Future historians will write about the Baby Boomers less admiringly than past historians, but perhaps with more compassion. They will see them as a bridge between the 1930s and the 1990s, a generation doomed that struck back without trying to actually fix the situation.
We might summarize them as a teenage tantrum, and like all such outbursts, have sympathy for their sentiments but dislike their methods.
The Baby Boomers were born when it was clear that the Allies would win WWII, and in anticipation of the great boom of wealth and power this would bestow. At the same time, they inherited a dead system: a hybrid capitalist-socialist state which had already shattered its cultural integrity through white diversity, attempting to mix Southern, Western and Eastern Europeans into a new people.
This created a helpless environment for them to grow up in, and one that was too popular to change, so they knew they were born doomed and retaliated by taking all they could and leaving destruction in their wake:
Boomers took over the government in the early 1990s, when Bill Clintonâ€™s 1992 victory installed them in the White House and Newt Gingrichâ€™s Republican Revolution of 1994 gave the generation a majority in the House that persists to this day.
And how has that worked out for them? Well, the Greatest Generation survived the Great Depression, won the Second World War, brought about the enormous postwar economic boom, outlasted the Soviet Union in the Cold War and established the United States as the sole superpower. Since then, the boomers â€” the Worst Generation, if you will â€” have squandered most of that.
The United States, challenged all over the world, is receding and turning inward. The economy still hasnâ€™t recovered fully from the financial collapse of 2008, the worst since the Great Depression. The federal debt is out of control, and inequality is worse. Boomers expanded entitlement programs that are wrecking the nationâ€™s finances; they failed to act on global warming; they presided over declining faith in virtually all institutions, from religion to the Supreme Court; and their children may be the first generation with dim prospects of doing better than their parents did.
With the victory in World War Two, it seemed that the new horrible version of the USA had succeeded, and so it was never going to be rolled back. The social programs of the 1930s, brought on by a neo-Communist leader, were there to stay, mostly because democracies never vote against benefits once already established. Those acts would never be repealed, it seemed, and this made the Boomers hopeless, negative and destructive from irritation and frustration at an intractable, slowly dying system.
The resentment of having their fate sealed before their birth, and their outrage at the hypocrisy of a modern West which feasted on killing its best for illusions like equality, made the Boomers into a relentlessly self-serving generation; perhaps they were the ultimate individualists, or the “last man” that Nietzsche described.
They demonstrated this approach in their response to the Vietnam war:
While dad sweated on the Pacific Ocean and learned the joys of monsoon season, millions of other American men protested the unjust, expensive and bloody war and helped bring it to an end. The popular conception of that period is one of free love and political turmoil. It was an era when old men started unpopular wars and the righteous stayed behind.
…Gibney shows Boomers overwhelmingly supported the war until they had to serve in it. Worse, most who wanted to avoid the war could seek conscientious objector status but instead abused the deferment system.
Boomers sat out one of the most vital conflicts of the Cold War, in which the West prevailed against Sino-Soviet Communist aggression. The “Me Generation” got its name from being unwilling to do anything but act for its own individual pleasures, a third world mentality exhibited by those who took the past for granted because they hated what it had become.
Tags: baby boomers, bill clinton, franklin delano roosevelt, last man, the 1990s, vietnam war