There are many reasons for me to have a rather confused sense of identity but until very recently generational belonging wasn’t one of these. But as we all know, things can change very fast and I discovered that my ‘generation’ identity is unclear as well: I seem to fall between being a baby boomer and part of generation X. Why is this important? For two reasons!
One, it made me think about the building up tension between the generations and two, I clearly can preserve the distance of the ‘stranger’ since I have no strong affinity and sense of belonging to any of the generations.
There is always a tension between generations. Thing is, that this tension can be destructive , build on mutual disregard, disapproval, suspicion and blame; or it can be constructive and founded upon appreciation of the strengths and contributions that each of the generations has made. Currently, Baby Boomer Bashing seems to be becoming the media’s favourite sport; they are blamed for many misfortunes including the national debt, their personal debt and ‘irresponsibility’. Baby Boomers are also feared rather than revered: what will happen when they all get old and lose their minds? How are they going to be looked after; what are they going to live on; and how is this going to affect the future and fortunes of generation X?
Given that many generation X people, particularly the later waves of it, are the Baby Boomers’ children it is not difficult to drift into blaming them for all that has been, is or is likely to go wrong with life. As Umberto Eco put it, all children start by worshiping their parents and end up blaming them for all misfortunes in the world. I agree with him!
Where I disagree is that Baby Boomers can be blamed for the misfortunes of the next generation. For my part, I am always ready to admit that I was born at the wrong time of a Kondratiev wave – you know, these cycles in the economy that last between 40 and 60 years and alternate between high and low (to nonexistent) economic growth. There was a recession and high unemployment when I was just starting out and there is another one when I thought I may be nearing winding down. And frankly, I don’t care much whether current mainstream economics agrees with Kodratiev; if you ask me, mainstream economists should go out more often.
But let’s get back to Baby Boomers and what have they given us. Members of the Baby Boomer generation have made a number of major contributions through which they changed the world and prepared the current period of rapid and not all that negative change. Here I’ll mention only three baby boomers whose contributions to humanity allow me to write, publish and discuss this article. Here they come.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and a personal computer visionary, was born in February, 1955; Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was born in October 1955; and Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN contractor who in 1990 developed the World Wide Web (WWW), was born in June, 1955.
Spooky or what? These guys were not only Baby Boomers but they were also born in the same year.
Getting back to our question, really, apart from personal computing, the WWW, the foundations of the e-revolution, some pretty cool music and long term peace what have the baby boomers done for us?