Monday’s Mtg: Baby Boomers – Heroes or Villians?

Everybody hates on the baby boomers these days.  Apparently, our selfishness and narcissism wrecked the country, or something, or the big government we created is unsustainable, or maybe we can’t let go of the culture wars.   I really don’t find too much value in the whole each-generation-has-a-unique-character way of analysis.  However, there’s probably something to it, or at least it’s a useful tool for thinking about our history and our politics and our changing society.

So, on Monday I’ll open by:

  1. Defining the demographic and (alleged) social and political characteristics of the Boomers.  This will focus on what is actually different about this generation compared to those before or after.
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  2. Laying out both the prosecution’s and the defense’s case concerning the Boomers.
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Then, we’ll see where this one goes.  As I typically do with a less specifically worded topic, I’ll rely more on the discussion questions, below, to guide us.  But, I’ll try to let the conversation flow organically (that’s hippie talk) to whatever people want to talk about.  I’d say it will be a nice break from the highly political topics we’ve done so many of recently, but who’d believe that?  The Boomers were at ground zero of all of our most contentious political and social upheavals of the past 30 years, and judgments about them (okay – about us) are filtered through the same red and blue lenses that everything else is viewed through.  Also, I hope it won’t be an entire evening spent on entitlement reform and affordability.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. Who are the Baby Boomers?  How are they really different from other generations?
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  2. Is the device of evaluating the “character” of American generations useful for anything?  Or, is it just a clever conceit that really tells us little about history and social system?
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  3. Who is accusing the Boomers of what?  Why; i.e., on what evidence and for what motives?  How colored by political ideology are these criticisms (This will be a big issue for me!)?
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  4. Guilty, innocent, or a hung jury?
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  5. Will the social contract created during the Boomers’ earliest years be affordable as they retire?  After they are gone?  What does “affordable” mean?  Is it a monetary or a political concept?

 

LINKS –  

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2 responses

  1. Hello, I was linked to your blog by, Jenny. I’m a friend of hers from a web forum that talks about generations from the Strauss and Howe perspective–though I tinker with their theory and question its validity in some places. I’ve been doing research on different generations and I’ve found one thing universal: when a generation is in control of institutions–when it’s the top man on the totem pole–it will always be criticized and tossed much “hate”. The way we talk about Boomers today is the same way in the 1950s they talked about the Lost Generation, and in the 1960s – 1980s about the GI or “Greatest” Generation. In fact consider it akin to the “generation gap” that your generation participated in. It’s well documented through the “generation gap” what all the fuss was about against the “Greatest” generation, but the same kind of fuss was being kicked up against the Lost in the 1950s. While your generation holds positions of authority everything will be filtered through your generation’s lenses, compared to your generation’s experiences, and ultimately if anything goes right or wrong, you get the credit or the blame for it. There’s always “something” that they’re doing wrong that the younger generations bitch and moan about.

    It is just a factor of what place the Boomers hold in heading the institutions of society. Anyone who holds the keys to the kingdom will always get this much trouble thrown at them. It’s the positions you hold in life, not your generation, although your generation brings along unique flavors to the underlying issues that plague the battle between younger and older generations alike–just consider it a sign that your generation has now become the batch of old men it used to complain about, and what future generations will continue to complain because when you get down to it, it’s just a battle between youth and age–and now Boomers are on the aged side, that’s all it is.

    Once you guys retire things will change and the anger and fury will shift to the next generation to take control–sure the complaints will be different, but each generation has its unique “flavor”, which is a good thing in the end, because that keeps life interesting. And that, good sir is my two cents. I hope you have a wonderful time exploring the nuances of the Boomer generation, I know I have and will continue to do so for a while to come.

    Zach S, a Millennial

  2. James H. Zimmerman | Reply

    There is much truth in that; and also in that a shift in generations may bring great changes. Think of the changes in the USSR when Gorbachev, from a younger generation, took charge!

    That having been said…it seems to me silly to attribute too much to “generations,” since for one thing, there is always a continuity, people being born every year. I for one, having been born in 1946, feel no particular affinity to people born in that year, or in 1956 for that matter, and with many of them, I would have strong differences of opinion. Wasn’t George W. Bush born about then?

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