(Anti-Boomer Propaganda, Update)

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

If you don’t think there’s a highly-organized propaganda campaign being waged against Baby Boomers, perhaps they’ve already messed with your mind and spirit. The fact that it’s bad politics doesn’t seem to deter our detractors. Maybe ridicule will help.

Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge how pervasive, malicious – and essentially silly – the determined propaganda effort against the Baby Boom generation has become needs to look at the popular and by now infamous Mashable story on Boomers and Technology that came out a few weeks ago. (I’m not going to link it, because they don’t deserve it. But the title is “Users Over 55 Quitting Facebook: The Baby Boom Times Over?”)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Boomers turn 46-63 in 2009. So if you’re talking about Boomers 55-63 only, you’re leaving out exactly half of our generation. Moreover, grouping the half you’re leaving in – Boomers 55-63 – with the fairly vast population over age 63, including Boomers’ parents and, in the case of some younger Boomers, grandparents, is, to say the very least, extremely poor logic. A 55-year-old Boomer, in fact, is as close in age to a Millennial of 25 as (s)he is to a Greatest Generation American of 85.

Even worse, propaganda-wise, than the implication that every American over 55 is part of the Baby Boom, is the downright frightening photo Mashable, in all its wisdom – NOT! – has used to illustrate this purported article about Boomers. It’s a stock photo of a fellow in a plaid shirt, with a baffled expression, looking at a laptop computer.

I’m sure the model who posed for this shot is a very nice elderly gentleman. But he’s as much a Baby Boomer as the Jonas Brothers are! I won’t just guess the man is over 80. I’d say he’s over 90, unless that’s too young. In fact, he looks a lot like the average Centenarian I’ve interviewed for stories on extreme old age.

“Oh, Ellen,” you may say. “It’s truly funny, but why should we care?” We should care, Dearest Reader, because there seems to be a fairly significant slice of the younger population, some of them even part of the media, the business world, or – Goddess help us! – government, who have now been brainwashed into identifying Boomers as frail, decrepit, and over-the-hill, when we are, of course, mostly vigorous, fit, in the prime of our lives and at what are normally considered the peak ages for productivity, creativity, and earnings.

While it’s clear this photo upsets me more than the story’s theme, I’m not too happy with the premise of this oft-quoted Mashable article, either. In the guise of talking about a supposed drop-off in the use of Facebook – and presumably other social networking sites – by mature customers, the 20-something author boldly states that the reason older users log into such sites is different from why people his age log in. His generation, says the self-appointed guru, use social networking “as a means of daily communication,” seemingly about important things that need their and the world’s immediate attention. Meanwhile, we poor older folks see social sites “as a replacement for email to keep in touch with family and old friends.”

Actually, if you think about it, there is precisely zero difference between “a means of daily communication” and “a replacement for email,” anyway, since most people who use E-mail, whatever their age, tend to check it not only daily, but every few hours, if not every few minutes.

The more subtle reading of the Millennial writer’s argument, though, is that the very young have seamlessly integrated computer technology into their worklives and social lives, while other generations, particularly those Luddite Boomers, have not. If you’re reading this story, you know that’s ludicrous.

The whole concept of a “digital divide,” as anyone up on recent history knows, was coined to promote computer usage in Third World countries, if such exist anymore, positing the theory that the inexorable spread of computers would also spread literacy and general knowledge and help lift the poorest of the world up to the standard of the Western democracies. Which is undoubtedly true.

But in the last – oh, I dunno, six months? – we suddenly see the term “digital divide” used to promote a far different theory, if one can dignify it as such: That today’s teens and new college grads use computer technology more, better, and smarter than Those Who Aren’t Them, therefore making them better prepared to do this, that, and the other great enterprise than all those Old Fogies and Fogiesses, especially the Evil Boomers.

To me, this is such a lame and ludicrous theory, it makes me want to scream. I’m not particularly techie myself. But I still have my TRS-80 Model One, which I use as a paperweight. Not only has every single Boomer of my acquaintance used computers as long, essentially, as there have been computers on the mass consumer market, which is – what? – 35 years? but so have we Boomers’ elderly parents, if those elderly parents were professionals in a very wide range of jobs, from physicians, engineers, attorneys, and accountants to teachers, salespeople, retail managers, and small business owners.

As for the social networking sites, it’s clear there is no essential difference in the way any age group uses them from the way any other age group uses them. In fact, if we’re talking about using social networking effectively as a business tool, the Mashable guru should note that Linked In, the large site considered most helpful in a purely business sense, now skews very significantly towards members over 40, with Baby Boomers possibly the single largest generation of Linked In users.

Twitter Thugs and Other Charming Crazies

The Mashable article well illustrates one kind of lately prevalent Anti-Boomer propaganda: Boomers are behind the times technologically, no longer capable of being in charge of our complex world. A couple of illustrations from social networking sites themselves highlight other themes.

