Yes, great things have happened in my lifetime. We watched the fall of the Berlin Wall and we have taken some steps in the progress of human rights.
But the legacy of the baby boomer generation leaves little else that will be celebrated 100 years from now.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to turn things around. Doing so requires that we not only be humble and brutally honest with ourselves, it requires that we pass the wisdom we learned through our mistakes to our sacred young people.
We never knew where the truth was and we never bothered to try to find it. Someone said, “Greed is good” and we repeated it. Someone said, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” and we put it on a bumper sticker.
This resulted in hyper-consumerism. We bought more and more stuff, and built bigger and bigger houses so we had room for our useless possessions. We completely ignored warnings to care for the environment or to care for our neighbours.
Greed is really bad. The only thing left behind when you die that matters is your legacy. Greed hurts other people and hollows out our souls.
Money isn’t bad. Long-term capital investment and a win-win attitude create a strong and healthy economy where everyone benefits. In order to achieve this, there must be respectful co-operation between business, workers and governments. We need regulations to protect the public because unscrupulous businesspeople will do anything to bend the rules to their advantage, regardless of the pain and sickness they cause others.
As a boomer, I’m so sorry for the policies of the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan era. The world was doing better for a while and we were making progress. Then we allowed good laws to be sabotaged.
Don’t believe the promise of prosperity from laissez-faire government policies. The benefits are very short term. They lead to the kind of horrendous income disparity young people struggle against today.
The other lie we boomers believed as we grew up during the Cold War was that nothing we did mattered, so why bother? The world could blow up tomorrow, so take all you can today.
Even as we watched our sisters and brothers boldly stand up to dictatorships in Eastern Europe, we mostly didn’t walk with them. We heard that there were human rights abuses happening in our sphere of influence, but most of us turned away and tuned into Cops on our TVs.
The military-industrial complex is now so powerful that it creates its own foreign policies, resulting in millions of unnecessary deaths and millions more refugees fleeing for safety in the midst of a global pandemic.
There was also a great deal we boomers could have done long ago to stop the climate crisis, but hey, there were great jobs in the oil industry. Why try to take a stand on environmental issues anyhow? Who cares?
I’m sorry to admit it to young people, but many of we boomers still don’t care.
But I know young people do care. Thank goodness.
So, young people, please learn from the mistakes of my generation. That voice inside your spirit saying you have a purpose – to build a better, kinder and more sustainable world – is the voice of truth.
You are beautiful, wonderful and powerful. The world needs you to make a difference. And generations from now, the world will look back at the legacy of your generation and say, “Thank goodness you came along.”
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.