“You know how it is with history. Remember high school? All those events in the books seemed to run together, all jumbled up somewhere in “the past”. The past seemed like a great expanse of outer space where all these isolated events, like paragraphs clipped from a book, floated around weightless in suspended animation. It didn’t matter if it happened ten years ago or a thousand years ago. It happened before me, so it was just the past. How could you make sense of it? Why would you want to make sense of it? How did it affect me?”
“And then I remembered a long conversation I had with an old guy when I was a boy. He described to me in great detail what is was like the day he watched Abraham Lincoln speak at Gettysburg, in person. In person! Just like in the history book! That old guy was my link with the stuff in the books. I went back and looked in the history book at all the things that had happened during his lifetime, and how old he was when they happened, and gradually things seemed to fall into place, into perspective. Now the Civil War, Reconstruction, Carpet-baggers, Telephone, Garfield’s assassination, Statue Of Liberty, Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders, McKinley assassination, Model-T, Titanic, Panama Canal, Lusitania, World War I, Bolshevik Revolution, women’s suffrage, Charles Lindbergh, Great Depression, Dust Bowl, FDR, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, World War II… It all came together! It was a story, a really fascinating story. And woven through it all was this old guy, who was once a boy like me. As he grew up, went to school, went to war, got married, had kids, worked in various jobs,… he had actually lived though all that stuff, even witnessed some of it, in his one single lifetime. He was history. And history wasn’t that far away. I was talking to him. I was talking to history! And he was my great grandfather!”
The boy’s conversation with his great grandfather took place in 1935. My conversation with him took place last week. Later I tried to think of all the big things that had happened during his own lifetime. I realized that with just two lifetimes I could reach step by step through a fascinating historical timeline all the way back to the American Civil War and then move forward with the sweep of time, through a story that had continuity, context, meaning. I wondered for a moment whether, if I touched his hand, I, too, could hear Lincoln speak, see Lee ride. I suppose boys in high school today have the same problem as the boy had during the Great Depression. History, the past, always seems so old, so ancient, so irrelevant. But very much of it isn’t, really, is it? It’s just a single lifetime away, or maybe two. It’s hard to put things in their proper place, into perspective, have it all make sense, see why it’s important, why it’s “history”. Lifetimes can do that.
But, still, if I could see and hear Lincoln and Lee, would I see and hear them like the boy’s great grandfather had? Would I understand them the way he had? Probably not. We have a natural tendency, largely through ignorance, to judge the past in terms of our own values today. (We never dare contemplate how those in the past would regard us in terms of their values.) People’s perceptions change over time, from generation to generation, with the passage of time and history, with the way history gets told. And sometimes those changes are truly dramatic. It’s even more dramatic if you keep the standards constant.
History not only provides continuity; it provides context, allows us to see what we built on, how we add to the story, how we can evaluative our own contribution to the story, how our contribution measures up to those of others before, how much of our pride and self-esteem is actually earned and real or just inherited gratis from far greater ancestors.
The Greatest Generation And Their Kids – The Baby Boomers
The Greatest Generation, often referred to as “World War II” people, were born about 15-40 years before WW II (1940-45), that is, during the first quarter of the 20th century between 1900 and 1925. The first years of that period saw a great flood of impoverished immigrants from Europe, but soon economic conditions were not at all conducive to having and raising children, and birth rates dropped dramatically. Thus, this group’s numbers were not all that great, they delayed having children, and they were mostly…
- between ages 0 and 16 in 1916 – at the height of the First World War,
- between ages 1 and 17 in 1917 – at the height of the Bolshevik Revolution,
- between ages 2 and 18 in 1918 – at the height of the Spanish Flu Pandemic,
- between ages 8 and 33 in 1933 – at the height of the Great Depression,
- between ages 10 and 35 in 1935 – at the height of the Great Plains Dust Bowl,
- between ages 18 and 43 in 1943 – at the height of the Second World War,
- between ages 21 and 46 in 1946 – when the first of their huge baby flood was born,
- between ages 27 and 52 in 1952 – at the height of the Korean War, and
- between ages 40 and 65 in 1965 – when first of their post-war kids reached age 19.
The Greatest Generation began running the show in 1955, between the ages of 30 and 55. The Greatest Generation began stepping aside in 1970, between the ages of 45 and 70.
Jack Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, John Glenn, George Bush Senior, William J. Casey, Vernon Walters, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are Greatest Generation people. (Some came out of retirement to lend a hand; it was fortunate that the last four did so at the same time – to show the kids how to finally end the “Cold” War.)
Life expectancy in populations is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. For example, the average lifespan for a girl born in 1980 was 78 years; a man 70. A girl born in 1990 had a life expectancy of 79 years; a man 72. Life expectancy for Americans has steadily lengthened over the past century. The life expectancy of a member of the Baby Boomers (women 73, men 67) is over 18 years longer than it was for a member of their Greatest Generation parents (women 54, men 50), but the retirement age (65) has remained constant. Less than half of the Greatest Generation could expect to live long enough to retire, while all Boomers can. So when you consider what the Greatest Generation accomplished, you not only have to consider the many hardships they had to overcome, but also the shorter productive lifetimes they had to accomplish what they did.
Welcomed to American life by the Galveston Hurricane (1900) and the San Francisco Earthquake (1906), these people spent the entire first half of their lives helplessly driven from one great history-making calamity after another. These were children of a constant hell. The forty years of destruction, death, fear, unemployment, suffering, poverty and misery was relentless, and all on a truly grand scale. While they were growing up, those who survived got by with the radio, the telephone, street cars and trains, and almost nothing else that we take for granted today. After the Second World War this generation worked feverishly to build contemporary America – dedicated to giving their kids all they had been denied and more, literally whatever the kids wanted or could want. Even the bloody war in Korea did not deter them; they knew they were rapidly running out of time to finally get down to the business of living, even if was to be through their kids.
