Wall Street Journal – dateline Sat/Sun November 30-December 1, 2013 . REVIEW section, front page feature article , THE BOOMER BUST, by P. J. O’Rourke – essayist.
P.J. O’Rourke has a thing or two to get off his chest about being one of and observing the 75 million odd baby boomer generation. He seems to be deeply troubled by our existence and wallowing in baby boomer’s remorse while he speaks for ALL of us. His musings embrace his own self- loathing and our collective one as well. Thanks for worrying about us P.J. O’Rourke.
The baby boomers have an exact definition. Did you know that? A precise demography we are told in his essay.
‘We are the children who were born during a period after WWII when the long-term trend in fertility among American women was exceeded.’
This definition is further broken down into the following catagories.
Seniors – those born in the late 40’s.
Juniors – those born in the early 1950’s ( your’s truly)
Sophomores – those born in the late 1950’s
Freshman – those born in the early 1960’s
This time span from the late 40’s to the early 60’s was generally characterized by a profusion of opportunity concurrent with a collapse of traditional social standards. Mr. O’Rourke opines that this perfect storm of opportunity and social standard breakdown led us ‘en masse’ to become …” greedy for love, happiness, thrills, fame, inner peace and money.”
Furthermore, we are ‘NOT a generation who listens to anybody, including God.’
We are ‘the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one.’ All we cared about was our ‘personal universe.’
Hey! Baby boomers…are you feeling BAD about yourself yet?!
P.J. concludes his essay by pointing out that we now must come to the obvious conclusion that in our dotage, ‘everything you were told , was wrong and we must despair!’
I will hold off on the despair for just a bit while I make some of my own observations… from a Junior’s point of view.
We were most definitely born in an age of wondrous opportunity – certainly more than our parents ever could have imagined for us. We were, however, just children born into that time with no knowledge that it was a ‘golden ‘ era of prosperity or that we were destined to be the gigantic know- it -all generation of selfish leeches on society that according to P.J., we have become. Anyway… as we were growing up, mysteries did still abound. Like, why did our father’s spend hours on the couch watching old black and white movies about Hitler? Why would you watch that when the Three Stooges could entertain you so much better? Hitler was boring, and we had no way to relate any of that piece of history to our young, shiny, hopeful lives that our parents had born us into. They wanted to shield us and move us on from that dark time in both our history and the world’s. It was a new day and we were destined to move it forward with their help. We added hope to our ‘personal universe’.
Much like many of my generation and the seniors before me, our parents did not go to college. Yet they were not so uneducated that they did not see the great value it would be to us in the new world we were born into. So off to colleges we marched in great numbers, as much to get educated as to spare their young sons the horror of fighting in the Vietnam War. A war, as a generation, we questioned. We added education to our ‘personal universe’, with a healthy dose of questioning authority.
Now equipped with fine college educations, hope, and a questioning mind we went on to advance technology, medicine, religion, sexual equality, racial equality, women’s choices, career stereotypes, music, arts, literature, science , and the quality of life for 75 million people – just here in our country alone.
My goodness…what had our parents wrought? We were certainly NOT the Greatest Generation. We know who they are and what they did and sacrificed for us, and they deserve that title. The Greatest Generation gave us the age of opportunity and we embraced it whole heartedly. I’m frankly mystified by what perfect world we were obliged to create to satisfy P.J. O’Rourke’s viewpoint of our wasted lives. We have clearly been negligent to his thinking.
It is my contention that the best thing we learned and then shared as a generation was to QUESTION EVERYTHING. We questioned authority endlessly and on every front until we got answers that led us to a better understanding of our world and those on the planet that we shared it with.
I believe as a generation, we learned to’ live in the question’.
And in doing so, we have kept an open and hopeful mind to the future. That is personally what I believe I have passed on to my son and his generation.
I do not share P.J. O’Rourke’s snarky, sad viewpoint on the 75 million baby boomer’s impact on society over the last 67 years. Perhaps his own personal expectations and achievements have led him to this rather dark and unfulfilled viewpoint. All I can say is, cheer up P.J., and peace out.
( featured image , WHAT HAVE I LEARNED? , canvas collage by Catherine Massaro)