“Most ‘Monty Python’ fans are, of course, baby-boomers, who have long been a nostalgic lot and are growing more so as they totter towards old age” – Terry Teachout
There is an old adage that goes “being in the right place at the right time” which applies to individual or a whole generations. From a generational point of view nothing could better describe the baby-boomers and from an individual’s point of view it’s me.
I am a baby-boomer born a couple of years into the beginning of that generation. I am also a survivor of the last polio epidemic to have ravished North America. I was “at the right place in the the right time”. Five years earlier and I would have spend the bulk of my life in an institution. Five years later and I would have been immunized following the Canadian introduction of Salk’s vaccine.
The baby-boomers were the children of the survivors of war parents. We were the children of post-war families migrating from farm to urban living or children of parents who had immigrated from war torn European countries. We would become the buffet of Eurocentric thinking and the future drivers of social change.
We were the generation of future policy makers influenced by the philosophies of the 60’s hippie culture. We came of age during the height of the Vietnam War and consider political involvement to be protest marches by challenging the ruling class of the day. We were the first generation to be influenced and exposed to world events by a television. Prior to the baby-boomers not many homes had a television. Television was the social media of the baby-boomer generation.
Without understanding the complexity of what we were challenging we confronted issues like civil rights, improved healthcare, raised awareness to topics like women’s issues, pushed for educational inclusion, demanded community programs for the marginalized and contributed to the development of professional charities. We thought of ourselves as change-makers, and in our own right we were. But that was then and now is a different time.
Baby-boomers were the prodigy of a generation who had survived world wars in the hopes of creating a world free of tyranny and societal atrocities. This, the traditional generation (also known as the Silent Generation), wanted a better, safer life for the families they hoped to have in the future.
The irony of this generation becoming the representatives of everything most baby-boomers railed against is not lost on me. However the “Silent Generation” did what they had always done and accepted the responsibility for the results of their actions. They supported their kids, the baby-boomers. They were the generation of “survival”.
As the baby-boomers grew, married and began having families of our own we began to lose the time for all of the causes that had occupied so much of our youth. Our battles, our “purpose” began to change and we moved from the generation of social change to the realities of parenthood.
We didn’t deal with it the way our parents had, we moved on to an “age of regulations”. At some point in the late 70’s and well into the 80’s we became “regulatory crazy”. We became the policy makers with the belief that all of those causes we had fought for so hard in the 60’s and 70’s could now be managed through policies, regulations and legislation. We began to expect credentials, not experience to be a better vehicle to drive the common sense we had taken for granted while trying to build our new utopia .
We began to let our institutions and our services be put in the hands of regulators and professional administrators. We began to wrap ourselves in our silo’s believing everything was being taken care of. We began to create bubble’s of comfort and created our own social safety net by having bridge clubs, murder mystery supper parties, time share vacation and maybe contribute a couple of hours a month to some favoured charity service. We wrapped ourselves in a blanket of cognitive dissonance and went on with our bubble of life.
We began to believe that all of those wonderful things the baby-boomers had created like improved health-care, educational access, “self-sustaining” social programs, women’s rights, seniors service (those advances we had made were helping the Silent Generation live much longer now) were a given. That all of our wonderful accomplishments were devoid of a “best before” date. We were wrong!
It was while I was watching the CNN Town Hall discussion last night regarding the recent student massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that I started to realize, baby-boomers need to step aside. When I heard Senator Marco Rubio expressing his concern while pointing out how easily “regulations” can be manipulated that I began to understand that “social media” is the new TV. All of those regulations and policies baby-boomers had helped develop in good faith have now become tools to manipulate services and programs for a handful of lobbyists. Semantics and interpretation have replaced commons sense and compassion.
Baby-boomer’s are no more ready to tackle the world events of today than our parents were in tackling the civil rights movement of the 60’s. From my viewpoint we are dragging society backwards believing that all of “wonderful advances” will continue to protect. We live in denial, in part, because so many of us still drive our parents to see their Gerontologist rather than accept the reality that maybe we should be seeing one as well. Another thing the baby-boomers have become very adept at, age indifference….It is now the time for the generation of the Emma Gonzalez’s of the world….