A very astute government, recognizing that all those millions of surviving men returning from war with an ingrained sense of purpose, dedication and patriotism but with years of not earning an income, represented a truly great resource still in motion, so it offered them an earned opportunity for (1) a college education and (2) low-cost government-insured loans from banks to either buy a home or start a business – an opportunity which nearly all of them readily embraced. Previously, most of them had worked in factories and rented stuffy flats in cramped city tenements; now they and their new families could own a home outside the city where there was room to grow. They quickly came up with a way, for the first time in history, for many tens of millions of average workers to own a “planned-community” detached home in the clean, fresh air of the “suburbs” with picket fences, comfortable schools and safe playgrounds – and escape the hot, stuffy, often suffocating tiny city tenement apartments. Bill Levitt, who had served in the Navy where he developed expertise in rapid mass-production building of military housing using uniform and interchangeable parts, applied his expertise to open fields on Long Island, New York, just 25 miles east of Manhattan. Employment and business opportunities literally exploded. Starting with Levittown, the men employed to build those homes all over the country, and all that went in them, and the cars, roads and highways that linked them to the cities, plus the schools, hospitals, shopping centers and libraries to serve their families in the suburbs, started the greatest economic boom in history – fed by strong military veterans building everything from buses to babies, American military men who just knew they could work together to accomplish anything. The government-insured “G.I. loans” to military veterans, with an extremely low default rate, turned out to be a very safe and lucrative bet for government, banks and many tens of millions of other citizens who had never served. Lending money to veterans so they could invest it in their family’s and the nation’s future was the “gift” that just kept on giving – to every sector of American society.
When World War II ended in 1945, it was like someone opened the candy story, turned on the lights and out poured the greatest cornucopia that any era of humanity had ever witnessed. As their children were born, so were their children’s toys, plus a whole mountain of really useful brand-new stuff like refrigerators, dish washers, air conditioners, black-white and color television broadcast stations and TV sets, affordable personal cars, highways and airlines to everywhere. Hi-fi and stereo, satellite communications, fast-food drive-ins, wide-screen movies, shopping malls, car safety air bags, cheaper mass-produced clothing, plastics, nuclear energy, automatic transmissions, wash-and-wear plus washers and dryers, too. These guys even came up with the ubiquitous bar codes that accomplished a revolution in efficiency and now appear on every manufactured product sold throughout the world. They drew heavily on all the ingenuity they had learned in devising solutions to “impossible” challenges under great adversity all over the world during the war. This generation, churning in a tough and highly competitive American arena, seemed unable to stop coming up almost daily with wonderful new inventions, incredible new ingenuity and solid new thinking and planning – all designed to make life a thousand times better for their kids than they had experienced. Not everything worked the way intended, but those that survived the brief “test” period were wonders indeed; a willingness to take great risk for greater-good dividend was still integral to the culture. Almost everything new had at its core “family and home”, where the children reigned supreme. (And, of course, the more wonders men gave women to make home life easier, the more the women got bored and the more they complained about their boring lives, about being “home slaves” with too much free time to think about being “unfulfilled”. It’s impossible for men to work hard enough to ever please women, but still the idiots, like Sisyphus, keep on trying. Just try to imagine, if you can, what happens when these roles become reversed.)
The transistor, computers, carbon dating, organ transplants and DNA. The great bonanza to medicine, sociology and psychology that kept pouring out of thousands of huge low-cost scientific studies conducted on millions of captive GIs from all walks of life. Marian Anderson and Atticus Finch, too. Edward R. Morrow, Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard”, Miller’s “Death Of A Salesman”, Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra – on live prime-time broadcast TV. Television seemed determined to educate, to raise the cultural understanding of Americans, to move such culture beyond the “elitist” world to the “common man”, and especially to their children, for free.
The popular grassroots March Of Dimes and Jonas Salk’s Great Gamble – that finally cured polio (infantile paralysis) with no government help, bringing tears of thanks to parents everywhere. They traversed the Arctic via the North Pole – under the ice – while sailing the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus from Alaska to Greenland; turned farms around cities into suburbs, a huge swampy peninsula into a Florida wonderland, the Great Plains into the World’s Breadbasket, a hot and dusty dry southern California into the most bountiful citrus heaven on the planet, and both Hawaii and Alaska into new American states.
This was “The ’50s” that were later so much maligned by a half century of relentless “feminist” propaganda – the first period of sustained stability that the rapidly aging Greatest generation had ever known. These people created – on their own and with mutually supportive family roles – the greatest economic boom in history – with the most solid real foundation imaginable. Their kids were also the healthiest, happiest and best educated in history. Almost everything around them was brand new, and they learned how to make use of it all right along with their spoiled kids. It seemed as if every day was Christmas morning, in bright “living” color. There are very few useful devices that we take for granted today that do not owe their origins to Greatest Generation brilliance and energy and risk during that brief magic quarter of a century from 1945 to 1970.
Ever fearful that it all could suddenly be yanked away again by great forces beyond their control, they worked with an almost fanatical dedication to getting everything solidly in place before they took their leave. Most of their great accomplishments, including defeating global nazism and fascism and building the monumentally huge continental interstate highway system, have been very well documented. The standard of living of the average American had taken a truly enormous leap in just their own lifetime, a leap that they had both created and witnessed, knowing better than anyone that almost none of it was an inherited gift from anywhere. One of them even came up with word processing, hypertext, video conferencing, desktop windows and the mouse years before the first IBM personal computer could do such things. Among the final acts of this generation were passage of all the great civil rights legislation; moving humans faster than sound; Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette; microchips and LEDs; attacking poverty on a massive scale; taking mankind to outer space and the Moon; instant photography, instant coffee; instant cooking with microwave ovens; ending the Draft; transplanting human hearts; greatly expanding higher education; curing diseases; quietly keeping the nation safe, even in the constant face of nuclear holocaust plus tactical nukes and other secreted weapons of mass destruction, too; managing continuous steady economic growth based on brilliant invention, real manufacturing, tough competition and very smart investment; winning the global “Cold” War over soviet communism; and establishing the US as the world’s economic and military super-power. They even created the Green Revolution in rice and other grains that ended mass starvation throughout Asia and the undeveloped world. Some of them even came out of retirement to show the kids how to bring down the “Iron Curtain” and the Berlin Wall and finally bring an end to the long “Cold” War, peacefully, while also giving to the world for free both GPS and the “Internet”.
