Generation Less, by Jennifer Rayner

Generation-Less_0 I really expected and WANTED to like this book. I agreed with its general message: that younger generations were being disadvantaged in today’s world. With jobs hard to get and housing, both rental and purchased, priced well beyond their means, they faced far greater difficulties than I did at their age.

Jennifer Rayner attributes this to an older more privileged generation (mine) not willing to give up advantages and effectively denying opportunities to a younger generation (hers). And in taking that narrow focus I believe she sets off on the wrong path.

It’s not far into the book that she started to lose my empathy, when I read:

In earlier years, our parents’ generation moved steadily through pay rises and promotions as people filed out of work at 55 and freed up the ranks above them. But having got old themselves, they’re not giving up on those great careers. That leaves me and my peers butting up against a grey ceiling that compresses our potential and frustrates our ambitions. (p35)

And later in the book:

“…wealth is a form of power. If we don’t change tack now, if we allow it to become ever-more concentrated in the hands of the aged, this is going to dramatically redraw Auastralia’s social contract.” (p138)

I, and I’m sure many of my generation would be more than happy to “file out of work at 55” to make way for the next generation. In fact something like that is exactly what my generation were led to believe WOULD happen by the time we reached our mid-50s: that retirement ages would lower and we could look forward to a middle/old age of recreation and ease, not having to work until we dropped dead or became too sick to continue.
But instead the retirement age in Australia has been raised from 65 to 67, because we apparently have an aging population that needs to continue working to support itself for longer.

I’ve just turned 58 and I would have LOVED to be three years into my retirement, but I had no choice, and according to current legislation I’ll be working for another nine years, dependent on the continuing availability of work for people of my age, which is questionable considering the difficulties faced by “seniors” when they need to find a new job.

As for the idea of wealth/power becoming “ever-more concentrated in the hands of the aged”, I have to say I know few “aged” people who have any degree of wealth that could give them “power”. But maybe I move in totally different circles to Rayner.

Most of those I know merely have sufficient to keep themselves living non-lavish lifestyles, with food and housing but little room for luxuries. And I can only wonder about my own future. There’s no accumulated wealth for me to fall back on in 9 years when I’m able to retire.
The things I DO have (eg. a basic but comfortable house, furniture and a car) were accumulated and obtained over many years, and in my younger days required restraint and discipline: no phone, no TV, no credit card for the first couple of years, making do with hand-me-down furniture, then moving away from the city where houses were unaffordable to a country town where property was (and is) a fraction of the cost.

I could go on…

The blurb of Rayner’s book states that hers is “the first generation since the Great Depression to be worse off than their parents”.
If that IS true – how significant is it?

Let’s look at how many generations there have been during that period.

In my own family there would be:
1) my grandparents’ who grew up during the Depression.
2) My parents’, who grew up during WW2
3) my own, the one apparently disadvantaging the next, and
4) my daughters’, the generation Rayner is writing about who are being disadvantaged.

So in all, by my assessment, there have only been two generations that have been better off than their predecessors according to the claims of Rayner’s book.

One of those could hardly have been worse off than their Depression era parents, and the next (mine) could hardly have been worse off than my parents’ generation, emerging from six years of a devastating World War. Clearly there isn’t a long standing tradition of constant economic improvement from one generation to the next.

So pushing aside the weak argument of an historical precedent of ongoing betterment from generation to generation; what would it be that gives rise to the idea that we SHOULD always be better off than our parents?
I suspect it’s related to the belief that economies SHOULD continually grow.
Clearly (though many deny it), within a finite world there’s a limit to possible growth and continual increase can’t be sustained; but how soon can we expect that the limit to viable growth be reached?

Maybe it can’t go on beyond a generation or two and is already approaching its limit?
Possibly the present day difficulties have nothing to do with generational inequity but a lot to do with misplaced expectations and Ponzi scheme economics.

_______________
There is so much more in this book to address (I’ve only touched the surface), so maybe I’ll add another post or two later to deal with some of the other issues.

