To the editors:
I was thrilled to see that Julie Phillips, in her July 31 piece, “Boomed Out,” recognizes that there is life beyond the baby boom. There is indeed a new generation on the scene today that is seeking to establish its own identity. What is puzzling to me is why it is that this generation is having so much trouble removing itself from the shadow of its Big Chill predecessors. Phillips’s criticisms of the 60s generation strike me as uncannily like those of the ne’er-do-well son/daughter of a celebrated parent, defending his/her right to mediocrity by claiming they must be appreciated as a unique individual. It seems to me this generation’s problem is that, at least so far, it has been unable to separate itself enough from the previous generation. Contrary to Phillips’s assertions, most baby boomers I have observed have not only not been threatened by recent trends in hair, clothing, music, etc, but have eagerly embraced these trends. At the same time, many of us, like myself (1959), who were at the tail end of the baby boomers, consciously rejected the music of our era (disco, punk, new wave) in favor of the more dynamic and rich 60s music and the optimistic attitude it engendered. In fact, much of the phenomenal current popularity of such 60s artists as Hendrix, the Doors, Beatles, Monkees, and Grateful Dead derives from 12- to 20-year-old fans who are starving for music that explores, that challenges and taps unfamiliar emotions. I think the reason the 60s nostalgia lingers on is by default. There is a void today in strongly articulated new ideas and directions, not because today’s generation has no new ideas, but because we are in a time of consolidation and transition. It is possible that this generation’s role is to lay the groundwork for a following era’s creative bursting of energy and social change. Maybe great eras do come in cycles, with the low point in each cycle representing conservative, “lost” generations like our parents’ of the 40s and early 50s (and the 80s?). I do know this, if the 80s generation wants to avoid being relegated to the historical category of “lost generation,” sandwiched between its 60s brethren and a future dynamic generation, if it wants to see 60s nostalgia die a quick and natural death, then it must distinguish itself with a daring and radical new direction, just as the 60s era silenced 40s and early 50s nostalgia under the weight of its enormous newness and vitality.