Sunday, February 6, 2022

Jonesing for a better future.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the last one to know everything.

All these years, I've believed that I was a Baby Boomer. I was born in 1957, which is comfortably inside the traditional span of Boomer birth years -- 1946 to 1964. But I always knew that the world I grew up in was different from the one my brother, who is ten years my senior, grew up in. The kids in his high school graduating class worried about being sent to Vietnam; by the time I was in high school, not only was the Vietnam War over, but the draft was, too. Young people his age went to San Francisco with flowers in their hair (although he never did); all that hippie stuff was over before I was old enough to drive.

But one of the biggest differences was economic. When my brother graduated from college, the economy was booming and there were jobs aplenty. By the time I got out of college, things weren't so rosy. Good-paying jobs were harder to find. I didn't understand at the time what caused the difference. Years later, though, I watched a documentary by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called Inequality for All that went a long way toward explaining it. You can see a bunch of the graphics from the film at this link. When I watched the movie, the thing that really got my attention was a graphic showing "The Great Prosperity" -- the post-WWII boom years between 1947 and 1977, when the economy was going gangbusters. After that, though -- starting in, oh, 1978 or '79 -- we got stuff like trickle-down economics and Reagan's breaking of the air-traffic controllers' union. Wage growth stalled and financial inequality grew. And grew.

Guess when I graduated from college? 1979.

It turns out there's a label for us late Boomers and early Gen Xers -- those of us who weren't old enough to be part of the Summer of Love and who came of age when regular folks started to get the shaft. For a while, I guess, we were termed the Lost Generation -- cheerful, right? But then in 1999, a researcher named Jonathan Pontell coined the term:

We're the people who grew up jonesing for the better lives we were promised -- the lives our parents and older siblings had.

Although the name has been around since the turn of the millennium, I'd never heard it until a few weeks ago. (I'm the last to know everything, remember?) The label has gained traction in certain circles -- for instance, some folks blamed Jonesers for John Kerry's loss to George W. Bush in 2004. But it's nowhere near universally known. Pontell's book must have sunk into oblivion -- I can't find it anywhere online, even a used copy -- although the author still has a website

I guess in a way we're still the Lost Generation.


By the way, Inequality for All is available to watch for free on YouTube at that link above. And if you're interested in this sort of thing, Reich is going to be presenting a free, on-demand lecture series called "Wealth and Poverty" on his Substack site. The class will run for eleven weeks; the first one will be available this coming Friday. I'm hoping to watch as many of the sessions as I can.


These moments of bloggy jonesing have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

1 comment:

Suzanne Given said...

I like this test: Ask yourself the following questions: When you think of the ideal TV family do you think of a) the Cleavers; b) The Brady Bunch; or c) The Simpsons? When you hear the name Jane Fonda, do you think a) anti-war activist; b) fitness guru; or c) Ted Turner’s wife? If you answered “B” to the above questions, you are part of Generation Jones.