Groovy inventions of the baby boomer age
Was there ever a generation more filled with self-doubt and self-loathing than the baby-boomers? If you had the misfortune to have been born between 1945 and 1965, you are supposed to feel guilty for trashing the economy, for the demise of the family, for endemic cynicism and selfishness, for an addiction to government handouts and for flared trousers.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a baby-boomer, confessed to a graduating class recently that his had been “the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.”
Look, everybody makes mistakes. A bit of greed here and there shouldn’t obliterate all the good that baby-boomers have done for Gen X, Gen Y and whoever else happens to come along. It’s about time for some Boomer Pride.
Here are 12 ways (contact me for the complete list) that we (yes, I’m one of them) have made the universe a better place to be in.
You’re still here, right? We thought On the Beach was a prediction, not a novel. Gen X and Gen Y didn’t live through the Cold War with its military strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction, its fallout shelters and a Doomsday Clock set at two minutes to midnight. Baby boomer statesmen in the US and the USSR found ways to defuse the mad arms race. How about a nice little thank-you?
- No more polio. No more smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella or whooping cough, either. Most members of Gen X and Gen Y never heard of infantile paralysis, never shivered at photos of vast hospital wards filled with crippled children. Granted, the boomers didn’t invent the polio vaccine, but it was boomers who spread it throughout the world, so that it has been eliminated in all but a few pockets of Africa and Asia.
- No more beehive hair-dos. The women of the Greatest Generation had their heads tortured with spiky rollers, baked under driers, and teased and lacquered into shapes that could withstand hurricane-force winds. This was more truly a liberation than the Pill, a more radical return to nature than shedding corsets, and did more to get women into the workforce than maternity leave (just think of the time saved at the mirror each morning). Despite attempts to bring back Big Hair, wash-and-wear is hair to stay, and it’s all thanks to the Boomer babes.
- Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Beegees. Popular music will never be the same after the 70s. These musicians passed on an undying legacy with their lyrics, experimentation and harmonies. Yeah, I know, Bob Dylan was born in 1941, but music is a joint venture between artist and audience. Thanks to us Robert Zimmerman morphed into Bob Dylan.
- Mobile phones. Wireless communication is not just for Gen Y to use as a texting toy. Mobile phones are making a huge difference in accelerating economic development in the Third World.
- Communism is kaput. Somebody has to take credit for dismantling an inhuman system which was responsible for the deaths of 100 million people in 50 years. Since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it’s obviously the baby boomers.
- The welfare state is almost kaput. FDR created the New Deal in the 1930s. In the UK, Sir William Beveridge declared war on Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness in 1945. Baby boomers benefited from the welfare state, but they also proved that it stifled initiative, created a culture of dependence and was unsustainable. Everywhere it is being dismantled, privatised and starved. Good riddance.
- Voyager 1. Launched in 1977, the space probe Voyager 1 is the first human-made object to leave the Solar System. This is a landmark in the history of civilisation comparable to Notre Dame de Paris, Michelangelo’s David or the complete Seinfeld.
- Tom Yam Goong. In every town in Australia, you will find a Thai restaurant. More than great meals and occasions for appalling puns, these are a sign of an increasingly cosmopolitan and culturally tolerant society. Another Thai-riffic step forward brought to you by Baby Boomers.
- The democratization of computing. The power of computers has changed the world, but if it were only accessible through mainframes, our lives would be completely different. Baby boomer innovators like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs gave us the personal computer (and smart phones and tablets).
- At least we didn’t do tattoos. Admittedly, some baby boomers have weakened (the wife of Lord Steel, former leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats acquired a jaguar tattoo for her 70th birthday recently) but most are standing firm against this hideous habit.
-Steven Spielberg. Born in 1946, America’s most acclaimed director is the ultimate baby boomer. His stock in trade is clever cinematography and cultural candy: sentimentality, stereotypes, broken families and wistful nostalgia. But the world would be poorer without Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Schindler’s List, The Color Purple, and Saving Private Ryan.
- We’ve screwed up social security so badly that no one will ever do it again. Because birthrates have been low and entitlements have been high, the burden of non-taxpaying dependents in Western countries is growing unsustainably.
- Social security benefits are unfunded. Governments are running deficits year after year after year. The US debt clocked up by baby-boomers is – who knows really? – about $14 trillion. That was a mistake. We’re really sorry. But at least we taught Gen X and Gen Y a lesson they’ll never forget.
Michael Cook is a baby boomer and also editor of MercatorNet.
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