On Twitter, pure know-nothing thuggery has been quite popular. Perhaps the most-Tweeted – reiterated, for non-Twitter members – posts is the elegantly-worded “Yikes!!! Baby Boomer nearly craps his pants as his secure financial nest egg is cracked!!!” Actually, there are variations of this post. Sometimes, the Yikes is replaced by a Wow or even a Zowie. And the number of exclamation points varies from three to ten.

I don’t go to Twitter very often, but I’ve seen this post at least a zillion and a half times. I have never clicked on the accompanying link, nor do I want to. And lately, there are two other reiterated-to-death thug posts: “Are Baby Boomers Ultimately Doomed?” – which I guess could come from a strange religious cult, although somehow I doubt it – and “Laid-Off Baby Boomers Seek Entry-Level Jobs.”

In fact, Baby Boomers are forming the majority of new entrepreneurial ventures in the US and Canada right now, meaning we are the ones creating entry-level jobs for others. But all three of these “popular” Twitter posts are, in fact, meant to intimidate readers, not inform them, along with the stray Tweet from disgruntled individual users, virtually all of whom seem to be males in their early 20s, often with photos wearing watch caps, who say delightful things like “Boomers – Retire Now or Else” or “Don’t You Wish the Boomers Would Just Die?”

I’ve been specifically singled out as the recipient of sentiments like these even before introducing my Angriest Generation series. My favorite social networking site is Linked In, where I have a large and superb network of Connections, mostly over 40 and all extremely interesting people. My pet peeve at Linked In is the sheer number of obviously planted discussion posts from obviously planted Left-leaning operatives, doggedly glomming onto – and into – every discussion lending itself to their favorite theme, which is “Boomers Must Get Out of the Work Force Now and Hand Over All Remaining Paying Jobs to Obama Election Workers – Excuse Me, Younger People.”

Foolish Rabble-Rouser that I am, I have cheerfully waded into far too many of these “debates” in the past four or five months. But one was so incredibly striking, I saved excerpts from it for my files and am pasting some of them here.

The discussion started with a topic broached by a man identifying himself as a journalist asking: “As Boomer management consultants move towards retirement, will that open up new opportunities for younger business experts to move into the field?” This was a possibly loaded question to begin with, but the initiator dropped out of the discussion at this point.

A management consultant, now in my network, said he thought the opposite was true, that with the recession, Boomers were moving into consulting in greater numbers than ever before. And I chimed in with what is now my mantra: “Boomers turn 46-63 in 2009, and we are not retiring anytime soon.”

Another fellow agreed with me, saying “Boomers who have lost . . . their retirement funds must continue to work to rebuild the losses,” while the first consultant came back in to talk about “financial dislocation” for Boomers creating “major structural change.”

In other words, this little discussion was suddenly heading in a direction the Boomers-Retire-Now bunch wouldn’t care for. You would think – and hope – that every little topic discussion at a Linked In Group wouldn’t be of much interest to Propagandists Who Watch Over Us Constantly. But it seems to have come to somebody-or-other’s attention, because what happened next was truly extraordinary. And No, I don’t think I’m being paranoid, because several members of the Group sent messages to one another after this incident, basically saying, “What the Hey?”

For into our peaceful and happy little conclave waltzed someone who was not only a brand-new Group member, but – as of that moment – a brand-new Linked In member. I kid you not! This identity – female, although it could actually be male, beast, or political collective – was attached to a name, but had no details whatsoever in its profile, no Connections, no other Groups, no anything. The identity was apparently formed just for the purpose of coming to this Group and participating in this particular discussion.

Ms. Nutty Operative – let’s call her Nonie – at first said she was “close to 40″ but quickly scotched that and identified herself as “part of the younger generation.” Her first major argument was that it was “a waste of time and money” to train anyone over age 35 on unspecified “software packages,” because only the younger generation “has lived with e-mail and text messaging prior to joining the professional world” and “new business models are just being created for the younger generation’s opportunity.”

Besides the unforgivably stilted and barely literate phrasing, this “argument” is almost breathtakingly silly. As we’ve already said, Boomers have been using computers for business as long as there have been computers for business. And if you use computers for business, you certainly know all about E-mail. As for “text messaging” being either difficult to use or the primary basis for “new business models” – Goddess help us!

But at this point in the discussion, Nonie really dives off the deep end. She claims that “leaders’ inability to adapt to changing times” have caused the declines in “countless numbers of businesses . . . over the past two decades, starting with the Big 5 accounting firms, along with the nation’s car manufacturers” and that “the older generation” – which she identifies as Baby Boomers – have spurned “new technology,” embraced “negativity,” and stifled “innovation.”

Does one know where to start refuting this nonsense? First of all, Dear Nonie, there were originally the Big Eight accounting firms, not the Big Five, and they, along with the auto manufacturers and numerous other declining sectors, were run during these long declines primarily by the Baby Boomers’ parents’ generation, not by Boomers themselves.

These are mere quibbles, however. Because very few would say that it was refusal to embrace “new technology” – let alone E-mail and text messaging, which is Nonie’s singular definition of such technology – which was responsible for structural sector declines. Apparently Nonie hasn’t heard about things like outsourcing or immigration flows or misallocation of capital. Surely, she hasn’t heard of the accelerating scramble for rare resources, the “hollowing out” of the US manufacturing base, or the number one reason for sector dislocations: the relentless rise of immense, often centralized, formerly Third World economies, hell-bent on catching up to the West.

