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May 16, 2008


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JJ Commoner

Yes, that's what is going on.

In an important sense there's only the money and position propping up the geezers .. kinda like pay grades applied to the Game of Life (tm).

On the other hand ... "they all smiled and looked at each other" .. hmmm.

I suspect that a lot of boomers did the same when in the same room(s) with Silent Majoritys from say 1967 - 1974. Then, when they strarted having families and acquiring things, they needed steady jobs and voila ! the started the process of morphing into the boomers we know and love today.

Hey ... you know, don't you, that a lot of 25-year old punks and skinheads are quite conservative job holders and parebnts at the age of 40.

Hey .. I also don't want to rain on what might be a cracking parade ! Let'[s jope there's a few more layoffs on wall Street, a few more one-twos to the solar plexus of middle-class America and maybe there will be more points of instantiation for real and fundamental change.

Phil, by the way have you ever heard of or read the book that maps the evolution of generations through history - The Fourth Turning - America's Next Rendez-Vous With Destiny ? written by the same authors as the influential book The Millenials.


I did read the Fourth Turning, or outtakes from it, at your suggestion, I believe. It struck me as too fatalistic, like astrology or the Farmers Almanac. Names are made up, like Milennials, and the among the names forces are found, and these then interact, like the stars, to determine our identity, our vision, our cohort, and all of human history. Who am I? Catholic, over-educated, insurance sales trainer, Boomer, blogger, amateur satirist, American, Yankee, Dallasite. How can this complexity in each of us be captured in a single word like Boomer and then seen as playing out by cosmic intergenerational forces? "The Boomer were formed by the experience of...." I was formed by the experience of the Gospels and Tale of the Tub.

Anyway, I wonder if the boomers are a spent force, or whether legacy planning, or the last hurrah might yet move some resources back towards real change. I don't see in the Millenials I know much impulse to gouge out eyeballs with a thumbb or step on toes, or grab patrons and bosses by the nose. Instead they are so respectful of authority. So convinced there is not alternative. Protest does not work anymore is a favorite saying, as far as I can see. So they do microphilanthropy sites and reinvent the social capital markets and loan money to the poor abroad. All good things, but blind to the machinations of entrenched systems and those who rund them that make the end results for the planet predicatable and dire.

The kids are standing in line out on the street being good, waiting for the bus to take them to camp. But the bus is not coming. And if it does the camp will not have canoes.

your presence is requested...

...but not required


Maybe your presence is required, but not requested.

JJ Commoner

It struck me as too fatalistic, like astrology or the Farmers Almanac. Names are made up, like Milennials, and the among the names forces are found, and these then interact, like the stars, to determine our identity, our vision, our cohort, and all of human history.

Agreed ... the major premise of the book pretty much defines the conclusions to which the authors arrive. I've re-read it twice ... there's quite a bit of socio-cultural and socio-economic research set out in the book, and what strikes me as more interesting that its "prophecy feel" is that the attitudes and behaviours they forecast are, I think, more accurate than not.

I don't use it as a Bible .. just as interesting data sets and an interesting perspective.


Direct forms of resistance usually fail. Look how the American's beat the British in the Revolutionary War. If we went on the field in lines, as they did, we would have lost for sure. Change the rules of the game through innovation.

Better than that, nod nicely, share a subversive wink with your comrades, and create new paths for the future that make old ones irrelevant.

If you are looking for younger generations to make change in the same ways of old, you will think us sorely lacking and our leadership sparse. Our change is from the inside out, and our leadership is distributed and collective so it can't be stopped.

My hope is that we do not make our wise elders obsolete. We must know them, and work with them to make the changes we need. However, we must not be hampered by them. They need our energy, methods, and tools as much as we need their experience, networks, and influence.

This is how it goes, in my experience: A wise elder told me to go study a career, climb the ladder prudently. I listened and nodded. Very nice, thank you for the advice. Then I went out and carved my own path and career. Who is to say what is the best way to go? I can say, it seems to me, the world has changed too much for security in business to be very reliable. I will trust to my intuition on this one, seems to be working well so far.


Nurture Girl you are wise beyond your years. "Create new paths for the future that make old ones irrelevant." - Excellent advice. The elder in the bit about climbing a ladder was really talking about nodes. If each of us becomes a node with specialized expertise and makes the expertise available on the network, does that help get us where we need to go, without a command and control system? The node could be public relations, marketing, inspirational speaking, book design, technology, web design, and on and on. Not so much ladder as lattice. Still, the idea is that of cultviating a specific and reliable excellence, node by node. Is that idea sound or silly?

JJ Commoner

Nodes to the left of us, nodes to the right, nodes all around ... wired tribes of 5 to 50, young and old alike, more and more above 40 gaining experience and comfort with virtual networks ...

As the Fourth Turning beginns, to everything there is a season. Seasons and cycles are as old as nature.

From Nurture Girl, above:

My hope is that we do not make our wise elders obsolete. We must know them, and work with them to make the changes we need. However, we must not be hampered by them. They need our energy, methods, and tools as much as we need their experience, networks, and influence.

