I am fed up hearing whinging self-serving publicists moaning about ‘our generation’ and the damage we oldies have done. These self-appointed public penitents ease their self-flagellation by dragging in as many people as they can, as if building numbers will dilute the sense of guilt that is oozing out of their pores.
Who asked you to speak for those you count as ‘your generation’? The most you can say is that you were born around a time when thousands of us were born. There the similarity between you, them and me stops. You are a self-appointed spokesperson who speaks for no one. Go away, sort out your life, deal with your guilt complexes and leave the rest of us alone.
I object to the phrase ‘people of my generation’ just as much as I resent the generalisation, ‘the younger generation’ or the universality implied in, ‘that ethnic minority’, or ‘all believers’, or ‘the millennials’. Slapping a label on a group is divisive, dangerous and lazy. It is also a lie.
Do not generalise from your one-off life by wrapping around you all those you wish to tar with the same brush. Cloaking your inadequacies under the guise of ‘our generation’ does not recognise the richness and variety of people who have obviously passed you by.
In particular, do not include me in your generalisations. I am not your clone. Stop referring to me as if I am rubber stamped as part of ‘your generation’.
You did not share my experiences, my parents, my family life, my ambitions, my opportunities and expectations. Where were you when I made my mistakes or struggled with my problems? I didn’t notice you when I was learning what I could, or deciding what I would do with my life. You did not share with me the same experiences of living and you never were close enough to understand or feel for my existence. I do not share your hand wringing now just because you have woken up to the damage you personally created.
Go ahead and feel guilty about what you have done to the world. Admit you neglected your health or created a misplaced emphasis on money and wealth to the detriment of others. Say out loud that you damaged the environment almost to the point of destruction. Ask forgiveness for the concessions you made to multinationals and big bankers because of the slice of the cake they gave you. Recognise in public that the agreement between you and those who bought you, has left our society in a bad way. Feel guilty that you lead a comfortable, indulgent lifestyle in your over-large mortgage free house driving up the price of property so that young people cannot afford to buy a home. Own up to the fact that you are leaving a damaged to those who come next, but accept it was you and not ‘your generation’ who brought it about.
None of these things were done by ‘your generation’. They were done by you, an individual. The thousands who made similar choices, or accepted the world they were told was good for them, did not do so as part of some secret pact. Each one made a personal choice and each lives with the consequences. Don’t invent a collective so that you can escape your responsibility by going on about ‘our generation’. It was you. You caused what you now deplore or regret. For once, stand up and accept your personal responsibility.
Do all the guilt stuff, feel all that angst, but leave me out of it. I am not party to your mistakes and your misjudgements. I am not like you just because I was born in the same year or even in the same era. I refuse to be lumped into your slice of history of which you feel ashamed. Feel your shame, but it is yours, not mine. Admit your guilt, but take responsibility for the part you played in it. Do not lash me with your self-serving flagellation while you cry over your spilt milk. I am not an integral part of ‘your generation’, so leave me out of your cover-up.
I have enough to do accepting and dealing with what I did. I struggle to balance the benefits I produced against the damage I caused. Whatever my final conclusion is you can be sure you are not part of it, just as you were never part of my life.
I take responsibility for what I was and what I did. I respectfully request you do the same. Speak for yourself.