As for Boomers “embracing negativity” and “stifling innovation” – does that really deserve an answer, other than “Are you crazy, lady?”

Well, the others on the Group discussion board plowed into Nonie and pointed out some of her errors. Undaunted, she changed tack and started accusing us dastardly Boomers of betraying our 60’s ideals – by refusing to get out of the way and handing the country over to Millennials:

“What happened to your peace, love, and civil rights attitude?” she wrote. “President Obama is a ‘flower child’ in every sense of the definition. . . It is everyone’s job to recognize everyone’s potential. . . And being from the peace, not war, generation of the 1960’s, I would hope you would not prevent our nation’s youth from realizing their potential.”

Well, Kumbaya, and I am glad that Mr. Obama likes flowers – after all, he is from Hawaii. But are we to understand, Dear Nonie, that if we Boomers do not retire immediately, despite none of us actually being at the typical retirement age and, more importantly, despite the fact that by some estimates, 3/4 or more of us have had our retirement savings completely wiped out over the past few years, we are not only “preventing youth from realizing their potential,” but are also acting in a non-peaceful way?

Well, Yes, that is exactly what Ms. Nonie – and by extension, those who think like her, are saying! We Boomers “have focused on the negative of the younger generation,” Nonie continues. We have “made the business world more discriminatory than it should be.” And we have “created war” – yes, she actually said this! – by “segmenting the population.” Therefore, “it is time to retire (those) who ignore an entire group of people.”

Do you understand the progression this rhetoric has taken? You should, because silly as it is, the Anti-Boomers think it sounds good, and to them, sounds good seems to equal the truth.

I’m getting sick of Ms. Nonie even as I write this, so let me dismiss her last astounding wrap-up “argument” as quickly as I can: Who, precisely, is being “discriminatory” and discriminated against these days? Are Millennials – any Millennials – being refused jobs because they lack experience, or is the discrimination overwhelmingly aimed at older workers, who have been laid off and “downsized” in droves?

Or have Boomers, the generation that pioneered moving women and minorities and Vietnam vets and the disabled into managerial positions, been “discriminatory” in that regard compared to younger workers? Certainly not! And we have “focused on the negative” of younger workers how? – and when? Personally, I haven’t heard a peep from Boomers saying nasty things about Millennials, other than a few managers griping that they’re a tad opportunistic. It is younger workers who are overwhelmingly complaining about us – not us complaining about them.

Mommy, Mommy, An Operative Is Attacking Me!

I’ve used Ms. Nonie and the Linked In discussion thread she dominated as an example of the propaganda blitz Boomers are reeling from now. But such attacks are occurring regularly not only at social networking sites, but also in articles, blogs, and virtually everywhere else one turns.

If you’re faced with an Anti-Boomer barrage, how should you handle it? Here are some of the most common kinds of attacks I’ve encountered and how I think it is best to respond to them:

Baby Boomers are elderly, unfit, and over-the-hill.

The basic question of exactly who is a member of our generation keeps coming up, even among some in the media, who certainly should know better.

Whenever Boomers are “innocently confused” with those in our parents’ – or in the case of some younger Boomers, grandparents’ – generation, as with the infamous Mashable Boomer-as-Centenarian photo, be sure to speak up and knock the propagandist off his heels!

Baby Boomers turn only 46-63 in 2009. We are not remotely “elderly.” We tend to be extremely healthy and fit. And we are in what are commonly thought of as peak years for intellectual performance, productivity, creativity, and earnings power.

Baby Boomers are technological Neanderthals, out-of-touch with evolving technology.

As we’ve already pointed out, this is the canard to end all canards! Unless you fall back on Ms. Nonie’s “argument” that skill in text-messaging – at a party? in traffic? walking down the street and bumping into people? – is the “technology” which global business revolves around, Boomers are generally as adept using computers and computer technology as the generations behind them. And we have been at the forefront developing and/or managing every other “forward-looking” technology one can think of, including the “green” technologies Millennials seem to think is their special province.

As high or higher percentages of Boomers have science, engineering, or advanced business degrees as younger generations. And Boomers have had an exceptionally keen appreciation for entrepreneurship, still forming new small businesses at record rates.

Since the two most recent former presidents – Clinton and Bush – were Boomers, the Boomer generation is to “blame” for our nation’s current problems.

At any time, in terms of any generation, less than one-tenth of one percent of individuals within that generation are in positions of such power – whether in government, finance, media, or business – that they can actively make policy or directly influence historical circumstances.

To “blame” the 99.9 percent of all Boomers who have not had such power for the policies or actions of either the Clinton or Bush – or for that matter, the new Obama – administration is incredibly unfair and incredibly unhelpful. And I have never heard this kind of generational “blame” applied to any other generation except Boomers, literally proving it is a form of propaganda.

Moreover, there is always the tacit corollary to assigning “blame,” i.e. “You are to blame, and therefore you deserve to be punished.”

