My parents were among those labelled the “Greatest Generation”. They were born into a world of mind-boggling change. What had long been a static landscape was undergoing a whirlwind of innovation; motor cars, flying machines, the electrification of cities, communications and medicine. They were young but old enough to be aware of the great and terrible events taking place in Europe. Newspaper headlines were emblazoned with hints of the carnage of the new, mechanized warfare. I recall seeing a photo of my mother, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, dressed in a child-sized nurse’s uniform along with her school mates taking part in a fundraising campaign. When the guns were silenced many of the returning men were broken in body and spirit, visible reminders of the horror that they endured and survived, if they were lucky. Then a brief period of wild abandon and mass emigration to lands of greater promise. They were then crushed by economic depression and gathering storm clouds over that old familiar battle ground. Lord Kitchener called them once again to answer the call of King and Country. And they answered. When the conflict was over they returned home once more to take up their lives in a future their forebears could scarcely conceive.
Then came my generation., the Boomers. It was a time of unparalleled growth and financial security. Our families raised us on hope, with high expectations and a degree of freedom that we did not earn and probably did not deserve. But they gave us full rein to explore, experiment and test the limits of mind and body. And that we certainly did. We were a self-indulgent lot. We may have botched the inheritance we were given. Many of the dreams that inspired us turned out to be pipe dreams in more than a metaphorical sense. Educational opportunities, cars, spending money, music, there seemed to be no end to what we were offered. But we struck down our greatest hopes, then set up new ones only to see them fall in turn. As children we huddled beneath our desks and looked up as artificial moons circled the globe. We aspired to the moon but many found themselves mired in the jungles of Southeast Asia. They returned hard and bitter as the summer of peace and love dissolved into the distance. Then we transformed into ghostly images of our parents but without their lofty goals and ideals and we brought forth a new generation.
What have we left them, these gen-Xers, these millennials, these gen-Zers? An overcrowded world that is broken, threatening to consume itself, preoccupied with gadgets, growing anger and rancour. The world has come to their doorstep, at their fingertips, threatening to overwhelm them. It seems to dazzle but with little substance. The moral compass of our times is spinning helplessly finding no true north to focus on. Housing spirals beyond reach while food banks are becoming a way of life. New conflicts threaten at home and abroad. We have.left to them this mess that we carelessly made, to clean up, repair and renew. There are glimmers of hope as we once again reach for the stars and redress the injustices around us and reconcile the grievances of so many.
It is my hope as I near the end of my journey that this current generation can take a page from the legacy of that “Greatest Generation”, to overcome the trials and challenges that face them. There may be something of value to be found in my generation. Look for it and try not to judge too harshly..