When Boomers Ruled the World


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Photo source: theatlantic.com

It is becoming more common to see Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) express their sentiments about having been a baby boomer.

Raymond James wrote in When Boomers Ruled the World:

Boomers are the first generation on the planet to get to age 60 and still see a long runway ahead.

Nevertheless it is as if there has dawned on boomers the reality that they (I among them) have a diminishing last stretch of the long runway to remind everyone about how wonderful it has been to be a boomer. Here is an example:

We are a generation that will never come back”

A generation that walked to school and then walked back.

A generation that did their homework alone to get out asap to play in the street.

A generation that spent all their free time on the street with their Friends.

A generation that played hide and seek when dark…

A generation that collected photos and albums of clippings.

A generation that played board games and cards on rainy days.

A generation whose TV went off at midnight after playing the National Anthem.

A generation that had parents who were there…

A generation that is passing and unfortunately it will never return!!

Of course these are light hearted recollections. They put a smile on the face of anyone who was so fortunate to have enjoyed them; we boomers think of our age as having been more simple and safe. 

But they are also the fragments of a selective memory, limited in context and perhaps happily ignorant to what else was going on during the years when boomers ruled the world.

In response to the recent Facebook post (noted above), most fellow baby boomers gave it the ol’ thumbs up, or added their own recollections to the cheery list. However not everyone was so sentimental. One Generation Xer (persons born between 1965-1980) commented:

[Baby Boomers] A generation that screwed things up so bad that later generations either wouldn’t or couldn’t do the things you are so proud of doing. Thanks boomers

When pressed to list the things baby boomers screwed up, the Gen Xer simply linked to: Boomers getting mad at the generation they raised.

Others react to “a generation that will never come back” – with – “Thank God!”, or “Ok Boomer!”

My Response?

I admit on the eve of reaching 65 that I am also just as prone to a certain sentimentality about “my generation.” But I also admit that selective sentimentality tends to be more indulgent than intelligent.

And I’m not that naive.

We have to recognize that not only was there a baby boom – there was a boom in unchecked racism, sexism, rape culture, residential schools atrocities, back room corruptions, pollution, consumption, norms of violence/bullying, and warmongering to name a few things that seemed to have been more tolerated – even though these also exist today. 

Each generation creates a narrative of itself that is sometimes blissfully forgetful of the facts. Recently The Globe and Mail published an article by UBC professor Paul Kershaw: “No, the Boomers did not live within their means, and younger generations will pay the price” – in response to the false narrative that boomers “lived within our means, without government payouts”.

Finances for younger Canadians would be much better had boomers lived within their means. But the data show otherwise. A simple focus on the expansion of government debt over boomers’ working lives makes this clear, since the amount of debt inherited per younger person tripled on their watch. It’s time for boomers to own up to this part of their legacy.

That boomers are not long for this world may be greeted with relief rather than sorrow by following generations, but this too presumes a hubris that each generation appears to construct – as if the next generation can claim to be so much better than the one before.

Wisdom from the Ages

Thus I remind anyone my age (and, really, any age) of a bit of wisdom from Ecclesiastes:

Do not say the old days were better than these… it’s just not wise.

Ecclesiastes 7:10

There it is – with no further analysis or instruction – just the cold hard truth that it lacks wisdom to make such vapid pronouncements from nostalgia. Instead we read in an ancient Psalm of Moses:

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

Psalm 90:12

You will notice that Moses uses plural pronouns as if to indicate that the only way we might gain a collective wisdom is by our collective exercise of of being reminded about how short our lives will be. Over and over again there is this recurrent theme of the shortness of life – and in the mean time we need each other more than ever. Boomers would do well to remember this before offering how wonderful their lives have been at the expense of future generations.

The best thing boomers can do with their remaining down-ticking time is to give an eternal perspective to the long arc of our short lives. Indeed every generation would do well to have the goal to “gain a heart of wisdom” over gaining any thing else.

Do you have an eternal perspective?