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5 minutes with: Michael Adams

We ask the social values expert to decode the fascinating differences between boomers and Generation Y.

We ask the social values expert to decode the fascinating differences between boomers and Generation Y.

Boomers are really the first generation hitting their golden years under an intense beacon of self-analysis: Literature, media, psychotherapy. How do you think that hyper-self-awareness is affecting their maturational process?
I think it’s huge. It’s realizing who you are but trying to become better. Because for the boomers, legacy isn’t everlasting life, and you want your kids, your friends to think you were a good person.

And yet this upcoming generation — Gen Y — has always had that experience of social media attention and intense navel gazing. How is that shift in consciousness affecting them?
The first thing about the subsequent generations is the reality of multiculturalism, because they’ve got kids from all over the planet here. The boomers are kind of tolerating the Other, while Gen Y is embracing the Other. Now you get kids saying, marry within my own group? How boring! And, of course, some of us boomers are kind of jealous!

What do you perceive to be the difference in attitude between boomers and Gen Y on issues like same-sex marriage?
The boomers are becoming inured. Here, seven in 10 support same-sex marriage. And this is older people dying and taking their more conservative values with them, and younger people, who are cool with the idea, moving up.

Legalized marijuana?
I’m assuming that boomers are 50/50 on it, and for the kids it’s normative. The ones who didn’t do it, it’s most likely because it made them throw up or something. But they’re pretty cool with it, and, of course, in B.C. it’s the economy. (laughs)

Importance of family?
Family is important to everybody, it’s just a question of what is the family? What is the structure of leadership and authority in the family? Who leads and who follows? So as you move from the elders to the Gen Y, it goes from a rigid hierarchy to a heterarchy.

You hear boomers talking about how narcissistic and entitled the younger generations are, but are the levels of self-absorption that different?
It’s probably the same. Boomers were pretty narcissistic, too. They believed in autonomy and control. Larry David is a boomer after all. The young people may be narcissistic, but they’re actually better at working in teams than boomers.

 
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