This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boomers to Remain Part of the Community Paradigms

Strong Towns, one of the organizations supported within these pages, has recently featured a couple of articles regarding Baby Boomers.  Charles Marohn, better known as Chuck, the Executive Director of Strong Towns, has had a couple of posts on the subject of Baby Boomers.  This is a significant issue for me and a major impetus for creating this blog.  

The first was a Best of Blog series under the banner which asked Can Baby Boomers be part of the solution?  The question was posed in a less confrontational manner than an article I cited in my Reader Comments “Generational Warfare: The Case Against Parasitic Baby Boomers”.  

Chuck actually asked two questions.  Are the majority in the Baby Boom generation capable of substantively reforming America's current set of institutions, systems and programs?  

My answer to this question is yes, contingent on understanding that you don’t need the majority, most will remain uninvolved, but a large portion of Boomers who realize a need for change because of where the world ended up.  It is also depends upon Boomers not being isolated or alone in their efforts to create positive change.

Is it reasonable to expect those Baby Boomers with power and wealth, in positions of authority, such as elected office to substantively reform the institutions, systems and programs they came to control?  

First, most Boomers are not in this position.  They are not the ones who created the auto-centric development pattern or failed to fund pension systems.  They are, admittedly, the ones who made what seemed to be the best choices at the time for their families depending upon promises made for working within the system.  Many now see the viability of alternative systems of development and governance.  Many more, I believe, could be persuaded. 

Beyond this, I find the possibility more doubtful.  The problem from my perspective is not one of generations but of systems.  We are beyond the tail end of a system that has far outlived its arguably usefulness for most.  Unfortunately, it is those in power, very often on city councils, that keep perpetuating this system of oil dependent development.  Changing this will require to my mind social forms of disruptive innovation, like radically revising our current forms of municipal city council governments.

The next article, which was more declarative, was at Strong Town Networks on Generational Change (you need to join to see this but it is worth doing particularly because it is now free) which cited an article asserting that, “Behind the fiscal cliff is a struggle between racially diverse millennials and aging white baby boomers”.  In this article, Chuck raises a more philosophical point for discussion.

There is a quip attributed to Winston Churchill that goes something like this: If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative when you are old, you have no brain.  American society seems ready to test that insight.

According to some sources, including Wikiquote, Churchill didn’t say it. Quips often sound good when rolled off the tongue but a little digging can get to the heart of things.

"Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains."
  • Often attributed to Winston Churchill ([5]). The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."
Someone also pointed out that this did not fit with Churchill’s own life. He entered politics as a Conservative and was a Conservative at age 25. He switched to the Liberal Party at age 29 and was a Liberal at age 35. (He returned to the Conservatives at age 49.)” Further, it can fairly be said that Churchill's political viewpoint and guiding principles did not change radically, despite his twice switching his allegiance.

What is more important for the generational discussion, was that it was put forward during times in history, including Churchill’s, when people had the good manners to pass away at around 60 years of age or before.  Now everyone has to deal with Boomers sticking around for another 20 years of so as one of the larger population bumps in history.  Thereby putting pressure on our retirement systems.  The quip is often put in 20 year segments, liberal at 20 and conservative at 40.  Many Boomers are now 60 bringing on a whole new perspective.   

The biggest question is not whether we should apply this to ourselves as individuals but whether we can apply to ourselves as a society.  Does it bode well for our society to have Boomers become more conservative?  A recent Los Angeles Times article, “Parties' role reversal complicates spending debates” emphasizes the divisions between Boomers and Millennials, as does the article “Behind the fiscal cliff is a struggle between racially diverse millennials and aging white baby boomers”.  I personally found the photo in the article particularly ironic, but that’s just me. 

The 'fiscal cliff' drama highlighted how the small-government GOP now relies on older people who use entitlement programs created by the Democratic Party, which is now favored by the young.

This is dependent though upon following partisan politics and not looking for community based solutions.  There are those making the case that Boomers and Millennials can work together in building solutions to challenges facing our society.  

Sometime ago, during my more personal blogging phase, I also had questions on the role of Boomers in building the future and whether it was a matter of “Boomers Ruling the Old World or Helping to Raise Up a New One”.  I wanted and still want to choose a new one.  

The Gig - FORTUNE on had an article “Money v. meaningful work, the battle continuesfeaturing Tamara Erickson, now Founder & CEO of Tammy Erickson Associates and provided a hopeful scenario of Boomer and Generation Y collaboration in the workplace.  

...Tamara Erickson — one of our recurring Gig experts and president of the Concours Institute — says shows that Yers value expertise above all else, including authority. Meaning that, a lot of the time, we’ll take the old guy with great stories and good advice over the younger one with a big title. So for those senior folks in the public sector or nonprofit world, retaining their Yers may just be a matter of sharing a few tales about the lives they’ve changed.

A Salon article on How to solve the boomer retirement crisis from February 2012 recognizes that, “If boomer retirees keep flooding suburbs, the cost of providing for them soars” and asks “Can we get them to cities, instead?”

For instance, a big issue for seniors is range — how far they can comfortably get from their homes. In cities, that often boils down to where’s the next bench, and where’s the next bathroom? So when San Francisco tears out its public seating to keep the homeless from sitting down (a dubious policy anyway), it inadvertently creates an environment hostile to older people.
Again, you have evidence that this should be seen as a systems problem despite it being put into generational terms “You’ve got this whole generation that moved to the suburbs thanks to government subsidies,” says Howard Gleckman, author of “Caring for Our Parents” and a fellow at the Urban Institute. “They got tax breaks for moving there and now they’re staying.” Even city-dwelling boomers — up to 65 percent of them — head for the land of the lawns once the kids move out.

I appreciated and shared that Hazel Borys (@hborys) of PlaceMakers recognized that both “Boomers + GenY want something the housing market isn't providing: 1-3 BR small homes in walkable, transit-rich, job-rich places. #cplan” and should therefore be able to work together on a common future.
An SFGate article from December of the past year asserts that, “Baby Boomers likely no drag on economy.”  While this can be argued, it does make the point of seeing these challenges as opportunities.  

The one question a startup doesn't want to get from its board of directors is this one: 'Why did you leave money on the table by ignoring a market of 100 million people with $3.5 trillion to spend?’

Returning to the How to solve the boomer retirement crisis article and someone to whom the Boomers should have paid more attention. 

“Cities need old buildings,” Jane Jacobs famously wrote in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”  “Chain stores, chain restaurants, and banks go into new construction. But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops … studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies … these go into old buildings.” Her point was that what serves a purpose in cities isn’t always readily apparent. Cities need the giddy energy of youthful upstarts and the stability of middle-aged workers and parents. But just as as we’re surprised to learn that they sometimes need a McDonald’s, we find that they need old people, too.

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