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Category Archives: Generations
Is reading in danger? Are print books doomed? As a reader all of my life, I would be devastated if that was so.
I remember the exact moment I learned to make sense of the printed word, and I remember witnessing that moment in my students, but I could never put it better than Alberto Manguel:
“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning, and at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”
The impact of automation on employment is finally making it into the news. It’s not a trending topic yet, but at least it’s no longer the “elephant in the room”. Although books like The End of Work (Rifkin) appeared as early as 2002, and online blogs have been warning about advanced technology for at least 5 years, automation and it’s effect on work has so far avoided the limelight.
In 2013, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, wrote about the rapid advances in computer technology—blaming recent sluggish employment growth on improved industrial automation, from the use of robotics on the factory floor to automated translation services.
“Even more ominous for workers,” he said, “the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.”
My grandson, Aiden, is one of the Millennials, just turning nineteen today. He is perched on the arm of a chair in the front room, his long legs reaching halfway across the carpet, blond hair punked in a short cut, a shadow of a beard on his chin. He takes his eyes away from his iphone momentarily, and asks me,
“Gramma, what do you think is going to happen?”
“About what?” I ask.
“About what’s going on now, across America, across the world.”
I feel a little twinge in my chest, something that always happens when I know I have to dig deep and find a difficult truth that needs to be spoken. Here is my grandson, who I have watched grow and turn into a beautiful young man, with his whole life ahead of him, having worries no young person should have. We grandparents, like their parents, always want to say to the young people in our lives, “You are safe”.
I want to wish you a Happy New Year more personally this year, so I’ve created this short video, which I hope will give you a better idea of who I am, and what I hope to offer in this blog in 2017.
I’m a member of the Silent Generation, born just before the second world war. I started this blog two years ago in order to discuss what is important about my age group, and what we can do to keep our memory and contributions alive. Many of us had hardships, and did without privileges during our youth, but once we reached adulthood, we were privy to the fastest growing and most stable economy and job situation ever. We had what we wished our children could build upon.
In the waning days of this bitter presidential campaign, while candidates slog it out in a final mud bath of vitriol, let’s go back to how it all began—or at least how we think it all began.
Several attempts were made, during the early phase of the campaign, to identify the average supporters of Donald Trump; to focus on their similarities, and to discover why they attended his rallies in the thousands to listen to his enraged rhetoric.
Analysts had a field day examining the underlying conditions which may have spurred such a ground swell of social expression, a ‘movement’ as Trump slyly and accurately named it as early as last spring.
People of my generation are old enough to have known the automobile in its infancy. We remember a car that had to be cranked with a handle in order to start—and once moving, was temperamental, cramped and offered a bumpy ride.
We took this discomfort in stride. We appreciated the miracle, the absolute wonder of being able to move through the countryside in something other than a horse drawn wagon. And how taking hours to travel a few miles was never considered a hardship.
Some of us recall the coming-of-age experience of buying our first car. Others, living in the newly-built suburbs of the 1950s, remember the convenience of driving a car (instead of taking a train) to get to work. And families, moving to the city from farming communities, considered the car, not only a necessity, but a symbol of freedom and status.
It’s like a fairy tale from long ago – “Once upon a time, in our Western economies, there was 3% unemployment…”
It’s a far cry from today, as the US descends into the ugliest political contest we have ever known. Issues are ignored as the behavior of one of the two candidates dominates center stage. So it’s important not to forget the economic sentiments that underscored this campaign in the first place:
1. Job market displacement of non-college educated white men, fear that Mexican migrants will take more of their jobs, and one man’s uncanny grasp of the depth of their anger. (Trump)
The baby boom still resonates in our society. So much has been said and written about the boomers, with constant speculation about what they will do next. With so much attention centered on them, and especially on their numbers, no one gives much thought to the women who were responsible for them—their mothers.
These were the women who grew up during the depression of the 1930s, coming of age just as WWII was ending—women who would be in their seventies or eighties now. They were in their twenties and early thirties when soldiers came home from the war, yearning for stability, ready to marry and settle down. These young women were unknowing recipients of new and constricting expectations, some imposed by a society tired of self-denial and war, and some imposed by corporations capitalizing on a nation’s desire for the safety and comfort of family.
“In youth we learn, in age we understand”.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote these words when she was seventy-five years old. It’s my favourite explanation of wisdom. I’ve gone so far as to print it out on a little card and mount it above my desk, just as a reminder that wisdom, as a by-product of age, has value.
I need to be reminded about that these days, when attitudes about us, the older generation, is eroding, and our place in the world is being questioned.
In the past, when I’ve been frustrated or overwhelmed, it helped to read the quote, and have my spirits buoyed by the idea that, now that I’m older, I have the advantage of being wiser, too.