OK Boomers, Let’s do It

by Sandy Burgham

In January I wrote a post encouraging you to choose a word for the year, a theme that anchors the year and keeps you focused on a particular shift that is calling. It seemed to strike a chord with people, many of whom have shared with me their ‘word of the year’ that came to them during a period of contemplation. These words range from ‘soft’ and ‘discipline’ to the intriguing ‘tone’ and ‘surface’. Each word means something to the owner and serves to get them back on the path when life sends them off-course.

This month, I am stepping it up a notch and wanting to consider a ‘theme of the decade’. We are now well into the new millennium — it’s almost a shock to consider that we are in the ‘20s. A century ago, the western world, led by the USA, was embarking on a heady ride to modernity fueled by jazz, booze, technology, economic growth and new gender dynamics. While it was all to come crashing down on one black Tuesday in 1929, for a long time the ‘Roaring Twenties’ represented an era of optimistic change.

One hundred years later we seem far from optimistic. While there is a lot to be proud of in the world, the creeping orange skies that eerie day in January reminds us that any advances in humankind are set in a cataclysmic context which seem to beyond an individual’s sphere of influence. Or are they?

The ‘theme of the decade’ is different from ‘word of the year’ in that I am pondering a theme that is not just about the individual — but how they play in the world, and, importantly, how they might contribute to making it a better place.

This idea of choosing a deliberate decade theme from the outset was inspired by a colleague who noted that most decade themes are created retrospectively or even at the height of an era, versus being an intentional beginning. For instance, no-one said in 1920: “Let’s make this the Roaring Twenties.”

But what if we raised the stakes, and became intentional about what this decade could be about? A theme of the decade needs to be both meaningful and inspiring. A ‘Decade of Climate Action,’ as much as we need it, sounds serious and overwhelming. The ‘Decade of Mindfulness’? Again, while
needed, it seems too passive in light of what’s going on in the world.

My colleague had been inspired by a talk she attended by a social insights researcher who boldly dubbed the 2020s as the ‘Decade of Doing’. This doing-ness is, and will continue to be, fuelled by a subset of millennials and Gen Z (that some call Generation Do) who are already rising up to challenge outdated modes of doing things, with direct action. I have long been a huge admirer of groups like Generation Zero, a youth-led organisation who have taken positive action to be part of the conversation on civic matters such as housing and transport, and now climate change and carbon pollution. And I am as admiring of Greta Thunberg, standing for what she believes in, as I am fascinated by the hordes of white male baby boomers who want to shut her down — why? So we can continue to follow their lead, which got us into this mess in the first place?

Aside from active protest, my belief is that these younger generations will bring on societal change by voting with their wallets and influencing with their consumer choices and new behaviours. When my daughter announced her veganism last May, which was a personal action to put her money where her mouth is and acknowledge climate change, I admit to some inward eye-rolling. Now, through her quiet resolve, the meat consumption in our household has probably reduced by at least 75 per cent.

I was toying with a ‘Decade of Radical Recycling’ or ‘Conscious Consumerism’ but there is something about the simple idea of the ‘Decade of Doing’ that really resonates. It forces a conversation about action, rather than mere opinion. Already it has made me look past my garden variety fear and laziness to say yes to a new venture that looks at social change more closely, as well as to commit to a research project on a subject that I feel needs to be explored and shared. So ok, boomer, how about you? What are you going to DO in this decade that is different from the last decade — and how might this make the world (versus your fabulous lifestyle) a better place?

This article was originally published in the March 2020 issue of The Hobson Magazine.