Some things have been part of life for so long that we’ve taken them for granted. We take for granted that parents pass wealth onto their children in the form of knowledge and silver; we take for granted that technological and social improvements mean that the quality of life increases for every generation that passes; we take for granted that each generation has an obligation to the leave the world in order for the one that comes after it. Generation X has come to bitterly realise that some of these assumptions are no longer true.
The most bitter realisation of Generation X is that we will be the first generation in history to inherit a lower standard of living than the previous generation enjoyed. The Baby Boomers ticked up so much debt on the intergenerational credit card that they can never pay it back themselves, even if they intended to. We will pay it back through the sweat of our own labour so that our parents can enjoy a lengthy retirement, the vast majority of them still fit to work.
What is currently taking place is the greatest theft in history: the Baby Boomer’s theft of the production of the Generation Xs and Millennials, who will lose a large proportion of their wages to pay back the debts their parents accumulated, and for rents on houses that they can never own, merely so that those parents could experience an unprecedented level of comfort.
They did this by giving themselves tax cuts without cutting spending, so that our nations had to borrow to pay for basic social services, many of which the Baby Boomers themselves used more frequently on account of being elderly. All over the world this was done, not just New Zealand; everywhere an excuse was found for the increase in borrowing.
At the same time, the wages of the next generation were squeezed between having to pay back massive student loans that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to, competing with foreign labour to a degree that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to, and forking out for ever-scarcer affordable housing to a degree that the Baby Boomers were not themselves subjected to.
So not only did the Baby Boomers ensure that they enjoyed the highest standard of living ever recorded by one generation in human history, they did so explicitly at the expense of the generations who would follow, saddling them with a debt so heavy that even war reparations would be less burdensome.
They ticked up this unique standard of living for themselves on the national credit card, and simply left us to pay the debt off, which will take half a century. For most Western nations, cleaning up this mess will involve trying to integrate millions of individuals from very strange and often barbaric cultures, people that the Baby Boomers let into our countries because they didn’t want to pay us proper wages like they themselves had been paid.
The question that will define the soul of Generation X is whether we do the same thing to the generations after us out of bitterness and resentment for what our parents put us through, or if we treat the generation after us fairly out of a belief that we learned something from the greed of our parents.