One of the last technological feats of the Greatest Generation was to launch into space in August 1977, aboard a Titan IIIe-Centaur rocket, the Voyager 1 probe of the asteroid belt, Jupiter, Saturn and interstellar points beyond. It was blazing a trail followed immediately in August 1977 by its twin sister probe, Voyager 2, which examined Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, the Kuiper belt and interstellar points beyond. Both missions were total successes and continue to function today, 35 years later, even as they become the first human-made objects to ever leave our solar system – while also continuing to send back to the kids descriptions of what they encounter.
One thing the Greatest Generation did NOT do was willingly turn their nation into an omniscient socialistic police state out of some fear of anyone, including a very aggressive superpower enemy with enough deadly weapons capability to extinguish humanity. Baby Boomers have never stopped ridiculing their parents for their quiet concern with, and sometimes naïve defenses against, the very real possibility of immediate total nuclear annihilation. Now their pathetic children shamefully fall over each other in their eagerness to throw away everyone’s rights and freedoms as they cower like girly lemmings before the possibility of a handful of crazies with home-made bombs.
Before they bowed out, the Greatest Generation made the 20th Century – “America’s Century” – and secured their exalted place in world history for at least the next millennium. Even though they, both men and women, could have rested on their staggering accomplishments during World War II, Greatest Generation men and women went on to build America and more than adequately paid for themselves for the rest of their lives. Their generation was certainly not without human flaws, but it was the most successful self-made and self-supported generation in world history. They set the standards their super-spoiled children never bothered to even approach.
Note: Birth rates during the Great Depression era were very low and remained low until the end of the Second World War. The quite small number of people born before WW II, like Martin Luther King (1929), Clint Eastwood (1930), John McCain (1936), Colin Powell (1937), Tom Brokaw (1940), Leslie Stahl (1941), and the veterans of the Korean War (1950-53) , with no real generation identity of their own, thus became “bridgers” between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers. These people, older teenagers, post-WW II drafted soldiers, and the youngest workers of the ’50s often referred to as the “Silent Generation“, knew and understood both those before them and those after them, but drew their values from their older World War II siblings. Life expectancy for the Silent Generation was about 64 for women and 59 for men, so most of this small generation, too, never reached retirement age.
“Sons have always a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that which
charmed their fathers.” – Aldous Huxley
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1966, and their numbers were really huge. They were…
- between 0 and 9 in 1955 – in the middle of that ‘long epoch’ called “The ’50s”,
- between 0 and 19 in 1965 – when the Vietnam “conflict” became a “war”,
- between 5 and 24 in 1970 – when Vietnam War, Draft, civil rights movements peaked,
- between 10 and 30 in 1975 – when the Draft ended and college enrollment exploded.
Greatest Generation men and women, mostly in “traditional” families, in a brief period of steady economic growth after the end of World War II went on a binge of human activity that created a huge explosion of children – a “baby boom”, a staggering 80,000,000 of them. But as soon as the men of the Greatest Generation had taken advantage of that economic growth to give their women everything they could possibly want, had never even dreamed of, their women started whining, quickly passed on that talent to their Baby Boomer children who took it to new extremes, and well over a half century later those children are still whining. It’s what they do, their most developed aptitude. The Greatest Generation had worked so hard to give their children and their nation everything they could possibly want that their Baby Boomer kids inevitably got extremely spoiled, and super-spoiled children rarely measure up; they simply take for granted all that they are handed, as “inherent rights” just for “me”. In the space of just twenty-five years, life in America had suddenly become far too easy and offered far too much free time for idle navel contemplation and self-involvement. Narcissism quickly took root, and flourished.
And it wasn’t long before Pete Seeger, borrowing on the great Woody Guthrie, in 1963 was singing about ticky-tacky “Little Boxes” as young America began taking aim at the Greatest Generation and its “oppressive conformity”, an “old” societal view which essentially placed “we” above “me”. (Of course, it was telling that the song had been written by a comfortable and talented woman, Malvina Reynolds, the San Francisco daughter of immigrants and, naturally, a product of Berkeley, after seeing a west coast version of Levittown in Daly City, California, in 1962 – the year the Greatest Generation’s Jack Kennedy was assassinated.) The song seemed to capture the moment; there suddenly in a flash was everything that everyone had always dreamed of obtaining, and it wasn’t really what the spoiled kids wanted after all. (Presumably Boomers preferred tiny, cramped, noisy, stuffy, stinking hot and dangerous city tenements to those little boxes. Or maybe they all just expected to be handed palatial mansions in the Hamptons.) Devoid of suffering and turmoil, death and destruction, starvation and disease, fear and strife, paradise now was just “ticky-tacky”. Many humans, especially those of the arrested-development variety, need something to whine about. There are always those who want to “make it better”, screw around with it until it meets what is wanted for “me”. Unfortunately, a society is not built on “me”; it is built on “we” – compromising equally to share responsibility equitably for all of us, and especially for our children and their future. It takes adult vision and constant hard work that has purpose and fulfillment. It’s just incredibly stupid, not to mention supremely arrogant, to presume that what you want for “me” is also what I want for “me”. The first casualty of the Baby Boomer ascent was personal responsibility; the second was a common identify of “us”.
Baby Boomers began running the show by 1985, between the ages of 20 and 40, although their great numbers and very loud noise had significant influence and impact much earlier, all the way back to the early 1970s. Baby Boomers, with significantly longer life spans, began stepping aside in 2007, between ages 40 and 62.
