BOOMERGEDDON; the Baby Boomers Who Smashed Down Social and Sexual Barriers and Who Today Run Britain Boast of Creating a Gentler, More Tolerant world.What about the Shattering of the Family, the End of Civility, Feral Children and Today's Contempt for the Aged?

Daily Mail (London), April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

BOOMERGEDDON; the Baby Boomers Who Smashed Down Social and Sexual Barriers and Who Today Run Britain Boast of Creating a Gentler, More Tolerant world.What about the Shattering of the Family, the End of Civility, Feral Children and Today's Contempt for the Aged?


Byline: MELANIE PHILLIPS

ROCK star Suzi Quatro, who scandalised parents back in the Seventies with her raunchy biker image, has released a new album at the distinctly unraunchy age of 55.

Recently, the Rolling Stones, fronted by 62-year-old Sir Mick Jagger, packed a million people into their concert in Rio de Janeiro on their sell-out world tour.

Live rock concerts are experiencing a renaissance fuelled in large measure by middle-aged fans - the 'baby-boomer' generation born in the great surge of procreation and optimism that took place between the end of World War II and the early Sixties.

This is the generation that, through its sheer numbers and awesome purchasing power, has forged the culture of the post-war Western world in its own image.

It is also a generation, I would argue, that is gripped by the need perpetually to rebel. But now there is a backlash. In a new book, Boomergeddon, California-based academic Mike Males says that the popular view of the boomers as the happy, prosperous product of the post-war economic revival is way off the mark.

Californian boomers, he says, suffer staggeringly high levels of drug abuse, imprisonment and family instability. They have the worst rate of violent death; fatal drug overdoses between the ages of 40 and 60 have increased by 200 per cent over the past 35 years; and more and more of them have Aids.

The young, meanwhile, who are demonised by their parents' generation and subjected to overwhelming and unnecessary restrictions, are moderating their smoking, drinking and drug use, while school dropout rates, youth crime and teenage pregnancies and suicides are all down. The generation blame game has flipped on its head.

So is he right? And is the same phenomenon occurring in Britain?

Well, yes and no. Among some young people, whose parents had been in revolt against the authority of their own parents, there are some signs of a similar responsibility backlash.

The generation that grew up in the Sixties in a haze of dope, speed and LSD never kicked the habit. But those fiftysomething parents who now think a line of coke is as banal as a cup of coffee are increasingly, I suspect, derided as desperately uncool by today's young.

Many young people have also learned firsthand the bitter cost of irresponsibility from the bust-up of their parents' marriages. Young women fret over whether there's a difficult choice to be made between motherhood and career.

A new study by psychologists at Sheffield University has found that nine out of ten women think one-night stands are immoral, with some of the harshest moral judgments being made by younger women.

AGED university teachers, fondly recalling their own radical and dissolute youth, marvel at how cautious and conservative their students are by contrast and how unwilling they are to take risks.

But in general, it is not true that the young have turned the corner that Males identifies in the U.S. The vast majority of British crime is still committed by young people; teenage pregnancy and school truancy are still huge problems; and the proportion of teenagers with mental health problems has doubled since 1980, with dramatic rises also in eating disorders, binge-drinking and, of course, drug addiction.

What Males seems not to acknowledge is that the reason American youngsters are now behaving better is because their parents' generation finally decided to reassert notions of responsibility and social order.

Policies of zero tolerance against crime, sexual abstinence education or welfare reform - not to mention the jailing of large numbers of young male offenders - all drew moral lines in the sand and helped encourage a new climate of personal and social responsibility.

In other words, the limits America placed on its young people are surely the reason their behaviour has improved. …

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BOOMERGEDDON; the Baby Boomers Who Smashed Down Social and Sexual Barriers and Who Today Run Britain Boast of Creating a Gentler, More Tolerant world.What about the Shattering of the Family, the End of Civility, Feral Children and Today's Contempt for the Aged?
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