Oddly enough, this paragraph, expanded and using different but simialr words, can be found in one of the later chapters of the Fourth Turning in the authors' discussion of how the collective "we" may find ways to move beyond the quickening Crisis many of us feel looms anon.


What, specifically, I wonder, can we do across these in some way very artificial generational divides to carry on an every-renewed tradtion? People of my generation are talking alot about "legacy." For that to happen the next generation need to have te road cleared for them as best we can. Legacy is not our legacy, it is whatever the younger people make of what they can take and make their own. These "family struggles" that make up a tradition - much was written by Freud and Harold Bloom. Who leads who follows in the dance of the generations? At what point do leaders let the followers swing on past with a friendly wave? That is hard for those who are used to have a position out in front.


Dear Phil,
Are you sure the elder was thinking lattice and not ladder? ;-) Of course specific and reliable excellence at the node level is sound and not silly. But then again, what do you define as reliable? And what, to you, is the evidence of excellence? I may think in network theory framing of reliable as a distributed system of nodes--reliability as resilience. Others may think of reliable as being what is tried and thought to be true. And excellence? I am sure our dear satirist knows all too well the twisting turns of framing with words like excellence. Excellence, as a word, is vaporous...it is emotionally appealing but lacks any substance of its own.

Regarding command and control, we need to move away from organizational arrangements based on panopticism. I haven't quite figured out the governance and processes clearly for a holoptical organization, but there are others doing that work and models that seem to be working. Here is one for sale: http://www.holacracy.org/.


I meant proven competence backed by discipline in a specific area of technical expertise. The elder did mean mostly expertise, as writing, for example, editing, page layout, instructional design, or public relations, training, or whatever it might be. As for the ladder that is another choice altogther. "What are you good at?" That is a decent question to ask when hiring a person or choosing a consultant, partner, netowrking ally, or vendor. "At what are you the best in your price category? What can I get from you that is not readily available elsewhere?" A lattice of talent like that could be pretty successful, but you have to be sure that the node in which you invest, teaching them a particular skill, or employing them to use and enhance that skill, has a commitment to it, and will stick with it, and be reliable in that sense. If the node is ever-moving about, with ever shifiting self definitions, then the time spent teaching or mentoring or growing a particular technical skill will have been to some degree wasted. It might take, for example, 3-5 years for a writer to master instructional design. If the writer decides to become a kite maker in year 3, the time spent teaching instructional design may have been wasted. "Precious, talented, creative me!" - Now that is one thing that Millennials certainly have in common with Boomers. At least we have managed to pass on some of our values.


Sorry Phil. I am certainly not someone that has a strong history of "discipline" rather I have many disciplines that interest me. In network weaving, we value this for its cross-pollinating impacts.

But that is me. We are talking about a whole generation of folks...some, like in the tech sector, have what the content they learned the freshman year be obsolete by the time they graduate. When content shifts that fast, the best thing to focus on is the process, especially the process of learning.

Which brings me back to the focus of my post you responded to-->these young folk are born into breakneck speed change in their life. They learn new tech at a blinding rate; it is intuitive to them. And moving in these changing times, much less inciting change in them, demands that using the tech be intuitive...that the self-empowerment that comes from online publishing be a given...that finding specific niches of similar interest be simple...and the spread of ideas virally be accepted as obvious.

If power is the ability to influence, leave it to the millenials to be able to name their network and influence it. Not because they spent a lifetime earning it the old fashioned way--in one to many forms. No, instead they made connections through tools that enable broader communication of many to many.

This morning at a green biz meeting, the humor dose of the day was cheat neutral. Millenials clearly using humor to explain the logic behind carbon offsetting. A Boomer wouldn't call that leadership, would they?

What remains to be seen is how much change results from this sort of approach. A recent article in Ode about new activists also points to positive new ways of being a changemaker.


Yes, that is leadership of a high order. Am I permitted to follow? The thing I have noticed in conversations with Milennials about the issue of resolve is that irony intrudes, and other evasions. The question we all have to ask is are we wiling to go into loss mode if it helps others. That turns out to be the answer maybe to being cheat neutral. None of us, of whatever generation want to go there. But the question of sacrifice and who is going to pay, and from whom it will be extracted, and to whom it will be shifted looms large on a small planet with rising population and limited resources. Jean, you do make sacrifies for your chosen direction. I don't feel comfortable in the elder role, not to deny my age, but to shake off the mantel of dubious authority. We are all improvising, I am for sure.

H. Emil

After a thousand words are thrown at this subtopic of philanthropy, the "S" (sacrifice) word finally emerges from the shadows...into a chorus of silence :)

Only in a world where words pretend to speak louder than actions :)


H. Emil, yes, sacrifice. To me that is the essence of what is unique about giving or moral heroism. There are some situations in which one person must sacrifice voluntarily for many others to gain. That space is filled voluntarily only by an exceptional few. We should honor them, certainly no less than those who "do well by doing good."

H. Emyl

Say Phil, do you twitter? If not, you should, I think you'd be good at it:) And you can always link back to this blog :)


Nope, just blog. So busy as it is, I have not done more than try Twitter. Thanks for thinking of me and for stopping by.

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