WAMC Audio for the “Worst of Generations”
WAMC March 6 2011
Steven A. Leibo Ph.D. Professor of International History & Politics at the Sage Colleges
“The Worst of Generations”
It’s now been some years since Tom Brokow published his book The Greatest Generation about how those at mid 20th century stepped up to the plate and took on both militant Japan and Nazi Germany, two nation’s bent on sowing destruction through out East Asia and Europe.
In addition, while Brokow did not focus on it. They were the same generation that managed with a few horrific setbacks to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, they were generation that waited relatively patently until the inherent contradictions of communism saw most of the system collapse in the last decade of the century. Accomplishments any generation could feel enormously proud of.
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my own generation. You know the one that was once called the “Baby Boom Generation” that explosion of infants who were born in the first decade after the Second World War who for a time, morphed at least in name into the “Vietnam Generation” an age co-hort that challenged conventional wisdom on practically everything From civil rights to the War in Vietnam, from women’s rights to sexual behavior
And which in recent years, has somehow morphed back into the “Baby Boomers” as more and more public talk has swirled around our arrival into those years when our increasingly large claims on social security and Medicare are so pressuring American finances.
However, just as our temporary designation as the Vietnam generation faded. It strikes this historian that our baby boom designation probably will not last either. It’s too much of demographic and financial blip to carry any long-term historical weight equivalent to Tom Brokow’s well-earned Greatest Generation.
No, it seems much more likely that over time we will emerge as, dare I say it “The Worst Generation “Most probably as the most hated generation in human history because we were, after all;
The Generation that Knew.
The generation that ever so casually and ever so knowingly put the fate of modern civilization, as we know it at deep risk. The generation that allowed so much of our international coastlines to slip away, undermining and flooding some of the great cities in the modern world from New York to London, from Shanghai to Boston.
The generation that allowed large swaths of the earth, from Africa to China, from the American southwest to India to fall into a state of desertification as their life giving top soils simply faded away, just blowing as they say in the wind. The generation that just ignored the impending crisis that science has long warning us of.
The Climate Crisis that has already begun across the world from devastating floods in Pakistan, and Australia to China and the American Midwest to the historic fires from Israel and Russia to Australia and Southern California, horrors we could see with our own eyes if we cared to watch.
No, we can hardly blame those previous generations who poured out green house gases without knowing their ultimate impact. Without knowing, that they would set off generations of enhanced warming that would release the genie of dramatic climate change early in the 21st century.
Nor can hardly blame our children who will spend their lives fighting both to adapt to these challenges, moving their homes inward and further north, away from the rising waters and threatening tropical diseases that we, my generation, invited north to prey upon them.
No, let’s be honest with ourselves. We were the generation that knew and didn’t bother enough to act. The generation that didn’t bother to neutralize those special interests, that fought the truth merely to protect their corporate profits and ideological comfort zones.
The generation that didn’t bother to drive those politicians from office who refused to study the scientific evidence nor bothered to push those politicians that did understand to act faster than they were willing. No clearly, we are not the “baby boomers” nor the Vietnam generation. But simply, the generation that knew, the generation that failed.
Clearly the worst of generations.