In The Fourth Turning” the describe the roles of each generation during the various “Turnings“. At the end of the book there are “scripts” for each of the generation in the Crisis (aka “Fourth Turning”) that represents the next 10-15 years in American history. Each script describes how the generation in question should act for a positive outcome from the Crisis. I already posted the script for the Millennial Generation (born 1982-200?) and Generation X (born 1961-1981). The script for Baby Boomers (born 1961-1981) is shown below (emphasis and links mine). “Prophet” refers to the archetype of the Baby Boomers.
The Fourth Turning brings special meaning to the Prophet, because the seasons of the saeculum exactly match those of his own life. From spring to winter, history’s seasons are those of his life cycle as well. Where the Prophet’s shadow (the Hero) had his greatest trial young, the Prophet will find his in old age. To achieve late-life glory, the Prophet must harness the civic duty and skill of the old Hero (The GI Generation, born 1901-1924, whom he rewards but does not honor) and child Hero (The Millennial Generation, born 1982-200?, whose temperament he nurtures but does not understand). In the current Unraveling, though, the Prophet is damaging the civic culture created by the old Hero, thereby making it harder for the child Hero to thrive and pursue his destiny. It is the Prophet’s challenge to confront his shadow, offer the old Hero respect as well as reward, and instill the old Hero’s virtue in the child.
As the next Gray Champion, the Boom Generation will lead at a time of maximum danger—and opportunity. From here on, Boomers will face the unfamiliar challenge of self-restraint. Having grown up feeling that GI Generation could always step in and fix everything if trouble arose, Boomers have thus far pursued their crusades with a careless intensity. In the Fourth Turning, GI’s will no longer be around as a backstop, and the young Millennials will follow the Gray Champion off a cliff. If Boomers make a wrong choice, history will be unforgiving.
The continued maturation of Boomers is vital for the Crisis to end in triumph. These one-time worshipers of youth must relinquish it entirely before they can demand from Millennials the civic virtue they themselves did not display during the Awakening. This will require a rectitude that will strike some as hypocritical, yet it will be no more than a natural progression of the Prophet’s life-cycle persona. When the Crisis hits, Boomers will need to defuse the Culture Wars at once. Their pro-choice secularists and pro-life evangelicals will need to move beyond their Unraveling-era skirmishes and unite around an agenda of national survival, much as Missionary elders did during depression and war.
Boomers must also display a forbearance others have never associated with them. By nature, they will always tend toward self-indulgence in their personal lives—but if they allow this to overflow into public life and demand generous public benefits, they will bankrupt their children financially, themselves morally. Unlike the Silent, sneaking through unnoticed will not be an option. Worse, if Boomers become pointlessly argumentative and let their values back them into a corner, their current talk-show hyperbole about annihilating enemies could translate into orders to use real doomsday machines.
Come the Crisis, Boomers will face the utterly un-yuppielike task of presiding over an era of public authority and personal sacrifice. This generation must squarely face the threat its unyielding moralism could pose to its own children, to the nation, indeed to the entire world. “When people repeat the slogan ‘Make love not war,’ ” historian David McClelland has warned, “they should realize that love for others often sets the process in motion that ends in war” But if aging Boomers can control the dark side of their collective persona, they can look back on their role in the Fourth Turning the way old Ben Franklin looked back on his. When asked what image belonged on the national seal of the United States, the old man replied: the inspiring image of Moses, hands extended to heaven, parting the waters for his people.
5 thoughts on “Directions for the Boomer Generation”
I had to laugh when I heard a cultural icon say “boomers” should be renamed “zoomers” because “they aren’t really old”? However, I think many of them are learning to age gracefully.
I think one concrete way boomers can be self-sacrificing is by retiring at age 65 (or earlier). I was checking on one of my old workplaces recently and most of the managerial employees are boomers – one has retired. I must add too, that the employee that I admired the most for their personal/professional qualities was the one who retired at the usual time. The CEO is well past retirement age, but seems to have no intention of quitting.
@Susan*5 – “Zoomers”, now that is funny! I agree on the retirement. Unfortunately I don’t think many of the Boomers are going that way, especially with their portfolios being hammered by the stock market and real estate values. I wrote a piece on the other reason why they might not go quietly: https://www.thegenxfiles.com/2009/03/16/the-boomer-generation-legacy/
Well, now in 2022 we can conclusively say boomers are failing in this turning. -They are demanding lavish money for themselves. The housing market cannot be allowed to fail, since it contains a big measure of the Boomer’s wealth. Millennials, thus, cannot be allowed to have a home to lay their head.
-Sacrifice for younger people is unthinkable to them. Even a whisper of forgiving student debt, that boomers themselves enforce and never had to struggle with, has rallied boomers from both sides of the political aisle to keep younger people held down.
-Boomers have decided war MUST happen. If they die without starting WWII with Russia they consider themselves failures. No boomer will die in this war, of course. Slaughter by machine gun is a fate they’ve reserved for their juniors.
-The data is clear that boomers were most at risk for Corona, while anyone younger had little to fear. But over 90% of the job losses from the shutdowns we’re from X, Y and Z. Hardly any boomers lost their job, their career, their income. Anyone younger had entire industries wiped out and had to start over from nothing.
While I agree Boomers have definitely played a huge role in the challenges we face today, they are just part of a larger shift as we move into this new era. My feeling is that the Boomers (and X’ers and Mills) all have been playing the role of creating/accepting that the US no longer will hold the sort of power that we did in the previous Saeculum (starting in the late 40’s). So the Boomers did a great job of making it all go “Boom”, Gen X’ers were left to sort through the rubble, and the Mills are realizing that whatever they build next, it’s not going to be nearly as big or powerful as what came before. It’s all part of the cycle.
Now, that said, I have to agree that I hold Boomers particularly accountable for playing their role with just a little too much exuberance. Bush, Trump, the Clintons, the Boomers in the Legislature and Corporate leadership all went “above in beyond” in destroying our faith in institutions with their self-centered righteousness. Sigh.