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History Table of Contents
1991 Summer Conference
 
Summer Conference 1991
Growing up on the Edge: The Emerging Generation and Canada's Future

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DREW ATKINS,
Law Student, University of Western Ontario

This emerging generation is evil. We are without direction, we are aimless and apathetic. We're raised on Madonna masturbating on music videos and Schwartzeneiger movies of violence.

This is something that has been going on for 5,000 years,

Plato decried the generation that was about to follow him for the same reasons, without maybe Madonna. St. Augustine decried the generation that was going to follow him. And when the printing press became popular, they decried books as evil, as a waste of time, as mind bending — just as television has been decried.

Baby boomers and the general media has been decrying our generation. We watch too much TV, we don't have an attention span, we are not intelligent, we don't read books, we are in gangs, we are doing everything supposedly bad.

Well, I think that the purpose of this conference was to look at the youth and what we have here is generally, myself included — I am not really a youth any more — is a lot of adults looking at the youth.

What I would like to do, is look at the adults that are looking at the youth.

I am pushing 26 and I don't think I represent the 12-19 generation. I think our generation has a distaste for spokespersons and I don't think they like someone staring at them and saying, this is the way it is and this is the way we are all going to be.

I want to hold up the media and the whole idea of this conference to examination, rather than being examined myself.

I personally feel that we are just a generation trying to come to terms with the problems of adulthood.

All the negative reviews that we have been getting in the media seem to have two sort of weird biases to them. First they are assuming that the Baby Boomers accomplished something when they were young.

Second there is an apparent reluctance on behalf of the Baby Boomers to accept that they somehow contributed to world problems. It seems to me that they feel that the establishment created all the problems up to 1960, and after 1970 we are some how responsible.

I will start with the idea that Baby Boomers accomplished something.

Last night we had someone who stood up and said he had been talking to teenagers and he found that there is a lack of political will and idealism.

I believe he said, "Youth are supposed to be idealistic, where is it?"

Well, there also is this cliche that old people are supposed to be wise, but I have talked to a lot of them and I haven't found this.

The emerging generation of the 60s had some very valid issues. They had the civil rights movements, a lot of political freedoms, the signing up for the vote in the United States, particularly of African Americans.

But, I am not sure I accept the Baby Boomer's ideal that they did something — because it seems to be more a fashion than an idealism.

Anyone who can go from being as idealistic, so to speak, as the Baby Boomers were in the 60's to becoming the "Me Generation" of the 70's, who invented things like Burt Reynolds, John Travolta and Disco, and then become the Yuppies of the 80's with crass consumerism...well!

The 60s have passed, the 70s have gone, the 80s have gone and the Baby Boomers are entering this sort of middle life crisis area. They are starting to feel pretty guilty.

I think that maybe they are trying to wash away their guilt by looking at our generation and saying, "Well at least we used to care, and maybe we don't any more, but this new generation doesn't care, so we are still sort of better than them in a sort of weird way".

I think this guilt comes from the fact that Baby Boomers have a real pendant to examine their own belly buttons.

And I think that now that the Baby Boomers have determined exactly how much lint they have in their belly buttons, their are looking in mine. I am not sure if I appreciate it.

Is this conference being held because our generation is worth talking about, or is it just the last generation thinking that they are worth talking about by pretending that they are talking about our generation, I guess that is what we are going to solve.

I find the criticism levelled at our generation to be somewhat specious.

From my experience on university campuses in the last five years since, I have seen women's issues, faculties committees come up, gender neutral language being taught, this stuff that was never even mentioned before.

There are Native American committees being formed, there is sort of feeling of embarrassment here, that what we have done is wrong and we have to do some thing about it.

There is the political correctness movement, which is very controversial in Canada. Macleans had a big article about how political correctness people are the new puritans or the new what ever.

I don't understand how the media can deprecate our generation for not doing anything, and then when they do something deprecate them on the other side, saying this isn't the right thing to do. I don't understand what is wrong with a movement that will not tolerate intolerance.

I don't find that a beer company has the right to have 14 women prance across the screen in bikini's to sell their beer, I find it offensive and I don't think it should be there.

To wrap up, I hate to say this, but I really think that the Decima research concerning drug use, especially that of soft drugs, is wrong. I think they should realize that we're a sophisticated enough generation to lie if we have to.

I don't feel the fact that Decima's research found that a lot of people were interested in having a traditional marriage is a rebellion. I personally feel that for people to have a traditional marriage is rebellion, because their parents have taught them that a traditional marriage is divorce, adultery, four wives, five grandparents, etc.

Finally, I want to talk about the idea that we are completely apathetic. I think, generally, in all generations, since the beginning of time, there has been people that were leading and there are people that are apathetic and doing nothing.

I think our generation recognizes that this is the age of special interest groups. A lot of the friends I know don't necessarily do anything but, they realize that there are two or three people working really hard. And one thing we have seen is that five people working really hard can change the nation a whole lot, even more effectively than 100,000 people.

For example, the anti-smoking movement started out with five people and now you can't smoke in most offices.

In conclusion, I would say that our generation isn't very perfect and basically, I am biased, and am going to make yours look bad and mine look good.

But, I think in the end — if history is any example — we will probably end up pretty similar. The only thing I can hope is that maybe we can make some progress.