Hey, Baby Boomers — yes you! If you are between 50 and 68 years of age then you’re one of us. Many of you, like me, are retired. The rest of you are planning your retirement. Take a minute to reflect on the life we’ve lived and the times that we’ve lived through. I think we’re one of the luckiest cohorts of homo sapiens ever to have walked this beautiful and precious planet. What tumultuous and exciting times in modern history we’ve experienced!
We were born into a post-war world where money, food and commodities were short, frugality was valued, items bought (whitegoods, for instance) were made to last and things were reused and recycled — though these were not terms used at that time; they were terms created in the 1970s and 1980s as a tool against mindless consumerism with its disastrous environmental consequences.
In those post-war days of the 1940s and 1950s every backyard had a vegie patch; most people had livestock of some sort, if only a few chooks; being self-sufficient and handy were valued and necessary ways of life. We made do with whatever we (our parents, that is) had to hand. We learned to fix things because this was not a “throw-away” society.
We Baby Boomers spent our early years in that world. Towards the end of that time we saw the strengthening of the civil rights movement in the United States — Martin Luther King and his inspirational leadership that galvanised the world — but we were probably a bit too young to be involved in that or to appreciate the fundamental social, cultural and political changes happening around us.
Then, at just the right time, along came The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Carnaby Street and mini-skirts, long hairy blokes and Flower Power. What a time it was to be a teenager! Out with the old conservative, authoritarian, nationalistic world that we’d been imprisoned in and in with a new world. Life was changing in a profound way and we were part of it. It felt like we, ourselves, were changing it. How exhilarating it was to be young then, and oh, that music!
Our parents hated some of the changes. I wasn’t allowed to wear black underpants — they were the devil’s work; even women’s slacks that had a fly-front opening were considered heretical. How good it felt to wear them anyway. We bought them ourselves for we had our own money. As a sixteen-year-old I felt defiant and brazen buying those previously forbidden items.
One would think that to have been around during that exciting and invigorating cultural revolution of the 1960s would be enough for one life. But unexpectedly, first stealthily and then like an unpredicted king tide, our generation was swamped by the roaring wave of the technological revolution.
One could argue (and I’m sure it has been argued in many arcane and obtuse academic tomes) that the technological revolution was just as earth-shaking as the Industrial Revolution was in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Our children grew up in a world where computers and keyboarding and accessing the internet are the norm, but we Baby Boomers felt the tremors of the technological earthquake. We remember when a computer consisted of a whole room of machines and gadgets, not that long ago —1980? The speed of the technological takeover and the magnitude of its effects have astounded us. I, for one, am still left pondering.
But what has all this to do with “Stories from the bush”, the Cowboy asks. Well, in this slow and quiet life that is our retirement one gets the inclination to reflect on one’s life and times and be glad of the experience of growing up in the 1960s and then, as a bonus, being witness to a world affected by one of humankind’s great revolutions.
In the meantime, the wood heap’s low and the Cowboy and I spend three hours in the back paddock cutting wood so that we can warm our toes on these -4C sedate mornings and think about the times of our lives.
Lynn Takayama is retired.