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Jim Selman

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Boomer Nostalgia: Can We Trust Our Past?

Posted: 03/25/09 03:06 PM ET

I am generally not big on trips down memory lane, but there's a nice retrospective of the 60s I came across that was kind of fun. It seems like a long time ago today when we danced the "Twist" and transformed ourselves from bobbie socks and surfer movies into flower children. I realized while watching that we, the 'Boomers', were a part (or maybe even the cause) of one of the biggest societal shifts in American history. When you are part of something, it doesn't seem to be such a big deal at the time.

While I think that arguably the Internet and the current collapse of the global financial system may have a larger long-term impact on our way of life, the 1960s set the stage for so many of the developments that followed. Imagine what life would be today if we had not participated in the Civil Rights Movement, participated in the rise of feminism and lived with the fears of nuclear disaster throughout the Cold War. Imagine where the world would be without the explosion of mainframe (and later laptop) computers. Imagine, for better or for worse, where we might be without Woodstock, the Beatles and recreational drugs. I wonder if we'd have become so cynical about politics without Watergate or the assignations of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Today, people are less naïve, more technologically savvy, have more access to information and communication and are generally more entrepreneurial than we were in the 60s. With all of the problems we face today, we are also, in general, more prepared to address them. The world is obviously more complex than it was when we were losing our innocence. We can't simplify life into neat categories and take comfort in the self-righteous certainty of our parents.

Ours is an age of paradox wherein young and old must co-create the future rather than simply 'pass the torch'. Ours is an age where every policy and every action has profound impacts on both the short and the long term. An age where we can no longer trust our past and forecasting tools to give us direction. An age of unprecedented change for better and worse. Which it will be is up to us.

I wonder what the retrospective on the first decade of the 21st century will be in 2050? My first thought is that I won't be here to watch it...but then at the rate things are changing and breakthroughs are happening in health and well-being, who knows? If I thought I would be living another 40 years, would I be doing the same things I am doing now?