Originally published by Poetinis
There are twenty-somethings today who appreciate The Beatles’ White Album or join protests for peace and equality. Hippies still exist, but today they’re called hipsters.
The original flower children tripped on acid to escape the turbulence of the ’60s. Young adults saw leaders like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Malcolm X assassinated. Then came Charles Manson, like the monster from under the bed. America was at war with Vietnam and immersed in racial unrest.
One of the answers that kids came up with to deal with everything was to run away, get high, and forget the responsibility of repairing a broken nation.
Joan Didion wrote in her bookSlouching Towards Bethlehem, about when the baby boomers were our age. Didion visited San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District where the “social hemorrhaging” was well under way in the spring of 1967. He noted that baby boomers were what today we’d call slackers, but they call themselves rebels.
Associate Professor of French with a passion for literature and technology, Andrew Wallis, says,“Baby Boomers were the first group of teenagers who set the standard for the developmental period.”
Most of the hippie kids of the ’60s are now well into their seventies. They are the people in power now. “They embody the best and the worst of what America can offer,” says Wallis.
Wallis cautions that while “they’re generally portrayed as selfish,” it would be wrong to paint with too broad a brush. “Many of the core values in the protest movements of the ’ 60s : the social justice, the social rights, would not have been possible without the Baby Boomers,” he says.
Not to mention many of the core technologies of today. No Boomers? No iPhone. Steve Jobs was an acid-dropping Baby Boomer. He even gave the drug credit for some of his success when he said, “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.”
Before Apple made him a billionaire, Jobs said LSD “reinforced [his] sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as [he] could.”
What a trip. Boomers may have mapped the digital world, but today’s young adults have been raised in it.
I spoke with celebrated journalist, author, and dynamic Baby Boomer Joanne Lipman after the election. She is the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and is currently Chief Content Officer of Gannett. In her book Strings Attached, she tracks a murder investigation through her education in classical music and weaved the narrative against her exploding career as a journalist.
Lipman understands the parallels and distinctions between theBoomers and the Millennials. “In the ’60s, there was the ecology movement, which today has transformed into the environmentalist movement,” she explains. “In the ’60s, people would join the Peace Corps and today they go into areas like public health.”
Movements back then had a stronger pelt. The hippie generation “grew out of a rebellion against the war in Vietnam,” says Lipman.
More than two million people lost their lives in that war. Today we see the devastation in Aleppo; more fallout from the eternal war that’s been going on since 9/11. Kids today, though, aren’t rebelling. They’re retweeting.
“In the 60s there was this saying, ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30,’” says Lipman. “The idea being that you can’t trust the previous generation…parents and their kids just couldn’t speak the same language.”
Kids today still have the Grateful Dead on their playlists, but they aren’t like the runaways Didion met.
In this age, there’s no hiding. Forty years ago, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s photos of children fleeing the Napalm bombing stunned the world. Now, thanks to smart phones and WiFi, graphic images of conflict around the world come daily. The volume of devastating imagery creates a certain numbing effect. The assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, practically streamed live on our Facebook feeds. Videos of bloody children being removed from the gravel of collapsed buildings in Aleppo circulate relentlessly. Like horror memes.
How can Millennials deal with the sheer volume of this information? It’s tempting to give up hope. We’re not lazy, though; we’re engaged, even if noise seems to have won the day, or, at least, the election.
If anyone can master technology and use it for the greater good, it’s we Millennials. As Paul Taylor wrote, “Adapting to new technology is hardwired into [our] generational DNA, and while it’s impossible to forecast where the digital and social media revolutions will take humankind, it seems safe to predict that Millennials will get there first.”
Technology is the one gain we have over the bald guys, and our ability to use it is powerful. We are the ones left trying to make sense of it all and survive in an age where all is possible. Now is when we take charge.
All of this gives me reason for hope, not despair. People are extraordinary, for all their quirks. It is easy to get lost, but that doesn’t mean you stay lost. Many Baby Boomers went on to make great contributions to science, art, literature, music, and human rights. I predict my generation will do the same.