Live Well, Do Good

Youth May Soon Lead Change

Brandon Sun, February 27, 2011 - David McConkey

Technological and generational change has been on my mind this month.

Prompting these thoughts are the revolutions in North Africa, a new book about Baby Boomers, and a talk in Brandon by Gwynne Dyer.

The recent revolutions in North Africa are the latest effort we have seen to bring freedom to people.

To put this into perspective, I remember an experimental course in current world affairs that I took in Grade 12.

That was way back in the 1960s. In those days, it was easy to study dictators, as almost the whole world was ruled by them.

Dictatorships were in communist countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. And in developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. And even in some countries – like Spain and Portugal – in Western Europe.  

In my high school course, one of the issues we discussed was technology. A fear then was that the increasing use of computers would enable more repression of people in the future.

Imagine Hitler and Stalin on steroids. Like the “Big Brother” dystopia of George Orwell’s 1984.

Fortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. New technologies have turned out to be more powerful in the hands of citizens than in the hands of dictators.

Look at the young North Africa protesters who use the social media of the Internet.

The Tunisian ex-dictator has been called the first tyrant in history to be “tweeted” out of power!

Many such positive technological and social changes have been witnessed by the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and the mid 1960s).

When I was in school, for example, birth control and homosexuality were still illegal in Canada. Racial inequality was still widely accepted in Canada and entrenched in law in the U.S. 

The outlook of my generation is explored in a new book: Stayin' Alive: How Canadian Baby Boomers Will Work, Play, and Find Meaning in the Second Half of Their Adult Lives.

The author is Michael Adams, who is with the polling firm Environics.

One big factor that Adams notes is a widespread rejection of patriarchal attitudes and accompanying sexist religious beliefs.

He calls this drive for the equality of men and women “the most important social revolution in the twentieth century.” 

The author’s polling suggests there will be more freedom and equality in the future. The younger generation is even more relaxed and accepting than the Baby Boomers of differences in race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

Putting a damper on all this positive thinking, however, is journalist and author Gwynne Dyer. He was in Brandon a couple of weeks ago, reminding us of the impending doom caused by climate change.

He spoke on Climate Wars, which is also the title of his latest book.

Dyer asserted that global warming is much more serious than is usually acknowledged in public and political conversation.

We are in for huge disruptions, food shortages, violence, and chaos.

He also said that climate change is generally accepted as a fact almost everywhere in the world. The only countries with much denial are Australia, the U.S., and Canada.

We need a massive change to non-fossil fuels, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the industrialized countries, and a development of new technologies.

The answer, ultimately, is a transformation in public opinion to spur governments to take action.

Unfortunately, we can’t look to Baby Boomers like Prime Minster Stephen Harper to provide leadership on this issue.

Fortunately, the younger generation seems more in tune with global realities.

An Ekos poll from a couple of months ago had an interesting finding.

That poll found that if only seniors voted in the next Canadian federal election, not one Green Party MP would be elected.

But if only those under the age of 25 voted, the Greens could form a majority government.

* * * 

See also:

Religion and Values in the Public Square 

Atheist Cards 

Maybe a Little Fox News Would Liven Things Up

Reflecting on Consumption 

Issues for the Next Election?

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