MUNICH – Carlos Barientos III was born at 6:45 on the evening of December 31, 1964, a few miles northwest of Honolulu. This year, he will turn 50, quite possibly making him the last member of the US “baby boom” to do so. The generation that once seemed to define for the world the energy, excitement, and even irritating nature of youth will officially be “old” – even if, some might say, not entirely grown up. But what does this really mean?
The “baby boomers” are the generation that grew up in the United States, in particular, but also in Europe, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, after World War II, when rapid economic growth was accompanied by rising birth rates. Those born during that 19-year period – from 1945 to 1964 – were part of the largest, most prosperous, best-educated and, some might say, most indulged and indulgent generation that the world has ever seen.
From sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll to the civil rights movements to the dot-com and housing bubbles, for better or worse, the boomer generation has shaped modern society. And with one of its younger members currently in the White House, and others at Downing Street, the Élysée Palace, and the German Chancellery, it will continue to do so for years to come.
But there are stark differences within the boomer generation. Early boomers – beginning with Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, whose birth one second past midnight on New Year’s Day, 1946, has made her a minor celebrity – grew up surrounded by the hippie counterculture, the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, and the Vietnam war.