Of Perfidious Boomers, Coronavirus, And Climate Change: An Essay
I think I’ll try a new approach and start this piece off with a statement rather than prefacing it, and the statement is this: the entire world has changed, very visibly and quite rapidly, in order to help protect a group of people who have spent their entire lives refusing to make even the slightest changes to their lifestyles, behaviors, or spending habits in order to secure a future for the generations which are now overwhelmingly making sacrifices to help keep them alive.
I’m speaking of course, in the former instance, of the Boomers and Generation X; a group I’m simply going to refer to as Boomers from here on out.¹
Already a lot of people are thinking that I’m being very unfair in this assessment but it’s surprising just how accurate it is. I’m going to focus specifically on two areas of comparison here:
- Climate change
- Universal healthcare
If those look like arbitrary choices, they’re not: they’re just two of the more poignant examples of things which are identical in a lot of important ways. It’s this similarity between the three issues of coronavirus, climate change, and universal healthcare which serve to highlight the one, single difference that so perfectly sums up the horrendous behavior of the Boomers.
Namely, that the only difference between the issues is that we actually did something about coronavirus because it effects Boomers. This is special because it implies three potential reasons for this:
- Things only change when the effects are bad for Boomers
- Millennials and Zoomers are much more willing to make changes and sacrifices to protect older generations than they are to help us
- Some combination of the two previous reasons
But we’re putting the cart before the horse here — let’s take a look at the similarities between the three global, societal problems so that we can be sure we’re not comparing apples and oranges.
The most obvious qualities of all three issues is that they effect everyone, though they effect certain groups of people much more than others. We’ll take the fact that these issues effect everyone for read though, and just take a look at who is effected the most.
For climate change the people most impacted are those who are younger and will deal with the increasing effects both more and for longer periods of time. Universal healthcare is something whose benefits effect everyone equally, although the lack of universal healthcare becomes increasingly problematic the further one is down the socioeconomic ladder, which also happen to be the segments of the population which are the largest.
Finally, there’s coronavirus, which mostly effects the elderly, and is increasingly dangerous the further one is advanced in years. Yes, it effects everyone because anyone can contract it. The point isn’t that everyone can get it, it’s that chances of survival or severe complications increase with age. They also go up for things like preexisting conditions! I get it! (This is a problem universal healthcare could help with, but we’ll get to that.) I just want to say that I realize there are whole swathes of “younger” people who are greatly at risk which is why I don’t think we should relax what we’re doing to help protect our communities at all — I am simply pointing out that society leapt to help communities when it effected Boomers more than anyone else.
To recap, the scores are that coronavirus is most dangerous to people the older they get, a lack of universal healthcare is most harmful to people the younger and less wealthy they are, and climate change is most dangerous to people who are younger and will live through more of it.
We should touch on this part about healthcare being more dangerous to those who are younger for a moment though, because it’s interesting. It seems at first like that’s arbitrary or even incorrect; the younger you are the more resilient you tend to be, so why would you need more healthcare? In a very real sense, that’s not the question to be asking. The thing to remember is that once you qualify for social security age, you also get Medicare. That’s right: all you have to do is live long enough and you’ll get pretty decent medical coverage and free income from the government, funded by the young people who don’t get healthcare coverage unless they happen to be able to afford it or they have a job that pays for it, and even then it’s crapshoot if it’ll cover larger problems or major episodes.
Comparing how much healthcare people need at different ages is asinine. It’s a wonderful debating tactic for Boomers though because they would say they got by fine without free healthcare, why should you need it? And aside from skyrocketing healthcare costs and a lot of other things that aren’t similar between either of the situations, it might seem like an okay argument until you realize that the person you’re talking to is, or soon will be, getting free healthcare just for existing long enough.
As far as the climate change comparison goes, it’s pretty straightforward. Yes, it also effects people who are advancing in years but they likely won’t see the brunt of it. They also won’t be around to suffer the effects for that long. It’s a numbers game, really.
There we are then, three issues the effect everyone; three problems that, if solved, would benefit everyone; three issues that disproportionately effect a certain group of people.
One unique feature of coronavirus is that it is novel. Everyone keeps using that word, which means “new” (in this context), because that’s what it is: it’s new. It came along out of nowhere as a problem that quickly spread across the globe and effects essentially every single person. While the responses from leaders and institutions and governments have been horrendous, which is another problem altogether, there have been responses, and they’ve been real ones.
Between what individuals have chosen to do willingly, and what is haphazardly being required in different places across the world, it’s fair to say that even the people who have actively chosen not to make any changes to their own behaviors to help create a safer world for everyone have been forced to experience some changes, or at least notice them happening around them.
