5- Baby-Boomers And A Cooperative World Order
Baby-boomers may face death in a way that helps create a desperately-needed cooperative world order.
A life-affirming death awareness would contribute to the creation of the cooperative new world order humanity so desperately needs at the onset of the 21st century. Just as there was an objective need for people to move from a primary identification with their tribes, region, state or city-state to that of the nation in the last several centuries, people's most urgent geopolitical need in the 21st century is to transcend nationalism and come to primarily identify with humanity as a whole. It is not only that global cooperation is a necessary precondition for saving the biosphere. It is also required to address a wide variety of other global problems.
U.S. baby-boomers, who control so much of the world economy and culture, are in a position to play a major in creating a new, cooperative, international order.
Daniel Bell had it right: the problem with the world today is indeed that it is run by nation-states, which are too small for the big problems of life and too big for the small ones.
"Big" problems like saving the biosphere, fighting epidemics like AIDS or Avian Bird Flu, preventing terrorism and genocide, and creating a rational world monetary system, can only be solved on a global basis. Situations requiring humanitarian military intervention, whether preventing genocide in the Congo and Darfur, or Global humanitarian issues, like removing Saddam Hussein from office or removing from office dictators who massively violate human rights like Saddam Hussein, require deep, multi-layered regional cooperation and the support of publics in dozens of nations.
And "small" issues like education, healthcare and economic development can clearly be more efficiently managed by regional and local entities rather than national governments.
Developing a life-affirming death awareness can be key to creating such a new world order, since it produces the kind of empathy and fellow-feeling necessary to motivate global action and cooperation.
So too can be the baby-boom generation.
The giant 77 million-strong U.S. baby-boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1960, officially turned 60 this year. Members of this age cohort control most of America's politics and business, and dominate much of world culture. If they face their looming death in a way that affirms life, rather than continuing their present denial, they could make a major contribution to creating a new world order capable of addressing humanity's major problems - particularly if they work with the baby-boomers around the world with whom they have so much shared history.
Baby-boomers were among history's most experimental and unconventional generations in their youth. Perhaps their most noteworthy accomplishment, for better or worse, was bringing sex out of the closet, thereby confronting centuries of sexual hypocrisy and discrimination.
Coinciding with the development of birth control pills, baby-boomer experiments with sex have had a major impact on pre-marital sexuality and relationships, marriage, divorce, child-rearing, abortion, the development of the gay community, pornography, prostitution, and many related areas. Baby-boomers also experimented with drugs, reinvented the entertainment industry and popular culture, gave birth to giant movements for civil rights, peace, feminism and saving the environment, and created a host of other political and cultural innovations.
Thrown into a moral abyss and angered beyond reason by the Vietnam war, as they realized their elders were prepared to see them die in a war they did not support, baby-boomers proved unable to sustain their innovation and became more conventional, including in their attitudes toward death.
Until now, baby-boomers have not only failed to deal with their mortality but sought to delay a confrontation with aging and death more than any generation in history. They have not only tried to delay physical aging. They have also delayed developing natural tendencies to begin seeing ourselves as ancestors rather than descendants as we age.
But, in the end, time will have its way. As large numbers of baby-boomers enter their 60s, they will be forced to confront their mortality, and to react to it. How they do so will have a major effect not only upon themselves, their nation, and world, but future generations.
One strong current among baby-boomers already emerging will be to turn to religion and spirituality in ways that seek to deny death rather than use it as a spur to live more fully. This behavior is apparent in both baby-boomer religious fundamentalists and those embracing New Age spiritual beliefs, who often use these beliefs to deny death-pain rather than to feel and transform it into greater love for life.
But there are also enormous numbers of baby-boomers who are becoming more open to more non-conventional ways of dealing with death, and who will likely find themselves experimenting with their reactions to their mortality in old age as profoundly as they experimented with sex and other issues in their youth.
If a high percentage of baby-boomers use their growing awareness of death to increase their appreciation of life, and to resolve to pass it on intact to future generations, it could have a profound impact on the evolution of the species.
It is impossible to predict how baby-boomers will react to facing death directly, since they have so delayed doing so until now. But one thing seems certain. If large numbers of U.S. baby-boomers react to death by increasing their appreciation for the life they will be bequeathing to future generations, and understand that doing so requires creation of a new world order, they will contribute mightily to both saving our biosphere and reducing the ever-widening spiral of terrorism and violent responses to it.