Baby Boomers are only in financial trouble now because they have spent so extravagantly the past several decades.

Once again, an attempt to place “blame” and to tar the many with the actions – in this case, the habits – of the few.

As even those with limited economic sensitivity can guess – purely by following popular culture – the gap between the Richest of the Rich and what I like to call “The Rest of Us” has widened substantially in this country the past few decades. Some of these Richest have been Baby Boomers, while others have been members of generations older or younger than Baby Boomers.

If you remove the inflationary effect, which distorts every generation’s spending habits more or less equally, there is little evidence that the average Baby Boomer has been more extravagant in his/her spending habits than previous or younger generations. In fact, many, if not most, Boomer-led households have managed to amass a smaller total of non-financial assets than their parents amassed – although some of this is due to the continued trend towards smaller family size.

Baby Boomers are only in financial trouble now because they haven’t saved enough.

Savings rates for the Boomer generation are not appreciably different than those of other generations.

Overall savings rates appear – and I stress appear – to have been declining the past couple of decades. But many believe this is a structural change reflecting where actual savings have gone and which kinds of savings show up in statistics.

For instance, with the low interest rates banks and savings and loan institutions have been granting recently, even on once-popular certificates of deposit, Boomers, along with everybody else, have placed less of their savings with such institutions.

At the same time, Boomers – again along with other generations – have been urged to put more and more of traditional savings into home ownership, a strategy that seemed sensible and prudent up until quite recently. This form of “savings” does not show up as such in government statistics.

Nor do many forms of “investment” that Boomers – along with everybody else – have been fervently urged to make during the past few decades. Various forms of derivative investments, for instance, do not get into the “savings” statistics categories, nor do many kinds of currency, commodity, or margin-based investments.

Some of these investments have been extremely hard-hit by recent events, of course, wiping out the true “savings” of an extremely large proportion of Boomers. To deny that such investments were ever “savings” to begin with is to add (great) insult to the (great) injury a large proportion of Boomers have experienced.

Literally the classic “kick a man when he’s down” ploy.

Baby Boomers have hoarded their wealth and are reluctant to share it with younger generations.

Amazing! At the same time some are accusing Boomers of not having saved enough or of squandering our life’s earnings on extravagant spending sprees, others are accusing us of holding on to vast hoards of wealth in Evil-Bond-Villain fashion – undoubtedly in undersea vaults guarded by private security forces adept in the martial arts. Selfish and self-centered as we Boomers are, we are preventing this wealth from being “shared” with kind and deserving humanitarians from the younger generations.

Those who spout this particular form of Anti-Boomer propaganda are basically playing with statistics. On a collective basis, Boomer wealth still looks impressive, simply because there are so many of us .

Factor out the few mega-rich Boomers and look at average assets, and our “hoarding” looks very much like “surviving.” And so much of our accumulated wealth consists of real estate – i.e. the homes we live in – viewing it as a “hoard” now seems a very cruel joke, indeed.

Baby Boomers have simply been running things too long. They need to retire gracefully.

Again, 99.9 percent – conservatively – of all Baby Boomers have been “running” nothing other than their own lives, their households, and their families.

Not a single Boomer has reached the “old-style” retirement age of 65, let alone the “new-style” retirement age of 70 or 72.

The youngest Boomers turn only 46 this year, and the majority of Boomers are in their 40s and 50s.

Those “theorists” who had hoped extraordinarily large numbers of Boomers would retire early should have theorized instead how to prevent the vast majority of us from losing all or most of our life’s savings in the events of the past few years.

Any (wealthy) Boomer capable of retiring early and “gracefully” has my blessing and that of his/her fellow Boomers, I’m sure. The rest of us (non-wealthy, and now possibly downright poor) Boomers may not have the luxury of retiring ever, the way things look right now!

We may see some light at the end of the tunnel when we’re 95 – or maybe 105.

Boomers voted for the Obama administration. If the Obama-ites are attempting to sweep you offstage now, you’re just getting what you voted for.

First of all, I sincerely hope the rash of Anti-Boomer propaganda is not coming directly from the Obama administration. I prefer to think it’s a rogue effort perpetrated by those who are so hell-bent on getting jobs for the very young election workers who helped Obama to victory, they don’t care whom they stomp on to get them – and the main Stomp-ees seem to be we Baby Boomers.

Moreover, while much Anti-Boomer sentiment is coming from the Far Left, I’ve heard some of it from those in other parts of the political spectrum, too, as well as from media mavens who are either prejudiced, uninformed, or both.

The last election turned out the way it did for numerous reasons, most having nothing whatsoever to do with sentiment favorable or unfavorable to Boomers. And I don’t think a single Baby Boomer would have voted – or will vote in the future – for any political party or group which comes out openly against our generation’s interests.

Which, of course, is exactly the point. Anti-Boomer propaganda is not only distasteful and unfair, it’s horrendously bad politics.

Boomers make up about one-third of the US population. Many of us feel we’ve been hurt. We’re mad about being hurt. And we’re not going to sit around and let ourselves be dissed on top of it!

