Carol Larson’s work recently placed in the 2013 Writer’s Digest annual competition. She’s an Emmy award-winning alumnus of Milwaukee TV and Wisconsin Public Television. She “retired” in 2010 after a 33-year career in broadcast journalism. Find her at

The Retiree Revolution:

'Some of us
are ticked off'

March 2014


Hi, I’m Carol and I’m retired. Now without thinking, does your mind immediately picture someone ancient and befuddled, physically and mentally in decline? That’s one of the ageist stereotypes applied to retirees–people who are worn out, dried up and a burden on society.

Just so you know, I’m an active 59 years old. I work out four times a week, and I just finished writing my first book.

Granted, I retired early, adding one more to the 8,000 Baby Boomers who, starting in 2011, retire every single day. We are people who, on average, will live 20 to 30 years past retirement age.

But before you start wailing that the economic sky is falling because of the burden we pose to the Social Security and Medicare systems, know this: most retirees today are still healthy, and probably will remain so for years.

Another thing you should know about the new retirees? Some of us are ticked off.

Why? Because of the stubborn stereotype foisted on us, not only that we’re old and decrepit, but worst of all, that when a person retires we will never make another meaningful contribution to the world ever again. I mean how could we? We’re not WORKING.

Well, kids, welcome to the next revolution. Surveys over the last few years show most Boomers have no intention to stop working. Oh, we’re going to retire, but not to crawl off and die, or slide into 30 years of forced leisure.  We’re retiring in order to live–and work–in the ways we want.

Why? Because Boomers have always anchored their identities to their jobs and careers. What boomers do for work defines who they are. Just because we decide to collect out pensions doesn’t change that. What it does change is the kind of work Boomers intend to do.

Baby Boomers are, speaking in general terms, altruistic. We believe we can make the world a better place. Those surveys also show the work Boomers want to do in retirement is often in education, health care or social services, and we’ve set our collective sights on joining the nation’s struggling non-profits. Just a heads up there, folks. So prepare yourselves.

Many Boomers talk about working at least part-time because we have to, to supplement pensions and IRAs that shrunk in value during the recession.  But it’s also because we want to do something meaningful with the rest of our lives, to work for a cause, for personal satisfaction, for a purpose…not just to leave a legacy, but to live that legacy, leaving the world in better shape because of their contributions.

Why do Boomers think we can do that? Because we already have! Baby Boomers were the demographic shove behind most social revolutions of the last decades, like civil rights, feminism and the environmental movement.  Historically, whenever Boomers run into a barrier we don’t like, we bust it down with the sheer force of our giant collective will.

And the wall we are now running into is the social and professional barrier of retirement.

Oh, pshaw, you say. There’s nothing preventing a retiree from working or pursuing a new purpose in life.  I thought that once, too.  Was it just me? Why couldn’t I get anywhere?  All those unreturned phone calls and emails, the indulgent smiles from working (more…)

A Tibetan woman sets herself on fire during a protest in July 2012.

Editor’s Note: For the uninitiated, here’s some background about the longstanding Chinese/Tibetan conflict.

Just about everything having to do with Tibet is contested. The Chinese government says it’s an integral part of China, always has been, and always will be. It claims Western imperialists took advantage of the country’s weakness during the late Qing dynasty (1644-1912) and tried to detach Tibet. China says its military then “liberated” Tibet and reunited it with the motherland in 1950, shortly after the Communist Party took power.

Tibetans have a much different historical interpretation. To them, this “liberation” is actually occupation. They believe Tibet is a separate nation, with its own separate geographical location, its own religion, language, history, and, until the invasion, its own separate independent government.

Ever since the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China in 1950, many disasters have befallen the Tibetan people, including alleged genocide, and the mass destruction of their major institution–such as the great monastic universities, and thousands of temples and monasteries.

For this reason, the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists) says that Tibet is at risk of “cultural genocide.” China, meantime, says that the lives of Tibetans have improved immensely as a result of liberation, especially in recent years when China invested massively in development.

Today, there are an estimated six million Tibetans (compared to more than one billion Chinese). No state recognizes Tibet as a separate country. There is a Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, India that is elected democratically by Tibetans in exile, and which many Tibetans recognize as the legitimate government of Tibet.

125 Self-Immolations:
Why Suicide By
Fire Protests
Continue in Tibet

January 2014


“I am giving away my body as an offering of light to chase away the darkness, to free all beings from suffering, and to lead them—each of whom has been our mother in the past and yet has been led by ignorance to commit immoral acts –to the Amitabha, the Buddha of infinite light. My offering of light is for all living beings, even as insignificant as lice and nits, to dispel their pain and to guide them to the state of enlightenment. I offer this sacrifice as a token of long-life offering to our root guru His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all other spiritual teachers and lamas.”

– Lama Sobha, in his final testimony, after setting himself afire on January 8, 2012. The testimony was found after his death, recorded in a tape cassette, wrapped in his robes


123 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009.  All but one of those self-immolations has occurred in the last two years. The latest took place this past November.

The number of self-immolations peaked in 2012, with 85 taking place that year. There were 27 in 2013.

102 of the self-immolators have died.

19 of the self-immolators were women.

The two oldest were in their sixties. The youngest was 15.  In all, 31 were teenagers, 59 were in their twenties, 13 in their thirties, eight in their forties, and three in their fifties.  53 were between 18 and 24 years old.

Not many details about the work of the self-immolators have emerged, so the record is incomplete. But what is known is that 40 were monks, 12 were former monks, six were students, four were nomads, three were farmers, one was a forest guard, and one was a writer.  13 have been reported to be parents–nine fathers and four mothers.

But what exactly did these 123 citizens hope to achieve through self-immolation? What difference has it made? And what, if any, change has occurred as a result
of the self-immolations? (more…)