This morning was another beautiful one, just perfect for our walk along the conservation trails that surround lovely Morrison Dam. Afterwards everyone came back to our house in Exeter for coffee and a delicious variety of “potluck” muffins and biscuits, cheese and fruit.
The topic today was “rootlessness” and, once again, many of us wondered if we hadn’t grown up living very sheltered lives, since some of the themes of this chapter did not really speak to us. None of us really took part in the drug culture, although we certainly knew of classmates who did smoke pot and dabbled with other drugs. Moreover, as one woman commented, when we sang “Can’t get no satisfaction”, it wasn’t because we were feeling particularly dissatisfied with life. We just liked the tune and the beat!
Another member raised an important question around expectations. What expectations did we have as young people growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s? Many of us heard again and again, that the world was our oyster and that we could do anything we wanted to do in life. Our parents had come through a terrible economic Depression and an even more frightening world war, but it was worth it because now they were able to give their kids all the things that they never had. The future looked rosy — all you needed was a good education and nothing would be impossible to you.
As another said, if he had to choose a song that really spoke to him when he was a young person, it would have been “The Age of Aquarius” by the 5th Dimension. Its hope-filled lyrics which promised the dawning of peace and harmony and understanding spoke of a time when sympathy and trust would abound. “No more falsehoods or derision” — just “golden living dreams of visions.” Today he would say that his song would be “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” In other words, what happened to the promise of a better world where peace and love and progress rule? As Miller notes in his book, we looked at our parents’ generation and thought we could do far better. After all, they were the ones who invented the bomb and put our young lives at risk. However, when we look back over the years, we realise that we have not created a legacy of love and peace. What happened to all our high ideals? What happened to our dreams of a better world? In other words, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
Although some clearly felt that this chapter was titled incorrectly, most of us agreed that one thing today’s Boomers lack most is a sense of community. This disconnectedness that Miller talks about not only leaves us feeling lonely, but also very vulnerable to the scare-mongering that lies behind so much of today’s advertising. Some of us also confessed that our anxiety is not only for ourselves, but also that we are genuinely worried about our children who may not have the opportunities many of us have enjoyed, especially if we were first wave Boomers.
And what about our expectations for ourselves now that we are retired or nearing retirement age? Again, the response was mixed and depended very much on which wave of the boom we stemmed from, where we grew up, the particular career path we followed, and the current state of our health. Most were hopeful, but cautiously so.