Number One on the Runway

I am reminded of that great song title from Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”  With economic chaos and skyrocketing oil prices, the future is looking a bit overcast – no need for shades now, huh, but what if that’s an illusion?  In China, the future is so bright that a billion people are putting on sunglasses.  I’ve read that there is more peace and prosperity now than anytime in the history of the world.  Global warming may only be the foot that kicks us in the ass and forces humanity to get its shit together.  A new President could clear those dark clouds on our horizon and brighten up U.S. prospects for decades to come.

We’re all on a jet that’s about to take off for the future, but who is in the cockpit, and what’s our destination?  My generation are all thinking about retirement and I’m wondering if we’re all flying down to Florida to play shuffleboard or dominos all day.  I can remember summer of 1968 like it was tomorrow.  We wanted the Vietnam war to end so we could start building a bright future.  We wanted a lot of change.  We lived on great expectations.  Many of the young felt like they were part of a movement, a movement for change.  Barack and all Democrats worked to sell the same sentiments forty years later.  Is this election the last chance for the Baby Boomers to get it right and achieve their dream?

Protestors used to chant “The Whole World is Watching” and I think our generation felt it was true, even though most of the world lived off the radar of mass communication when we were growing up.  During those mythical years of the 1960s our generation always felt we were number one on the runway taking off for the future, but now, we’re seen as being the generation number one on the runway to retire.  Is it now time for us to be quiet?  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both Baby Boomer Presidents.  We may get another boomer, with Barack Obama, or the Silent Generation may have its last chance to have their only President, with John McCain.

I was reminded of my Baby Boomer status when Piers Fawkes at PSFK tagged this site as 1 of 14 blogs he monitors for information about Baby Boomers.  Maybe the whole world is no longer watching us, but at least the marketing people are still keeping an eye on us.  For those who need a generational timeline, see below:

I find it tremendously hard to imagine the mindset of the generations that have come behind us.  First of all, they never demanded to be heard, and as a result of that, they never got the press the Baby Boomers did.  The Greatest Generation are famous for living in historically epic times and their generation was defined by the events they faced.  The Silent Generation made the world for the Baby Boomers and influenced them.  The Baby Boomers embraced rock and roll, but Elvis and the Beatles were from the Silent Generation – an odd nickname, huh?  And as resources such as oil become problematic, will we have a new Greatest Generation that solves those problems?

Signs are everywhere that the young are ready for the boomers to retire, for instance, read “TV Viewers’ Average Age Hits 50” over at Variety, where they whine that the damn people watching TV are too old for their precious 18-49 demographics.  What’s the matter, are the young TV execs afraid their whole industry is a Baby Boomer fad?  The whole world probably didn’t have their eyes on us, but we certainly had our eyes on TV.  Are the newer generations less mass-media oriented?  I’ve read males of certain ages have stopped watching TV altogether.

Is the Baby Boomer’s hour in the spotlight about over.  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both born in 1946, making them the two Baby Boomer Presidents.  Strangely, John McCain, born in 1936, a year after Elvis, is from the earlier Silent Generation, so that generation is still hanging in there, and suggests there’s time for the Baby Boomers to cling to the spotlight for another decade or two.  Barrack Obama was born in 1961, making him part of the rear end of the Baby Boomers.  We’ve now had a hippie President and jock President, so it would be great to have a minority President, and hopefully there will even be time for a female Boomer or even a gay Boomer in the White House.  Evidently, our time is not up until the overweight boomer sings.

I’m reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, a tail end boomer himself, born in 1964.  Zakaria’s wise assessment of current world affairs suggests our generation can still have influence for years to come as political pundits.  The Baby Boomers might be moving into their retirement years, but we dominant politics, journalism and opinions, and probably will for awhile.  I can not recommend The Post-American World enough, because Zakaria puts us Baby Boomer Americans in our place by letting us know what the rest of the world was seeing when we thought they were watching.  Our self-centered perspective has blinded us to what was happening with the 95% of the Baby Boomers in the rest of the world.

When you read Variety’s listing of the average age for various TV shows, and see “How I Met Your Mother,” a show about people in their twenties, has an average viewer age of 45, then you start to wonder, where the hell are the young people?  You do see them.  The news is reported by a vast array of beautiful young people.  Movies and television shows are all about the young.  You see them standing behind Obama and McCain, they fight our wars, and they direct movies, write novels, create music, and they fill jobs all around us.  But what do they want?  Where are their spokespeople?

When Generation X taxis out on the runaway where are they going to take us?  When Generation X campaigns for the Presidency, what will be their issues?  You’d think they’d make Global Warming their issue.  Maybe their generation speaks loud and clear and I don’t hear them because I’m insulated by the thickness of my generation.

If Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman are right, not only do we need to hear from Generation X and the Millennials, but we need to hear from their ranks from all over the world.  That old saying, “Think globally, act locally” is more important than ever.

I hate to say this, but maybe the numbers at Variety are more damning than they are suggesting.  If the average age of TV watchers is 50, then television is a has-been media.  What mass media has an average age of 25?  Video games?  Text-messaging?  FaceBook?  I’m sorry, but tuning into Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 seems like checking out of this world in the same way that Timothy Leary advocated dropping out.  Virtual worlds don’t count, only reality.

China and Dubai are growing at speeds and magnitudes that outpace any boom in U.S. history.  The whole world should be watching them instead of “How I Met Your Mother” or whatever equivalent show or video game you’re using to escape from reality at the moment.  Where is this generation’s Bob Dylan that’s writing “Because something is happening here, But you don’t know what it is, Do you, Mr. Jones?” or Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth?”

There’s heavy stuff going down, but where are the young protestors?  2008 is going to be an important election.  It is time for change, just like we thought back in 1968, but this time the biggest issues are more pressing than ever, and if we want a future where we need shades, we all need to be watching.  Whether our plane is taking off for retirement city, or the big city to start a new career, we’re all sailing on the same Spaceship Earth.  Whether you’re 15, 35, 55, 75 or 95 there are some shows on TV we should all be watching, but they ain’t escapist shows, but documentaries about what’s going on around the real world.

Jim