The Baby Boom: Cultural Divide, Part UnPosted: January 19, 2010
I’ve waxed a bit on this blog on the generational divides that exist between Yers all the way on up to Baby Boomers. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is whether generational labels apply uniquely to our American culture, whether its a broader Western phenomena, or we can find enough commonalities across different cultures and varying generations to apply these labels liberally.
Baby Boomers are a generation defined by the big baby boom post-WWII. Theirs’ was a generation characterized by catalyzing social change, demanding more social reform and equality from our government, and ultimately fighting for a better world. This gave way to them becoming Wall Street, money-hording yuppies of the 80s, the ones living in the McMansions and at present making Xers’ lives none-too-fun.
My personal point of reference for the baby boomer generation is my mother and father. They never participated in any protests, knew what “Laugh-In” was but were most likely fuzzy on what smoke-ins were, no bra burning transpired, and the closest my father ever got to a doobie was a pipe he used to smoke which I was convinced was more affect (he was a professor) than anything else. In short, as a kid, I was a little disappointed that they weren’t really what I deemed bona fide members of the hippy generation.
Despite all institutional and academic pressures to mainstream my dad into more PC thinking over the course of nearly 50 years, he never gave up on his philosophies – even at the cost of career advancement, more $$, and all those material pleasures that might have made life for his family a little easier. My mom decided to stay at home and raise my siblings and I so the latch-key hardships that other kids of my generation endured were never known to me. In a time in which women were encouraged to go out into the workforce and looked down upon for staying home, I knew my mom’s decision was the decidedly unpopular one too.
So how does all this relate to whether or not Baby Boomers share commonalities with other cultures?
Certainly the internet has revolutionized on a global scale the way people think, communicate, their access to information and how readily they digest that info. That’s a given. It’s made us all a little more aware that a greater world exists out there, that in this world exists organizations that harbor the ability to crush us at a moment’s whim, and that in order to survive we must band together more globally than even before. It’s also allowed us the ability to connect with others around the world, to be influenced by those other cultures and for other cultures to be influenced by us. But the internet revolution is a recent one and one that as a result most likely would impact Gen Xers and Yers leaving Boomers in the dust.
While my husband and I grew up in very different cultures and worlds apart (me, a Midwest transplant to the East Coast at a young age, and him in the Middle East), with little shared cultural references to get by on, I would be hard-pressed to find evidence that we’re not of the same generation as evidenced by our approach to work, life, relationships, and family.
The same can’t be said of our parents’ generation. Most of my parents’ adult life was spent straddling ethnic identities and religious sensibilities they wanted to instill in their children but also assimilating into a more homogeneous American culture – one that doesn’t really exist anymore. This created a paradox for us, but also a heightened awareness when it came to our collective “otherness.” As a result, my parents and their peers are more like other Americans their age than they might be my in-laws.
In today’s diverse world, fewer cross-cultural generational disparities will exist. But how those that do exist, especially in cultures with very different world views on the individual vs. community, manifest themselves remains to be seen.