Really? Greatest? I don't think so. Strauss and Howe called it the "G.I. Generation" in their theory of generational cycles in American History but I don't see how they were the "greatest" (Brokaw:"it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced." ...these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back they rebuilt America into a superpower."). Of course, "greatest" is Tom Brokaw's journalistic license to rip off Strauss/Howe's work to reward HIS heroes, but in the annals of American history I don't find the "G.I.'s" any more great than the Boomers. (Brokaw narrowly defines "American", appropriating immigrants when the mood suits him)
According to Strauss/Howe the American cycle is made up of the following: Prophet (Idealist), Nomad (Active), Hero (Realist), Artist (Reactive). The "G.I's", or Brokaw's "Greatest" would be in the hero cycle and the "Boomers" would be in the Prophet cycle so maybe they're not to be compared but I think the "Boomers" were more important in American History than Brokaw's "greatest".
Howe posits that America is currently in or about to enter a Fourth Turning. The individualism, risk-taking, and conspicuous consumption of the recent Third Turning are winding down, and today’s social mood is marked by new sobriety about unpaid debts at home and unmet challenges abroad. Society is beginning to view the recent Third Turning as a period of drift when public problems were allowed to accumulate—problems that are now reaching a level of urgency where the nation must tackle them head-on. Like all turnings, Fourth Turnings are pushed by the aging of each generation into a new phase of life. Yet unlike other turnings, the emerging lineup of generational archetypes is likely to push history forward in a sudden, concerted, and decisive direction. According to Howe, this is true today as well. As Boomers replace the Silent as elder leaders, they will reject caution and compromise and act on moral absolutes. As Gen Xers replace Boomers in midlife, they will apply a new pragmatic survivalism to management decisions. As Millennials replace Gen Xers in young adulthood, they will revitalize community, social discipline, and public purpose. According to Strauss and Howe, there are many potential threats that could feed a growing sense of public urgency as the Fourth Turning progresses, including financial collapse, a protracted war on terror, a crisis of weapons proliferation, an environmental crisis, an energy shortage, or new civil wars abroad. The generational cycle cannot explain the role or timing of these individual threats. Nor can it account for the great events of history, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Kennedy’s assassination, or 9/11. What the generational cycle can do, however, is explain how society is likely to respond to these events in different eras. It is the response, not the initial event, which defines an era. With the generations aligned as they are now, the risk of a major continuing Crisis remains high for the next twenty years. Yet Howe emphasizes that the Fourth Turning will also offer crucial opportunities to fix national or even global problems that seem unsolvable today
One reason why the cycle of archetypes recurs is that each youth generation tries to correct or compensate for what it perceives as the excesses of the midlife generation in power. For example, Boomers (a Prophet generation, whose strength is individualism, culture and values) raised Millennial children (a Hero generation, whose strength is in collective civic action). Archetypes do not create archetypes like themselves, they create opposing archetypes. As Strauss and Howe explain, “your generation isn’t like the generation that shaped you, but it has much in common with the generation that shaped the generation that shaped you.” This also occurs because the societal role that feels freshest to each generation of youth is the role being vacated by a generation of elders that is passing away. In other words, a youth generation comes of age and defines its collective persona just as an opposing generational archetype is in its midlife peak of power, and the previous generation of their archetype is passing away.
Good post, preston. I agree that the Boomers will be seen as a highly significant era in US History, but I can't for the life of me see how we Boomers out-shone my Dad's generation (coming thru Depression/WW2 to fully establish the USA as the 'Greatest Nation on Earth'). Our greatest legacy is our victories over the -isms of history, which we are still fighting.
I agree with you preston. To me the greatest generation is the generation that was perfectly content to let Hitler take over the Eastern hemisphere and complete the Final solution until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on 12/7/41, Germany declared war on the U.S. on 12/9/41, the Germans started sinking ships off the American coast and then they realized they were going to have to fight for their lives. The "Greatest Generation" didn't answer the call to arms when France and the U.K. were on their hands and knees begging for their help in 1939 and 1940, they answered the call when they had no choice.
Marlow wrote:Good post, preston. I agree that the Boomers will be seen as a highly significant era in US History, but I can't for the life of me see how we Boomers out-shone my Dad's generation (coming thru Depression/WW2 to fully establish the USA as the 'Greatest Nation on Earth'). Our greatest legacy is our victories over the -isms of history, which we are still fighting.
Wait, what about the iPhone - that equals at least one WWII and a moon-shot . . .
from where I sit, the Boomers (oops, that's me) may be one of the worst generations ever. We probably had more fun than anybody else, but (at the risk of sounding like every parent in history), we also managed to produce the most spoiled children of all time. The me-me-me, I'm-entitled generation.
Brokaw's "greatest generation" lived through an ugly depression and a brutal World War, then managed not only to reshape this nation economically, culturally and socially, but also rebuilt other nations at the same time.