From the Perspective of an Early Boomer
We all know about the Baby Boomer generation and its influence on the world. For the members of most other generations, the relationship with Boomers has been one of either love or hate - not much middle ground. Opinion pieces abound concerning their positive or negative impacts on society. As a leading edge member of the generation - I was born in January 1946 - I consider myself uniquely qualified to put some perspective on what I see has happened and what might happen as we enjoy (?) retirement and eventually pass away. Here are some thoughts.
We as a generation were always quick to adopt new lifestyles and social causes. Although generally our parents provided quite nicely for us, as teenagers we did what most teens have done for generations; we rebelled. The popularity of rock and roll starting in the mid-50s proved a catalyst for us, since it was in itself a form of rebellion. That was followed 10 years later by the Vietnam war and draft protests, and almost simultaneously the Women's Liberation Movement, the Hippie counterculture, and the birth control pill, and the icing on the cake, Woodstock.. These were all highly controversial and influential on young minds. Put together in a relatively short period of time, as they were, what did we end up with? It's not hard to guess - millions of randy young men and women without a moral compass, seeking the ultimate Playboy and Hustler magazine fantasies. And also the realization amongst us that if we made enough noise, we could influence political decisions in a major way.
What has this meant for us and what will it mean for the future? First, I believe it lead to a generation of selfish individuals, thinking that they could get anything they wanted at anytime, not the least of which was access to easy sex. Remember, I am one of those and I had those very feelings. In fact, I still have to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me. In my opinion, this selfish nature has also resulted in the growing number of disgraced male Boomers who are only now coming to regret their past moral indiscretions.
But there were damaging consequences that went far beyond this. While some will argue that the influences I mentioned (e.g. birth control pill, Women's Liberation) were positive and set the stage for the radical feminism of today and improvements in the working lives of women, they also destroyed thousands (probably millions) of families, sowed the seeds of much spousal confrontation and discontent, created at least two more generations of dysfunctional and selfish children (to be fair, mainly the ones from broken families), and almost obliterated church attendance in the western world.
For many of my generation, their thought processes continue to be mired in the past, with little or no thought for future consequences, but lots of thought about their own comfortable and hedonistic lifestyles. Even today, Boomer divorces outnumber other generations, purely because they don't want to be stuck with the same old person for the little that remains of their lives. They continue to buy the most expensive cars and homes to show they have "made it," even though many of them were the very same ones who wanted to "stick it to the man" back in the 60s. There are even recent reports that they give less to charities than the Millennials, again simply because they are more interested in comfortable lifestyles. Increasingly - and terrifyingly - they are embracing euthanasia so they will not have to "suffer" or lose dignity. Read, "They don't want others to see that their bowels no longer work properly or that they can't remember their kids' names." When are they/we going to grow up??
On a somewhat more positive note, Boomers do willingly spend money, which has always helped the economy. Most will continue to do so throughout their retirement, and indeed, as they withdraw their retirement savings they will spend more on income taxes (the amount being elusive as nobody seems to have analyzed the overall impact of this). This should go at least partway to overcoming the cost to health care of their deteriorating bodies, a subject which is gradually moving up the list of priorities of politicians as health care costs are starting to go through the roof in most western countries.
Unfortunately, though, many will not have enough savings for retirement because they are on their second or more marriage and have paid alimony or suffered financially to raise children as a single parent. This, of course, goes back to the bad decisions of their earlier years and that quest for hedonism (There's always someone better). These are also the ones who are staying in the workforce - but are too proud to say they are forced to because of their past bad decisions. Alarmingly, these same ones and many who are financially comfortable, are making idiotic statements like, "I'm spending my children's inheritance and I don't plan to have anything left when I die." Again, I have to ask, when are they/we going to grow up and start thinking about other people?
There have been a few, but nowhere near as many as the previous couple of generations. We have been partially responsible for the Internet and the technological revolution, warning the world about climate change, putting international travel within reach of the middle class, and advocating for personal fitness and health (this only because we wanted to stay looking younger and attractive to the opposite sex). Of course there are individual exceptions as with all the other comments, but not a lot (I wish we could claim Elon Musk, but we can't).
What Does the Future Hold?
Is there any hope for my generation? Yes, but we don't have much time left. Now I'm not advocating that we should all repent and return to Jesus, although it would not be a bad idea. What I am advocating is that we all take a good, hard look at our lives and do a deep, honest search as to why we have done what we have, or why we have left undone things we should have done. I do think we should be making things right with our families - broken though they may be, our friends, our society, our world, and yes, God. Don't wait.
Image courtesy of Woodstock Whisperer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]