The Passing of the Greatest Generation and its Values

Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 called, “The Greatest Generation,” about the American generation that survived the Depression and went on to fight for freedom in WWII.  Brokaw wrote in his book, “… it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.  He believed that the men and women in this generation fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do.”

We are losing this WWII generation on a daily basis and as they pass the baton to the younger generations, I wonder if this older generation’s values are being passed along or are they being passed over.

Former president Jimmy Carter wrote about this in “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis” in 2005, which was “dedicated to our children and grandchildren, for whom America’s basic moral values must be preserved.”  Carter wrote, “I am convinced that our great nation could realize all reasonable dreams of global influence if we properly utilized the advantageous values of our religious faith and historic ideals of peace, economic and political freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

What is causing this erosion and endangerment of our former values?  I call it a “creeping extremism.”  You see it increase every day as extremists throughout the world are committing egregious acts without significant consequences from moderates who used to be in the majority.  Extremists have begat extremists, so that they are becoming the new majority.  This is polarizing our world, removing the moderates, who in the past made our world a better and safer place to live.

What is happening to the generations that follow the Greatest Generation?  Well, they have not had the same moderating influences.  Going through a depression will significantly influence your value system.  I remember my father and mother both believed in “doing the right thing” no matter what the consequences might be.  They were selfless and made moral decisions based on how their actions would impact others.  Today’s generations, without the moderating influences of major economic and wartime pressures, are selfish and their moral values are based on how their actions will impact them.  It’s all about me and not you.

Now, these are generalizations.  Clearly, there are some members of younger generations who are wholly committed to serving society and not themselves.  But it is a matter of percentages.  A great majority of the younger generations have not gone through economic deprivation and therefore have placed themselves on a high pedestal.  They believe that “greed is good.”  If these individuals were asked to give their lives for their country, I suspect I know what most of them would say.  And their question would be, “What is in it for me?”

The problem with extremism and fundamentalism taking over the world is that it will lead to worldwide totalitarianism.  There are those in powerful positions today who believe that they should control the world for themselves, not for the benefit of others.  There is a big difference between philosophical Marxism, which is designed to benefit the working class, and the real-world communism, which controls and subjugates the working class.  The new world leaders will want the rest of us to be completely under their control.  When “freedom” is no longer important to the masses, it will be replaced by “free” government entitlements.  The masses will become addicted to the government and just like drug addicts will give up their freedom for a fix.

So as we lose the Greatest Generation, I pray that moderates within the following generations can maintain some modicum of control to protect our children and grandchildren for a few more years.  However, I think the most we can hope for is to preserve democracy for the remainder of this decade.

Be Professional

I was watching NFL Sunday Night Football and noticed that an offensive and a defensive lineman from opposite teams congratulated each other on a play with one assisting the other to get up off the ground.  This was an unusual example of professionalism that we do not see much in today’s highly competitive world.  Typically, you see opposing team members getting in each other’s faces and shouting and pushing.  Of course, this is an example of non-professionalism.

It is interesting to watch professionals in the workforce.  They are highly motivated to improve their lifestyles, make more money, go higher up on the corporate ladder, purchase a bigger house… the list goes on, but everything is related to selfish desires.  Yet, in that wish list, you do not see a desire to become more professional.  That does not compute in the modern world, so it is refreshing to see it every now and then like I did that night during the football game.  It was so unique that I had to write a note about it.

In the movie, “Wallstreet,” we were told that greed is good.  There wasn’t a message to be more professional in that movie.  So, does today’s society believe that you should knock down your opposition and walk over them to reach your goals to satisfy your selfish greed, no matter what the costs?  This seems to be the case.  What has happened to our society?

Well, back in the 1940’s and 1950’s, people weren’t perfect by any means, but they worked together more because they saw what happened in the Great Depression and they were going through WWII and the Korean wars.  Small businessmen and farmers needed help since they didn’t have large operating funds.  Neighbors would pitch in to help whenever somebody needed a hand.  They didn’t consider themselves competing against each other like they do today.

Today, we don’t need any help from our neighbors or friends.  We are better than that.  We are the elite.  We will make it on our own because we are more aggressive.  And sometimes that works out for young professionals… at least until bad times hit.  And they will hit again.  It’s not will they come again, but when will they come again?

Thus, it might be important to be professional and congratulate your competitor for their accomplishments and deemphasize your wonderful feats.  Focusing on others may have a more beneficial impact on your persona than if you dedicated everything in your life to yourself.  And it would give you a boost toward preparing you for the bad times which will come again.  You might even have some friends who will help you when you are down.

Be professional, whether in your job, sporting event, community activity, social event, or interacting with family or friends.  Professionalism is an ethical attitude of doing the right thing even if it involves some sacrifice.  The choices you make always will have consequences.  Serve others before yourself and the world will be a better place for everybody.