I`ve always known that songwriters are the prophets and sages of our generation. But yesterday, when I heard Billy's lyrics blasting from my cd player as I drove to the grocery store, I had to pull over. I found myself getting emotional. His words have taken on new meaning for me.
Sunday night, on TV, I watched Lehman Brothers employees trying to get into the building to get their personal belongings out before Monday because they were so worried that they would not be able to get back in to clear out their desks. This, from a pillar of the American finance world. All of those hard earned MBA's and finance degrees. Now they are parents, looking at their kids, wondering about health insurance, if the COBRA will kick in or if there will be enough to make the next three mortgage payments on a house which is no longer worth the debt which sits on it. My generation -- well, and the next-- I am afraid we are no longer going to be able to keep up with the Joneses. We won't even be able to keep up pretenses. We might, in fact, start not giving a damn. What was all of that corporate burn out for, why did we bother spending our life in a cubicle crunching numbers if this is where it is going to lead?
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never seemed to help us at all
The thought, the principle that the next generation does better than the last is what America was constructed on. The immense sacrifices which were made by people coming over here - scared? Were they scared? Hell, they didn't have a Gameboy to keep the kids occupied in Steerage class on the monstrous Trans-Atlantic ships, did they? No, in fact they had a wing and a prayer and barely a change of underwear. And they worked. In kitchens, cleaning houses, in factories, in mines so that our parents, and eventually us and eventually our kids and their kids too would not have to. And now, we figured out how to get the educations, how to make it all work and we discover that instead of this social structure being firmly grounded in the strong wills of our grandfathers, it is grounded on a house of cards. Of our own making.
every child had a pretty good shot
to get at least as far as their old man got
something happened on a way to that place
they threw an American Flag in our face
So let's summarize.
Our generation. We've allowed ourselves to become entangled in a war which is costing, in financial and moral terms, our children's future. It is a war built on false pretense. A house of cards. It was designed to protect Americans from a terroist threat, but it's split the country, devastated the economy, and stunned us in to a hangover of realization that our intelligence just ain't that intelligent after all.
And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didn't matter in the thick of the fight....
Even without the war, we've sold out our children's future by actually believing that we can own a house in which we have none of our own capital invested, that we can make interest payments on the entire purchase price and still have the right to call it "our house", and we are stunned when we find out that we will paying forever on an asset which is worth a fraction of the debt we financed.
And it seems such a waste of time
If that's what it's all about
If that's movin' up then I'm movin' out....
(Movin' Out - Anthony's Song)
At some point, it seems to me, lying to ourselves became a bit too easy. We let the promise of tomorrow feel like a garantee that things can only go in one direction: up? How else could we rationalize working fourteen hour days if we didn't at least hope for the best. It's not like we are a lazy generation. We work. We just want more than our paycheck gives us. And we want it now. Pronto. We didn't want to compromise our children's future. We didn't want to use up all the gas and the oil and basically ignore the inevitable. We just, well, forgot, kind of. Forgot that our kids? That they might want to have kids, too. And, funny enough, they might want their kids to do a little better too. I wonder what the chances of that are. I really do.
But we need to have something, don't we?
We need to look forward and see beauty, because despite everything, there is simply so much of it around. And we cannot simply allow the mistakes made along the way to take away the joy of living. We must enjoy ourselves and our lives and the lives of our children because these days pass so quickly and the most precious moments can never be recaptured.
This is the time to remember
'cause it will not last forever
These are the days to hold on to,
'cause we won't although we want to..
(This is the Time)
My message? Other than that Billy Joel is a genius? With all the horrible news out there, we should try to simplify our lives. We need to focus more on the love and less on the stuff. Forget shopping, remember that time is the commodity which is the great equalizer -- it makes the poor man rich and the rich man poor. And whatever it is that we pass on to the next generation -- for better or for worse --- it will be their job, their destiny to hand it to the next one. It will be out of our hands.
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning....
(We Didn't Start the Fire)