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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Zip Bam, Boomer

A few days ago, I was standing in the paved courtyard of my stepson's school. This is the area where parents gather, gossip, amble, and wait for the afternoon bell to sound the release of their children from the portables.

I had arrived a little early, so I was alone for a few minutes. As I am wont to do, I started scanning my surroundings, looking for details and patterns, when I spotted a string of bird's nests in the deciduous trees beyond the portables. Having lost their leaves the trees could no longer hide what they had hidden months earlier: the birds' survival instinct and tendency to act in concert.

But there were no birds, only wind. Then, breaking my focus, the Beatles song "Hey Jude" began blaring from a nearby portable, filling my ears.

Now, I like the Beatles. Always have. They had some brilliant stuff. Besides, my taste in music is generation-less.

But I couldn't help but recall hearing that song in class back in the 1970s. Our young boomer teachers, who at that time were fresh out of university, often played rock and folk tunes for our edification. We thought it was kinda cool. Kinda.

However, standing there in the courtyard I thought: "Wait. People my age are the teachers now. Aren't we? Maybe that's a boomer teacher in that portable. Or is my generation so utterly without cultural ownership of any kind that we have to recycle the 1960s stuff for these kids? What about our stuff? Then it occurred to me that a class of children chiming along to "Cars" by Gary Numan would be kinda weird, if not a little funny. The grinding indignation of Skinny Puppy would be unthinkable. Bjork might scare and confuse them. Bauhaus might mess them up. And "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols would hardly be appropriate in a place of childhood education. Especially the line, 'No future for you...'"

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against boomers as individuals. Some of my friends are boomers. My mom is remarried to a boomer (who was even at Woodstock). And boomers have given me breaks in my work life. Conversely, I've been burned by Gen Xers. Unfortunately, there is a full spectrum of assholes out there.

The boomers are just doing what every other generation has done -- holding the levers as long as possible. It's human nature. It's evolutionary. You and your peers strive to create meaning and leave a legacy. Though I'm sure most of us would agree the boomers have made their mark by now. And I do feel a little rare when they break into song and dance, as on one episode of Murphy Brown or in movies like The Big Chill.

Of course, we had to go and dance to The Knack's "My Sharona" in a 7-11 in the movie Reality Bites. That was gay. I felt rare during that scene.

So, what of my generation's cultural contribution? What will be our legacy when we finally get the reins?

Read this piece by Jack Shafer in Slate.


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