August 13, 2011

What Happened To The Boomers?

These are the ex-Flower Children?

The 1960s was the last time there was a popular mass movement that espoused simple living. The counter-culture movement, made up of early baby boomers, had an ethos of working with nature, communal living, creative expression, and questioning authority. But the movement quickly devolved into a pathos of shattered dreams and missed opportunities.

After a good start in the 60s, by the 70s the peace-loving, anti-authority generation had tuned out, turned off, and dropped in to the "narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism". Clear eyed idealists of this huge group were overcome by the more populous section of their contemporaries that eventually turned into bleary-eyed consumer zombies.

What of the ideals of the movement?
"A 1967 article in Time Magazine asserted that the hippie movement has a historical precedent in the counterculture of the Ancient Greeks, espoused by philosophers like Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics. The article also claimed that the Hippies were influenced by the ideas of Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, and others." - wikipedia
This is a major Who's Who of the great teachers of simplicity. Diogenes lived in a barrel in a public square, and preferred enjoying a warm, sunny day to meeting with influential politicians. He was all about living freer and better, unencumbered by things and the inequality of social classes.

The 1960s emphasis on living more satisfying, sustainable lives was an important movement in the right direction. People were seeing the dehumanizing, ecologically damaging effects of putting money as the bottom line for decision making. But then the mighty cultural pendulum began to swing, often aided by riot squad tear gas, billy clubs, and bullets.

Communes and cooperation (almost a million people lived in more than 10,000 cooperatives across the US in the early 70s) gave way to McMansions in gated communities. By the 1980s geodesic domes looked like quaint playthings when compared to 2500 square foot starter homes in 'architecturally controlled' neighbourhoods. It was the beginning of the era of 'Greed is Good'.

Bicycles and VW Beetles were replaced with bulldozing Hummers and BMWs. Mind-expanding drugs were set aside for the mind-numbing high of buying enough stuff to fill billions of homes and garages and storage lockers and garden sheds and drawers and closets, and...

It was a race with the Joneses, even though no one knew who they were (or that they were financing the whole lifestyle with loans). Purchasing power formed the new ethos - it was survival of the most privileged, connected, and wealthy. The counter-culture was gutted, and reduced to a fashion trend.

Flower power and universal love were seen as subversive and weak. The most competitively minded and ethically challenged among us began to take over, often using hate and divisiveness to separate and control us. 

By the 2000s we had forgotten all the lessons of the counter-culture, and had succeeded in soiling our nest to the point of looking for extra-solar planets to move to when this one is done.

Wow. What happened to the boomers? Does a glimmer of the freedom of the counter-culture still burn in their cold, consumeristic hearts, and can they rediscover the peace and love that will be required to kick the high-consumption habit?

It would be groovy if they could.


  1. Great read, my wife and I were just discussing yesterday what had happened to the protesters of the 60's, expecting that it would be that generation that was is power now.

    1. Challenged Species, Too bad the boomers in power aren't more about peace and love and justice and all that from the 60s.

      The world would be a better place if those were the guiding principles rather than greed, selfishness, competition and individualism.

      We are glad you visited, left a comment, and joined us. Thanks! It is good to have you along for the ride.


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