Our hearts and souls and spirits are up for grabs now, emotionally and politically. Gurus, mavens, and politicians of all stripes would do well to keep that in mind.

For the Intro to the Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation series, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-2V

For the next story in this series, “Will Boomers Return Full Circle to Sophisticated Communes?” http://wp.me/pxD3J-x

For Ellen’s popular “serious humor” piece about Malice on the Internet, see: http://wp.me/pycK6-5

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Update to Intro

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Turning 46-63 in 2009 and making up about one-third of the US population, America’s vast Baby Boom generation may now be the angriest cohort in recent US history.

If Demographics is Destiny, that fate seems to have turned violently against us recently, as our generation has collectively borne the brunt of a seemingly unending series of social and economic events, from outsourcing and the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base to the collapse of home equity financing and the recent drop in home prices to last year’s stock market crash and its demolition of a lifetime of hard-earned savings.

Now, a well-organized – and often heavy-handed – propaganda campaign seeks to push Boomers off center stage in our nation’s political, economic, and cultural life, while we are still very much in our prime and in the age range normally considered the peak of one’s capacity for achievement, productivity, and earnings.

Nearly every Boomer I know is angry about this state of affairs – angry at our government, at both major political parties, at the economic and media Establishments which are trying so desperately to marginalize us at the very moment our problems and concerns need to be taken more seriously, if this nation is to regain its footing as the Land of Promise and Plenty it used to be.

This series, Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, will attempt to make sense of what our still powerful and influential, but deeply troubled and perplexed generation is feeling right now.

We will seek to hear from, talk to, and present the stories of Baby Boomers from every region and from a range of educational, professional, and political backgrounds – those who believe they’re doing well and those who think they’ve hit a brick wall; those who think things are getting better and those who think they’re getting worse; those who are hopeful and those whose hope has fled.

Some stories in the series will be humorous, others dead serious. We’ll hear from experts and pundits of various kinds. But we’ll also hear from your neighbors, your friends, your colleagues, your brothers and sisters – and maybe from you.

If you’re a Baby Boomer living in the US or Canada, I’d love to talk with you. I’ve set up a new Internet E-mail address just for this series: angrygeneration at optonline.net.

We can correspond by E-mail only, or we can talk over the phone. And while I must be able to confirm your identity and that you’re a Baby Boomer, I will identify you by name in future articles only if you give me your permission. If you care to comment anonymously, I will honor your request to the letter.

I’d be especially interested in talking with people with these specific backgrounds:

**Engineers and others whose jobs and/or manufacturing companies were lost or destroyed because of the “hollowing out” of the US manufacturing base the past couple of decades.

**IT professionals and others whose jobs and/or small to midsize companies were lost or destroyed, as large parts of their sectors were “outsourced” to other countries, either earlier in this decade or within the past few years.

**Anyone believing their jobs or small to midsize businesses have been either hurt or helped by the influx in immigration within the past decade.

**Those whose professional lives and/or life’s savings have been badly impacted by the recent market crash. I’d like to hear from both “passive” investors and from active traders or managers of small funds which have been hurt.

**Financial sector professionals, including attorneys and bankers, whose careers have come to a temporary grinding halt.

**Anyone hurt by the housing debacle, including employees in the real estate, mortgage, or construction sectors.

**People coping with rising college costs, medical emergencies, or the contingencies of aiding aging parents.

**Nonprofit managers, social workers, and local political leaders, coping with the effects of economic distress in their own communities.

If you belong to none of the above categories, but would like to have your voice heard, you are very welcome!

As this series develops, I hope that we will begin to hear The Voice of a Generation, telling politicians and others in positions of influence that far from being willing to settle for less than is our due, Baby Boomers are already fighting back hard to regain our prominent position in national affairs.

We already make up the greatest proportion of US small business owners, and a new burst of entrepreneurial spirit among Boomers is now at hand.

Far from playing second fiddle to younger Americans in technological matters, Baby Boomers are in the forefront establishing companies based on new technologies.

We still dominate managerial positions in sectors crucial to America’s future, from environmental protection and urban planning to senior services and education.

And Boomer politicians hold the majority of legislative and executive positions at the national, state, and local levels.

This last statistic makes the anti-Boomer propaganda push the last several months particularly surprising. For Boomer legislators, Boomer corporate executives, or Boomer media pundits to push for their peers, their brethren, and possibly their former colleagues to retreat to low-paying “encore careers,” so that what they fear is a shrinking economic pie can be served up to the clamoring younger generations behind the Boomer mass . . . Well, to say this is a misguided and cynical effort is a vast understatement.

We cannot and should not accept an intragenerational split between a very few Haves and many Have Nots, particularly if the instigators of this split are working against their own generational peers for what seem to be purely political motives.

Moreover, perhaps it is the very idea of a shrinking economic pie that needs to be turned on its head. Perhaps it is time to embrace a new optimism about this country’s possibilities. And perhaps the best way to do this is by allowing the Generation in its true prime of life – the Baby Boomers – to regain its footing and its prominence as quickly as possible.

Start letting your voices be heard!

