Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Birth Lottery

I heard a "Millennial" the other day say she had lost in the "birth lottery", that she was born into high college costs and dwindling job prospects and a service economy. That's all true, but who ever won this lottery? It seems to me it's not the time you are born, but to whom, and that is usually about a 1% chance that you will win.

I was born in the previous generation and there were lakes on fire from garbage, Presidents being shot, murder rates on the rise and corruption so bad they impeached an administration. The generation before me had free love, but they also got drafted into Vietnam. You have to go back another generation to get to 80% of young people doing better than their parents, but how did they do it? America did well because the economies of Europe were destroyed by World War II.

Before that, you were the "Greatest Generation", which means you saved the world from Fascism, which means a lot of you died. It gets worse. The Great Depression, the First World War, the Civil War and there were Depressions back then too. And if you were born somewhere else in the world, it was probably under a King who choose your religion for you and your job choice was most likely to do the same thing your parents had done. For women, that would be raising children.

If you were doing well, you were most likely white and your affluence was directly related to the exploitation of people from non-European countries, or the fact that your country was stripping resources from one of the other continents. If that's the lottery you want to win, maybe you need to rethink your values.

I'm not picking on this Millennial young woman. This happens to most people in their 20's, they start to look beyond the limits of what their education handed them and find out things don't work the way they thought they did, the way they were told. It's not just the education systems fault, it's also that each of us has to do some of that figuring out on our own.

That's a long conversation, but I think it's instructive to look at that period of growth and prosperity right after the 2nd world war. At that time, we all were working on spreading the wealth by working on making the world wealthier. We invested in Europe and Japan because the people who lived there, the people being born there, weren't the same people that tried to kill us. They didn't cause the problem, just like a child born in Mexico or Afghanistan is not causing us any problems now.

The birth lottery ticket most of us get is to work on some little part of the world and try to make it better than you found it.

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