The New Givers

Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg  started the month of December with a wonderful  letter to their newborn daughter and a pledge to give 99% of their Facebook shares to charity. The news was greeted with applauses by fellow billionaires and generally by the media.

Why did they do it?  “because (they) have a moral responsibility to all children in the next generation“.  Because they feel it cannot wait until they are older.

This kind of thinking must be miles away from the one most baby boomers have held dear for decades. This must come as a shock – their grandchildren are nothing like them.

Boomers were the generation born in the wake of Word War II. They knew what it is to be hungry. They knew what it is to live with damaged parents, physically and psychologically. They were handed the remains of the world, had a brief moment of peace&love daydreaming, then put on the black suit and got on with business. They never thought beyond themselves. Previous generations put next generations’ wellbeing before their own instant gratification. Boomers have broken this sacred chain. The post-war generation thought “let’s grab all we can and if hell breaks loose, well, it will probably not be in our lifetime!”. Not only don’t they usually help their children and grandchildren financially, but they expect them to pay for everything. Theirs was the era of banks thriving on loans for everything from education to cars, homes, television sets, holidays, air to breathe.

Millennials on the other hand have only heard stories about war. They were raised in a world of abundance. Technology gave them a sense of virtual togetherness. They consider themselves citizens of the world. And their moral responsibility has grown to match their expectations. In 2014, a survey found that 84% of millennials had made a charitable donation that year, hopefully not only to get a tax refund.

Wait a minute, there’s something wrong with this kind of thinking! People wearing tags and being responsible as a generation for all that is wrong in the world is convenient, but rarely true. Maybe boomers were much like millennials when they were in their late twenties. Maybe all post-war generations are ego-centered. Maybe all peacetime generations are generous. We may never know exactly, although a new world war could help us see clearer.

Meantime, let’s enjoy our new generation of givers! Chapeau Monsieur Zuckerberg.