For the second article in this series, which focuses on Anti-Boomer propaganda, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-31

For a story on the co-housing movement, which may return Boomers to “Sophisticated Communes,” see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-x

For a story on how Financial Re-Engineering is Turning Erstwhile Corporate Kings into Pawns: http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Introduction: We’re Here. We’re Angry. And It’s About Time Someone Listened To Us

Turning 46-63 in 2009 and making up about one-third of the US population, America’s vast Baby Boom generation may now be the angriest cohort in recent US history.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

You’re Decrepit, Greedy, Narcissistic Luddites – Plus You Have Cooties! Play Golf, Bake Cookies, and Turn Over the Country to Us

If you don’t think there’s a highly-organized propaganda campaign being waged against Baby Boomers, perhaps they’ve already messed with your mind and spirit. The fact that it’s bad politics doesn’t seem to deter our detractors. Maybe ridicule will help.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

Back To Sophisticated Communes – Will Baby Boomers Come Full Circle? Scott’s Story

After lifetimes of aggressive independence, Boomers may seek a sense of community as we age. The co-housing movement looks back to the free-spirited hippie communes of our youth but forward to a Utopia of health, learning, and productive work – without skimping on material comfort.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-x

Re-Engineered to Smithereens – Art’s Story

Once upon a time, when Baby Boomers ventured into the business world, those who could manage operations were Kings. But the ascendancy of financial re-engineering changed all that. Along with product lines and business units, even the most talented individuals turned into Pawns – and thereby became expendable.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

Will Boomers – and the GOP – Save Twitter?

The twin forces which could destroy Twitter are immature game-playing and political correctness, both taken to unreasonable – and sometimes illegal – extremes. The antidotes? Maturity and a renewed sense of inclusiveness.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

No Gold Watch – Nor Golden Parachute – When You Work For Pariah Corporation: The Story of Melissa and Phil

With close to 65 years of big-company experience between them, this perfect corporate couple kept their noses to the grindstone and their feet on the ground – until they lost a million dollars one very bad afternoon.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-N

A Chance For Romance – Annie’s Story

The Good News: More than half of all Baby Boomers are single. The Bad News: Hey! there isn’t any! If you’re a Baby Boomer, and you want to find new love or companionship, you can do it. And the current sea change in our national and personal value systems makes it easier.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-R

A Daughter Among Daughters Reaps Scorn – Suellen’s Story

When her elderly parents became ill, she gave up her job, her security, and her comfortable middle-class existence. If something isn’t done soon, she says, Baby Boomers will become the New Poor.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-1M

Who’s A Boomer? (And Who’s Not?)

Many people from other age groups – and even some members of the media – seem to have a rather fuzzy idea about who is and is not a bona fide member of the Baby Boom generation. Here’s the beginning of a helpful guide to some prominent Boomers among us.

http://wp.me/pxD3J-1Q

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

With close to 65 years of big-company experience between them, this perfect corporate couple kept their noses to the grindstone and their feet on the ground – until they lost a million dollars one very bad afternoon.

“Call me naive, but I really believed in the Myth of Corporate America,” Melissa tells me. At 50, she is still a Texas belle, charming and well-mannered. It’s easy to see why she fit in so well as a big-company manager, serving 27 years in one industry, until her entire division was disbanded, virtually overnight, in August 2007.

Since then, she’s made do with consulting jobs in her specialty area of housing industry software, but “each contract has become progressively less lucrative,” she says. Attempts to get back to full-time work have been rebuffed with responses along the lines of, “You’re too senior for this position,” or “Your experience is too specialized.”

Melissa thinks her story is “very typical of what so many Baby Boomers are going through right now. We put in decades of hard work and dedication to companies that have either suddenly shut down or not come close to showing the loyalty they expected and required of us. Not only was there no gold watch. In many cases, there was neither a warning nor so much as a thank you.”

Her husband Phil is still employed. But as a First Boomer of 63, less than two years from his company’s formal retirement age, he’s “sitting on pins and needles” waiting to see how long his division will stay afloat. It’s up for sale. And he’s been told that if it isn’t purchased by the end of this year, its parent company will shut it down forever.

That parent company – let’s call it Pariah Corporation – has virtually imploded over the past year or so, one of the twenty or so big companies in the financial services sector which quickly descended from Powerhouse to Poorhouse for reasons both general and specific. Externally, they fell victim to worldwide recession, the massive market meltdown, and a rapid shrinking of consumer and corporate demand. Internally, Pariah and its Shameful Brethren were wracked by scandals, incompetence, internecine feuds, and executive suite greed unmatched since the days of the Gilded Age robber barons – although with tales of gluttony, orgies, drunken revelry, and toga parties, maybe the Roman Empire is a better analogy.

‘Twasn’t always so. Phil, a lanky Arizonan, spent over half of his near-40 corporate years with Pariah, and he remembers how thrilled his parents were when they heard about his first job there. “We’re so proud of you, Son,” Phil’s Dad told him. “There’s no better company in America than Pariah.” Adds Phil, “At that time, he was probably right. Our founder was considered one of the titans and visionaries in financial services. Pariah was respected and revered, not just here, but around the globe.”

