It is often pretty easy, and sometimes pretty boring as well to explain trends and patterns in decision-making and mentalities by alluding to the uniqueness of one given generation. I am not a big fan of the class holistics of marxism, and I therefore tend to buy more into the will and value of one or several individuals working to bring change than in broad explanations on why « people » used to think in a certain way at a certain given time of History. These days however, I have to say that if I were to find a common pattern among the breadth of imbecile decisions made by entities as diverse as the French government (hence the black banner on top of this post) and the standards development organisation, it would be some sort of socio-generational one.
I realize I am not about to make myself a lot of friends with this post, but after all, my readers should know that I will turn thirty years old next week. I guess at thirty I still have not understood it is important to be nice with your boss ten floors up and in general, the mighties of your time. But perhaps that will come in my forties. One pattern I start to notice between the lines of whatever abuse of processes and lobbying operation ultimately influencing decision making is the socio-generational factor. This factor is perhaps better expressed as the “Yuppies” generation, the generation of my parents at plus or minus 10 years. This generation is at a crucial moment of its existence. Many of them are young pensioners, but many are still found at various executive positions throughout the western political and economical structures. Banks, governments, companies are being run for the most part by people of this generation. What I would like to avoid here is to have some kind of dumb “old school-new school” discussion. It is not about who is better: older tends to mean more experienced, younger more enthusiasm and this can be turned negatively in the following way: older means a refusal to change, younger means incompetence, and so on. That is too easy although the two ways of looking at it are not necessarily irrelevant. But what is much more interesting is to focus on the uniqueness of the Yuppies generation.
It has come to the minds of many people, that the Yuppies have had in some sense an extraordinary challenge ahead of them, and that they missed an opportunity to do many things right. Few generations entered their time with so many advantages, but an equal few managed to wreck the system on which they depend in such a way. Yuppies consumed, and are still consuming a lot, spend and spoil, often with a good intent, ruin the environment, they want to be free, free to do whatever pleases them, do not wish to obey strict hierarchies, believe it’s all relative… and are oblivious to the fate of others. Including their offspring. Including their parents. Including the planet, and including all the others. Yuppies decided their profits were more important than actual work, and that more gains could be made by outsourcing the manufacturing of goods in other countries. It was supposed to bring lower prices, which today come as a possible advantage to the consumer, but could have happened with innovation and not necessarily the breaking of our social fabric. But did the Yuppies care? They had been young, too. And this time, just like in the sixties where it was cool to fight for idealistic causes, the whole point behind all this was to have fun, to enjoy as if there was no tomorrow, regardless of the consequences.
At one point, however, yuppies began to grow old. Their own children had grown up. Some were working, had sometimes had children themselves, some other were still at the university. And some of the yuppies were really having fun. It was not enough to pretend oil would be here forever, that people and banks could accumulate debts indefinitely: Some started to feel threatened. Their revenue system was threatened, their very world got threatened by technological evolution and generational change. That’s how some of them refused to see what could have been done to improve things and took instead refuge into ideology.
The yuppies’ ideology is a bit complex to grasp. Basically, everything that can be made to secure their sources of revenue without altering their core perception of the world is a valid option: In this regard, and perhaps that is a wild leap from one reality to another, Microsoft defends itself by being Microsoft. I am not naïve and I know there were other monopolies in the recent past: But if we remember well the eighties, Microsoft used to have some charm back then. These days, it’s all about legal actions, and lobbying of international institutions. The last one is particularly shocking given Microsoft’s poor record with standardisation. But it does not stop this company to send in one of its best people, Amy Marasco, to the ITU in order to frame an intellectual property policy designed, among other goals, to hinder the FOSS sector to use standards.
In other news, another famous Yuppie, the French president Sarkozy and its government (composed mostly of Yuppies) are pushing a law allowing the media industry to incriminate everyone for downloading music without any evidence ( but Monsieur, we have to trust in mighty corporations, vous savez? ). And in order to reduce the “ piracy”, the government will filter the public access networks and impose
censorship a list of pre-approved sites. Yes, you read well. It’s better than the Internet: it’s governmental television with a stick. But I’m sure many yuppies out there will be happy to be told lies, and hurt the younger generations. After all “J’y suis, j’y reste” -I’m in there, I’ll stay there- as a famous nineteenth century French politician used to say…