To commemorate the anniversary of the Human Be-In (14 January 1967)
Rarely a day seems to pass without some comment in a letters column or a social media thread where someone is complaining about the baby boomer generation, who are apparently all affluent, privileged, self-absorbed, and selfish.
It seems somewhat puzzling that ageist generalisations about baby boomers come from subsequent generations of adults who appear to largely abhor racism, sexism and homophobia. Why is this other form of discrimination acceptable?
As a tail-end baby boomer myself, I was born towards the end of the era and so I just made it into the generation, but many of these people – older girls and boys when I was a child but who seemed so grown up to me – ultimately became my mentors and heroes in my youth and adulthood. In response to ageist criticism of these people, I would like to say to my role models:
Hey boomer, thank you.
Thank you for once being young and idealistic and full of dreams and naive hope.
Thank you for taking the world of Robert Menzies and Joseph McCarthy, and turning it into a world of Rosa Parks and Gough Whitlam.
Thank you for the hippies who turned the nuclear arms race into flower power and pacifism that stopped the Vietnam War.
Thank you for taking the empathy of Dr Spock, who raised your generation; and contributing to the modern-day mythology of Mr Spock, who encouraged us all to think more logically and rationally.
Thank you for questioning and challenging the establishment – everything from institutional Christianity to the Vietnam War draft – and inspiring a wave of independent thinkers.
Thank you for the civil rights movement which established the equality of people regardless of race or skin colour.
Thank you for ending racial segregation and apartheid.
Thank you for the 1967 referendum in Australia which recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australians.
Thank you for contributing to the space program and Moon landings, helping to create the biggest non-military scientific program in history which led to much of our modern-day science and technology.
Thank you for advancing the environmental movement and many animal liberation causes.
Thank you for the second-generation women’s lib movement.
Thank you for the gay liberation movement and its subsequent LGBT+/queer rights momentum.
Thank you for all your activism during the era of HIV/AIDS, when millions of people were dying in a double epidemic of AIDS and homophobic stigma – yet you cared for them, changed the world for them, and became heroes.
Thank you for starting the world-wide trend towards abolition of the death penalty.
Thank you for promoting women’s sexual autonomy via the pill, abortion, the right to say no, and granting women some power within marriage instead of treating them like the property of their husband.
Thank you for advancing many of the human rights that subsequent generations of adults enjoy, including their right to criticise you.
Thank you to those of you who, even in retirement, continue to lobby hard for human rights, equality, and uplifting the underdog: refugees, indigenous people, and others who are oppressed or disempowered.
For those of you who are still active and empowered and educated, and who keep your finger on the pulse of a younger world, I say please keep working hard to create an even better world for posterity. To those of you for whom the spirit may be willing but the flesh is becoming weak, I respectfully suggest it is time to graciously pass the mantle to a younger generation and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Those who follow will be grateful and capable in continuing the work of changing the world in newer ways of which perhaps we can only dream.
Thank you, boomers, for your lifetime of work. I’m not saying that you got everything right, but you did your best to make the world a better place for your having been in it. May subsequent generations learn from your example, agitate to change the world for the better, and enjoy their own well-deserved retirement after a lifetime of hard work and activism.
(These same young people in this video would now likely be in their seventies or eighties. Grandma and Grandpa were young once – boomers in their heyday enjoying being alive, carefree, and full of potential to change the world. Let’s see subsequent generations do the same.)
©2023 Geoff Allshorn