8 September 2011, Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Hi, my name is Jane and I’m a baby-boomer.
I’m sure you can you tell by looking at me – but just to refresh your memories:
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
After surviving that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We were corralled in playpens and taken for walks on leads.
There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles, (I remember loving Junior Aspro – because they were square and pink) no locks on doors or cabinets.
We were driven home from hospital on our mother’s lap in the front seat of the car. No capsules, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags. Our parents’ cars had bald tires and sometimes no brakes.
We rode in the back of a ute standing up: we lay, stretched out to sleep in the back of the station wagon - special
We drank water from the garden hose and shared one soft drink bottle with four friends, and no one actually died.
We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon.
We drank sparkalarkalark-a-ling Marchants Lemonade and home delivered Loys made with real white sugar.
But we weren't overweight.
Because we were always outside playing.
Running, always running.
We left home in the morning, to walk or catch the bus to school. We spent lunchtime and recess skipping, playing ball-games and hopscotch. Then we walked or bussed home and played in the streets until the lights came on.
When we rode our bikes, we didn’t wear helmets.
No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's and X-boxes.
There were no video games, DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no 150 channels on cable.
Face it, in my day, even though television had been invented, I didn’t know anyone who owned a set.
No personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms, Facebook or Twitter.
We had actual FRIENDS – in 3D.
We went outside and found them!
We walked to their houses, knocked on the door or just walked in and talked to them.
We fell out of trees, got cuts and bruises, broke bones and teeth and no one sued anyone. Bit of Dettol and a plaster, and off you go.
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.
School sports had try-outs and not everyone made the team.
Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.
There were no participation ribbons! Just winners and losers.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. If the cops brought you home because of a misdemeanour, your parents actually sided with the law! And you got punished.
The past 50 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas, and have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?
Yes, proud, Seniors Card-carrying baby boomer, me, it has been my great pleasure and privilege to create the world in 7 decades.
But it is not my fault the world’s in the state it’s in.
We came into being immediately following the end of hostilities at the close of World War 11, and you will note that since the creation of Baby Boomers there has been no World War 111.
Make love not war – we created that slogan.
War! Uh, good God, What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’. Say it again!
World wars are bad –we knew that instinctively.
Since Baby Boomers came into being we have, of course, noted that wars happen all over the world, every single day, with no possible end in sight, no chance of having an end or a beginning like the good old days, no sense of fair play or rules, and when one stops for a minute, another takes up the baton.
Baby Boomers have seen the vast proliferation of war in countries no one had ever heard of – well, not by that particular name - over religions no one can even begin to comprehend, but none of this is our fault.
We were the peace, love and happiness generation and we stand proudly on our record that there has been no World War 111 on our watch.
Speaking of records – modern music is not our fault.
We created a perfectly formed set of tunes over a number of decades that obviated the need for anyone else to write new ones.
We created rock ‘n roll, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis, Jim, Otis and Jimi. Our last great work was Little Feat and it’s been downhill since then from Air Supply to Eminem to Lady Gag-me-with-a-spoon-I’m-so-stupid.
Madonna was not our fault.
Kylie was not our fault.
Boy George, Wham, Milli Vanilli, Bryan Adams and Jedward were not our fault.
We gave the world Aretha and The Band and Joni Mitchell and Gladys Knight and Leon Russell and Sam Cooke and the entire line-up at Monterey and Woodstock.
Modern music is reduced to sampling bits and pieces of Baby Boomer gold to stick in their monotonous, foul-mouthed nursery rhymes.
Speaking of foul-mouthed - the state of Aussie rules is not my fault.
The emergence and creation of the Australian Financial League, the AFL, is the work of the devil incarnate and is headed back where it came from – to hell in a handcart.
Granted, BBs can’t take credit for the creation of football, but we were perfectly content with the VFL, WAFL and SANFL and our generation saw out the last of its glory days, on suburban ovals around Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, all of us perfectly content with its sense of loyalty and local pride.
