[saymaListserv] Pam Lunn's Paper

Nancy Whitt nmwhitt at samford.edu
Tue Sep 20 10:39:37 JEST 2005

for those of you unable to open Pam Lunn's paper & call for a conference, here it is; again, please dissimiinate widely among Friends and others:

What next for the post-war baby-boom generation?

Pam Lunn

Baby-boomers are variously defined: often, those born between 1946 and 1964; some include the babies born before the war ended, conceived while fathers were home on leave - say 1943 onwards; marketing analysts speak of 'leading edge' boomers as a sales target - born between 1946 and 1955. Demographic analysis shows the birthrate rising before 1946 and declining after 1957 - so let's say those of us born between 1943 and 1960, a group that has been shown to have recognisably common political and cultural patterns.

In the industrialised west we have been a very particular group, and intensely studied. Our tastes, habits, spiritualities, sexualities and politics have been charted and analysed. Wade Clark Roof (US sociologist of religion) called us 'a generation of seekers'. As our swollen numbers have progressed through the life stages we have forced public policy and public expenditure to bend to our needs - and the projected costs of our pensions is now causing alarm.

In this country we grew up in the wake of the Aldermaston marches and then gave our allegiance and our subscriptions to CND, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, the National Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International, Third World First, the Anti-Nazi League, the women's movement, the Gay Liberation Front, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace . . . But we were also the 'me generation' - encounter groups, therapy, drugs, dropping out . . . A combination of great idealism with great narcissism, as Ken Wilber points out in his book Boomeritis, about the baby-boomers in the USA.

We have occupied a very particular place in modern times: we had antibiotics and we didn't have drug-resistant bacteria; we had the Pill and we didn't have Aids; we had postwar economic reconstruction and economic expansion and we didn't at the time know the true cost of that; we had the welfare state, the NHS, the 1944 Education Act. Our numbers pushed a schools building programme, an increase in teacher training, and the Robbins Report gave us the new universities ('plate glass') to add to the ancient and redbrick establishments. Many of us were the first in our families ever to go to university. We had student grants, plentiful vacation jobs, and employers eager to take us on when we graduated. In Britain, our generation has not had to fight a war.  We "never had it so good" as Harold Macmillan said in 1957. And, as a recent article in Guardian Society pointed out, we may now bring about major change in the care of the elderly, as this generation starts to spy the Grim Reaper on the horizon. 

As we stand at perhaps the summit of our working lives, we stand simultaneously at the summit of industrialised society as we have known it. We benefited hugely from the massive industrial expansion that characterised the second half of the twentieth century - and as we now approach 'retirement' we all now know what that has cost the planet. Even if we escape the worst effects ourselves (and it's a big 'if'), in the lifetimes of our children, and certainly of our grandchildren, the world will have to face the end of the oil economy, the consequences of climate change, habitat and species loss, increased pollution, water and food shortages . . . events for which no-one is well-prepared. 

Baby-boomers are currently in positions of leadership and influence in many of the media - so it is not surprising that articles and broadcasts have been appearing that raise questions about the next stage of our lives. 'From those to whom much is given, much is expected' (Luke 12:48). So - what are we going to do with our active retirement years? Do we have a 
responsibility to act from the position in which we find ourselves? There are a lot of us, we changed the face of politics when we were young - we could do so again.

Pam Lunn is starting to plan a conference at Woodbrooke on these and related issues. Anyone who is interested, in any way, please contact her at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 1046 Bristol Road, Birmingham B29 6LJ; pam at woodbrooke.org.uk.

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