Boomers: Beyond the Meme

The baby boomer generation has recently come under much well-deserved fire and scrutiny. Given the popular nature of this criticism, however, much of it has reduced its object of critique to caricature. The boomers enjoyed postwar posterity and affluence and thus don’t understand the Millennials and their inability to get a stable job, get married, and live productive decent lives (after their period of understandable youthful rebellion, which the boomers also had). So goes one of the main lines of the largely bi-partisan pop-criticism: the boomers are narcissistic and naïve about the wildly different (and much worse) material conditions facing younger generations.

But before anti-boomerism was a popular meme embraced by a wide swath of the populace, it was a uniquely right-wing, conservative perspective. Everything boomers are most notorious for—the Civil Rights revolution, street protests and riots, embrace of mass media, drug culture, and the sexual revolution—is not only being embraced by a new generation of Americans, but aggressively doubled down on, if in a slightly variant form. Snarky utterances of “OK, boomer” by Bernie broads ring hollow in light of this.

In her debut book Boomers, Helen Andrews lends a powerful and courageous voice to this traditional conservative critique of the boomers, while infusing it with new verve and vigor. Using exemplary boomer representatives of different aspects of Boomer culture—Steve Jobs for tech-as-revolution, Aaron Sorkin for TV and mass media, Al Sharpton for Civil Rights, Camille Paglia for feminism and sex culture—Andrews deftly picks apart all the most cherished shibboleths of the Boomers.

Daring to tread where many others will not, she doesn’t merely decry boomer excesses—in the manner of conservatives who must always first acknowledge the majesty of Civil Rights before humbly suggesting that maybe, perhaps, it went a bit too far in some respects—but rather questions whether things like busing and judicial integration were wise endeavors at all, or successful even on their own terms. In a chapter on Sonia Sotomayor, Andrews rejects the “industrial manufacture of left-wing precedents” enabled by public interest law and the intrusion into private life that followed inexorably from Civil Rights jurisprudence and bureaucracy. In these respects, she echoes some of the recent arguments of Christopher Caldwell in his magisterial The Age of Entitlement, which similarly declines to qualify its denunciations of the Civil Rights revolution tout court. (Caldwell provides the first blurb on the book’s jacket cover.) Books like these represent an invigorated, confident wing of intellectual conservatism which, if not representative of the whole, is still significant and reason to be hopeful.

In the chapter on Al Sharpton, where much of her discussion on Civil Rights and race is found, Andrews excoriates not only James Baldwin’s putative intellectual heir Ta-Nehisi Coates for his lies about “white flight” (that it was racist, not simply a rational reaction to neighborhoods becoming violent and unlivable), but James Baldwin himself. Baldwin “was inspired not by oppression but by his personal neuroses”, borne of a traumatic childhood, “a complex about being hideously ugly,” and who later complained of “pathetic middle-aged affairs with unworthy gay lovers.” This isn’t for the purpose of flaunting the pain of a troubled man but to analyze the root of his mistaken interpretation of racial issues, which liberals take so seriously. And her conclusion is that “his error was to project his pain onto the black experience.” Al Sharpton himself, meanwhile, is taken to task for lauding “transformational” leaders like MLK while denouncing “transactional” leaders of the machine-politics, Mayor Daley mold—though the latter often delivered the tangible goods more consistently. This iconoclastic approach to such venerable figures in the liberal canon, especially surrounding the sensitive issue of race, is a quality rare in mainstream conservative writers.

Nor is this the only arena where Andrews struggles mightily against prevailing headwinds, contesting standard liberal and conservative narratives alike. In a chapter on Jeffrey Sachs she offers a robust defense of Empire, and an incisive critique of American post-war anti-imperialism throughout the third world, while simultaneously questioning the very construct of “colonialism.” Andrews locates much of the folly of recent American foreign policy in the refusal of America to explicitly act like the Empire that it clearly is, instead of deploying soft power, NGOs, and imperial euphemisms as substitutes. This cuts against liberal anti-colonialism as much as it does any conservative nationalism that ignores the persisting, and unavoidable, reality of Empire.

Andrews is in most ways conventionally conservative when it comes to the question of sexual politics, but even here she is unusually perceptive. When discussing Camille Paglia’s dissident brand of feminism, which she has some admiration for, Andrews nevertheless sees a monumental error in her blithe approach to sex. Paglia correctly recognizes that sex is inherently dangerous, and can’t be made undangerous, as liberal managerial types would attempt to do, but she erroneously concludes that one should therefore revel in it all the more, rather than be doubly cautious when dealing with it (a non sequitur if ever there was one). In the context of Paglia’s involvement in gay culture, Andrews brutally exposes this folly:

Gay culture might seem delightfully insouciant from the outside but she knew what was happening behind club doors. Later, she came to know how the whole story ended—in plague. And yet when she finally became famous, with two of her best friends dead from AIDS and the excesses of the bathhouse era tempered but by no means tamed, she persisted in arguing that the problem in America was too little sex, not too much.

At a certain point one can only diagnose willful blindness.

But where did the Boomers go wrong? What is the origin of their fantasy-driven approach to race, sex, and economics? Working backwards, the answers to that may be partially found in the first two subjects the book focuses on: Steve Jobs and Aaron Sorkin.

