Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Boomers Are All Right

I posted this at 60's Now. It's one of those posts that blur between the generational (which I what I want to emphasize over there) and the personal (here.) That's probably going to happen a lot as time goes on.

But if you're checking in here from time to time because you're a contemporary, you might want to check out 60's Now and the companion site, the Boomer Hall of Fame. Aside from a number of posts on Saturday Morning Sci-Fi of the 50s, I just added an essay/review about poet/essayist Gary Snyder which recalls his week at Knox College in 1967.

We've been criticized and put down since we were kids, but especially in the 60s. We were too loud, too bold, too earnest, too political, too romantic, too idealistic, too cynical, too crazed by sex, drugs and rock & roll. We protested too much, our music was disgusting, we wanted to change the world but we didn't know how. And so on.

These days (when our awful music is everywhere, forty years later, and we're in the middle of another obscene war that if this country had accepted what we learned from Vietnam never would have happened) we're criticized again, this time by some of our own. Boomers are the self-absorbed, self-indulgent generation that talked big and instead just soaked up big money. We stay in the workforce too long and hog up all the good jobs. And now we're selfish enough to still be alive, so we're going to bankrupt the country and younger generations paying for our Social Security and health care.

Most of this is politicized crap, but the worst part of it is that Boomers themselves are joining in. Self-examination is a good thing. Self-loathing is pointless and in some ways the opposite of self-examination: it's an excuse not to bother. I think most of us understand that a lot of the anger against Boomers is right wing anger about the 1960s. Which is anger against those aspects of society that show more tolerance, more open-mindedness, compassion and idealism.

There are differences between generations, and there are different pluses and minuses between and within them. But this Boomer trashing is preposterous. We're neither the best nor the worst, if there could even be such a thing. It's fashionable to bow to the Greatest Generation but we know them as our parents generation, and they were hardly perfect.

Nor were we or are we perfect--or any other image-- as should be obvious. Here in this space will appear critiques of who we were and who we are, what we did and what we didn't do, what we went through and what we're facing now. But the baseline is this: we're all right. Some of our generation are arrogant, mindless, cruel, clueless, greedy, presumptuous, terminally cynical or perenially deluded. Some of our generation has been very quietly courageous, self-sacrificing, dedicated, compassionate, relentlessly true to their ideals. Most of us have sampled from both bins. Welcome to the human race.

Let's recall that the cultural phenomenon called "the 60s" never involved more than a minority of our age group in a major way. Most of us weren't protestors or hippies. (I mean I was, which is how I know we were a decided minority.) We were just such a huge generation, even a minority of us turned out to be a lot. Most of our generation were always going to have a more or less conventional life, according to the conventions of our time.

Many of us embrace the 60s now, and we should. At the same time, that many of us got a life, raised children and can help our grandchildren, not exactly cause of shame there. (I didn't manage to do any of that, but I admire my contemporaries who did. ) Sure, we all have regrets--or we should--- about overconsumption, about getting sucked in, etc. And some good things turned bad or at least awry. But Boomer self-bashing is more pathetic than any other excess we're supposed to peculiarly own.

Come around here [to 60's Now] if you want to. I hope I can break through my own barriers to discuss the aging issues that confront those of us at the head of the Boom, the first-thirders of 1946 to 1950. But don't expect either cheery nostalgia and self-congratulation all the time, or a fashionable attitude of clever but ultimately cynical self-immolation either. The Boomers are all right.

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