Bill Clinton, George Bush Junior, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, “feminists” and all the “very special me” people are representative of the 80,000,000 Baby Boomers.
With no government or commercial welfare programs to assist their WW II parents, and thanks mostly to their mothers, the Baby Boomers were the healthiest, happiest, safest and best educated kids in the history of humanity. Thanks mostly to their fathers, their economic futures in a vibrant exploding America were unlimited, perhaps too unlimited. There were just too many choices, almost none of which carried any real risk.
Then the kids literally exploded on the scene during the late-1960s — with their Great Temper Tantrum in the streets and the Great Love-In in the parks. Above all, they rejected everything their parents stood for, including their parents’ overwhelming sense of responsibility. To those who understand how history works, it was the near total denigration of those whose standards and achievements they could never match. If the standards are too high, destroy those who set them (or cheat, steal, copy, lie); if life is too easy, whine and kick and scream like an infant for more. Never having witnessed any of the misery that had gone before, the Boomers assumed that all that tremendous bounty everywhere around them was a gift from God, a “natural birthright” that had always existed just waiting for the glorious arrival of the prodigal Boomers – which the Boomers could claim and milk and exploit for as long as they wished. Their parents were irrelevant.
After violently trashing America’s streets and many of its institutions, their leftist ringleaders fled to America’s socialist campuses, where very safe and secure tenure allowed them to censor and revise history unchallenged in their favor while preaching their philosophy of self-involved dependency and stagnation on “someone else’s” dime to the next two generations of malleable minds. The favorite Baby Boomer pastime has been to deride their Greatest Generation parents, and especially that brief blink in time known as “the 50s” (while ignoring their inherited and still-unresolved Korean War), constantly rewriting and blurring history so as to make themselves seem less pathetic. Black-Americans, especially those in the South, had a legitimate beef; literally no one else did. On the contrary.
Yet the one key common denominator about the Baby Boomers that stands out above all others is “self-involvement” (followed by greed). “Tomorrow will take care of itself.” This childishly naive assumption naturally applies to their responsibility for their own kids’ and the nation’s future. It is based on the premise that all that they inherited was God’s gift to America’s “special” people, and that they could always find “someone else” to take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff. Some magical divine providence would see to it for all of America’s “exceptional” children. The Baby Boomers introduced something never before seen in America, which soon became nearly universal – incessant, utterly disgusting, infantile whining, ad nauseam. No matter what the arena, these professional losers could always find “someone else” to blame for their failure to measure up (usually one of those inherently “evil” fathers). And they quickly passed all that childish nonsense along to the few children they bothered to have.
Because they were so enormously spoiled, their chief forms of expressions have remained the endless whine and the most inane of never-resolved childish arguments. They are incredibly dedicated to the study of their own glorious navels while engaging mostly in the very cheapest form of human endeavor – petty chatter. Only a very tiny few of them ever actually do anything. Almost all of their “innovations” have been the consequence of tweaking around on the edges of the truly brilliant invention, innovation, leadership and even strategic thinking of their parents and grandparents (or the product of subsequently imported well-trained brains). For example, the Boomers are constantly pointing to the now-ubiquitous cell phone as an example of their own “innovation”. The cell phone was actually developed from the walkie-talkie, a portable radio device used by American G.I.s during World War II; the Boomers just used their parents’ microchips to make it smaller and able to connect to their parents’ “internet”. Then they went running around planting those huge ugly radio relay towers all over the landscape to give the now smaller toy greater range. Blue-tooth, Wi-Fi and similar wireless communications technology were all the brainchilds of a highly technical patent awarded to the beautiful egghead movie actress Hedy Lamarr during the 1940s to guide torpedoes and employed by the US Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The human genome is another example. The double helix DNA was required study in school in 1960 – a half century ago; it took the Boomers that long to figure it out. The Greatest Generation was also responsible for such wonders as computer chips, personal computers, drones, internet communications, GPS, space travel, etc..
Pick almost any arena, say, cancer. Since 1970 the US government alone has spent over $100 Billion on what President Nixon dubbed “The War On Cancer”. Private American charity has contributed at least that much more. Except for providing a LOT of people whole long careers in medical research, that “war” has been a spectacular failure. In the US the death rate for all forms of cancer dropped only 5% in the 55-year period from 1950 to 2005. A person’s chances of beating cancer in 2014 are not much better than they were in 1974, and, in many cases, their treatment will be pretty much the same – except that the costs of that treatment have risen many times over. All those incredibly expensive space-age “wonder machines” that all medical facilities now simply “must have” don’t seem to have helped much at all, beyond making their manufacturers very rich indeed.
Today almost everything else we call “American innovation”, mostly in the toys arena but also in the defense arena, comes, not from us, but from recent immigrants who studied the basics established by America’s Greatest Generation – abroad at better schools and then came to study and do advanced research at top American universities and institutions put in place by earlier generations. American standards have steadily declined everywhere. Our own public day care center “schools” can no longer measure up to what is required to stay competitive. Even a bachelor’s degree from those esteemed universities now bestows an education roughly equivalent to what a high school diploma did in 1960. In the past immigrants started at the bottom and worked their way up by building America; now they come in at the top and take better advantage of what earlier Americans had put in place. Today’s wonder in high tech remote control killing on the other side of the globe – Predator drones – was developed as a surveillance device by a brilliant and innovative Israeli immigrant, Abraham Karem, formerly employed by Israeli Defense Forces interested in improving readiness to respond to the constant threat of direct attack on his former country. The American Boomers took a brilliant defensive tool intended to save lives and turned it into a weapon of terror that kills from a very safe distance.
And yet the Boomers, especially their oracles pontificating from their very safe and tenure-secure campus temples, never cease rewriting history to downgrade the past and glorify their own “accomplishments”. Just occupying a particular space in time now seems sufficient to assure one’s place in “history”, regardless of anything actually done to attain that space, or done or not done while in that space. Now high position is far more the result of birthright entitlement, a superficial popularity contest determined by the largest herd of beneficiaries wanting hand-outs and needing vicarious self-esteem, than any actual earned accomplishment on behalf of others. It’s all about “me”. America is no longer a place of unbridled opportunity for anyone willing to get off their asses and pursue it, but rather a nursery where countless legions of slackers can sit and demand that “someone else” take the blame, pay the bills and do the hard stuff they want for “very special me”.
