Vail Daily column: The rising influence of a generation
An ear to popular discourse may bring the mistaken impression that our country is comprised solely of millennials and baby boomers. The press is wracked with so-called thinkpieces evaluating the crises of having to someday change the bedpans of the latter while coping with the excessive drug and smartphone usage of the former. Businesses market their products either to the massive retiring population or to the attention-deficient kids and young adults who set trends in cuisine, fashion and media. Lost in this demographic oversimplification is the generation that now finds itself increasingly in control of families, companies and the destiny of our society. It is a generation that is uniquely positioned to effectuate change, in the legal system and otherwise. It is my generation.
The socioeconomic raw materials with which our generation was gifted strongly inform our attitudes, predilections and decisions. Removed from the direct oversight of our grandparents and spoiled by their coddling manner, it is easy to become inspired by the derring-do of their Greatest Generation. A more critical eye raises its brow at the casual racism, entrenched misogyny and blatant homophobia that characterized their time. The rise of the military-industrial complex under their watch does little to curry my favor, especially in light of the impacts that such mechanization had on our food supply and environment. Blinding levels of machismo created the illusion that international and internecine conflicts could be solved with ever-larger weapons and brute force.
Rhetoric and action
Our parents came of age in direct response to their parents’ rigid mores and ambitions for world dominion. Or, that trajectory was at least claimed, if not followed. The promises of the hippie generation began to ring hollow once the high wore off. It is not uncommon for reality to set in as one ages, but the gap between rhetoric and action is irksomely wide in this instance. Despite the disappointment, there were many positive strides made: civil rights, women in the workplace and higher education, a burgeoning environmental movement. Mediation regained a foothold in dispute resolution as divorce rates skyrocketed.
Growing up with the spectres of AIDS, global warming, war in the Middle East and other looming catastrophes was sufficient to put my generation in a wary mood. Our births coincided with that of the politically correct; we were middle-schoolers when the Internet was also finding its own way, awkwardly. We are thus comfortable with technology, but not defined by it. As we reached our adulthood, we watched towers burn as our future was forever altered.
Ideal Skill set
Which leads us to the present. We have young children, aging parents, the memories of our grandparents. Our generation has begun to assume the mantles of leadership. Old enough to know better, but young enough to still be reckless, we have the ideal skill set to push our world in the right direction. Taught to be in touch with our feelings, we are self-aware but not prone to self-aggrandizement. The collective good is still a relevant concept for us: we do not deify the individual as readily as our younger counterparts.
We have inherited a legal system in desperate need of repair. The zero sum nature of the geopolitics of our forebears’ years created an ethos of kill or be killed. To back down from a fight, even an idiotic one (see: Vietnam), was seen as anathema. Many lawyers raised in that epoch adopt the same scorched earth approach and will not consider any reasonable alternatives to full-scale litigation, even if their position is untenable. Decades of decadence and greed created lavish lifestyles for older attorneys that they must continue to support, which often skews incentives to the detriment of clients.
Dismantle Marble Towers
Our generation can recapture the law as a service business. Already much more inclined to believe in the powers of discussion, cooperation and mediation, we must be more audacious in dismantling the gold-leaf and marble towers built by the lawyers that preceded us. Our generation can break the cycles of violence and retribution that continue to threaten the livelihoods of billions across the globe. To do so, we have to open our hearts and minds to our traditional enemies and let them understand that the mistakes of our respective ancestors do not have to be repeated. Achieving peace will allow us to collaborate with our international peers to address the other seemingly intractable problems that plague us.
In order for our children to thrive, we must rise to our duties as did our grandparents, retain the imaginations that we inherited from our parents and internalize the youthful exuberance of our younger cousins. It is our time, but we need everyone’s help.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkv law.com.