Intergenerational Angst by William Klein

Every generation responds to the one before it by rebelling. It’s a natural process for youth to grow into an understanding of who it wants to be based on examining the world around it. Growing up in the 80s there was a group that emerged that has long since been forgotten called the “yuppies.” Yuppies fell between baby boomers and generation Xers, but some of the Baby Boomers capitalized on the moniker as well.

A yuppy was a preppy, well-dressed, well-mannered go get ‘em type.  Guys had hair cut short, above the collar, to meet the needs of business and dressed to the nines in suits during the day, while after work they donned non pleated khakis dockers, boat shoes and Polo golf shirts and Tommy Hilfiger or LL Bean sweaters. Gals looked equally presentable in their office suits, at night they tied sweaters around their Ann Taylor blouses and khakis to match their mates. Brand names were the order of the day.

Martin Scorcese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” captured the yuppies pretty well, as did Oliver Stone’s movie “Wall Street.” Brett Easton Ellis was the literary darling who captured them in his books “Less Than Zero” and “American Psycho.”

The rich ones drove Beamers, Mercedes, Saabs and fashionable Volkswagons. The poor ones drove Mercur Scorpios and Buick LeSabres but kept them clean. The urban dictionary notes that yuppies were the children of doctors and lawyers, but in my blue-collar neighborhood they were wannabes and reacting to the generation before and saw that the life of a hippie didn’t pay, so they played the role. “Fake it till you make it.”

The ethic was win at any costs, the Wall Street line from Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good.” They compromised their values to get what they needed and played by the rules of big business and established morally relevant norms that suited their needs at the time.

That yuppy mentality is what is now running the country. They helped create Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump who became the poster boy for unregulated capitalism and “make the rules up as you go.” David Mamet equated them to sharks, but I think a better analogy is alligators or crocs. Sharks gobble up what is in front of them. Gators and crocodiles are cold blooded swamp feeders that will eat anything, torturing their prey before gobbling them up. We’re stuck in this swamp of indifference and the gators are prowling, waiting to grab us, roll us over in their death grips to disorient us, and bring us to the bottom of the murky depths for lunch.

Yuppies are the same ones who say the strong will survive and the weak will fall by the wayside. Their corporations move into countries, take advantage of the workforce and then look for new opportunities elsewhere when they start raising the taxes or can get a better deal elsewhere. Their mantra is “Everyone lies” I recently heard someone say. “What’s the big deal? it’s life, isn’t it?” No, it isn’t.

They’re the Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson at Fox News who have made an art of gaslighting. They’re the Jerry Rubins who were once the revolutionaries but turned when the going got good and a dollar was to be made in a new craze like health foods and gym equipment. In their attempts to play the role of a corporate power broker, a Gatsbyesque marauder, they’ve been called out as “fakes” by this generation as conspiracy theorists to acquire more of what they need at the cost of the country.

This generation has a very different perspective. They saw the hypocrisy of their parents in their attempts to keep multiple balls in the air. They are reacting to the “take what you can while you can” attitude and responding by finding a balanced life. Don’t let “the man” win. Work a year or two at a company and move on. 

This generation is eco conscious and willing to fight for change. It’s the David Hoggs of the world who are fighting for gun reform. It’s Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Noble Laureate ever to receive the prize, who is fighting for equal rights for women and education or Greta Thunberg who is working to save the planet.

There’s an old belief that you grow into a sort of conservatism as you grow older. That may be the case. There is still hope nonetheless that this generation is aware that we are at a critical point in world development and reforms and rethinking how we approach issues is important for our survival. They give me hope.

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