As a boomer, I am part of the generation that implemented the “turn on, tune in, drop out” approach to life. There seemed to be a major rejection of what existed before. In fact, there was a social revolution of sorts, and not just in the United States, but on a global level. We believed we were a turning point in the way things were done. We were the future and the future was not going to look anything like the past. Yet it turns out that most of us did not end up changing anything at all, at least in one area that we had purported to reject: consumerism. In fact, our generation has done more to increase the strength of the consumer society than any previous generation before us.
….baby boomers are the wealthiest generation in U.S. history, both earning and consuming more than any other age group.12• Baby boomers have amassed $3.7 trillion in total earnings, as compared to the $1.6 trillion generated by the preceding generation.
How can that be? Weren’t we the ones who recognized that materialism could not give us the true nourishment of spiritual and emotional needs? Yet, our generation has been the most workaholic generation ever. We have seen more wars fought during our existence than there ever have been fought before. We have watched as the use of automobiles and the means by which they operate, fossil fuels, have increased to an amount unimaginable forty years ago. It has been during our lifetime that the concept of time has narrowed into practical non-existence. And, although our energy levels seem higher than those of previous generations, our health may not necessarily be better. In the end, it has been during our lifetime that materialism has become so ensconced that we take for granted running to a store to purchase something we need, two or three times a day, having electricity at the click of a switch, and pretty much anything we want secured through paper money or a plastic card.
Now I am not advocating that our childish approach to rejecting the previous generation’s world was to be commended. But there were some good things that did come out of “the movement.” And since there are always two sides to a coin, let’s look at those. The advancements that have occurred in this period of time have catapulted us into a world our great-grandparents would not be able to recognize. Social sensitivities and environmental sensitivities increased. Discrimination decreased. But again because there are two sides to the coin of life, it seems as though the tolls that our advancements have taken on the environment are unprecedented. Communication abilities are at a level we could not have imagined twenty years ago and our ties around the world make cultures that once were considered foreign, our neighbors. Advancements in Science continue apace. We are re-defining the aging process, or at least pushing it back by a good dozen years. And hopefully, we will come up with a way to maintain our earth and all her gifts to us before we destroy her and thereby ourselves.
But with regard to consumerism, I still don’t understand how we ended up taking a left turn instead of the right turn we thought we were taking…..