Boomers are the best people and here are the receipts

Feb 23, 2024
Source: Supplied.

There’s nothing pretty about inter- generational warfare. There’s not much point to it either, come to think of it.

Since time immemorial – which takes us back to the days when we all lived in caves without decent signal coverage – each generation has boasted its superiority over those who came after, the poor saps. It is a worthless rivalry.

If common sense tells us anything it is that dividing people into generations is a largely artificial construct. The truth is we all exist on a continuum of humanity where respect for the wisdom of elders and the passions of youth helps build a better world full of love and compassion.

Still, if you had to single out one generation for being the most enlightened, the most tolerant, the most sturdy and open-minded, Boomers come out way ahead.

This is not to put down Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, the Alphas or any other newly branded generation that has come into existence since the publishing of this article.

But look into the weeds and it’s clear that Boomers are better – and it goes beyond having grown up without safe spaces, trigger warnings, virtue signalling, identity politics or the fear of being mortally offended by a joke.

Your average Boomer came of age at the same time as certain values came of age: individual freedom; fair
play; tolerance; equality; cultural respect; and a healthy disdain for authority.

Boomers were born with the rebel spirit thanks to Rock’n’Roll, which told an essential truth – that we were at the mercy of our hormones and being yourself did not require a permission slip.

Of course, things got messy, but Boomers were blessed with parents who were duty-bound to administer a thing called “discipline”. This typically came in the form of long lectures about morality and stinging punishments.

Resentment was natural yet the essential message got through – with personal freedom came responsibility and actions had consequences that could hurt. This included being grounded or, Heaven forbid, getting your bottom smacked – a measure that back then was not considered a federal crime.

For most Boomers, the formative decades were the 1960s and 1970s, a tumultuous time of new ideas and new thinking.

Cultural forces were driven by questioning authority, challenging government, opposing war, embracing equality, opening the mind and taking the occasional drag on something that resembled – but was definitely not – a cigarette.

The hippie movement, for all its flaws and lack of personal hygiene, promoted tolerance, love and the right to protest, whether it was against the Vietnam War or for Women’s Liberation. Speaking out and pushing back was the thing.

Calls for racial equality became part of Boomer consciousness, thanks to the Civil Rights movement in general and the 1967 referendum in particular.

Even as grubby, shoeless suburban kids we knew something big had gone down when more than 90 per cent of citizens voted to recognise that indigenous folk were, in fact, people and worthy of being counted as part of the population.

The debt Boomers owe TV is fathomless. What a mind-expanding, barrier-dissolving influence that turned out to be. Who did we see on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek? People of every race, colour, nationality and creed – including a Vulcan. Here was humanity united and inclusive, 50 years before diversity became a talking point.

The sitcoms and soaps we loved addressed how the values of our world were maturing. We didn’t care that the family in Good Times was black, only that it was poor and trying to survive, just like ours.

All in the Family had us laughing at bigotry; Julia, Maude and Mary Tyler Moore reflected the changing role of women in society; The Brady Bunch rewired the concept of the modern family unit; Soap, Number 96 and The Box brought gay characters into the mainstream. We ingested it all.

The rising tide of feminism in the 1970s doused the idea of presumed male superiority. Firebrands such as Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem left us in no doubt that women were a force to be reckoned with, not asking for respect but demanding it. For the young Boomer, nothing blurred racial lines like comedy.

Flip Wilson had us howling; Bill Cosby’s broad appeal filled arenas and produced classic albums; Sidney Poitier made hit movies; Richard Pryor was a taboo-crushing titan.

Race was either irrelevant or a means of uniting people through laughter. And we ate it up.

When it came to music, the albums in the teenage Boomer’s K-tel Record Selector were as progressive and transgressive as all get-out. The women of rock – The Runaways; Heart; Suzi Quatro; Grace Slick; Debbie Harry; Donna Summer; Aretha Franklin etc, etc – were second-to-none. The idea that men ruled was obliterated.

As for the great funk and disco tunes that filled our high school dance nights, nobody cared that they came from black artists, only that you could bump to it – even with a big fat woman.

Jimi Hendrix was a God. When he incinerated his guitar we all thought the same thing: “This is genius.”
There were no national boundaries, either. As Plastic Bertrand bounced around on TV singing Ça plane pour moi did it matter that he was Belgian or that we couldn’t understand a word? No, we just wanted to pogo like him.

The pioneers of punk gave voice to anti-authoritarian thinking. The Clash, The Cramps, The Stooges, The Ramones and, of course, The Sex Pistols flipped the bird to the Establishment with vulgarity, debauchery and – would you believe? – humour.

They didn’t want to destroy the world – not really – they just kicked back against convention. As did David Bowie, his ever-shifting image making us all comfortable with gender bending, bisexuality, giant spiders, aliens, the perils of low orbital space flight and laughing gnomes.

How could any pupating Boomer not be inspired by all that? And how lucky were young Boomers to have the cinema of the 1970s as part of their formative teenage years?

Films about strong women and bad corporations, (The China Syndrome), Vietnam (Coming Home; Apocalypse Now; The Deer Hunter) and social injustice (Absence of Malice; And Justice for All) challenged traditions and illuminated the importance of change.

This did not mean we didn’t have popcorn fights or made out during Three Days of the Condor, but we got the message: the times they were a’changing, and we were a’changing with them. But of all the enlightened values packed into the soul of your standard, off-the-shelf Boomer, the one that rises above all also happens to be the one sadly lacking in today’s beleaguered youth – namely, the importance of having a thick skin.

It’s a lesson worth pressing for as with their forebears, Boomers intuitively know three things:

* Life consists of one gut punch after another;

* The world is offensive – and there’s squat you can do about it;

* Nothing and nobody is obliged to accommodate your feelings, however precious and delicate you undoubtedly consider them to be.

Boomers got lucky, it’s true.

Equally true is that the values of the culture that raised us are open-source and available to anyone, regardless of age and completely free of charge.

Go ahead. Download them into your safe space today.

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