I had a hard time finding a job only once in my life, but I still remember that feeling of desperation. We were living in Germany; Chip was making around $300 a month as an Army enlisted man, and we were living “on the economy,” as it was called.
I’d worked every summer since I was 17. When I graduated from college I got a job doing research for a psychoanalyst, which I held till Chip (who’d been forced to enlist or be drafted) got orders for Heidelberg. I’d saved up some money, but in Germany it was disappearing fast. Finally, I found one job answering a very shady so-called travel agent’s phone (for a dollar an hour), and then another transcribing grades for the University of Maryland’s Overseas Division.
Back in the States, I worked again for the psychoanalyst while Chip was in Vietnam, and then found a much higher-paying job through a friend at Scott Paper (even though I had to look up the definition of the job I’d be doing – marketing research – in a book). Eventually I migrated into Marketing, and then (after a 20-year career at Scott) started my organizational change consulting firm, which brought in a lot of business even though it didn’t change many organizations.
All of which is to say, we Baby Boomers had it easy. Our demographic bulge shaped society in our own interest. Our sixties protests seemed to work: the war ended; Nixon resigned; colleges reformed their curricula. Jobs just weren’t that hard to find – the “silent generation” cohort wasn’t all that large, and its women tended to stay home. Retirement accounts were invented, the stock market boomed, and arcane financial instruments were devised to make us even richer. And now? Guess what – we’re retiring, and everyone’s afraid to take our Medicare and Social Security away.
What happened to our idealistic generation? We lost our way, maybe because we got everything we wanted. We forgot about everyone but ourselves. We became fat cats.
As I look back upon my lucky life I’m glad I had that experience in Germany. I can understand what those ragtag Occupiers are feeling; understand their anger at us. Let’s just hope they’re more successful in their idealism than we were.