Sunday, 21 March 2010

Generation gap

I generally don’t favour washing dirty linen in public, but there’s an observation worth sharing with the readers. A family quarrel gives the opportunity not only to exchange pleasantries such as: you always…, you never…, you don’t care…, you don’t give a shit…, I wish you would…, etc., but also to rediscover some truths about society. Those short musings below are only generalisations, but I suppose there’s more than a grain of truth in them.

The generations of my parents and mine both in general think they deserve something. The older tend to claim what they deserve from the state – they believe the government (an imaginary body) has a duty to provide them with job security, (lifelong) unemployment benefits, decent pension benefits (when they are too tired of working), health service and some other privileges, for free. Those people, born and brought up in the socialist country often have little notion of economics and its principles. The belief that the state is responsible for their fate was built up in the years of communism, the times when the myth of omnipotence of the state was spread. Meanwhile they do not wonder where the state gets the money, they’re claiming the government is dirty bound to give them, from and gripe about the bad state when it collects taxes. They see no link between revenues and expenditures of state budget as if they believed in a piggy bank which can be broken whenever the trade unionists, unemployed or pensioners demand more money (in the US uncle Ben has a machine to print money, fortunately in Poland it doesn’t work). The sad truth is that the biggest link is between what you produce and what you get. The other story is that in many cases employees are not remunerated fairly (in a relation to how they contribute to company’s profits or overall welfare) – they may be both under- (usually private sector) and overpaid (usually state sector).

The older generation ware spoiled by socialism, the younger one begin to be spoiled by affluence. Their economic views are more liberal – they don’t expect the state to help them in life but only to make their lives easier. As they (or we?) have grown up in the new reality, they demand more from their parents, from others, from life. They often get for free what their parents had to work hard for. Their parents in their age or when they were older would dream about a black&white TV set, a voucher for a car (Fiat 126p probably), or a pair of jeans from Pewex. Most of today’s teenagers and my peers get it without any effort. Trips abroad, new iPhones, cars, brand clothes – they take for granted they should get all of this. “These are my best years, I should have fun, someone else is going to pay for this” – this kind of reasoning is still not alarmingly common, but I see it more and more often around, mostly among people younger than me. Then you may see a string of comments posted by some frustrated adults under an article like the one about a next studniówka whim. I read almost all 311 comments, one reassuring conclusion that emerges is the frequent opinion that you are adult when you earn money and can take responsibility for your deeds, not when your parents give you a few hundred zlotys to rent a room in a four-star hotel to shag your girlfriend after a school ball.

Thank God the two stances above to not apply to my family, but somehow infect us and our perception of the world. There’s no catch-all solution on how to live to be happy. My parents’ friends gave their children everything they thought they deserved: private English classes (needless to say they speak English much worse than the author of this blog, who has learnt mostly on his own), at least two holiday forays abroad in a year, when they grew up they bought them cars and even flats (quite affluent the were indeed). They were breaking their backs for years, working from dawn to dusk to give their children everything that could make their lives more comfortable. Now the children not only don’t show any gratitude for what they were given but also hold out for more and are too lazy to work and earn money. “Why, if the parents will give…?”


Brad Zimmerman said...

Immigrant parents to the US who are moderately (or more) successful often over-indulge their children because, obviously, they want them to have everything they didn't have... which was anything.

A reasonable allowance and the ability to say "if you want more money, get a job" is all the modern parent in this regard. Although perhaps the author of this blog could clarify something for me: can 15 or 16 year old people get legal jobs in Poland? I first started working (legally) at 15 and so paid for my car, some clothes, music, etc.

No one understands the value of something until they've truly had to earn it. Personally, while I feel I will have earned a pension at or around 65-70 years, I doubt the government will really be there for me. If they are, great. It will supplement my savings. If they aren't, no big deal - I will have my savings. That's just for me, though.

For those who spent the majority of their working lives under communism, who never had a chance to save money or build a truly independent life, does the state not have some responsibility for those people? I'm not saying they should all retire in luxury, but a sufficient pension and/or access to low-interest loans, government-subsidised housing, etc. would be reasonable, wouldn't it? Obviously someone has to pay for all that and the government certainly doesn't have any "extra" money laying around but that's something that our generation has to deal with.

The only real argument against any "extra" financial assistance to the generation that spent most of their lives working under communism is that, quite frankly, I don't see a great deal of evidence to show for all that work. If output/efficiency was very low should those people still get the same pensions as everyone else?

student SGH said...

the same happens in Poland, parents who grew up in the poverty and torpor of socialism want to give their children what they didn't have and often over-indulge them.

The author of this blog will tell you a 16-year person can work legally during holiday months, but there are certain restrictions, mostly to protect teenagers' health.

Parents should give their children some pocket money to teach them how to manage money. For instance, if a child wants a new mobile phone, tell them: "save a hlaf of what it costs, we'll give you the rest, but you have to show us you can save".

What I'm pouncing at here is what I observed a few times is when a child comes home from school and says: "I want a new bike" (btw. bike is no longer an attraction as far as I know, but when I was a child it used to be) and the parent just gives the money as if they want to tell their child to bugger off.

Pension? Polish pension system will bankrupt a few times before I retire, I can only hope the state will abolish the law under which everyone has to pay contribution into ill-run pension funds.

Those people who lived under communism were fleeced by the state, it took away most of what they had earned for creating the illusory security. Those people with their low work efficiency and with use of obsolete technologies built thousands of factories and had nothing out of their work after the transition of 1989.

Our generation mostly has to deal with demographic problems - more pensioners and less workers mean more problems, for every state around the world, except Norway.

How to explain it to somebody who worked for many years in a factory which went bust in 1990. They cannot accept the fact that what they had no economic value.