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New generation learn the lessons of the past

I bet you, like me, are not one of the 80% of Australians who love to gamble. We might buy the odd slikpik, or support the footie team raffle, but that is not really gambling, is it?

Business guru and futurist Charles Handy once said to a Perth audience that stockmarkets are as much the place of gambling as casinos – both bet on hope.

Now that the Dow Jones has crashed through the 11,000 barrier, we might speculate that either hope is soaring high or, conversely, gambling is desperately high.

While the specifics of why Aussies gamble away their weekly wage and likely future are not easily identifiable, the big picture indicators of this trend are quite apparent.

We in the industrialised world have trapped ourselves into the consumption spiral where the greater our material reward (eg BMWs, DVD gear, employer stock options) for our highly focussed work effort, the greater the personal emptiness and lack of purpose in our lives.

While we are locked on the upward thrust of the spiral, we are too busy to see that those who reach the giddy heights of success ahead of us are displaying tragic signs of ill health, both physical and spiritual.

In the battle of medical science versus disease, TB and malaria are making a comeback. Stress induced tension headaches, recurrent back pain, immune system weakness and coronary diseases are becoming accepted by society as normal conditions of ageing.

Morally or spiritually, as we rush to climb the spiral of success, we escape from commitment to a greater meaning in our lives.

Some professionally successful baby boomers, now experiencing the hollowness of material wealth, are suspecting that they have gambled and lost.

The vulnerability of aging shows that caring people relationships offer much greater comfort than all the diamonds and Tuscany villas one can ever own.

We discover that Rover the retriever and Fifi the poodle offer more emotional support for healing than even the most lavish five-star hotel-hospital.

The X Generation, coming behind the Boomers, have been taught that he who has the most toys when he dies wins.

The Xers are Madonna’s Material Girl, the product of absentee parenting and bought affection.

This lost generation, the Xers, are caught in the no man’s land where they see the unhealthy outcomes of Boomerism and no other viable lifestyle or workstyle option.

Escape into drugs, violence, lawlessness, and self destruction seem preferable choices to the economic rationalism of their parents and bosses.

The Xers are gambling that short-term numbing, hopefully, will get them through another day.

The Y or Why Generation, now graduating from formal education into the workforce – some as gold collar workers – see not only the ailing planet of the Boomers but also the hopeless Xers.

Many Whys, our youth, are saying “no, we are not going to continue to gamble with the future of our planet”. The game is changing.

I bet on the Whys winning – or we all lose.

l Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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