Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Gen X, to the barricades!

Add a comment
In the great New Zealand boomer-millennial wars we of Generation X sat mostly on the sidelines. Photo / Supplied
In the great New Zealand boomer-millennial wars we of Generation X sat mostly on the sidelines. Photo / Supplied

In the great New Zealand boomer-millennial wars, which burned through the second decade of the 21st century, we of Generation X sat mostly on the sidelines.

While middle class Christmas dinners across the country became battlefields - the millennial upstarts haranguing their elders about being shut out of the housing market and burdened by student debt, the baby boomers retorting that they faced unimaginably high interest rates, extortionate tax demands and started out flatting ten to a room in a shoebox in the middle of the road - we Gen Xers quietly polished off the Continental Old Gold Selection.

Gen Xers, to quote real-life experts Pew Research, "are bookended by two much larger generations - the baby boomers ahead and the millennials behind - that are strikingly different from one another."

And so, "Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths."

And from that reliably disappointing bridge we've just been staring into the middle distance (we're also renowned mixed metaphor users), mostly ignored, often indifferent, as the slings and arrows fly overhead.

We gently shake our heads in sympathy with our younger friends at the facile selfie fixated caricatures conferred upon them by the boomer press, but the next minute we're nodding nervously while surreptitiously looking up "on fleek" in the Urban Dictionary.

For the most part, dazed and confused, we've just stayed well out of it.

But no longer! Into our lethargic nirvana swept Bill English on Monday afternoon, to announce a change to the superannuation rules.

The age of eligibility for the universal benefit was to move from 65 to 67, though that's not going to start staggering in for another 20 years.

While the new prime minister can be congratulated for further developing the promising work on the National Party's manifesto for the 2035 election, which will be illustrated with a hologram of a hardworking 66-year-old wading cheerfully through a knee-deep, pest-free Waikato River, he may not have reckoned on the response from the in-between generation.

The policy was carefully calibrated to address the bulging state pension purse, to put to bed any criticisms that the new PM is a dull shadow of the last guy, but at the same time to forestall the incandescent wrath of those beyond or closing in on 65, who by coincidence also tend to vote in elections.

It's good news for Winston Peters - surely the most blessed human in the country, what with the anti-globalisation winds gusting around the planet, record immigration figures, and best of all the gift of seeming, despite having been in parliament for several hundred years, downright boyish and lively when compared to the leaders of the two main parties - but not nearly as good as it would have been if kicking in sooner.

A tactical masterstroke, then? Perhaps. But politics is a risky business, and reality bites for Generation X - suddenly we were shaken awake from our decades-long ennui.

We were being split into two cohorts: if those 45 and over could please gather under the giant gold card over there; the rest of you meet outside the letting agency for a nice plate of smashed avocado.

As a product of 1975, I'll admit there was a flush of gratification at being sorted with the millennials, a fleeting escape from the inexorable menace of mortality, but mostly this seemed an affront.

Those of us lucky enough to have a tertiary education were among the first to have to borrow to pay for it.

They took our student allowances, they took our free GP visits, and now they're taking our universal handout, holding back our free bus trips, and we don't even get a freaking rail service to the airport.

The millennials, it's true, face all of that as well as having a snowball's chance in hell of buying a home, but at least they're not cursed with a habituated, unshakable defeatism.

So watch out, Bill, you have prodded the stone-washed bear. You have reminded us of a universal truth: Life moves pretty fast.

If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. And watch out, boomers, you generational brothers and sisters of Donald Trump.

In the words of Twisted Sister's seminal 1980s chart-topping tune "We're Not Going to Take It", we're not going to take it, any more.

Patrick Gower is the Winona Ryder of New Zealand broadcasting. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Patrick Gower is the Winona Ryder of New Zealand broadcasting. Photo / Brett Phibbs

And we may have found a talisman, too, in the form of the Winona Ryder of New Zealand broadcasting, Patrick Gower, star of the Six O'Clock News (note to millennials: this is a programme on linear television), who raged this week in a blog (note to boomers: this is an internet thing) about a prime minister "giving preferential treatment to his fellow Baby Boomers ... pitting the boomers against the rest".

Why wait till 2037 to start? Notwithstanding the obvious need to make provision for people in particular circumstances such as manual workers or newspaper columnists, nor the plain absurdity of providing social welfare payouts to people in lucrative jobs (the ageless Winston Peters, for example, has received way more than $100,000 in national super already), we should start staggering out the state pension immediately.

Stare down the Winstonian challenge in the name of fairness. Begin now, shaving a sliver off every six months, and it will be almost completely indiscernible.

Otherwise, the sleep-walkers of Generation X are rising up. Let me hear you say, fight the power, just as long as a babysitter is available. We are joining the fray. We are mobilising today.

Actually today's not great, better not today - I've got a pile of overdue videos that I need to get back to the shop. Tomorrow, or if not tomorrow, some time next week, to the barricades!

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

Read more by Toby Manhire

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 May 2017 23:44:55 Processing Time: 590ms