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My generation

By John Töns - posted Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Who said it all for me: “hope I die before I get old” more than 40 years later nothing has changed. Now at a mere 60 years of age I find myself in a world where there is an enormous fascination with the fact that my generation has hit the age of the gopher.

Academic reputations are being forged on predicting and defining the social catastrophe we face, simply because my generation remains as loud as ever.

Since 1966 we have been in a purple haze of good will generated by the Age of Aquarius. In ’68 we launched a revolution, determined to give peace a chance. Then for a while it seemed as we sold out, joining the ranks of talking suits but in truth most of us stayed the course, albeit at a more sedate pace.


Yet it seems that there are those who believe that we have stayed beyond our use-by-date and are expected to shuffle quietly into the sunset. Last year I attended the Greens pre-selection in Adelaide. Sarah Hanson-Young played the age card with the reckless abandon of intemperate youth. She stated that her major achievement at Amnesty International was to change the age profile of the volunteers. Thanks to Sarah’s efforts the older volunteers had gone to serve tea and scones elsewhere - now the Adelaide office was staffed by the dynamism of youth. There was no doubting the message; Senator Hanson-Young is for youth.

It seems as if On Line Opinion may share our infant senator’s views. Now, at the start of spring, there is a special feature on the long summer - dealing with “ the baby boomers reaching traditional retirement age but refusing to get old, what effect will this have on the wider community? This feature will look at the effects and causes of this demographic and cultural shift, regarding aspects such as work, leisure, health and the economy.”

Who was that child who wrote that piece of nonsense?

Let’s start with traditional retirement age: does one generation of pensioning people off at 65 make a tradition? If anything the tradition is that people simply keep going as long as they can. The logic of the age of 65 was simply that governments felt that they could afford to be generous - after all very few would be around to claim the pension much past the age of 70.

The problem is that my generation and the generation preceding us has been very good at working hard to create the conditions that enable people to live longer. We fought for the 40-hour week, demanded decent health services and supported government expenditure on research and development and ushered in the technological revolution.

True we neglected to pay enough attention to those old technologies that were busy befouling the environment although we did begin to raise awareness about the problems.


So having laid the foundations for the 21st century lifestyle we are all of a sudden a problem?

But let's leave that aside. We are assured that this feature will look at the effects and causes of this demographic and cultural shift, regarding aspects such as work, leisure, health and the economy.

Effects and causes? In my case you are 60 years and about nine months too late if you want to know the cause. As for the effects of this demographic and cultural shift in what way is 2008 any different than 1948, 1958, 1968 or indeed any of the preceding years?

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About the Author

John Töns is President of the Zero Carbon Network a network established to promote clear thinking about the issues associated with climate change. In addition to operating the only zero carbon boarding kennels in South Australia he is also completing a PhD at Flinders University in the area of Global Justice. John is a founding member of a new political party Stop Population Growth Now.

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