We can change the world
Rearrange the word
It’s dying …
To get better
Graham Nash, 1968
Nothing underscores the hypocrisy of my generation — the Baby Boomers out to change the world — more than the opening night in 1988 of “Imagine,” the movie based on John Lennon’s era-defining song of 1971.
Twenty years after Graham Nash penned the lyrics displayed above, 17 years after Lennon wrote “imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man,” many of us who claimed we believed all that stuff hopped into our BMWs, wearing our $225 shoes and $85 cologne, and went to movie theaters to do what we as adults loved to do: to be seen.
There we were, one-time professed “individuals,” falling right into step. We knew exactly where to be, what to wear and what to say.
Few of us that night stopped to wonder what kind of people we had become. We were more concerned with which restaurant we were heading off to after the show, and whether the sushi would be fresh.
If ever a generation lost its soul it is ours, the self-professed idealists of the Age of Aquarius.
Ah, the Age of Aquarius, when peace was going to “guide the planets” and love was going to “rule the stars.”
“Trust no one over 30” we said back then.
Well, all these years after joining the “over 30s” ourselves we should look in a mirror. We said we didn’t want to turn into our parents. How better off for everyone if only we had.
The people we didn’t want to trust handed us a nation far better than the one we’re dumping on our children.
I’m sorry but it’s true.
We Boomers have botched things up.
Our parents built for us an America based on values and morality, where right was right and wrong was wrong, where a person’s word was his bond, where hard work paid off, where excuse making was not tolerated, where children were protected … and allowed to be children, where neighbors looked out for one another, where there was a genuine respect, and where those with plenty preferred to hide it rather than risk being labeled “show offs” and those without held their heads high because the one thing they did have was their pride.
That is the world we believed needed changing?
Maybe it needed a little — especially in areas of race relations and women’s rights — but, to borrow a line from the band “The Buoys” in the ‘70s, God, what did we do?
The answer is all around us.
Imagine no possessions?
We Baby Boomers worship possessions. Cars, clothes, gadgets. You name it, we bought it. They couldn’t make houses or televisions — or even hamburgers — too big for us.
No need for greed or hunger?
We grew fat while millions in the world starved. We throw out more food in one day than millions get to eat in a month. And then we joined health clubs to work it all off. Wearing designer sweatsuits and $150 sneakers, of course.
A brotherhood of man?
There’s no end to the list of people we hate … some across the world, others across the street. And then we wonder why people hate us back.
We Boomers changed the world all right. We made it meaner and scarier and more corrupt and more materialistic.
Along with less tolerant, less spiritual, less friendly and less hopeful.
As I said, I’m sorry. But we Baby Boomers own this. It happened on our watch.
But maybe it’s not too late for us. All of our lives we Boomers have made up the biggest portion of the population. That’s why, as Ken Dychtwald observes in his book “Age Wave,” Dr. Spock sold so many baby books in the late ‘40s and why so many kindergartens had to be built in the mid ‘50s. And why there are so many radio stations playing The Beatles in 2013.
Well, we are on the verge of dominating another demographic group: senior citizens. Baby boomers are turning 60 years old at the rate of 100 every 18 minutes. Millions of us have already retired and many more millions will in coming years.
It looks like we are not going to be quite as wealthy in retirement as we once thought, but that might be a good thing. What I mean is, maybe we are being given a second chance. A second chance to do the good we once said we wanted to do.
With many of our 401-Ks tanked and the equity in our homes either wiped out or re-mortgaged, maybe instead of retiring to an ocean side retreat and days of doing nothing but sipping Coronas with lime, as we may have dreamed, maybe instead we can dedicate our remaining years to cleaning up our own mess.
Maybe we can devote ourselves to worthy causes. Some right in our midst already have. Exhibit A: The Care and Concern Ministries at St. John the Evangelist Parish.
Maybe we can turn away from materialism and return to spirituality. It surely appears that the new leader of the Catholic Church is heading that way.
And maybe we can, finally, change the world.
Maybe we can, rearrange the world.
After all, it’s still dying …
… to get better.