Baby Boomers

2 Sep

One thing that I think gets overlooked at our ever-changing society is demographics. Yes, technological development has changed how we function, but in America, the Baby Boomers really altered how this country works.

In the forties into the early fifties a whole bunch of people were settling down in a hurry. War had just ended, and many people came home from the war to settle down and have children. Of course babies followed, a lot of babies, in fact it probably was the most children born in a small window in modern history. On top of that the generations before and after were rather small, because of war and depression before, and because baby boomers did not follow the pattern of immediate marriage after childhood that previous generations had. Add to that modern birth control, and also the fact that baby boomers have a much longer lifespan than those before them, and you’ve got a majority of Americans born in that little window for quite some time.

What does this mean? Well, one thing America has a tendency to do is romanticize the fifties. The reason for this is that most baby boomers were children in that decade. In fact most Americans HAD children in that decade. One reason the fifties were so tame is that most were in the nuclear family. Also with such a lot of children around the same age made things pointed towards them to a much greater degree than in previous decades. Marketing for children’s products exploded, as well as family friendly fare in nearly every sector of American life.

In the sixties the concern went towards teenagers and the generation gap. I’ve never heard this said, but the reason there was a generation gap in the first place was because there were so many people the same age. An interesting set of movies made around that time were focused on youth taking over America and the old being sent to die. It’s related to a set of anxieties that come with a world where such a large amount of the population were that young and starting to get their voice. What’s interesting with the counterculture is that other generations have gone through rebellious phases too, but this one was noticed because so many were going at the same time.

In the seventies America went through its era of discontent right when the boomers hit their 20’s–the sturm and drang years. Crime went through the roof (because 18-35 is the most common age for violent criminals, ergo more violent crime). Still entertainment mostly catered to the boomers in those years–television got sexy and movies progressively got more racy. An abrupt turnaround in the eighties though, as the boomers settled down and had families of their own, suddenly the country got more commodified and conservative. People tend to be liberal when they’re younger and have less to protect; people get more conservative when they have family to protect, it’s just one of those things.

The reason why I think this is significant is because I think sometimes people idealize the past without thinking about why a certain era was the way it was. It’s easy to cherry pick parts of history and label them as simpler and better because we’re not comparing two things equally. It’s sort of like saying that the quality of music has gone down when you’re comparing the very best of a decade to everything on the radio now–it’s a pre-weighted comparison. To put it another way, the past seems to have more certainty because we know the story–we know how things turn out, but I guarantee that at that time that certainty was not there.

2 Responses to “Baby Boomers”

  1. Shez September 3, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    True. And the older one gets, the more attempts, outcomes and lessons learned, hence a different perspective.

    • pewterbreath September 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

      Yes! I can’t say how much more I enjoy being my age! I wasn’t a very happy twentysomething, but now I am quite content. Thank you for your comment.

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