My recent interview with David Mills, author of 10,000 Days, got me to thinking about the cultural revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s. Being a product of the depression, my involvement was to sit back and look on in amazement as we seemed to shift into the high gear of a revolt of sorts.
Young people were busy then, ripe with lofty ideals about clean air, clean water, a cleaner environment and making the earth we live on a cleaner and safer place. They spoke out, paraded, chanted, ranted, raved and demonstrated, not all that bad, those efforts did indeed bring about some change.
If you’d rather hear the podcast, it’s here. mar-27-opinion.mp3
Sadly, many showed a total disregard for themselves and our national dignity. Drugs got in the way, with songs glamorizing getting loaded, smoking pot, taking a trip, zoning out, drinking, retreating from reality in hopes of finding nirvana in substance. For many, life went on without them. Unfortunately, some people, caught up in the drug culture, passed it on and we’re left with a national disgrace.
The reality of life finally prompted most to get their lives together, finish their education, find a job, raise a family and contribute to a society once so soundly denounced.
In the process, they succumbed to the siren’s call of big industry; cheap fuel, plastics, fast foods, larger, faster cars, labor-saving gadgets, technology on the fast track, make everything easier and more attractive. Bigger was better, keeping up with the Joneses while keeping their heads above water seemed to be the national challenge.
Culture, it seems, gave way to materialism and self-gratification.
A president was murdered, young men died in a useless war, racism was confronted and a minority leader was shot to death. We faced the threat of a nuclear holocaust, and a president resigned in disgrace. Those were tumultuous, sad and unsettling times.
The big “We”, became the big “ME”. Millions lost their way, the environment started to stink, and suddenly appear very tired of our self-serving excesses.
Today, we realize how easy it is to talk bringing about change, and so hard to get it done.
Dave Mills is right Baby Boomers, it’s time to put up or finally shut up, Put your money where your mouths were 40 years ago. You’ve ridden out the storm, paid your dues, crossed over into the second half of your personal century, and now it’s time to get busy.
You haven’t left much of a legacy for your descendants either, except to hand them a broom and mop, saying “sorry, we made a mess, but you can clean it up”.
In all fairness to Baby Boomers, my generation just got a head-start. We recovered from a depression, won a world war and then settled into the same lifestyle.
You have life experience, knowledge, and talent sharpened with hard work and determination.
I recall a TV ad that says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” You aren’t old, you’ve ripened and matured, and you possess wisdom and the skills to give back to the community and society that helped you get this far.
True, as you approach retirement, you have the right to look forward to leisure times, give up that 9 to 5 mentality and make your own rules.
Health issues will always be there. Some of you will be more able financially and physically to volunteer at schools, and at an almost endless variety of non-profits and community programs that need you so desperately.
Joining the Green Options family a year ago, as we used to say, pulled my shorts up tight. Here I was, surrounded by intelligent youngsters alive with the flame of environmental activism, and I caught the fever.
Ok, so I call them youngsters, at 77 I can say that, most are young enough to be my grandchildren.
What a great place to be, among people who’ve accepted me and given me purpose again.
I talked a moment ago about seniors getting out of the 9 to 5 rat race and making their own rules. It sure felt good to me, for a few days at least, but there was this nagging feeling that I’m no longer useful, a left-over I suppose from my mid-western work ethic, work you S-O-B, work.
I’ve heard from other retirees who, suddenly faced with leisure time and in many cases a limited income, have experienced that same feeling of no longer being needed. I suspect many of you Boomers will experience those same feelings.
Here’s your way out, plan for your retirement, look at those opportunities to serve that offer you an outlet for that pent-up energy, and a feeling of accomplishment. Play golf, travel, have fun, enjoy the rewards you so richly deserve, but save some time for us.
There’s a lot to be done, the world needs you, we need you.
I agree with the gist of this call to action. I am a relatively young boomer, and as I continued public service and social change through out my life, I always looked at older boomer cadre who stopped acting on their
ideals as a strange group, and not really related to me. I feel a lot of folks who dropped out of social change to make a buck and raise your family left some of us holding the bag. So come on back, we need you, I think. If you do come back please take a moral inventory first. I ask you to leave any lingering self-centered careerism, ageism, sexism racism and homophobia in your first half of life. We don’t need any more of that 20th century baggage in the mix right now.
I confess. I am a Baby Boomer and a child of parents raised in the Depression. My Dad served in the Navy during WWII and my mom named me after a British ship whose sailors visited her home near Boston during the war. (She was a bit younger than Dad and was an impressionable pre-teen during the visit.)
Though I have lived pretty comfortably, I try to pay attention to my impact on the world. I have always driven small cars myself, though we also owned minivans, a station wagon and an SUV during the time that my children were growing up. Those vehicles are simply well suited for moving lots of people and their stuff to ball games, school and swim meets.
One of my main missions in life, however, is not so much to figure out how to do more with less, but how to provide access to more abundant resources without causing as much environmental damage.
Nuclear energy has been a lifelong interest. It has the potential for eliminating oil addiction, combatting climate change, making mountain top removal mining obsolete, making clean water readily available in unserved areas, and making lighting and climate control a more universal resource.
Of course, increased use of nuclear energy is very scary to some people. Some of the people with the most logical reason to be concerned are those with the most to lose, the people who sell coal, oil, natural gas, wind mills and solar panels for a living.
As a former submarine officer, I learned to live by a mantra “remain undetected.” That is made possible when you have a power plant that does not needs little input from the outside world other than a bit of cooling water. That mantra sounds awfully familiar to people who share my recently developed backpacking hobby – “leave no trace”.
Pretty revolutionary ideas for a boomer, don’t you think?
I think I need to send this to my baby-boomer parents. They think I’m a little crazy with my save-the-world dreams, but at one time they were the same way. They may not have been revolutionaries in their day, but they actually wanted to change the world. Now their generation seems obsessed with money, materialism, and the pursuit of the good life instead of the ideals they once embraced. It’s sad.
Is this some sort of natural life cycle, where “life just gets in the way” of your dreams of change, like my mom says? I’ve met people in their generation and older who are involved in their community, working towards change, and still very involved in activism. But it seems that a lot of baby boomers got caught up in the consumerism trap. How do we get them out? They certainly don’t seem to want to listen to the dreams and revolutionary ideals of “youngsters” today…
Very insightful post!
Learn every day how to “green the good life” at 70 and going strong!!
The active, responsible younger generation are NOW my role models!!