want, alternatively, to be sending them $500 a month to keep them away? Really? What if your spouse's parents don't need the money and yours do and your spouse burns with resentment every month at sending off the check? Is this the route to marital harmony? Or do you let Mom and Dad go hungry? And what about those other Zombies who don't have children willing to support them? Do they starve? Hhmm. 

I can remember in the early 1970s reading article after article about the hit TV series The Waltons, the heart warming saga of an intergenerational family surviving during the Depression. For most of the critics,  The Waltons represented living memory, and  most fixated on the grandparents living with the family, something they all remembered vividly. They all marveled at that social organization having passed into oblivion. I, on the other hand, couldn't imagine my grandparents living with us ... nobody I knew had grandparents living in the same house ... or if I did imagine it, all I could picture was  an endless amount of sturm and drang.  I was glad those "good old" days were gone ... do we want those days back? Are we all likely, REALLY, to all be cosy  and prayerful together like the Waltons, everyone leaning into the old folks' wisdom? Do you want this Gen-Xers? Mom interfering in raising the kids, spending your money or  taking over your kitchen? Dad telling you what to do, how to take care of your car, or talking endlessly about Viet Nam protests? Maybe some do, but it's always nice to have the option to say no. 

The old Zombies are in our midst. The horrors of old age: Who would you rather have to dinner: Grandma and Grandpa Walton or those young Zombies above?

Of course, another solution is euthansia: we could just kill all the Zombies. But most people, in my experience, seem oddly revulsed by that idea of snuffing Mom and Dad. And then the X-ers themselves would become the next generation of Zombies ...

But what about jobs? Aren't Boomers really clogging up the job market? Well, yes and no. Yes, Boomers are retiring later. On the other hand, it has come to my attention that many of the plum jobs that Boomers have tend to vaporize after the Boomers in question retire.  I remember Newton Garver coming to Earlham School of Religion and telling us that the state university system of New York, where he worked as a philosophy professor, was  going to abolish his job once he retired. No hungry philosophy Phd would benefit from him leaving. So, although in his early 80s (he has since died), he planned to keep working until death, and as his expenses were low and salary high, he was funneling much of his money, as I understand it, to help Bolivian Quakers. In other words, rather than harming the younger generation, his staying in his job was helping the younger generation to get a start in life. And once he was gone, the job was gone. Gone, gone, gone. This is simply one example, but I could conjure up story after story after story of the person who retires only to have his or her good job either divvied between the remaining employees, vaporized or offered up at much lower pay and benefits and with much less security to a younger person. 

I'll try to cut this short, but what of the other side? What of all that Boomers DO and have done for the younger generations? Speaking for myself and the cohort I know, we have put or are putting our children through college at a level of sacrifice we never expected. Our lush salaries that you look at with such envy have flat-lined (if we're lucky enough not to have taken cuts) and college costs keep going up. And yet we keep finding the money ... somewhere. That's only the beginning  of what we do for you... but this isn't the point--we WANT to do it, and pointing it out only feeds the evil.

Because, despite the propaganda saying our generation is "stealing" from yours, the reality is, we're all in this together. WE, your parents and older friends, are NOT the ones stealing your future...SOMEONE is, but it's not US.

Since Leonard Nimoy just died, I have been thinking about the original Star Trek. In one episode, an alien entity that feeds on hate gets Earthlings and their enemies, the Klingons, together and fosters violent dissent between them through telling lies ... then sits back and grows stronger and stronger as they fight each other. In Star Trek, the rival groups figure it out and work together: THEY STOP FIGHTING and the power of evil diminishes before our eyes.

The Bible says something about this too. Who benefits when the generations are at each other throats? Who has told us the lie that it's a zero sum game? Why would we ever believe that we have to rob each other to have what we need? Why would we think any of us, or the government--which is us--is the Zombie? Isn't there a rival story, called feeding the 5,000? Do we believe that? I do. 

The other side of Zombie-ism: feeding each other, not feeding on each other.

What does this have to do with Quakers? Obviously, quite a number of Quakers are Boomers, products of an anti-war and pro-people movement that dovetailed with Quaker values. It can be hard being a younger Quaker, even for me, a younger Boomer Quaker, who missed  the "glory days" of the 1960s.  It can be hard to be "talked at," and I have done more than one eye roll when some aging male Friend in sandals tells me, as if I have never thought of that before, that maybe the resurrection was made up or that Buddha and Christ said many of the same things. What's revelation to one generation is a yawn to the next. And yet, at the same time, I have seldom found a group of people more generous and giving to the younger generation (even to people like me, who aren't so much younger) than the older Quakers. I learn from the example of older Quakers that love is better than war: "If I live in love, I live in God and God in me." 

And  I can't help but remember that, unless we die young, we all will wake up one day and discover we're the Zombies. 

Or maybe we're not. 

Maybe there are no Zombies. 

1 comment:

Hystery said...

It is an interesting idea, though I hardly think it is consciously held by most of us Gen-Xers, that you Boomers are like Zombies. I think you are right that this attitude, conscious or not, is born of a divide and conquer propaganda that tells us there is not enough for all and that we must fight each other for the scraps.

I do live with my mother and father and 98 year old grandmother as well as with my husband and children. It is what it is- usually good. Sometimes quite difficult. And I work as an adjunct (dreadfully exploited if I'm being honest) and share an office with my Baby Boomer father. We're both history faculty. He holds the only full time history job at the college and when he retires (which will be soon) they will likely decide to replace his full time position with more adjunct faculty without insurance, without a union, without job security. Until then, he does his best to protect us with all the pull and power his years, experience, and union membership afford him.

But there is a strong sense that there is some shuffling undead monster tracking us- feeding off brains and drawing us into a living death. I think it is not our parents but Exploitation and Apathy and Despair that mindlessly lurches toward us. We are not, perhaps, a generation well-known for our capacity for hope. But we shall see. Our story is not yet fully written.