That’s such a huge deal!
You can see it in the grocery stores with the face masks. You can see it with testing initiatives. You can see it in the constant, never-ending talk about the topic — not just on the news, but between every single person you interact with every day. There is awareness, and there is a lot of activity going on to do something about this problem.
You know what you can’t say about lack of healthcare coverage or climate change? You can’t call them novel. There’s nothing novel about those issues.
They’ve been around for a while, actually. Climate change is something that scientists hypothesized about humans potentially causing, even as far back as the industrial revolution, although then there was no real evidence to support the idea so it wasn’t taken too seriously. Since that time, industry has only increased, at a more or less exponential rate, and so too have the anthropomorphic effects on the climate of our planet.
Oh, and the evidence! The evidence increased too. A lot. Until about 50 or 60 years ago when it got to the point that it was pretty obvious that some small changes from individuals, some laws regulating pollution, and some investment in renewable energy sources were needed in order to keep the planet on track. Maybe stop driving so much, use trains more than trucking, look into some alternatives to burning coal and gas to power everything, make an effort not to be so wasteful around the house — just a lot of really simple and small things that would have helped out tremendously.
What did we get from the Boomers? Nadda. Not a thing. There was a lot of grumbling about how “impossible” things would be. It was “impossible” to convert from petrol to electric, or to install solar or wind farms, etc. And the expense! Think of how expensive it would be to invest in finding alternative and renewable energy sources. Not to mention how unfair it would be to incentivize this research with tax dollars, which could be taken from unclean fuel sources, in order to disincentivize the use of harmful energy. There are a lot of things you can say about Boomers but hating taxes is definitely up there on the list.
Oh sorry, hippies were Boomers too, right? And Greenpeace! They gave us Greenpeace, right? Greenpeace is a bunch of good-intentioned but self-righteous imbeciles who don’t even know what they’re talking about half the time and have achieved absolutely nothing worth mentioning (except spectacles) in the entire course of their existence. Hippies? I mean sure, hippies were cool! They didn’t get anything done that was actually even remotely effectual in terms of combating climate change though, so that’s not very helpful. They also … do they exist anymore? I’m sure there are a small number of true, original hippies out there who are wonderful people but most of those hippies that loved nature and whatever are now ready for retirement as advertising agents, oil corporation accountants, etc., who are more interested in the health of the airline and natural gas stocks in their portfolio than the health of the planet.
Hippies existed. Lots of Boomers were hippies. Then hippies died and became the Boomers we know today. I don’t think having tie-dyed a shirt and smoking a lot of marijuana really makes up for the next decades of actively refusing to vote for legislation to protect the planet and not making life choices to help be more sustainable.
The healthcare access question can be slightly complex if you get into the details of assigning blame for the original sin. Did Boomers take away access to healthcare that had existed before their time? No? Then surely they aren’t to blame for not having it now!
That’s never what I said though. What I said is that it has been an increasingly obvious problem for everyone in society but the generation that wasn’t as effected by the skyrocketing healthcare costs, the lack of social programs, the increase in chronic conditions, and the absurd prices of medication is the generation that has steadfastly insisted that this is not a problem and nobody needs, or deserves, any help with it. They got on just fine without handouts like health insurance, why should we expect them to pay for us? And alright, I guess if you want to ignore all the details and just make a dumb argument then okay.
Here’s my reverse-ask though: why should we pay for your social security and medicare? Watch as their elderly jaw drops in shock and outrage at the idea of taking away their benefits. “I paid into those!” they’ll shout.
At this juncture it’s fun to mock the elderly for getting to be to their age without understanding how something as simple as social security works. It’s not a savings account, it’s a benefits program; the same as any other thing they like to call a “handout”. The people who are currently working have their income taxed by the federal government in order to pay out the benefits to social security. That’s it.
So yes, the Boomers didn’t cause a lack of access to healthcare. They are absolved of that charge.
They did something even worse though, because even if they’d hypothetically voted out universal health coverage that had existed before, that’s still a one-time act. It’s atrocious and bad but it’s not the same as going for decades, watching as people around them are financially ruined by sudden healthcare concerns, loss of a job while on chemo, etc. and still refusing to vote for a universal health plan. It is far worse to go those decades seeing in the news about the absolutely bonkers prices of prescription medications some people have to pay, to hear about people killing themselves because they knew they’d never get out of debt from their eight months in the hospital in a coma, and doing nothing.
