let’s get perspective on this generational thing

Steven Welzer
3 min readOct 8, 2023

I spent some time with my Millennial-age cousin yesterday, and that attitude thing about the Boomer generation came up. I said, “But look at the progressive stuff like Earth Day, feminism, civil rights, gay rights, SDS, DSA, [etc.]” and he said, “Sure, there were some Boomers who did some good stuff, but 90% of your generation was asleep at the wheel.”

In other words, they really do kind of blame the Boomers for the pitiful state of the world.

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Dear Cuz:

In a nutshell:

Gary Snyder [perhaps the most prominent bioregional theorist, by the way], simplified the story by talking about the Old Ways and the New Ways. Consider that the Amerindians, who lived in the Old Ways, came into this double-continent about 20,000 years ago and (in general … not every tribe, of course) thrived here for 20,000 years. The Europeans, who live in the New Ways, came here 500 years ago and trashed the place in 500 years.

So: It appears that some of us have been living in a problematical way.

“Us.” Well, species Homo Sapiens dates back 300,000 years; genus Homo dates back 2 million year. Take your pick as to which constitutes “us.” In either case, we lived and thrived and endured under the Old Ways for at least hundreds of thousands of years.

Relatively recently, just five thousand years ago, there was a problematical turn. The New Ways emerged with the foundation of states, empires, cities; private ownership of land; complex division of labor with private ownership of means of production; class division of society; wealth and power inequality; an ideology of “progressive development.” All of that was part and parcel of a dramatically new and lamentable socio-economic complex.

The problematic turn did not occur during the latter half of the 20th century under the reign of the Boomer generation. The pitiful state of the world is a product of a thousands-of-years process characterized by a civilization going in a wrong direction.

. . . going in a wrong direction for a long time if you look at it from the standpoint of a generation; but it’s actually a short time if you look at it from the standpoint of our species history.

If you’re inclined, you could look at it as a short-term aberration. And then, if you’re inclined, you could say, Well, something significant did happen under the reign of the Boomer generation: The beginnings of a comprehension of the problem and the beginnings of a turn toward the solution ( the solution being: “the greening of society,” being, simply, the devolution of power; the deconstruction of the techno-institutional Leviathan; the restoration of the human scale; the re-establishment of a healthy relationship with the land, flora, and fauna; the building of a new world within the shell of the old based upon an eco-communitarian ethos).

Just that.

Members of our generation thought up … that! Of course, the carrying out of the program will take a while. Members of our generation took a couple of steps along a thousand-step “new direction” journey. Nonetheless, anyway: Kind of momentous. Kind of admirable.

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Us Boomers will graciously autograph copies of the New Program for you Millennials … if you’ll just give us a break.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).