While the men continuously ceded ground on all fronts, among the accomplishments of Baby Boomer “feminists” was taking full advantage of all civil rights legislation enacted by their fathers — to champion “Me” and “Now” forever. Skipping over the incomprehensible “process” and focusing on the all-too-obvious results, the Baby Boomers followed that with…
- their total failure in the face of entirely predictable domestic disasters like Katrina;
- incessantly dumbing down standards everywhere in the interest of delusional “self-worth”;
- inadequately educating their young about everything;
- pretending that boys and girls are exactly the same in order to hide their dismal failure to teach boys in schools designed for girls;
- replacing sound logical thinking and analysis with mushy self-serving rationalizations and emotionalism;
- forcing Social Security and Medicare irresponsibly to the brink of collapse, and beyond, crushing all future generations;
- making the nation ever more dependent on foreign energy, money, educated minds, researchers and industry;
- constructing a vast insidious “Fifth Estate” system of oppressive self-serving politically correct censorship and propaganda;
- relying most heavily on the do-nothing “intellectuals” of Old Europe to do almost all of their “big important political thinking”, so that American “morons”, along with their money and their working dog military, can be kept on their tight leash;
- shifting huge portions of their parenting responsibilities to schools, government and a vast “village”, paid for by “someone else”;
- relentlessly championing an endless range of “rights” without ever mentioning responsibilities;
- encouraging our boys to revere the stupid, clumsy, ignorant and irresponsible through icons championing exactly that asinine type of role model;
- revering and even rewarding mindless process rather than appropriately judging the pathetic results;
- neglecting the nation’s once-great and now ignominiously deteriorating infrastructure;
- memorizing all the “right” answers for the tests, without learning how to think, to analyze, to extrapolate;
- incessantly “marketing” to morons an endless list of really stupid products, services, toys, ideas and people they don’t need or want;
- outsourcing all the hard stuff to “someone else”, including the vast “village” now needed to raise our young, while whining ever louder about what little is actually left;
- inexorably pushing the onset of adulthood from 17 or 18 to past 30, and in very many cases well past 60;
- becoming the world’s “economic engine” through their insatiable materialistic consumerism dedicated to shipping the nation’s wealth overseas;
- making Big Daddy Government their biggest, most secure and most self-serving growth industry, paid for by “someone else”;
- replacing actual reality with virtual reality, drug-induced reality, delusional reality and vicarious self-worth;
- resorting, in order to best their parents in almost every sport, to changing the rules, changing the equipment, ingesting banned performance enhancing drugs and discarding the ethics – to become champions of nothing but lying, cheating and fraud;
- engaging in a relentless search for explanations in biology and neuroscience, rather than in the mirror, for excuses to blame for failures in a whole world of endeavors;
- relying on the strategic thinking done by their parents for an entirely different world decades after both that world and their parents were gone;
- failing abysmally to provide affordable decent health care equitably to all the nation’s citizens – by first controlling astronomical costs;
- accepting enormous gender imbalances throughout our “education industry” in blatant violation of civil rights law intended to preclude exactly that;
- incredibly massive wasting and mismanagement of the nation’s most fundamental resources – water and forests;
- importing many tens of millions of Third World immigrants and their babies needed just to keep society barely viable;
- demonstrating complete incompetence and irresponsibility in managing their own capitalist financial system;
- wallowing in mass fascination with the most inane of “entertainment” appealing only to the lowest possible common denominator;
- passing their truly gargantuan debts on to crush the next three or four, or more, generations;
- focusing on the ever more micro without understanding the macro, while doggedly seeking only the short-cuts, quick fixes and easy answers;
- expecting their hired military “troops” to solve all of their and the world’s “problems” – in the name of that royal “we” that is steadily pushing the homeland to ruin;
- allowing politicians to create a humongous Privileged Class of over-compensated and under-worked bureaucrats, which includes the many millions in the union-protected and failing “education” industry plus a rapidly rising army of “contractors”;
- making the nation’s higher education and research institutions ever more dependent on importing annually 800,000 foreign-educated students in math and the physical sciences to maintain “our” competitiveness;
- electing a long string of mediocre politicians at all levels who are direct mirrors of self-interested voters and who promise to hand those voters whatever they want for themselves at that moment in time, naturally, by taking it from “someone else”;
And “so it goes.”
All in all, not an especially auspicious legacy so far.
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer (1902-83), American Greatest Generation moral and social philosopher, who spent his life as a working class laborer. Hoffer never went to college, but he read a lot, and he wrote, mostly on notebooks he carried in his pockets. In the year of his death, Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal Of Freedom. His generation were hard-working learners; their children enjoyed the privilege of becoming idle learned. They memorized all the correct answers for the tests, but never learned how to think, never learned how to think ahead, never learned to write new books and new tests for a new world. And, even worse, university learnedness in 2010 equated to that of the average citizen in 1960. Today success goes to the rebels, the learners who teach themselves.
The Baby Boomers’ greatest “accomplishment” seems to be having the Chinese make their toys cheaper, thereby ensuring that the price of all those toys would flood outside the country. The most important area where this generation is far ahead of everyone else is “marketing”, the socially acceptable term for “propaganda”, and the one thing they market best of all is “Nonsense About Me”. Even with all their advanced technology, Boomers and their children also excel at watching problems develop and grow, while doing absolutely nothing to mitigate them. Apparently they positively love to have entirely predictable but somehow “unforeseen” problems suddenly jump up and slap them really hard in the face. The child’s delight at manufactured surprise… “It makes ‘life’ ‘interesting’!”
