The Boomers finally begin to become dimly aware that the younger generations do not see them in the same way they have always seen themselves:
Talking about our generation is not going to be as much fun for the Boomers as it was in those long distant days of infinite promise. My generation has some real accomplishments under its belt, especially in the worlds of science and technology. And we made important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded. In every field of American life, there are Boomers who have made and are making important, selfless contributions: in hospitals, in classrooms, in government, in business, in the military. You name it and we are there.
But at the level of public policy and moral leadership, as a generation we have largely failed. The Boomer Progressive Establishment in particular has been a huge disappointment to itself and to the country. The political class slumbered as the entitlement and pension crisis grew to ominous dimensions. Boomer financial leadership was selfish and shortsighted, by and large. Boomer CEOs accelerated the trend toward unlimited greed among corporate elites, and Boomer members of corporate boards sit by and let it happen. Boomer academics created a profoundly dysfunctional system that systemically shovels resources upward from students and adjuncts to overpaid administrators and professors who by and large have not, to say the least, done an outstanding job of transmitting the cultural heritage of the past to future generations. Boomer Hollywood execs created an amoral morass of sludge — and maybe I’m missing something, but nobody spends a lot of time talking about the towering cultural accomplishments of the world historical art geniuses of the Boomer years….
All of this was done by a generation that never lost its confidence that it was smarter, better educated and more idealistic than its Depression-surviving, World War-winning, segregation-ending, prosperity-building parents. We didn’t need their stinking faith, their stinking morals, or their pathetically conformist codes of moral behavior. We were better than that; after all, we grokked Jefferson Airplane, achieved nirvana on LSD and had a spiritual wealth and sensitivity that our boorish bourgeois forbears could not grasp. They might be doers, builders and achievers — but we Boomers grooved, man, we had sex in the park, we grew our hair long, and we listened to sexy musical lyrics about drugs that those pathetic old losers could not even understand.
What the Boomers as a generation missed (there were, of course and thankfully, many honorable individual exceptions) was the core set of values that every generation must discover to make a successful transition to real adulthood: maturity.
This is precisely the point that I have been making, if in a more contemptuous manner. The Boomers, by and large, continue to exhibit less maturity than their children, and in some cases, their grandchildren. It is not at all uncommon for Generation X children to have far more in their savings accounts and retirement plans than their irresponsible parents, who blithely assume that someone else will always continue to pay for their sheer wonderfulness.
Even their claimed accomplishments are suspect. What the author describes as “important progress in making American society a more open place for people and groups who were once excluded” could be more accurately described as destroying societal cohesion and creating the fault lines upon which society will eventually fragment. Especially if “groups who were once excluded” is intended to include “foreigners who live in foreign countries.”
“What begins in arrogance often ends in shame; there are some ominous signs that the Boomers are headed down that path. Sooner or later, the kids were going to note what a mess we have made of so many things, and now, it seems, the backlash has begun.”
The generational backlash hasn’t begun yet. And it won’t get into full swing, or have any material consequences, until more Boomers retire and the cost of maintaining them breaks the federal budget. But one thing that is already mathematically certain is that Generation X, the Millenials, and the Hispanic immigrants will not pay to support the Baby Boomers in old age. Because they cannot. The Boomers ate too much of the societal seed corn instead of sowing it.