The Hope of the Future
The years following WW2 were a period of intense family creation by returning soldiers, to make up for decades of global hardship, impoverishment, war and destruction. The incoming generation grew up knowing relative peace and security, constant societal improvement and stable, two-parent nuclear family life.
In schools as well as in the home, in many different ways, there was a conscious effort to explain the ways society was now moving away from a past that we would never want to recreate, and towards a successful, war-free, peaceful and stable world. Education was provided free, under the assumption that the recipient would be able to make a far greater contribution to society. This generation came to be regarded as and spoken of as the “hope of the future”, and nurtured for their expected contribution in creating planetary peace, in a world that very recently had nearly been destroyed. Later referred to as the baby boomers, many grew up imbued with a strong sense of social responsibility, in a constantly improving, increasingly optimistic reality.
Virtually all school leavers were able to find suitable employment immediately upon leaving school, with plenty of choices. Apprenticeships, cadetships and career paths were built in to employment conditions in most jobs to ensure progressive development of young workers. The future looked promising.
By most measurements, this was a good period to live in. Interest rates were very low and stable, while prices of basic foodstuffs were deliberately kept low and unchanging over years. The basic cost of living was so low that poverty had ceased to exist, even though few people were particularly affluent. The crime rate was so low that people did not lock their doors at night and could leave their car keys in the ignition without risk of burglary, theft or car conversion. Suicide was almost unheard of and hard drugs were unknown. Homelessness did not exist. Unemployment was rare, and the stock market was steady and reliable.
Steady, secure jobs were the bedrock of a stable, progressive social milieu in this unprecedented period of steady, sound, reliable, responsible, progressive work and improving living conditions. People could see their own and everybody else’s life improving gradually, steadily, constantly, year by year, decade by decade, with increasing social harmony and cohesion. These years laid the foundation for the baby boomer generation to enjoy, appreciate and benefit from throughout their childhood, providing a secure base, and a springboard for their future contributions to a better world.
Growing Generation Gap
The 1950s was a period of stable, secure, steadily improving life for the baby boomer generation. Many of their parents were returned soldiers, some of whom were never able to completely shake-off their emotionally shattering war experiences coupled with military discipline. By the mid 1950s many of this younger generation were feeling restricted and straight jacketed, and regarded many social norms as staid and stifling, not accommodating of free expression and individual differences. The term “generation gap” was coined to describe what many parents and their children felt like an unbridgeable abyss between them. The younger generation had a different way of looking at the world. They could sense there was something more, something better waiting to emerge. A new consciousness was arising amongst them, and was pushing for expression.