Rational thinking seems inversely proportional to the advance of technology. “What does the computer “say”?”
“We are the greatest!” — even if no one can think of a single thing “we” have actually accomplished in the world that’s actually worthy of that label. (On the other hand, our humongous size enormously magnifies the long and growing list of negatives.)
All “we” did was create the “Age Of Someone Else” — for that mysterious mythical entity responsible for taking all the blame, paying all the bills and doing all the hard stuff that “we” are far too “special” to bother with. Then “we” created the “Age Of Borrowing”. Then “we” even managed to top that by passing all that utter nonsense on to “our” children, too.
“The true age of innovation ran from approximately 1945 to 1971. Just about everything that defines the modern world either came about, or had its seeds sown, during this time. The pill. Electronics. Computers and the birth of the Internet. Nuclear power. Television. Antibiotics. Space travel. Civil rights. Feminism. Mass aviation. The birth of the gay rights movement. Cheap, reliable, and safe automobiles. We put a man on the moon, sent a probe to Mars, beat smallpox, and discovered the double-spiral key of life. Today, progress is defined almost entirely by consumer-driven, often banal improvements in information technology. As the U.S. technologist Peter Thiel once put it: ‘We wanted flying cars; we got 140 characters.’” – Michael Hanlon, British science writer, an internationally renowned expert at explaining science to the general public. Currently the Science Editor at the Daily Mail, who previously wrote for the Daily Express, the Independent and the Irish News, he made this observation in December 2014, four years after I wrote this article.
The totally inconsequential Baby Boomers literally vanish in the giant shadow of their parents. These kids are a whole generation of spoiled losers who have accomplished absolutely nothing except piss away what they were handed by their parents. They have managed to “accomplish” the heretofore impossible – creating an entirely fake “society” that is over 75% delusion, based almost entirely on little more than thin air from the distant past. Still, these self-involved people can’t wait to actually clone themselves! Just what is a fake of a fake anyway?
Among the rarest people to find in our society are fathers who know how to be fathers. The next rarest people are mothers (and early school teachers) who know how to avoid imposing their gender prejudices on boys. In our fervent hope that the grandchildren of the Boomers will reject the values of their parents and grandparents as totally as the Boomers rejected the values of their parents (although with far less destruction and violence, please) – are we hoping for better, only to get worse?
Sometimes I get really, really scared….. by “us”.
So, in reflecting on my friend and his great grandfather, I wonder … Will, a half century from now, the study of the Baby Boomer generation be as rich and worthwhile as studying the Greatest Generation from the same distance? Or will future generations have to first waste a lifetime peeling away all the many thick layers of self-serving Baby Boomer propaganda, promulgated mostly by its privileged women? History didn’t end with the conclusion of the “Cold” War, as this bunch or morons proclaimed during the 1990s; American history ended with childishly embarrassing irresponsibility of the Boomers.
(See “August 1969 – The Dividing Line“, posted separately.)
Postscript, January 2014: Just consider some of the crowning achievements of the Baby Boomers at the height of their power at the beginning of the 21st century:
A six year Great Recession caused by government pushing home ownership on to many millions of people who clearly could not afford them.
Thirteen years of wars killing hundreds of thousands of humans in several countries that resulted in absolutely nothing but negatives – directed by civilian Baby Boomer cowards who were so fervently “anti-war” (anti-Draft) when they were young and vulnerable.
An attempt to re-engineer one-sixth of the economy now devoted to health care according to principles that any moron would know could never work without “redistributing someone else’s wealth” and enormously increasing our already staggering debt.
An “intelligence” system based on knowing all things about everyone and then have the computers decide for it who might be up to no good.
The most expensive school system in world history resulting in the world’s worst results in which even a college degree can’t measure up to a high school diploma of fifty years ago.
A political system based on nothing more than blatant government lies and slick propaganda, and a fourth estate that imposes its own agenda on a dismally uneducated population.
A $17 Trillion debt that everyone knows will double in just a decade – far beyond the nation’s ability to pay off – robbing at least the next three generations of their futures.
A social system based on the premise that someone else has the responsibility to ensure whatever rights I want to claim for “me” – but no one knows who the someone else is.
The 2003 Columbia disaster, after all the “lessons learned” 17 years earlier from the 1986 Challenger disaster, so that today we are dependent on the Russians for manned space flight, and are hoping that a brilliant and daring immigrant from South Africa will show us the way forward.
The “Greatest Nation On Earth” with a government bigger than half the countries on Earth together can’t even field a web site after three years of work at a cost of $800,000,0000 – in the country that invented web sites in a garage.
The female majority of our population thoroughly convinced that they have only rights, but as “eternal victims” cannot be held responsible, or accountable, for anything they do or do not do in positions of great power.
Privileged women who have never been required to do anything, have never been denied anything, have never risked anything, have never built anything, have never undertaken anything on behalf of others, and whose “education” industry is our greatest glaring failure, actually believing that “leadership” is just another quota “right”.
The greatest talent of those claiming “leadership” roles as birthrights is now a knee-jerk shifting of blame to “someone else” to hide their own myopic self-interests, stupidity and incompetence.
If Americans had ever been taught how to think, they would know that we no longer measure up to the average country in Sub-Saharan Africa, that we have become the laughing-stock of the world, an entirely dysfunctional joke.
And we, completely happy in our childish delusions, are the only ones who don’t know it.
Truth is irrelevant; perception is everything.
It’s ALL bullshit. Inept self-serving Baby Boomer Bullshit.
In the 60s, Boomers took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and everyone takes Prozac to make it normal.
Over the past half century there have also been big changes to what it means to be “American”. For example, Clint Eastwood has been replaced by Paris Hilton, and GI Joes are now Sandra Flukes. There’s even a plan for the next revision of the $100 bill. It involves replacing Ben Franklin with Queen Hillary and “In God We Trust” with the Four Ws – “Whatever Whiny Women Want”. (There was also a heated debate about replacing the flag’s 50 stars with the Four Ws, but it was finally decided that it was best not to write on the flag with English letters because this might be offensive to those who used other symbols.)
Ho-Hum. 30 December 2013. I’m beginning to have a much fuller appreciation of those who were a few years older than I was – all members of the Greatest Generation in their later years – who were always looking at each other knowingly while rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in dismay — at those wonderful Baby Boomers. Almost every day now while perusing various publications I run across things like the following, but my generation was so damned small that there are very few around to share them with.
As on the Moon, when the stuff jammed equipment and got stuck in space suit seals, dust on Mars is a Big Problem. Storms of the stuff can quickly cover solar panels, knocking billion dollar equipment off-line until another storm (hopefully) comes along and blows the stuff off. NASA has been cursing the problem for years, even designing extremely complex and expensive landing procedures, and finally decided to try to do something about it. After much thrashing about, they finally came upon a great fix – very low-voltage electricity. It turns out that in space tiny milliwatts of electricity running through specific wires imbedded in various surfaces in both lunar and Martian conditions can easily clear away 99% of the dust. It’s essentially a matter of marrying specific wire material with specific surfaces, including fabrics, and then zapping the wires with an imperceptible jolt of electricity. Poof! Where did NASA find this revolutionary breakthrough? In its own files. It turns out that Greatest Generation NASA scientists wrote a paper on the subject in 1967. NASA will finally begin using their dust shields in 2016 – only a half century and many billions of dollars late. (And they’re also using rockets developed by the Greatest Generation to put men on the Moon in the 1960s.)
West Point professors have developed a software program to better understand networks of insurgents in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s also quite helpful in understanding loose networks such as al Qaeda, especially when you add the critical factor of secure communications. Police in Chicago thought it might be helpful in their understanding of city criminal gang networks, so they invited the professors to try it out. It worked. Essentially it combines arrest records, geographic locations and similar data elements to map associations and sub-groups, and their relationships with each other, thus enabling police to better focus their attention on key players and elements to dramatically affect the entire matrix. (You add or subtract data elements as knowledge increases.) When I looked deeper into the subject, I recognized it as a model straight from one of my undergrad sociology textbooks in 1964-65. The concept (minus the computers) originated with Greatest Generation professors who had immigrated from Hungary to the University of Chicago during and immediately after World War II. The Sociology Department at the university tested and refined the concept in very considerable detail before it made its way to other university text books. The West Point guys call it “Organizational, Relationship and Contact Analyzer” (OCRA), but I know that it’s a simpler version of sociological interpersonal relationship studies conducted by Greatest Generation people interested in group dynamics (now called networks) a half century ago — right across town from the Chicago Police Headquarters. (I had personally led a small team of students that tested the theory at, and with the full cooperation of, the police department of a high-crime suburb of Washington DC, and, yep, it worked. In spades. And no computer!) But, as with almost everything else, the Boomers, automatically rejecting everything associated with their parents, threw it out. They knew better. And, as with almost everything else, we wasted a half century going nowhere but backwards. We still are.
(See “Smiling Faces and Purple Fingers – And Egypt” for another critical area where the same stupid dynamic proved catastrophic.)
And so it goes….
Are others doing any better?
Volkswagen is producing a sexy limited-run futuristic car for sale in Europe named the XL1 that it designed from scratch. It’s powered by a two-cylinder diesel engine and a 20 kW electric motor, and is suitable for autobahns. It’ll be difficult importing the car to the US since it lacks side-view mirrors, but it does get an astounding 260 miles per gallon of gasoline. (That’s 14 times more efficient than my Toyota SUV.)
While the Americans were able to turn the clock back a whole century to pull more oil out of the same Mid-West farm fields where John D. Rockefeller started, the Koreans were busy genetically engineering E. coli to produce gasoline. (Can anyone think of a better use for E. coli?)
While the Americans continue to sink billions of dollars into highly complex air and sea port security machinery, the Dutch are training rats to sniff out drugs and gunpowder with very high reliability. (Ditto for better uses of rats.)
The city of Hamburg has converted a massive 138-foot-tall concrete structure that functioned as a WW II air-raid shelter for 10,000 people into a solar and biofuel power station generating electricity for 1,000 households, and heat for 3,000, with 95% less carbon-dioxide emissions than either oil or gas boilers. (The Americans demolish stuff they don’t want to look at any longer so they can build new stuff; the Europeans just spiff ‘em up.)
And Stockholm has converted a “Cold” War era nuclear-bomb-proof bunker 98 feet below street level into an exceptionally secure (and constantly cool at zero cost) data center for the country’s internet service provider Bahnhof’s 8,000 servers. (Ditto.)
And so it goes….
And this from just one evening’s casual reading, killing time.
Baby Boomers excel at nothing better than re-inventing wheels. You have to wonder what they were learning in school that was actually useful all that time…..
Whether it’s the US Navy and the Bush Administration touting Iraq after six weeks of war, or Health And Human Services and the Obama Administration on the 1 October eve of ‘Obamacare”, it’s the same glorious self-congratulatory (and inevitably premature) “Mission Accomplished”!! “We are The Greatest!”
Well, maybe not.
The Boomers remain, as always, extremely spoiled children. Duds all.
