Our Boomerang Culture
The worst thing about the Baby Boom generation - besides their delusional belief that everything that came before them needed changing because it was all wrong or lacking in sufficient meaning, is that they keep wanting to re-create those “seminal” moments of their adolescence and young adulthood. That’s why in the late 80’s our entertainment was stuck on “The Wonder Years,” “Thirtysomething” and “The Big Chill,” and it’s why the war in Iraq was never going to be narrated as anything but “The Vietnam Quagmire.”
...The baby boomers have been a generation all-too-comfortable living their lives and working out their issues in public, and public “events” from The Kennedy Assassination/Funeral to the Chicago Convention to the Challenger Explosion to 9/11 have served as cathartic catalysts or backdrops to their never-ending, frolicking subterranean explorations of themselves and their psyches. First they wanted to dismantle “the establishment” and the dominant culture. Then they wanted to re-create moments of deep impact. I don’t know what it means. A few years ago, in a late-night ramble, I wrote:
I think of these baby boomers - in truth I am one of them, on the tail end: The children of The Greatest Generation – “the children of their sacrifice,” as Bill Clinton called them. A generation so in love with itself that it was able to turn to the generation before, the one that saved the world from Fascism and Communism, and sneer at them, rejecting their traditions as vapid, their faith as naive and their sense of honor and duty as mere mechanisms triggered by guilt.
I think with their kids, The Greatest Generation dropped the ball. They came out of a depression and a war so eager to give their children everything – to rebuild the world around their children - that they threw things out of balance. The children who had never suffered or “done without” retorted with a wiseass, “Oh yeah? Don’t tell us we cannot have what we want; don’t tell us there must be consequences for our actions; don’t dare to define the truth to us. Everything that came before us is suspect and probably wrong.”
Not everything that came out of the boomer generation was bad, of course, but - as Bill Kristol has noted, the civil rights advances of the 1950’s were mostly accomplished by the tail-enders of The Greatest Generation.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe the boomers look to re-creation because they deconstructed everything that came before. Their parents had those old bourgeois “illusions” of family, faith and community to guide their lives and give them meaning, security and a clear sense of themselves. Having cast all of that aside, all the boomers have to cling to are themselves, their media, and the “greatests hits” of the soundtracks of their lives.
Not being a Boomer myself, but being in the unique situation of being a late-to-the-party Gen X/Millenial myself, with older siblings who hail from the 60s, and parents who are on the tail end of The Greatest Generation, all I can say is... yes. My family experience is very different, with nary a trace of Boomer Disease - but in a sense, that proves the point.
My parents didn't "give their children everything", because they didn't have "everything" to give; of all of us children I am the one who got the highest amount of "freebies", coming later in my father's professional life as I did. But with all of us, our parents expected a lot, they had high standards of both accomplishment and morality. At the same time, there was an openness to their parental approach that allowed us the breathing room to "screw up" if we had to in order to learn something. My older siblings, unlike the Boomers that the Anchoress referred to above, are not today clinging to themselves and "the 'greatest hits' of the soundtracks of their lives." And, neither, I hope, am I.
Because of this perspective, as I have grown up and entered into adult life and work, I have been able to see with fresh eyes the truth that the Anchoress observes about the Boomers - in essence, all of us are trapped in their Boomerang Culture. I say "Boomerang" because with the Boomers, they just won't let anything go! Every time society tries to move away from some "moment" that "changed us forever" and get over it, the Boomers just pick it up again and fling it back into our faces, our TV sets and our movie theaters. My family doesn't live like that, and so none of us children or grandchildren cling to these moments either. Tragedies happen to us, "moments" happen to us, but... we live through it, we learn from it and we keep going. The Boomerang Culture refuses to do this, because to learn from something means to change your life in some way. They don't want to give up the benefits of being victims, therefore let's keep dredging up the "reasons" why we are the way we are, the excuses for our free love behavior. It's like the kid who is sitting down with dad, and dad's trying to tell him something he doesn't want to hear - but something that he needs to know if he will ever be happy in his adult life, but the kid isn't listening, instead he's looking around in every direction, ready to shout, "hey, look, a distraction!"
It's a good thing boomerangs don't last forever.