Since its downfall, however, Pariah’s managers, even those far from the boardroom and free from blame or scandal, have been subjected to escalating harassment from the general public. “There have been some death threats,” says Phil. “A few of my colleagues have been accosted by irate shareholders. One man I know was literally beaten up in an airport lounge.”

Some Pariah employees conceal where they work from friends and neighbors. Phil doesn’t do that, but he finds it depressing that while once upon a time, “you said you were with Pariah, and everyone looked at you with admiration. Now they look at you with pity or scorn.”

Gutted Accounts, Dreams on Hold

Phil has more than simple scorn to be depressed about. Over decades of service to Pariah, he’d amassed stock options that were worth a cool million dollars – until one afternoon last autumn, when the company’s stock turned into confetti, taking Phil’s nest egg along with it.

“It represented our dreams of a worry-free retirement,” he says. Melissa is an accomplished cook, and the couple had hoped to spend their golden years running a small inn or bed-and-breakfast. If they decide to do that now, it will have to be with the help of bank loans, mortgages, and the financial obligations they entail.

Despite years of respectable earnings, an extravagant lifestyle hasn’t been in the cards for Phil and Melissa since their respective companies relocated them to northern California eight years ago. Previously living in the southeast, they found California so outrageously expensive, they decided to rent a modest townhouse, rather than buy a new home.

That seems a prudent decision after the housing crash. But it also means Melissa and Phil won’t have equity in a home to cash in, if they decide to relocate a few years from now. And though they certainly don’t begrudge it, in retrospect, they’ve spent an enormous proportion of their life’s earnings educating Phil’s three children from a previous marriage, who now range in age from 22 to 35.

The kids attended top-notch universities and graduate schools, which cost a not-so-small fortune these days. “Our youngest daughter, Allison, graduated last spring,” says Phil. “One year of her tuition cost as much as a nice-sized house – or maybe a small island – did thirty years ago.”

Even with that fancy education, Allison has had trouble finding lucrative work – as has Melissa since her layoff. “We’ve heard the stories about bratty Millennials dissing Boomers and scheming to take our jobs,” Melissa says. “But good kids like ours empathize with Boomers, because they’re in the same boat. There aren’t enough jobs now, no matter what your age.”

Melissa thinks the nature of work may change for many Boomers in the years ahead. “So many of us feel betrayed by big companies, I think we now have mindsets that are both defensive and proactive.” She sees herself having a “portfolio career” from now on, where she does “a little of this and a little of that.”

While continuing to accept software assignments that come her way, she’s also earning a real estate license and is taking courses towards becoming an holistic nutrition educator and consultant.

Melissa and Phil sense they’re in a transitional stage, both in their careers and in their lives. “Solidity and permanence just aren’t there any longer,” says Phil. Although still an employee – for now – he shares his wife’s disenchantment with a corporate career and where it has taken him.

“You go into corporate life seeking recognition and security,” he says. “You work extremely hard, move around the country, make all sorts of sacrifices – only to see it shatter to pieces.”

“We’re questioning whether we should have been there in the first place,” Melissa adds. “At this point, we are truly disappointed.”

What Do You Think?

Do you work – or have you worked – for one of the Pariah Corporations in the financial services sector? Tell us about your experience.

Are you disenchanted, discouraged, or disappointed about spending your life in the big-company sector?

In retrospect, are you sorry you didn’t work for a smaller company or become an entrepreneur?

Do you think you made too many sacrifices – like moving frequently – because your company told you to?

Have you been hit by a stock options or 401-K meltdown like Phil’s?

Has paying your kids’ college tuitions taken a toll on your savings?

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For Ellen’s hard-hitting piece on Anti-Boomer Propaganda, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-8

For a related story on Financial Re-Engineering: http://wp.me/pxD3J-B

To hear about How Boomers May Save Twitter: http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

Once upon a time, when Baby Boomers ventured into the business world, those who could manage operations were Kings. But the ascendancy of financial re-engineering changed all that. Along with product lines and business units, even the most talented individuals turned into Pawns – and thereby became expendable.

Let’s be frank right off the bat. My friend Art has had a career many might envy. Affable, talented, with a razor-sharp intellect, he once managed operations worth over a billion in today’s dollars and earned the respect of employees and customers alike.

But now, at age 59, Art fully admits his career’s at a temporary dead end. And he’s as dismayed and frustrated about it as those at lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

“Yes, we have some savings,” he says. “We don’t have kids in college, and we weren’t heavily involved in the stock market. But like so many other Boomers, I’m finding it hard to get a job now, even worthwhile consulting jobs.”

Art’s wife Susan, 57, has been able to find an accounting position in Nashville, where the couple lives. But she’s no longer a department head, as she once was. And Art has so far shied away from using his savings to launch an ambitious venture of his own. “I don’t know if I have the requisite ‘fire in the belly’ to be a committed lone wolf entrepreneur,” he tells me. “I’d really like to get back to what I do well, which is managing a major operation.”

