The Baby Boomer legacy. I am a Baby Boomer—as is anyone else born in the US between the years 1946 and 1964. The end of the Great Depression and World War II resulted in a dramatic rise in birth rates over the next two decades. It is estimated that there were ~80 million of us born during that 18 year span. Surviving Boomers are now between the ages of 54 and 72. 60% of us are now aged 62 or older. We are moving along that treadmill of life that will—within a few years—carry us to the distinction of being the oldest living generation.
The disparagement of my generation has become common sport among the generations that have followed. Much of that criticism has been well-earned. We do have a checkered past. However, lost in that dense fog of Monday Morning Quarterbacking is the fact that we have also contributed much. What is the Baby Boomer Legacy? What have we achieved and what have we diminished?
Achievements and Contributions
When reviewed objectively even the most jaded observers must acknowledge the impact of Baby Boomer contributions. Our achievements have had a breadth and depth unmatched by any previous generation—including the much vaunted “Greatest Generation”. We have massively impacted virtually everything we have touched, including; science, technology, medicine, society, and culture. A very small sampling would include:
Science and Technology – An Impressive Baby Boomer Legacy
The exploration of deep space. The “Greatest Generation” took us to shallow space, an impressive feat, but, Baby Boomers took us to the edge of our solar system and beyond. Our generation was at the forefront in peeling back many of the mysteries of our cosmos.
The personal computer. A revolution in and of itself. There was life before the PC and life after the PC. The personal computer completely transformed the ways in which we work and in the type of work that we produce.
Mass data storage capability (i.e. USB port). Goodbye file cabinet. Gargantuan amounts of data available literally within the palm of our hands. We work more efficiently because of it.
The internet. No, Al Gore did not invent the internet; but, one of his fellow Baby Boomers did. Remember the bound copies of World Book Encyclopedia? Yeah, neither do I. An entire world of information available to us at light-speed.
The mobile phone. Yes, the first mobile phone was developed by a fellow Baby Boomer. For better or worse, that first clunky mobile phone set us on a trajectory that would forever change our communication habits and capabilities.
Rechargeable batteries. Imagine life without the rechargeable battery. A seemingly mundane entry on this list but just think how many battery-buying trips to Walmart that has saved us.
Eradication of many infectious diseases. Our increased live expectancy is due, in large part, to the eradication of many infectious diseases. The Baby Boomer generation provided the foundation for much of that work.
The first functioning artificial heart. It was a Baby Boomer that took what had been previously held as a quixotic notion and converted it into a tangible reality. Many lives have been extended as a result of that first pioneering device.
Society and Culture
Rock and Roll. The seeds of rock and roll—blues, gospel, and jazz—were planted long before our generation, but it was a wide cast of Baby Boomers that blended those genres into music that would change the world. The torch has been well-carried by subsequent generations but it was us that ignited the flame.
The defeat of the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan had the message but it took more than words to bring down the “Evil Empire”. Our generation provided much of the heavy lifting.
Harm and Detriment – The Dark Side of the Baby Boomer Legacy
Crass Consumerism. The Baby Boomer generation did not invent consumerism or over-indulgence—think back to the “roaring” 20’s, or even further back to the Roman Empire—but we certainly took it to the next level. We can complain about the “me” generation but it was us that laid the path for others to tread. Today’s raving thirst for instant gratification was fermented during our reign.
The Environment. The human race has a record of environmental plunder that goes back thousands of years. With few exceptions each generation was more culpable than its predecessor. Many of those generations could at least blame ignorance as the root cause of their recklessness. In many ways they knew not what they did. Baby Boomers can make no such claim. We knew what we were doing. We donned blinkers in order to shield ourselves from our own knowledge. Our track record is particularly heinous due to our flagrant hypocrisy. During the early years of our generation we “talked the talk” but we seldom “walked the walk”. Perhaps more so than any preceding generation we will leave our natural world in poorer shape than when we found it.
Keep Your Heads Up
Keep your heads up fellow Baby Boomers. We certainly have things to be ashamed of. We will leave with some regrets. But, we also gave and accomplished much. Let’s keep our view of our generation in proper balance.
You will note that my list of “good” was longer than my list of “bad”. Well so be it. It was my article! (-: