Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Crappiest Generation?

Red Tory said...

I’ve always harbored more than a little resentment at “baby boomers” given that I was born in late 1959. It seems I totally missed the boat and have always been riding in their wake. Too young to enjoy/appreciate the youthful liberation of the 60’s, mired in schizophrenic disco/punk world during much of the 70’s when I was attending school. Then hitting a shithole recession just when I was seriously entering the labour market (18%-22% interest rates… give me a break — buying a car or a house was out of the question.) Then having to deal with these smug bastards when they were making off with all the candy in the store during the mid-late 80’s and entrenching themselves in the establishment. To me, they have been and always will be the utterly selfish, self-absorbed “Me generation” and I really believe they’re a huge part of the problem with America these days. To paraphrase Tom Brokaw, they’re “The Crappiest Generation.” No offense intended.

Red Tory left a comment regarding the "Baby Boomers," and it packs a wallop. Having been born in 1959, Red lands in the latter part of the Boomers, and apparently is quite resentful of it! I certainly will conceed all that Red wrote; he's quite articulate and certainly has thought about it long and hard. And no offense taken, I've often thought myself that the Boomers missed their calling because of economic complacency and self-indulgence.

And hey, my 'generation' is hardly any better.

In Boomer formulation, 1964 technically straddles the end of the Boomers and the start of Gen X (a term I hate with a passion) or the Cold War Generation, so maybe I'll rename my blog to ward off further angst!

I started this blog as an exploration of my birth year and current events. So Red, if you think you felt never quite in place at the tailend of the Boom, I feel as if I've been swimming in a sea of complacency and the 'defiance' that supposedly is pinned to the members of Generation X. But having been born at the end of one generation and the very start of another, I've often felt too young for one and too old for the other. Having parents that were Depression-era kids complicates my scenario. My parents' generation did all they could by the books; working hard, keeping their nose out of trouble, and trying not to get stomped by 'the man.' It was more about survival with them, things were easier, except for the constant haunt of racism that dogged their lives for the most part.

1964 was a seminal year (no pun intended), in my opinion (birth or no). It marked a transitional phase in America, at least. The trauma of Kennedy's death in 1963, the end of a certain kind of utopian (if flawed) dream that America was at its youthful best was tragically ended. 1964 brought a new unsteadiness as the country struggled to move forward with a new President, a new way of viewing race, new threats (perceived or real), and a new war brewing. It was the end of one boom but the start of another: a booming world of free love exploration, drug experimentation, countries around the world yearning to break free from colonialism, and a direct confrontation of the older youth of your generation, Red, coming of age and trying to change the world.

I don't know how old my birth parents were when they they joined the Peace Corps and ended up in Pakistan in 1963, but I certainly think that they were influenced by whatever social happenings that affected kids of the older boom generation, the same generation as President Clinton, born in 1946. (Though horror of horrors, President Bush was born in 1946, too, which may blow my hypothesis straight out of the water.) When I think of the Boomers, I like to fantasize about them as an example of the best of the generation: they heard the call of Kennedy's words when he spoke extemporaneously on the stairs of the University of Michigan in 1960:
How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives travelling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.

Therefore, I am delighted to come to Michigan, to this University, because unless we have those resources in this school, unless you comprehend the nature of what is being asked of you this country can't possible move through the next ten years in a period of relative strength.
My birth parents, in college, heeded this call to reach out to the world, but ultimately, the call was far too great and the effort seems to have failed. The Boomers who heeded the call ultimately wasted their time and energy and became somewhat self-absorbed and materialistic. Clinton became so self-absorded that he gambled it all away on a tryst, and Bush certainly is one self-absorbed motherfucker himself. It's a pity. I wonder what would have happened if something different had occured.

But hey, I'm one self-absorbed Booming Xer myself. Welcome to my generation.


Red Tory said...

Eeek! Funny to see one’s comments posted like that. I haven’t actually given it a good deal of consideration, but it is a thought that crosses my mind from time to time.

To make the whole generational disparity thing even slightly more bizarre, my parents conceived later in life (well what was considered late at the time) when they were almost 40. So, I not only felt out of synch with the trend-setting baby-boomers who were ahead of me, but my parents’ formative years were during the Depression and then, of course WWII, so I got all of that grief doled out to me on a regular basis as well. I swear to God, I thought the Depression was within my OWN living memory when I was a kid because it was so vividly hammered home each and every day.

On the one hand was overwhelming Cold War paranoia about the planet being blown to smithereens on any given day and on the other was the supposedly ever-present threat of having to scrounge about for rations or whatever in order to scrape some semblance of life together because the bottom could drop out ANY TIME. None of which quite jived with what my actual experience was, that of a pretty comfortable, quiet, suburban and typically middle-class lifestyle. But of course I was meant to feel guilty about that also because while I was all comfy, millions of people were starving to death in Biafra and India! Such were the kooky meta-narratives I lived with.

And then of course there was TV… which fed endless pictures on the news day after day of riots and chaos, police beatings, protest and widespread social unrest… shows that imagined doomsday scenarios and conjured up fearsome mutants and alien invaders. In school we did some exercise (based on a book?... possibly a Hitchock movie... a Monty Python sketch perhaps?) about a boat and you had to decide who got to stay and who got tossed overboard. Should we pitch the old woman or the cripple? Good grief, what was up with that? Apparently, this was moral training for some kind of impending dilemma we were being prepared for – i.e., who gets to stay in the bomb shelter? Other required post-Holocaust reading was Neville Shute's "On the Beach" and Wyndham's "The Chrysalids". Not to mention the ever-popular "Lord of the Flies."

It was a really scary, confusing place in time… I look back now and laugh at it, but there were many days back then when I was seriously weighed down with the thought that all life could simply be obliterated by some careless or ridiculous act of folly. Little wonder there was such a natural affinity for the concepts of nihilism and existential despair back then.

Carl said...

Boy was Red Tory wrong!

Look at the advantages we tail-end boomers had:

- The good drugs were all sorted out from the bad ones.

- You could have sex without worrying about pregnancy OR a life-threatening disease.

- Pay scales were dramatically raised just ahead of us joining the work force.

- A career as an athlete or artist suddenly became feasible without resorting to a "day job" like ditchdigging.

- A college degree became de riguer.

Red Tory said...

I'm assuming Actor212 is being completely sarcastic here. And for the record, we had crappy weed back in the day. Plentiful, sure, but really... it was bunk shit, man.

Alicia said...

Just checking to see if I can post to El's site.

Carl said...

Not at all, Marty, but then again, I live in NYC.

Elderta said...

Hello Alicia and Carl!

Thanks for posting! It's good to see you, Actor, like your blog.

I think KUJO from AAR came by here and was upset to see us ragging on the generations. Oh well.

I for one, would have like to seen the generations do better as a whole. There's too much working just for ourselves and not for the greater good. But maybe it's just because the underbelly of the Boomers have taken over the argument about how we live our lives for the collective good (yes, sounds like socialism) and now are taking us backward instead of forward. And then, they are turning great portions of the younger folk into religious automaton who only think about themselves and tax cuts. It's just frustrating.

I hate to see us as a world going backward instead of forward.

Anonymous said...

"I hate to see us as a world going backward instead of forward."

Even with an Edward R. Murrow, we'd be in just as much of a muck as we are now.

People are stoopid. They like their news that way. They like to feel afraid...I'm not sure why.


Red Tory said...

There does seem to be a lot of regression going on these days. For example, conservatives seeking to re-create some twisted modern version of the "gilded age" of kleptocracy.

It's unfortunate that the discourse isn't more progressive in nature and that the political dialogue is hopelessly mired in all of this left/right b.s.

I suppose that serves the purpose of those who's aim is to increase the hold of corporatism on national affairs while everyone is busily distracted flailing away at one another over stupid shit like gay marriage, evolution or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Backward instead of forward off topic post...

Having Roe v. Wade reversed is probably the least of our worries with a Bush-stacked court. It's unfortunate that so many people can't see the forest through the trees because they're so focused on one or 2 issues.

Maybe a state-by-state ban/or not could be a good thing for NY...'cause you know we'd have 'em!

In Upstate NY we could sell packages! Have an abortion, see the Falls! In the City they could have play/abortion packages!

Good for small business!

Some of the people who need/want abortions could even make a few bucks! Maybe they could sell tickets, 'cause you know the Fundies are always looking for new pictures for their protest signs!

We're in so much trouble! The "love the fetus, hate the child" crowd has NO idea!