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FORTY. (a 1992 short story by Onesimus).

Figments

This is my only surviving story.

It survives because it was included in an anthology of work published by a University writer’s group. The title of the anthology is Figments. It was published in 1992.

The version below is a slightly edited version of the original; amended to fix a couple of parts I wasn’t happy with.

 

___________________________

FORTY
A shadow came from darkness and flecked my face with scarlet as rushing stars twinkled around me. My foot hit the brake and I skidded to the kerb. Did the tyres scream or was it me?
I left the car and ran to the nearby shops. The shadow stained the road with redness as I fumbled with the payphone.

“It’s all right mate, we’ve already done that”. A hand reached across and removed the receiver from, my trembling grip.
*
The police arrived and took control.
“What was your speed at the time of the accident?”
“I…I’m not sure. I think it was around forty.”
“What, forty k’s?”
“No. it was miles. I’ve got an old speedo.”
“Better say thirty-five then. Forty’s a touch over. Could you remove your valuables from the car? We need to take it to the station. We’ll have to keep it for a few days for inspection…”
I removed a few loose items and glanced at the damage. The bonnet was turned up harshly, a circular indentation smeared with blood marred its centre: a head-sized depression.

A twisted shoe on the road mourned the loss of a wearer.
*
The ambulance drove slowly as it left. Dead on arrival the papers would say.
The tow truck driver hovered in the shadows, his presence revealed by the glow of a cigarette. At the policeman’s signal he moved in. I watched as my car was hauled away in disgrace, it’s rear almost dragging on the road.
“We’ll need a formal statement from you,” the policeman said, returning a notebook to his pocket. “Call down at the station in the next couple of days and we’ll fix it all up. Okay?”
I nodded and tried to smile.
*
I didn’t sleep that night but relived the few seconds of the accident continually until daylight interrupted. Later I relived them again for the police statement; for concerned family and friends, for the insurance companies and finally I relived them for the coroner.
*
There weren’t many in the court. Only a routine case. Nothing interesting. A policeman sat next to me, showed me photos of my car and told me not to worry. But that was easy for him to say. What was the sentence for manslaughter anyway?
It didn’t take long. The victim was drunk. Extremely drunk. Lucky he could walk at all with so much alcohol in him. Lucky! That was debateable.

I smiled. I would sleep in my, own bed that night after all.
*
Celebrate, I thought.
It’s all over. It wasn’t my fault.
I left my car at home. No way would I drink and drive. Not with the amount I planned to put away.

I grinned my way through the first four drinks. Laughed through the next three, then silently appreciated the last two.

As the lights dimmed the barman caught my attention.
“Time to go mate. We’re closing. Dýa need a cab?”
“Nah. I’m right…Walking home.” I opened my wallet and took out a ten dollar bill. “Here, have a couple yerself sometime.”
I walked to the door leaving the money on the bar.
“Thanks mate. Sure you’ll be right?”
I waved acknowledgement and pushed out through the door into the cool air.
The street light’s lined the side of the road, marking out the route home. I followed them carefully until I reached the shops where I had to cross over.

I turned to the kerb and looked towards the approaching headlights. I’ll be alright, I thought as I stepped onto the road. He’s only doing around forty.
__________________
©Onesimus 1992.

Note. The reference to “speedo” in the above story has nothing to do with swim wear :), but is an Australian colloquialism for speedometer.
Likewise the term “bonnet” is not describing headwear 🙂 but refers to the part of a car Americans call the “hood”.

The story was inspired by personal experience.

At the time of writing it, I was using favourite song titles to name my stories, even though the songs themselves usually had no link to the story’s content. This title came from a U2 song.

Space Patrol: a blast from the past.

This is a show I watched as a small child, and one that I’d forgotten completely until I came across the following a few minutes ago.
I was surprised how much of it brought back memories – the music, the voices, the sound effects and visuals, the character names…

It’s amazing how much the memory can store, locked away, apparently forgotten, ready to be restored given the right key.