Monday, July 30, 2007

The Last Idealist Generation

Strauss and Howe show that generations conform to four basic archetypes cycling through history. They are smart enough to note that cycles do not straight-forwardly repeat themselves, that we are not caught in an endless loop, nor is history a mere linear progression.
But today's Boomers are the same archetype as those who ran the show in the 1930s, creating the forms of governement and business that dominated the 20th Century, "My Century!" according to Al Pacino as Satan in The Devil's Advocate.

"It's the 1930s All Over Again" says Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.
Jittery stock markets, an economy drunk on credit, and politicians calling for varieties of dictatorship: what a sense of déjà vu! Let us recall that the world went bonkers for about ten years way back when. The stock market crashed in 1929, thanks to the Federal Reserve, and with it fell the last remnants of the old liberal ideology that government should leave society and economy alone to flourish. After the federal Great Depression hit, there was a general air in the United States and Europe that freedom hadn't worked. What we needed were strong leaders to manage and plan economies and societies.

And how they were worshipped. On the other side of the world, there were Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini, but in the United States we weren't in very good shape either. Here we had FDR, who imagined himself capable of astonishing feats of price setting and economy boosting. Of course he used old-fashioned tricks: printing money and threatening people with guns. It was nothing but the ancient despotism brought back in pseudo-scientific garb.

Again, will the current Idealists, the Boomers, look to the outdated modes of production and organization of the past or look forward and let people be?

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Astronaut Farmer

The tag line of this movie is "If we don't have our dreams, we have nothing." In many ways this movie points hopefully to a revitalization of baby-boomers to rediscover the animating spirit of their generation. It is also hopeful in that the protagonist, played by Billy Bob Thornton, does it one his own, contrary to Boomers' youthful dreams of forcing everyone into their Age of Aquarius (on the Left) or into Moral Rectitude (on the Right).

One aspect of his relentless pursuit is the potential bankruptcy of his family. He had had to leave NASA in his youth to go back and save the family farm. But will his pursuit of his dream threaten the farm again? Will he suffer every Boomer male's nightmare and Become his Father? Will he enslave his children in the debt accrued for his dream?

It is touching to see his wife back his dreams and push him to pursue them, especially since "Husband and Wife" relationships are so often portrayed by Boomers as whimsy vs. narrow scold, as practicality vs. dreams, as rivalry not teamwork. G.K. Chesterton said:
"Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men."
And this movie does a great job of capturing the great tension between these male and female aspects while at the same time showing the love and respect for each other within the whole family. The movie indicates that family life can pull Boomers out of their adolescent narcissism while at the same time anchoring their dreams.

The movie also articulates well two aspects of Baby-boomer masculinity. Most Boomer men are shown to be compromised bureaucratic hacks, their souls sold. Farmer is still following his dream, his vision, despite setbacks and costs. On reviewer of the movie on IMDB said
My brother in fact didn't like this movie because he said it wasn't possible. I don't remember him having this much trouble with "E.T." or "Forest Gump". My brother gave up his dream of being a writer, he now teaches high school drama.
In Casablanca we are told that if you scratch a cynic you will find a romantic underneath. The Boomers men here represent the excesses of relentless dreamers and the deficiencies of dreamers burnt out.

Of course there are no Gen Xers in this movie, except for some of the FBI and police roles, who interestingly scorn their spiritually bankrupt superiors and hope for Farmer's success. The children in this movie are Millennials, as if the Boomers psychologically can't acknowledge the generation raised in the moral, political and emotional chaos of the 70s and 80s that they spawned. Again it is interesting that the Gen X characters are law enforcement, as if a generation raised in chaos wants desperately to create order somehow, at least in their own lives, reluctantly taking part in imposing it on others.

The Space Age of the Boomers' youth that is representative here of their dreams, and of man's ability to accomplish the most daunting tasks, is also deeply symbolic of the mechanistic, impersonal and unemotional, industrial and technological world that the GI generation built after WWII. It is both the "emotionless" world of their parents that the Boomers reacted against, diving headlong into an excess of emotionalism at the other extreme -"Follow your Bliss" and all that good stuff- and the root of their aspirations to perfect the world through the application of science and technology.

According to some psychologists, when we are "wounded" at one stage of our development this affects all later development. In order to be whole and fully-developed we have to go back to that stage of our development and work on those character issues. Unless we do this we will continue building on an unsure foundation, like a "Leaning Tower of Pisa" of personal character. The Astronaut Farmer is clearly about Baby-Boomers going back to work on the issues of when they lost their souls, when they were first broken.

Farmer gave up the dream of his youth, the technological wizardry to transcend Earth's boundaries to tend to the practical matters of hearth and home. But he continues to try both to take care of his family and to follow his dream.

In the end his wife pushes him to continue, despite a major setback and massive strain on the family finances, because she does not want him to wound his son as he had been wounded himself. We can see the family, through generational levels, working out the pursuit of their dreams and their practical responsibilities.
In order to do this, however, they spend the inheritance from her father. What the maternal grandfather (Silent Generation or GI) had left for the family, especially the children, is used to go to space.

This is the most troubling aspect of the movie. If Boomers need to go back to the time of their "loss of soul" in order to be more fully integrated and alive, in order to be good parents and adults for the Millennials, does in necessitate spending the Millennials' inheritance?