The parlous state of football on television played on 2 and a half proper Victorian ovals and a handful of interstate grounds borrowed from cricket and rugby fixtures is shameful.
And speaking of games - don’t get me started on the Olympics!
The modern Olympic Games are not my fault. Let’s go back to the ancient Olympics where everyone competed in the nude – there’s your tv audience from the get-go.
The modern Olympic Games are not my fault. This is a sporting event where the hosting-rights bidding process is watched by more people than the final of the 100metre sprint.
Where more money is spent on the opening ceremony than the annual Gross National Income of some of the competing countries.
Sports people reached the outer limits of physical achievement decades ago – when the last of the Baby Boomer competitors reached their peak - and yet this extended advertorial disguised as a sporting event continues to push the myth that the contestants win their medals without a speedy cup of coffee before the starter’s gun.
Kids watching the Olympics know more about the contestants’ endorsement deals than they do about the country they’re representing.
A modern Olympic gold medal may well be a special moment to strive for, but a lucrative ad deal for breakfast cereal or chocolate spread is for keeps.
None of this is my fault.
And neither is the state of the environment.
Let me tell you a little story…
A Baby Boomer stood in line at the supermarket recently and was admonished at the check-out for not bringing her own bags, because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.
The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."
To which the check-out chap responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."
He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft-drink bottles and beer bottles. And they got sent back to the bottler to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same ones over and over.
We didn’t call that recycling – it just made sense.
We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the shops and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power…..
Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole thing just because the blade got dull.
We bought a camera and used it until it fell to pieces – no disposable cameras.
When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. We wrapped the garbage in yesterday’s papers and some of us even remember the days we cut up squares of it for use in the loo!
We didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.
We exercised by working, not by going to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
There were no pizza joints, or takeaway. We cooked at home.
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand.
We had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not the size of a bedroom sheet.
But, no, we didn't have the green thing back then.
Speaking of TV - Baby Boomers can’t take credit for the creation of television – that honour belongs to the generation before ours…what were they called? The Post WW1 Baby Boomers? The pre-labels-for-generation gen? Anyway, them.
We didn’t create it, but we enjoyed the new medium, in all its grainy black and white, problems-with-the-vertical-hold, bunny-eared, stick-a-hanger-out-the-window glory. But the state in which it now finds itself is definitely not our fault.
I lay the creation of reality TV fairly and squarely at the feet of Gen X Y & Z – the mobile phone generations, the everyone-must-be-on-tv-all-the-time gens.
We told stories – the Forsyte Saga, Roots, M*A*S*H, Homicide and Skippy. We used actors.
Andy Warhol was only able to envisage 15 minutes of fame, not 15 seasons of banal garbage, consisting of pointing a camera at anything to see if it moves: suck-it-and-see TV.
For a couple of years we had a daily 15 minute show about cooking, called Cooking with Kerr. Now we only have 2 types of show: shows about cooking, and shows about weight-loss. One shows us how to fill our faces, the other how to starve.
Look, it is fabulous that we have such a wide variety of food these days, but do we really have to spend so much time watching it being cooked? Huge hit in Africa, I imagine.
There may well be 150 possible TV channels on offer, but they offer a lot less value than the 2 we Baby Boomers enjoyed.
Don’t even start me on radio. That is really not my fault. If I wanted to listen to talkback I would have tuned in to 3AW or gone to live in Sydney. It is no longer MY ABC.
As I said at the start, like all Baby Boomers, I came into being as the result of a vast worldwide outpouring of lust that swept up my parents and all other human beings in the western world, in its all-consuming desire to have sex – in the vast sigh of relief at the conclusion of World War 11.
I am merely the result of this vast spawning – it’s not my fault I was born, it’s my parents’.
And I think you’ll find that’s pretty much the default setting for all Baby Boomers.
Jane Clifton is a singer, actress, author, and speaker, who is also as good a marriage celebrant as you're ever going to find. You can find her here.