Frankly, everything else aside, it’s enough to be able to say that the Boomers by and large have spent the last few years hearing about the shocking and constantly increasing number of people who are dying because they have to ration their fucking insulin and they’ve said “oh yeah, that’s real sad, but it’d be unfair for me to have to pay taxes.” That’s inexcusable in and of itself when so many of them are on or soon will be on a government-assured healthcare entitlement plan.
But here we are with coronavirus. This is a problem that reared its head about half a year ago now and while the planet is still struggling to figure out what measures to implement and how to implement them, people are still at least doing something about the problem.
Well, I say people. What I mean is that the people who overwhelmingly took the coronavirus as a serious problem from the start, who voluntarily self-quarantined without symptoms to help divert the spread, who took time off work if they could or began working from home, who shut down their social lives before it was mandated — those people who are overwhelmingly about 45 years old and younger. This is the cohort I’ve been referring to as millennials, and I use it to also include the Zoomers.
Who started wearing masks first? Millennials. What were the Boomers doing about it? They were complaining. They were all over the television screaming about having to wear masks in stores or not being allowed to go to church and spread contagion like wildfire on a dry day.
Who stopped doing drinks out for Friday happy hour? Who forewent barbecues? It wasn’t the Boomers. They were the ones who were carrying guns at state capitals because they wanted to get Scotts for their yard. They were the ones we still mock when we talk about wanting a haircut. They were the ones who kept showing up on YouTube videos. It was the millennial group who made personal sacrifices because they knew it would help society as a whole stay healthy.
I see you, that one person who’s reading this and opening a new tab to YouTube so you can find a video of a Millennial without a mask screaming in a store about haircuts and spitting on employees. You don’t need to email it to me or post it in the comments. The thing is, as I’ve already said several times before, I am using broad language to describe the majority of people within these already tenuous generational age-groups. There are as many Millennial conservative dimwits or just self-centered egotists out there as there are Boomers who wholeheartedly support and work for real, honest-to-goodness universal healthcare. That is to say, there’s far fewer of those types of Millennials and Boomers than there are of the other type, which is why I can use this generalized terminology. Get with the program.
This disparity in who has gone out of their way to help out is especially frustrating when one realizes that not only are the younger generations doing more to help out a problem that effects society as a whole, but they’re doing it for a problem that is more dangerous to the older generations which have thrown them under the bus numerous times, all the while painting them as selfish, entitled whiners.
What’s more is that Millennials especially have already been directly screwed over by the older generations once: the 2008 financial crisis. A bunch of selfish Boomers ruined the economy and directly caused a setback to our futures, in terms of real expectations. They’d spent the time prior to that destroying jobs, sending them overseas, and doing everything they could to enrich themselves, only to screw it up and then blame us for expecting a pretty modest lifestyle of like, a full-time job that would quickly pay off our student loans so we could get on with building a future for ourselves.
When looked at in the bigger-picture, the coronavirus shows a lot about how Boomers behave compared to younger generations in and of itself. They are overwhelmingly self-centered and complain about every single measure aimed to help keep them safe as either too much of an encroachment of their privileges or too little being done to benefit them, and that’s after being so slow to realize this was something that would effect them in the first place.
it all gets even more startling when we notice that a whole lot of really “impossible” things happened pretty damn quickly when a problem came around that was bad for Boomers. Progressively increasing taxes on fossil fuels to fund development and deployment of renewable energy sources — something that has been an option for 50+ years to help save the climate? Impossible! Taxing corporations and the wealthy and everyone else in order to provide healthcare to everyone? Impossible, too expensive!
How about a $1,200 check to every American and an even more extravagant corporate bailout? Oh no, that’s fine. This time it’s for coronavirus and that is really bad for Boomers. They can die! So yeah, if it’ll help keep the ship from sinking while we blunder around then fine, let’s just send money to people. Universal Basic Income is a dumb idea but if this keeps people inside so Boomers don’t get sick then suddenly the money that doesn’t exist materializes and shows up in people’s bank accounts. Weird.
How about asking Boomers to make small life changes to help keep the climate from killing everyone off after the old farts are dead? They could do simple things like install LED lights. No, though — that’s encroaching on their economic liberties and it’s just a step too far on freedom, if you ask them. Maybe they could have tried to expand public transit and relied less on individual, gas-guzzling cars for the last 60 years we’ve known climate change is a real problem? Nah, that won’t work: it would be unAmerican not to be able to buy a giant truck that guzzles gasoline so that you can drive it back and forth 20 miles to work in heavy traffic (because you just need to live in the suburbs but work in the city) despite the fact you work in an office and you’ve never once needed to use the 90 billion horsepower that 20 cylinder engine was designed to sustain.