Will the Boomers look to the outdated forms of work and life of their youth, a "soulless, mechanical, and institutional" world created by the GIs, against which they reacted so wildly in the 60s, to reinvigorate themselves? Or will they look forward as adults who can create their own visions of work, society and life for their families?

Recently Andrew Sullivan commented on the Presidential campaign in similar terms. He asked if Boomer Hillary Clinton was trapped in the paradigm of 20th century foreign policy, a foreign policy put in place by the GIs and if maybe Gen X Barack Obama or Silent Generation Ron Paul are looking to a new paradigm for the 21st Century, a paradigm that may reinvigorate adults but will not bankrupt their children.
And it is a predictable Beltway meme that Clinton did better than Obama this week because she showed "experience" and he showed "naivete". But I wonder if that's the case. I wonder if the country hasn't shifted sufficiently to make total disengagement from Iraq thinkable and Clinton seem a captive of past presumptions about American power and how it should be wielded. Iraq has made the case for a "humble nation" more eloquently than Bush in 2000 ever could.

Boomer Burt Rutan went to space, the Big Dream of boomers in their youth, but he did it on his own in Spaceship One.
Boomers can create the future without looking to the outdated modes of production of the GI hegemony, without bankrupting the rest of us for their dreams.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What Boomers Offer?

An author offers the possibility that the Boomers might be of some use before they die. And this is indicative of a fundamental change that is happening among Boomers. They will feel at a loss and unfulfilled if they die without ever having acted the adult, without ever having passed on to the youth any skills or wisdom.
Some of the greatest skills—and life lessons—this industry has acquired have been the product of great mentoring, rather than expensive training. In fact, the current baby boomer generation has taught younger generations volumes about preparing for the future and striving for improvement.

Hopefully Boomers can finally be at peace with themselves and where they are. If they continue to see "Youth" as an abstract consumer object to be fought over in some zero-sum game with the younger generations, they will never be whole and they will "die before they get old"

Read it all

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Boomer Mission

While Boomers spent so much energy breaking down the social and cultural institutions that nurtured them in their youth, they now find themselves having to raise their own kids and are revitalizing the civic groups that they once scorned.
This is how Civic generations like the Millenials get formed, by Boomers energizing civic groups such as Kathy Cloninger and the Girls Scouts.
These civic groups can then go either terribly wrong into a herd mentality, or can grow well, building community and the strong civil institutions that Tocqueville knew made Democracy work.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Great Blog

Check out The Brazen Careerist Blog. Brilliant insight into the changing dynamics of the work world with Generation X and the Millennials.
Especially these two entries:

Yahoo column: Why we should be grateful for Generation Y


Twentysomething: Start a company in 3 days with 70 friends

which is a fascinating look at the new "decentralized" workspace. Now if we could just decentralize ourselves out of Social Security...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Boomers find obstacles to volunteer success

Many baby boomers, the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are part of a large demographic shift, are defying the stereotype of being the "me" generation, said Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch.

"Boomers are far more interested in volunteering than they're given credit for," Baldwin said. "They're far more interested in using their career and non-career-related skills. They have higher expectations for their volunteer experiences than some of the younger users we're sampling."
Read entire article:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

All the Great Themes Turned into Theme Parks

Just for ha-has, a clip from a great movie about Gen X and being fed up with Boomers and their "causes".

See the whole movie (Pump Up the Volume), it's great.

Nightmare of Their Own Creation

"We're getting old!" and The Who told us to hope to die before we got old! Boo Hoo... Age gracefully ladies:
But we know that women tend to handle things better than men in these regards. You might see 50 guys with gray ponytails before you see one Boomer matron in a Mini. Boomer men need to mentor or something, and take responsibility...

Boomer Fight!

Jim Webb vs. Lindsey Graham: One is on the career entitlement fasttrack, the other has worked in the private sector, as a soldier, as a writer, as an historian, and has poured his heart out in books about culture and history.
The only Idealist boomers worth their salt are the ones trying to pass on the best of their culture to the youth like Webb.
This is one thing I really take objection to — may I speak? — is politicians who try to put their political views into the mouths of soldiers," Webb said over his opponent's interruptions. He placed his hand briefly on Graham's back, then jerked his thumb in the Republican's direction.

"Have you been to Iraq?" Graham demanded.

"I've covered two wars as a correspondent," Webb said. "I have been to Afghanistan as a journalist."

Graham: "Have you been to Iraq and talked to the soldiers?"

Webb: "You know, you've never been to Iraq, Lindsey."

The Republican pointed out he's been there seven times.

"You know," Webb said dismissively, "you can see the dog and pony shows. That's what congressman do.

Read it all: Tempers flare on Iraq

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


There is a new movie coming out called Hairspray. A remake of an older version about young Baby-boomers and the transformative powers of partying to Rock and Roll to "change the world." It is advertised with a review which states, "Hairspray is this generation's Grease!"
Let me get this straight: a remake of Boomer movie about Boomer youth is called the Grease -another Boomer movie about Boomer youth- for this generation?
What a great example of stagnation and stasis in culture, stuck forever like a CD skipping, on the Boomers and their developmental fixations.