A generation war in waiting?
THE PARENTS:Does this generation think their parents squandered the Tiger’s spoils? Do the parents feel guilty?
THE GENERATION fading out has always had the bitter word about the one coming of age. Mainly, they were looking at a crowd of lazy little gits with no concept of proper hard work or a tidy room. The younger set saw only grumpy aul’ lads refusing to accept their time was up.
The recession though has turned more than an economy on its head. The image now is of the reckless Boomers racing for the cruise ships, their safari jackets bulging with lump sums and defined benefit pensions, leaving Generation Next to flounder in a legacy of Boomer debt. The drumbeats sound out a new kind of generation war.
So, are the young bitterly resentful of their parents, who – by this analysis – squandered the boom, squirreled away shedloads of cash from “downsizing” and made off with the spoils? Do parents feel culpable? One recently retired public servant certainly isn’t – although he prefers to remain anonymous.
“Better to look at those in all sections of society, private and public, who during the boom have prospered out of all proportion to what was the norm.”
In his view, anybody earning less than €100,000 a year cannot be said to have run away with the spoils. “Think of what that is after tax, especially where there is a mortgage to pay and a family to support.
“Ironically, this is my third recession in living memory. Back then, we tightened our belts and lived a bit frugally, upskilling and advancing our education even while holding down full-time jobs while parenting as best we could. Then, when opportunity presented itself, we were in a position to take full advantage of it. There is a message in this for the younger generation.”
His 22-year-old privately educated son, who has just finished university and works long hours in a supermarket, sees a class divide rather than a generational one. Without the “flawed business model . . . of the massive bonuses” and resulting threat to pension entitlements, his father would have continued to work until he was 65, he says.
“He offered to finish teaching his final-year undergraduates for free after his retirement date in the hope that their results would not be affected. From what I have seen at home anyway, there is a lot more to many public service jobs that what they are given credit for.”
So, no generation war in that house – or in Margaret Moore’s. “We feel just as let down by what happened as anyone else,” says Margaret (52), a mother of three who, with her husband Barry, runs Photogenic, a successful photographic studio in Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Their daughter Rae (25), an unemployed architect, has no quibble with that.
Neither are there portents of war in Julie Byrne’s house in Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Julie (54), a clinical nurse in education, once told her daughter, Sheila, that “there would always be a need for nurses and teachers”. However despite achieving a first in her HDip and having applied for hundreds of jobs in her English, classical studies and CSPE subjects, Sheila is now working almost full time in a Dublin city bar, a routine broken by occasional teacher-subbing days.
Does she blame her older colleagues for the new two-tier system? “I don’t want to think about that too much because I don’t want to be angry at my colleagues who were lucky enough to get in when they did. It’s not their fault. They would have lived through the 1980s, so when they were my age, having young families, things would have been very difficult. They do know what it was like. My parents would have known what it was like.”