Bibby, Reginald W. The Boomer Factor. What Canada’s most famous generation is leaving behind. Bastion Books 2006
Reg Bibby- Ph.D. –professor of sociology at University of Lethbridge. Expert on religious and social trends in Canada. Author of Project Canada national surveys of adults and teenagers.
A Canadian author, Canadian content. I like it! For leaders working with any age group in Canada this is a relevant source of information. Reg seems fair in his assessments. He dispels some common myths about our culture. In as much that information is a tool this book’s value will be determined by those who can apply facts to existing situations. The ‘tool’ is also helpful in self- analysis and evaluation. As a pre-Boomer I was encouraged to find that there are many positive things going on in the younger generations. I’ve suspected that for years.
Bibby looks at Canadian culture and identifies six major shifts, areas of change, and four major ,areas of, contiuities. The change trends are demography, education, government, technology, media and information economy. Consumption, the labor force and religion have not changed.
“In Canada diversity is king.” (13) Pluralism has been enshrined by legislation, e.g. Multiculturalism Act in 1988. There has been a rivalry between the mosaic concept (multiculturalism) and the assimilation concept (melting pot). Individual rights, enshrined by the Charter of Rights, 1982, contributed further to pluralism. Baby Boomers have been the major generation contributing to pluralism.
“In order for individuals to be happy and groups of any kind to work, there has to be balance between what is good for the individual and what is good for the group.” (29) Freedom and order must be in balance. Technology has contributed to the rise of individualism by accommodating a very strong ‘me trend’. Younger people are less likely to be members of groups. There has been an ongoing decline in political participation. Relativism is on the increase. Technology has made us selective consumers.
“Between 1985 and 1995- a revolution took place, one that involved a shift from deference to defiance.” Peter Newman. It was a rejection of authority at all levels of society beginning with the politicians. Deference has given way to discernment. People want an opportunity to be heard.
“People make choices based not on obligation, duty, or a touch of altruism, but on personal gratification.” (67) This is particularly significant in relationships, i.e. marriage and family. “Love is a beautiful thing involving one person, you.” (69) Self-gratification is not conducive to effective community life.
We want things done well and we want to them done now. The development of technology has contributed to these demands. Busyness and over-commitment is at an all-time high and it is taking its toll in every area of our lives. Solutions will come but at a cost.
The increase in information has been mind-boggling. We experience information overload. The service-producing sector (information for pay) has become a major part of our culture. New information has provided us with new problems rather than solving old ones. Accessing information on the Internet is more prevalent among younger people. All this information can actually threaten the presence of serious thinking.
Some things in our culture have remained unchanged. The author calls them, “Continuities”. (107) The first continuity is illustrated by the perennial question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” (109) That question translates into the idea that what we do determines who we are. Freedom and relationships are rated as the highest wants of today’s Canadians. When it comes to teenagers its friendship and being loved. Social, financial, health and fitness concerns are on the increase. Boomers “are not a happier and more fulfilled generation” (130) in spite of their accomplishments and contributions.
“Upward electronic mobility (is) known as downward civility.” (133) It is a key factor in the decline of deference. Family aspirations have not changed that much even though the family as a unit has suffered decline. The structure has changed. The majority of first weddings are still church weddings. “The survey findings affirm the future of the traditional family.” (175) Resources would be better used helping people experience the traditional family than defending it as an institution. Religious groups can make a significant contribution to make this happen.
“Organized religion is not in the state of decline that most of us have taken to be self-evident.” (202) Attitudes toward spirituality are quite different from attitudes toward organizes religion. “The sacred lives on and is real to those who can access it.” Wade Clark Roof. “I think the longing for God- call it soul hunger- is universal, and hard-wired into our genes.” Margaret Wente.
Boomers arrived on the scene when some difficult years had come to an end, i.e. wars and depression. As they became an increasing majority of adults (50% of Canada’s total 20- to 64- year-old population” 209) their influence became more pronounced. It was during this time that Canada experienced six cultural shifts. The legacy of the Boomers “has some very important TO DO stickers attached to it”. (210) The author lists ten of them. Leaders would be well advised to address them.