Lately, I have had a strange thought rumbling through my head.
I am constantly hearing about the “Greatest Generation” and how they did it so much better than this current generation. (BTW, thanks Tom Brokaw for coming up with this term).
They came of age during the GREAT DEPRESSION in which people really did without. And then the men of this generation went off to World War II, THE BIG ONE. When they came back, it was off to create a economic state and society like we had not seen in a long time.
As I have talked to people older than myself and wondered what was it about that generation, it hit me. Hit me like a red balloon to the face.
When the GREATEST GENERATION sought to achieve it was for no other reason than they knew what hunger was and failure was not an option. I mean the type of hunger that does not go away with a quick snickers bar because you couldn’t afford a snickers. Survival was tough and nasty. So you did what you had to do.
Women above a certain class couldn’t work in the 1930s because it was unseemly. If you worked outside of the home, things were bad and you were the hired help. That is until the men went to war and the factories needed people to staff it.
So you found ways to survive. Grow extra food, do mending and ironing for people. Young men joined the CCC. If you were a kid you might have had to quit school and get a job. Then came the war. The men went and factories were humming.
The greatest generation rose to the challenge with victory gardens, gas rationing and sugar rationing. Nylon hose came into being because silk was needed for parachutes. Once soldiers came back they had to deal with housing shortages.
They also had the GI Bill which gave them the opportunity to go to school. So they went and became smarter in order to figured out how to make things better and smarter. The fifties were an alleged halcion age.
There are social issues that are pushed under the rug because who wants to deal with that when what this group of people survivied was incredible.
It makes me wonder what is wrong with the slackers of today – my generation and the ones that have come after. Do we not create anything, make the world a better place. Or do we just sit on our butts playing video games all day long.
Wait, didn’t the generations that grew up during the 60s and after invent video games? Bill Gates, who is in his fifties, came up with the computer system that revolutionized the world. There have been star athletes, incredible movie stars, inventors, advertising geniuses from that point onward. The President of the United States, his wife and the chief Justice of the Supreme Court are in their late forties and early fifities.
What we do not have is a gravatizing event that has made us appear deeper and more aware. We have not had a major event that has lasted for years that has made a major impact on our lives or forced us to suffer as the GREATEST GENERATION has.
What about 911, you say, and the war in Iraq? Let me ask this – what did you give up in return because of those events? Gas may be higher but we still have it whenever we want. Same with food and water. Our generation has not faced those same hardships in the same way.
But does that mean our generation is not valid? Does that mean we are all a bunch of layabouts? Or does it mean that we have not had to struggle because our parents never wanted us to struggle in the same way they had. They worked hard so we could have a better life and the same for our kids.
Which doesn’t mean we haven’t had our share of problems. More time on our hands have meant more self-reflection and looking at issues that were not right and were not fair. Our generation has also had to deal with the rise of Autism, Asthma, food allergies and new technologies that prolong life.
My generation had to deal with the after affects of the summer of love, civil rights, assasignations of various leaders and the end of the cold war. We called out addiction and abuse; we painted pictures of what was wrong in our world and tried to end it. Heck, we made people go outside to smoke their cigarettes.
My generation will not be known as the GREATEST GENERATION. We will not suffer years of economic depression and war effort or the rebuilding that took place afterwards. But don’t count us out because of it. We did learn a few things from that generation and those lessons are being put into use right now, although without the cool Glen Miller soundtrack.