Tell a Millennial that if they wear a face mask it will help keep the people around them safe though and most of the time they’ll do it. A Boomer though? Well, how long has the coronavirus been around? If it’s been a month or so, they’ll probably argue that it’s not a big deal and they don’t know anybody who’s gotten it. Longer than a month since the outbreak and they’ll instead probably say something idiotic about freedom or liberty or whatever. We’ve definitely reached the point recently where they’ve finally mostly managed to calm down about it, but holy shit did that take a long time!
It’s not even a difficult concept. Every Millennial i know, and just about every single take from a Millennial I’ve seen online, has been pretty emblematic of this simple, yet fundamental difference between Boomers and the younger generations: I have friends and family whose health or age put them in a vulnerable category, and I have a brain that can comprehend the fact that other people do too, so if I put this mask on when I am out and can’t properly social-distance then that will increase the likelihood that the people I care about, and by extension the people that other people care about, won’t die of coronavirus, so I’m going to do this very simple thing.
Wrapping things up, there are two important takeaways.
The first is that Boomers ought to be ashamed and hopefully can re-evaluate how they’ve lived their lives. Everywhere they look is evidence that all of society changed in short order to help protect them. Yes, it protects everyone, but it protects them the most. Now they have the opportunity to turn around on their legacy of refusing to make personal sacrifices or change their behaviors in order to help society, rather than only doing things which benefit themselves primarily.
Universal healthcare, and serious efforts to combat climate change are things that will require all of us to put in effort, but they will also benefit all of us. We’re seeing right now that serious change can happen; that the arguments Boomers used to deny society the benefits of a healthy climate and universal healthcare access are false.
Whenever you see a line outside a grocery store, or feel surreal at being in an area where everyone is wearing a face mask, remember this:
If a capitalist nation like America can shut down the economy, ground the airlines, and send money to citizens all because Boomers are dying of the super flu, then there is not a single valid reason why there is not a national healthcare system for everyone, and there is not a single excuse for continuing to allow America to run on fossil fuels instead of renewable energy sources.
It would be very easy for cynical, sardonic me to say that Boomers don’t deserve any of this and we should all go back to life as it was in The Before Times. Except that this virus effects everyone, and how unfair would that be to the people whose health status — regardless of age — puts them in a vulnerable category?
Advocating for anyone’s death or suffering is a bad thing, which is why it comes so easily and so naturally to us humans. Only slightly easier than advocating for death or suffering is ignoring and tolerating it — this is the transgression of which I accuse the Boomers, at very least in relation to the two other topics I’ve already mentioned and which they’ve had so much time to fix.
J’accuse, Boomers; it is thee I point my finger at!
The difficult thing to do is to actively combat bad things. Many of us have made sacrifices and continue to make changes to our lives in order to play our part in reducing the death toll of coronavirus. Those that haven’t have at least been able to see the way the world has changed around them in order to fulfill that goal.
Now we need to take a look at some other goals that we were told were impossible; goals that benefit everyone, though like any goal they are all ones where a certain group gets more benefit than the rest purely by virtue of being lifted further up from the depths to reach equitability with their fellow humans. These are goals like universal healthcare; averting climate change; the eradication of systemic racism; reparations; the elimination of homelessness in America and of hunger everywhere in the world. These things aren’t impossible, and they could probably all begin in earnest immediately.
The Boomers showed us what it looks like when whole generations see societal problems and refuse to make small changes that would make it better for everyone, because it wouldn’t primarily benefit themselves.
We now have the opportunity to become generations which choose to solve problems because they would be better for everyone if they were resolved, not just because they aren’t presently causing us too much grief.
Coronavirus, and the already visible changes to our lives, are the proof.
Black Lives Matter. There are no good cops. Defund them all; cancel their pensions and their benefits immediately.
¹ Before you get too upset about the use of “monolithic” language, try to comprehend that because I don’t have infinite writing time to specifically list out which exact people within the group I’m speaking about, I’m instead going to use the group to refer to the people that it describes, and not the people that it doesn’t. Does that make sense? It should, it’s not very complicated. If you’re a Boomer who doesn’t fit the descriptions, then I’m not talking about you. If you know a Boomer who doesn’t do these things, I’m not talking about them. Believe it or not, not all Boomers are the same! A huge majority of them tend to have most of or all of the traits and behaviors I’m about to discuss though, so those are the ones I’m talking about.