P.S. However, after a lifetime of studying such things, I’ll have to admit that, when they were young, the Baby Boomers did give the world the greatest rock music of all time. Even now it strikes me as the exquisitely perfect blend of spoiled innocence, incredible insight, creative genius, astounding energy, and very fine grass….. Bravo!, indeed. (And a tip of my cap to those who handed them the garden where such young brilliance could flourish freely.) For one brief shining moment, the young Boomers had so much to say, and they said it so very well, and with such unbridled passion and conviction, too. Barry McGuire picked up P.F. Sloan’s lyrics and summed up things pretty well in 1965, on the eve of destruction; everything really good thereafter for the next ten years seemed to have subsurface threads of that same theme.* The music, like the period, left bold indelible marks on the American fabric. Standing in the shadows, even in steamy jungles, this secret admirer knew instinctively that, more than anything else, their music would change the world, and in so many ways. Perhaps this is their legacy. Perhaps this is enough. Some of their work stands today as tall monuments that entered the soul of mankind and gradually became eternal classics in a global civilization. Even after the crusades down South and the marches in Washington, it certainly did enter my soul, rising above the gunfire, the explosions and the thump-thump of heavily armed helicopters in a tragic land far far away. It even papered over the mud and the blood, drowned out the screams and thunder, to find a comfortable home and keep me on keel for the rest of my life. Sad that so many of the very brightest stars of that universe flamed out so young, but then perhaps that was just meant to be. You love a rose because you know it will soon be gone; whoever loved a stone? (Even John McCain has overstayed his welcome.) They shared their special gifts with everyone, even with dirty young soldiers, and then took their leave, not to be forgotten.
It’s strange, and sad, too, that, when they got older, the generation that was so passionately against war and injustice in its youth could become so totally cavalier about it all under its own watch. I guess it no longer had the potential of actually involving “me”; now it’s “someone else” who does the suffering and dying, and mainly off-stage. The end of the Draft really took the wind out of their sails, and those of the nation, too. Today they get more upset about millionaire professional football players getting hurt on a manicured field than they do about soldiers coming home with critical pieces left behind on dusty battlefields. Today it’s only the women are still running on auto-pilot, because, essentially, it’s just what they do. And why not? For them it’s still a zero-risk game. For forty years now very few of Americans have had a real stake in anything, and so naturally nothing has led anywhere. Now it’s that ever elusive “someone else” who takes the blame, pays the bills, and does the hard stuff, for “very special me” – a “me” who does little more than sit around playing with its toys interrupted only by the occasional whimpering whine. How useless and inconsequential we have become. All that was needed to so thoroughly corrupt us all was the right mix of self-serving propaganda turning us into a contented over-weight herd of little girls and girly men. Even the Marlboro Man is gone.
Note: Of course there are variations from the norm in any group, but when one speaks of generations and similar large sociological entities, the norm is used as the standard when providing descriptors, however great, or pathetic.
* Transition. Allow me a moment to depart from my practice here of avoiding “me”, because perhaps, in doing so, the reader may gain some additional insight.
The next year, 1966, was the last year of My First Life. That was the year that rock really became classic.
No time for sleep; too much stuff to cram in as the clock ticked down. And everywhere was that fantastic music – blaring from the radio in my flat, pounding from the speakers in my ’65 Ford – a cherry Galaxy convertible in deep maroon. The energy was in the air – explosive, throbbing, contagious, foreboding. In hindsight are glimpses of pre-War Europe. At night were the packed off-campus clubs where you drank and danced until you were completely soaked and then kept on dancing until it was time to drive to work and muscle freight at the terminal. With a preference for a strong heavy bass beat, a full-volume beat that vibrated your spine and meshed nicely with a sweet beer buzz on the floor, the club could string together “Satisfaction“, “Black Is Black“, “Good Vibrations“, “Dirty Water“, “Gloria“, “Time Won’t Let Me“, “Devil With A Blue Dress On“, “Reach Out, I’ll Be There“, “Hold On, I’m Coming“, “Along Comes Mary“, “I Fought The Law“, “Summer In The City“, “Standing In The Shadows Of Love“, “I’m A Believer“, “Shapes Of Things“, “Pushin’ Too Hard“, “Psychotic Reaction“, … and I could get completely lost in a parallel universe for hours. Then back to campus for classes before another drive to another job that muscled more freight on the docks and finished up just as the clubs were nearly full again. On weekends were protest demonstrations, or meetings planning protest demonstrations, or just gatherings to kick things around for the hell of it. And always the music. And sweet pretty girls who jumped on for their leg of The Last Ride. (So many body bags later, in 1968, “McArthur Park“, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman“, grotesquely out of place in the jungle thanks to the omnipresent Armed Forces Radio, occasionally broke up the beat to send strong tugs of regret through my heart. Jimmy Webb had a way of doing that. But eventually even the regrets faded away, along with My First Life. Besides, in that period the music always seemed to have second and sometimes even third meanings; perception, allusion and surrealism being key to the times.) And while the girls just kept on dancing, the boys seemed to, one by one, slip out the club door and vanish forever, until it was my turn to join them. That music stayed with me until the very end, booming in my head, and then kept me company for the next three years as I gradually transitioned through years of war to My Second Life, when it kept on going for several more years until I was ready for a new path in a different world, divided by an ‘Iron Curtain’. It was surely a decade like no other, and the music was magic.
As the end of My First Life came in San Francisco on the way out, I had not one single personal possession; three years later I started all over again from zero after a baptism of welcome in my own blood on the other side of the bay in Oakland. The dancing now done, my plan had been to go fishing in Montana and re-group, but it took me another thirty years to finally fulfill that plan, if only briefly. From Washington to Saigon to San Francisco to Berlin, from Rehoboth to Vung Tau to Waikiki to Monterey and Santa Cruz to Wannsee, … the music was the one constant, and it was oh so welcome. I didn’t have to say a thing; the music said it all. And it managed to drown out fairly well all the things I didn’t want to think about.
Until gradually I didn’t need it anymore…. Early in My Second Life, it took me over ten years to find my way briefly back to the States, and to acquire my first new Second Life possession, but I never did go back home, or to the clubs, and that’s ok. That had been part of My First Life… So today it’s nice re-visiting in my head a time long ago when I was young, in a different world, in 1966, before the wars. “The Beat Goes On“. That classic rock is still there, so many years later, now an integral part of the American culture, conveying so many different things to so many different Americans, both young and not so young. Strange, how I became an American soldier….. Now I seem to drift, wondering, “Is there a Third Life?” Or, as Peggy Lee asked so well, “Is This All There Is?”
“Run Through The Jungle”
“I Am … I Said”
“American Pie” ……………….