Boomers, Not Looking Ahead

Boomers, Not Looking Ahead. Many baby boomers worry about having to depend on other people to care for them in their old age. Yet most boomers have done little to prepare for that possibility, a recent survey suggests;

This quote about the baby boomers made me think of lessons learned from the 30s. I learned about rhythm. Not just about jazz, blues and the beat of my piano teacher’s metronome, but the rhythms of life engraved my soul. Perhaps it is the ceaseless September to May cycle of the school year that imprints us all in childhood, yet as a writer I can see how strongly these circadian themes are played out. My first two books adhere to a strict twelve-month pattern. The third book is time-based, chronicling the final five months of the Second World War, and this book is divided into decades. Only my second collection of short stories is free of these constraints

Gustav Mueller, under whom I studied philosophy, used to say there was no new truth, only rediscovered truth. The image I have of this is the Escher print of the eternal staircase. But truth returns in different disguises, embellished, trimmed or augmented, accepted quietly or loudly rejected.

So the baby boomers are unprepared for financial hardship? They have never known it. These are the people who did not care to listen to anyone older than thirty when they were in their know-it-all twenties. They never saw for themselves the bread lines and soup kitchens, the men like the one eating a meatloaf sandwich on my mother’s front porch, men who would gladly work if they could find a job. They never felt the frustration of “Will this never end?” Of course it ended, but it took 11 years.

Stories of these times held no “relevance” for the boomers.

Today the financial analysts are fond of repeating that the average length of a depression is 11 months. These figures only take into account the years following the Second World War. Of course they are right, but there is no guarantee the present business cycle will last only that long. There are still some of us who remember what can happen, just as my father told me about his father’s recount of the money panics of the late 19th Century. Arrogance sometimes overrides history.

Even the name “The Great Depression” is evocative. Depression has come to mean to us the gloomy state of the psyche familiar to most of us, incapacitating to many and devastating to a few. Although the former refers to an economic crisis, the latter was equally and universally true during those years. John Steinbeck described the era best. The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row were more than just stories. They were drawn from the fabric of the time.

All the talk of a “new economy” in the past few years amused me. I suspected that the “old economy” would come roaring back in a new suit one day.

Life, like a kaleidoscope, is ever shifting and ever different, but the pieces are the same.

© 2001, Janet M. Taliaferro