The dawn of the twentieth century shone rays of hope onto the citizens of the western world. In the years between 1919 and 1929, Canada had the world’s fastest growing economy, with only a sharp but brief recession during the First World War. Living standards were improving exponentially, industries expanded, and citizens discovered the shiny facade of credit.
This season of summer growth did not lead to the bountiful autumn harvest that was expected. Winter came abruptly as the entire western world was plunged into icy recession.
Winter: 1920 – 1940
The generation that witnessed the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the Great Depression that followed endured a chilly winter season. Life was harsh. Farmers bought seed and machinery on credit, but several consecutive years of drought and crop failure led many farmers to bankruptcy. Unemployment reached crisis levels. In order to survive and raise their families, the people became hard working, frugal, and strong.
This was the generation with the “waste not want not” attitude; the parents who made their children eat everything on their plates, because they knew what it was like to not have enough.
The end of the Second World War marked the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation. Living conditions became easier. The recession ended, consumer confidence went up. Industry expanded again. Employment levels improved. The shiny new space program was initiated. The general consensus was that life was getting better and that it would continue to get better for their children and grandchildren.
The children of the Baby Boomers were a wild and colorful generation. They reaped the benefits of the strong work ethic of their parents and grandparents, but an easy life does not breed strength of character. The summer era produced a self-centered and selfish generation, with extravagant lifestyles and a play now, pay later mentality.
Autumn: 1980 – 2000
The autumn generation has begun to notice the damage done to our society by the lack of impulse control and foresight of previous generations. The parenting practices of the self-centered counter culture generation produced a society crippled by a dramatic loss of family values and work ethic. Divorce, single parent families, and addictions flourish, while citizens flock to psychiatrists and support groups to try to figure out what happened and how to fix it.
Concerned citizens have developed more responsible behavior, but also a more jaded perspective of present and future conditions of life on this planet. The close call of the Apollo 13 mission and the fatal disaster of the Challenger space shuttle have dulled the optimism of the space age. A “green” generation is warning us of the damage already done to the planet by decades of big consumption and waste.
Tomorrow has come for the hippie generation that trusted no one over 30 and imagined that they would never grow up. The debt load of decades of short-sighted borrowing has now come due, and we can barely afford the interest payments.
Winter: 2000 – ?
As the stock market plunges once again, it seems that the century has come full circle back to a winter season. World-wide conditions seem ripe for a third world war. Will the conditions of the first decades of the twenty-first century resemble those of a hundred years ago?