How did a lauded executive with 30-odd years of top-level managerial experience end up grossly underemployed years before retirement age? Like so many Boomers, Art has essentially been the victim of “financial re-engineering,” that all-purpose grab bag term which has come to mean the perpetual rejiggering of a company’s products, properties, divisions, and all-too-often people, in order to squeeze the greatest possible financial returns out of a firm’s designated assets.

Art’s field is healthcare. But virtually every sector of the US economy has been affected by the spectre of financial re-engineering the past few decades. Old concepts of corporate integrity, mission, and loyalty to employees have flown out the window, say critics, to be replaced by an environment where short-term advantage has supplanted long-term goals and the Main Chance is the only chance that counts.

Here Today, Who Knows Where Tomorrow

“It was different when I started out,” says Art, with more than a tinge of nostalgia. Born and raised in a small town in the South, he comes from a mini-dynasty of rural physicians. His dad, granddad, and two great uncles were all country doctors, and his mother trained as a nurse.

But Art got a business degree from West Virginia University and started out in the audit division of a Big Eight accounting firm in Norfolk. Ironically, he ended up in healthcare, like his family, by doing such a good job for clients in that sector, a regional senior living chain recruited him.

So began 32 years working for six different companies in the healthcare sector, some of which seemed to be periodically chopped up, patched together, switched around, and swapped shamelessly like trading cards.

The first company Art worked for was purchased by a much larger competitor five years into his tenure. That worked out well for Art, who eventually became a divisional president, with responsibility for over 250 separate healthcare facilities. But when this company, too, was “re-engineered” by asset shufflers, his position disappeared, and he went to work for a smaller outfit, itself in the midst of a realignment of product and service lines, as well as one of the first “securitizations” of healthcare real estate assets.

Through these moves and re-positionings, Art observed major changes in basic corporate attitudes. “When I started working,” he observes, “competent, ambitious managers strove to prove their worth in line positions, overseeing operations, products, and people. Staff people were in the background, while those in line operations held sway.”

But by the 1980’s, things began to change rapidly. Financial re-engineering became all the rage, and operating executives took a back seat to a new crop of would-be “dealmakers,” whose main objective seemed to be shifting assets – and people – around for the quickest possible return.

Art was only in his 30’s then, but he remembers old timers’ resentment of a seemingly endless stream of newly-minted finance MBA’s, who swooped into corporate offices with confidence verging on conceit, convinced that they had reinvented the wheel and that those who failed to concentrate on immediate “optimization” of results were hopelessly behind the times.

“I guess these fellas are all over 40 now,” laughs Art. “But back then, they seemed very young and very zealous. Meanwhile, operations began to suffer, because the Best and the Brightest no longer wanted to spend their careers actually managing things, instead of shuffling assets and doing deals.”

At the turn of the Millennium, Art was recruited as a senior executive of a start-up company which was expected to evolve into a major player in assisted-living, home healthcare, and private caregiver services. Here, he experienced the fickleness of financiers and Wall Street’s frenzied chase for the financial fad of the moment.

“Our president and founder, a respected physician, had lined up what seemed to be very solid financing from a flamboyant venture capitalist,” Art relates. “We were promised substantial financial backing for several years, enough to provide a platform for sustained growth.”

But the superstar financier pulled out at the last moment, leaving the new company essentially high and dry. “It was those heady years of the Dot.Com Boom,” Art says, “and the financier decided healthcare wasn’t Boom-y enough. He abandoned us for some West Coast computer start-ups, telling us he could make incredible returns there – I think the figure was 30 percent a year. And No, I’m not sure what happened to him.”

What happened to Art was major disillusionment. The start-up couldn’t make it, and a subsequent short stint at another healthcare company also disappointed, as it, too, went through “re-engineering” and changed its focus. About two years ago, Art went out on his own, but he hasn’t enjoyed it much and would like to be part of a corporate team again, if the possibility presents itself.

“I’ll bounce back, and so will the Boomer generation,” he says confidently. “It’s good so many of us are angry. We’ll move through the anger and shake things up, as we always have.”

One thing that sorely needs shaking up, Art believes, is companies’ recent reliance on short-term financial gains at the expense of long-term prosperity, for themselves and their employees. “A company is only as good as its managers and its workers,” he says. “The entire corporate world has to get back to basics. And the root of those basics is operations.”

What Do You Think?

Have you or anyone you know been “re-engineered” right out of a job or a company?

How have corporations in the US and Canada gone astray?

Have Baby Boomers been particularly hurt by financial re-engineering?

Have those in line operations suffered at the expense of financial wiz kids?

Do you think many companies are finally seeing the light?

Will Boomers return to corporate jobs as the economy picks up, or will they prefer to take the entrepreneurial route back to financial prosperity?

For the next story in the series, “Will Boomers Save Twitter?” click on: http://wp.me/pxD3J-K

For the Introduction to Baby Boomers-The Angriest Generation, please go to: http://wp.me/pxD3J-3

For a look at how “Sophisticated Communes” may take Baby Boomers full circle as we age, see: http://wp.me/pxD3J-x