Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Changing the World, or Changing Your World?

Still working my way through X Saves the World by Jeff Gordinier, and I came across this snippet about Baby Boomers:

It was a generation that could, simply by virtue of its size and the gusher of affluence into which it was born, exert enormous influence over what the country was buying and wearing and listening to and talking about. Little more than a sneeze from a decent cross section of the boomers was enough to thrust just about anything—hula hoops, mood rings, Herman's Hermits—into the spotlight. This led boomers to the conclusion that they could change the world.

And it got me thinking. When someone or some group sets out to change the world, and meets with some level of success, how much of what they have accomplished is likely to be just changing their world, not the world? As I described partially in this post, after all, one generation's change can simply be the next generation's impediment.

And that got me thinking about one of Gordinier's central theses—that GenX wants to change the world, and thinks it may actually do so, but is skeptical of the very concept of "changing the world," and won't openly admit harboring that desire.

Over the years I've met plenty of my generational peers who have suffered no shortage of virtues like ambition, drive, boldness, self-sacrifice, and altruism, but I don't recall many of them talking explicitly about changing the world. They know that if they were to do that, they would set themselves up for a kind of karmic boomerang effect.

In other words, talking about changing the world tends to undermine your efforts, by alerting aspects of the world that may not want changing. In our context, that could mean other generations. If GenX is working to undo some of what the Boomers have done, does it make any sense to deny that the Millennials will some day be working to undo some of what GenX has done?

It order to change the world, and not just your world, it seems a broader generational perspective should be embraced. What necessary change is there that all generations can agree on?


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