Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Mea Culpa from the Greatest Generation

Some time ago, I got to talking with my grandfather (WWII generation) about the Baby Boomers.  I was somewhat surprised by his generational admission---not so much by what he said, but by the fact that he essentially said mea culpa for the Greatest Generation as a whole.

He explained to me that growing up during the Depression was really hard.  City kids frequently had to keep cows and such (in the city no less) and really scrounge to make ends meet.  Because of this, they really really wanted to make sure that their own kids in the future would never have to do anything like that.  This of course led them to ask very little if anything of their own kids (the Baby Boomers), probably contributing heavily to that generation's narcissism.  I suppose it shouldn't be terribly surprising that the Great Depression had profound psychological effects on those who lived through it.  Perhaps that's the reason why most of us give the Greatest Generation a pass from the animus held against the Boomers, despite the fact that the Greatest Generation raised them.  Most likely my generation would have acted similarly, given similar conditions.  Depending on the current fiscal and monetary train wreck, we may well get a chance to see how other generations deal with similar circumstances.


Anonymous said...

That is exactly correct. The soldiers who saw so much horror in WWII thought it was a good thing to work hard to protect their kids from similar horrors. They didn't realize it is not good for young people to evade all unpleasantness while growing up.

What is left out here is something else important. Many analysts have discovered that the women who took important jobs during WWII, then had to give them up when the soldiers came home had some resentment, and essentially raised their children without respect for their hard working fathers.

That is why when the generation of descendants of WWII soldiers were so worthless in the Sixties, exactly one generation after WWII.

Not to worry. The current generation will learn, heh, heh.

Anonymous age 69

CorkyAgain said...

The idea that the so-called Greatest Generation selflessly gave everything they had for the sake of their children is BS. The truth is that they were incredibly self-centered themselves.

I'm a boomer, and like most of my contemporaries, I was raised by parents who were emotionally distant. We were latchkey kids -- even when Mom was still in the house -- and we grew up on our own, in front of the television set or in our rooms with the stereo headphones on. In the summertime we were sent outside to play (without supervision) and expected not to come back home until suppertime. Mom and Dad didn't care what we were up to as long as it didn't inconvenience *them*.

Maybe they were reacting to the material lack they experienced in their childhood, and thought that providing us with *things* fulfilled their parental obligations.

In our turn, we reacted to the distant style of parenting we had experienced, and became a generation of smothering parents whose children typically had "play dates". We tried to be our adolescent children's *friends*, because that was the only kind of closeness we had known when we were that age.

Jehu said...

Who said anything about selflessness? None of the various generations have any reasonable claim to being self-sacrificing as such.

Dennis Mangan said...

There have always been depressions and wars. Why were the ones in question different? Maybe the level of material prosperity (high) after WW@ had something to do with it.

Jehu said...

I think the Depression was something special by American standards. Pretty much nobody outside the South had ever experienced anything like it in the US in institutional memory. Yes, there'd been things we'd called depressions before then, but nothing as prolonged or deep as the Great Depression. Yes, the Europeans had much worse, but we've always considered ourselves somewhat exceptional in that regard.

LordSomber said...

I'm loath to blame the Greatest Generation much for Boomer behavior.

If your kid wants to rebel, he's gonna rebel, whether you're the best parent in the world or the worst.