Suzanne Fields

The generation that never trusted anyone over 30 has grown into the "age of accountability," and like it or not, they're the generation over 60 that can't be trusted, either. Hillary Clinton, the aging star in the crowded political firmament, can't even say what happened in Benghazi on her watch as secretary of state, when four Americans, including an American ambassador, were slain by terrorists. She couldn't have been more arrogant or irresponsible than the "best and brightest" who brought us the Vietnam War and whom the boomers held in such contempt for the petty bureaucratic and overweening political considerations that trumped common sense and human values. Her famous reply to a question from a Senate committee about Benghazi -- "What difference, at this point, does it make?" -- will define her from now on.

The generations born after the boomers were not so self-important and overconfident as their predecessors, who like all those who benefit from historical hindsight wanted a different kind of life. Those of Generation X, Y or Z did not bask in such huge numbers as to make them think they could remake the world in their own image.

The millennials have been described as selfish, self-absorbed and narcissistic, but scholars of the 20-somethings see them as a fluid and changing generation, particularly the younger ones troubled by unemployment and despair after the Great Recession of '08. Given their low-budget circumstances, they're less given to material values than to the search for "meaningful work." They prefer to see themselves more as "givers" than "takers."

But "meaningful" is reckoned by where you fit into the changing classifications of race, economic class, gender (or transgender). Among the latest definitions of "meaningful" is how you cultivate your organic garden. Raising tomatoes, radishes and broccoli in your backyard may feed your family, but it contributes nothing to the children who arrive at school hungry. Feeling virtuous, as popular in some quarters as that may be, isn't the same as acting virtuously.

Every generation builds its life on how it perceives its best interests, though the choices people make won't necessarily serve them or others as well as they think. Alas, you could ask any boomer about that.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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