“… And you can expect me to fight for the causes that stirred me in my twenties, when passions rose, when minds were set, and life mission accepted. And this is Hardball.”
Matthews is a leading edge boomer and I am a trailing edge Boomer. We were raised to believe our generation was special. We had a destiny. We were going to change the world. The problem is that Boomers never have had a consensus on what that change would look like. We’ve been divided about major issues through each stage in the life-cycle. Now, with all of us older than fifty, our mortality is becoming ever more apparent. Yet the “accepted mission” is unfulfilled.
The Huffington Post has a good piece, 15 Reasons Why American Politics Has Become An Apocalyptic Mess. A 16th reason is that each controversial policy development, whether a win for the left or right, is apocalyptic for half the Boomer generation. Scorched earth politics is the order of the day. With hubris, winners revel in their victory over the forces of evil while losers spontaneously break out into a rendition of Amazing Grace (often associated with funerals in our culture) having done the equivalent of following General Pickett into a glorious massacre. The existential stakes are high … and these people control the levers of power!
William Srauss and Neil Howe wrote several books about generations in the 1990s. Critics say they attribute too much to generations. They may be right. It is certainly true that many who use generational analysis way over-interpret, treating it like a generational horoscope. Strauss and Howe describe eras more as the turning of four seasons over roughly an eighty year period. The generation born during each of the seasons takes on qualities similar to generations born in similar previous seasons. They show (I think persuasively) that our era and our generation of leaders, is similar to the 1930s during the Depression and WW II, to the 1850s prior to the Civil War, and to the 1770s prior to the American Revolution. Strauss and Howe make the point that crises happen in every generation but crises that may not have been so destructive at another time become perilous because of the existential angst of the leaders.
The issue isn’t that all Boomers behave irresponsibly or that all irresponsible behavior comes from Boomers. The issue is the ethos we Boomers create. Those older generations still with us tend more toward an ethos of peacemaking while the generation younger than the Boomers tends more toward pragmatism. The challenge for society is not to be sucked into the dark side of either Boomer hubris or despair. While Boomers often bring some important idealistic vision to the table, I’m counting on you folks from other generations to save us from ourselves. ;-)
(Here is the Matthews Ad)