Masters of the two types of screen, digital and televisual respectively, both are apostles of mass media in its changing forms. The capture of desires and dreams through the power of mass media had shaped a whole generation, the first one raised with a television in the home. Digital mass media technology extended (and transformed) this realm even further. Like the proverbial fish asking “what is water?”, the Boomer is so immersed in the realm of televisual mass media that “its intrinsic biases—toward flash over illumination, sound bites over substance, the methods of advertising over the methods of persuasion—have become their basic intuitions.” With this being the case, it is it any wonder their (and now our) politics are so vulgar and commercial, so driven by appearance and sloganeering, and most of all unreal and dominated by fantasy? Nothing better explains their perpetual pathetic attempts to re-enact the social disruptions of the ‘60s and the heroic vision of themselves they absorbed through the television set.

Boomers, like The Age of Entitlement, is not only distinguished by its noble refusal to mouth the pieties and genuflect before the false gods of our age, but also by a strong literary sensibility and command of prose. Andrews is a sharp stylist and a withering critic. While she has wielded her pen to devastating effect before, in essays across various publications, her combative, take-no-prisoners style comes into its own with Boomers. To provide just a glimpse of it, she refers to the notorious atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair as “a pudgy self-involved Communist [who] had almost single-handedly eliminated a practice [school prayer] older than the country whose Constitution she so brazenly manipulated.” Upon Jeffrey Sachs’ completion of a dubious foreign economic intervention in Poland, she writes that “he did what every great man does when he is overwhelmed by hubris. He decided to go to Russia.” Betty Friedan “was a self-obsessed malcontent who deliberately concealed her past as a fellow traveler of the Communist Party USA in order to make The Feminine Mystique seem like an honest memoir and not political propaganda.”

As uncompromisingly tough as she is in her approach toward them, Andrews nevertheless aims to avoid gratuitously piling on the Boomers. As with any generation or group, they had vices and virtues, successes and failures. Determining where they went wrong and how to avoid following in their path doesn’t entail singling them out as the root of all evil. Millennials could, of course, reject their vision rather than reiterate it in a new key, but so far they are not. There is plenty of blame to go around. (Where Gen X’s fits in is famously still somewhat nebulous and indeterminate; where zoomers shall land is too early to say.) Still, entire generations can leave a legacy that is ultimately ignoble, and the Boomers have done so, as this book forcefully argues. But so long as one still draws breath, Boomer or Millennial, X or Z, there is always one solution that can begin to rectify a lifetime of folly and destruction, and which is perpetually available to members of every generation: repentance.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. GDR says:

    Could you write something on libtard hatred of transactional leaders, their preferences for “yasss slay kween” transformational types, and the likely reasons for that preference?

    Understanding the logic of their preferences helps one cheat their systems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ᛋᛠᛉ says:

      I’ll air my ignorance. Being a millennial who’s lived under a rock… What is “yass slay queen?” Heard it in passing in our thing, but never dated ask.

      Like

    2. Nathan Duffy says:

      Check out the book first, because in the chapter on Sharpton she does quite a bit of that. It’s the main framing mechanism she uses there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. GDR says:

        “yass slay kween” is a meme fragment where a typically female unthinking person (NPC in gamer speak) mindlessly blathers their approval of corporate HR trite intended to make you identify with a politicians brand.

        “OMG Kamala has a Gucci bag made from organic locally sourced goyim newborn skin, and she voted to allow abortion up to the 12th trimester (editors note: children under 3)!

        YASS SLAY SWEEN!”

        You could replace it with the braying of a donkey as it’s hit with a blast of nitrous oxide to calm it just before it enters an abattoir.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. WS says:

    Awesome to see this review. I had an interest in this book when it came out, but I completely forgot about it shortly after.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lamprey Milt says:

    Boomers are so vile. Im so psyched to see them get vaccinated. Soylent Green for baby boomer.
    They cant think for themselves…its pathetic. Im so sick of neocuck defending boomer behavior. All they did was project on their children…”My Son will never do that job! Hes too busy playing his xbox i bought him”.
    FUCK BOOMERS.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bluecat57 says:

    I’m heading to my hourly reading room session (I am an older Boomer) to read this article, but I can tell you this:

    Those that these memes are disparaging (2nd or 3rd time today using that word, h/t Word-A-Day calendar) are

    DEMOCRATS not Boomers

    The vast majority of Boomers were raised by the Greatest Generation and at the very least learned to love God and Country. That minority that hate country and god are worthy of all the mocking that memes can generate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. stallard0 says:

      The overwrought Boomers-ruined-everything position both retards deeper and more serious analysis of our ills and perpetuates the contempt for elders that accelerates decline (not a coincidence “don’t trust anyone over 30” was a meme during the sexual revolution). “OK Boomer” is fundamentally of that same spirit, which is why Bernie bros can effortlessly co-opt a supposedly “conservative” meme (in reality, anything but).
      Many Boomers are hardly anywhere near our level of consciousness, but reality constantly crushes the fantasy that some subsequent generation is better placed.

      A cursory look at the state of society for Boomers’ parents demonstrates that the conservative critique is as hollow as the liberal one, and the destruction of the 60s was not a bunch of bored college students inventing amazing new ways to destroy things like a bunch of adult toddlers but were simply breaching the already compromised Prole sensibility to the bourgeois degeneracy of the liberal elite that they were inculcated with.

      For just one example, Virginia Woolf, whose position as a darling of the literati has never been shaken, was as much a degenerate as any flower child, and actively pushed the envelope on many of the fault lines the Boomers litigated before they had so much as been born. We could trace back earlier, all the way to Sodom if we wanted to, but the Boomers really only brought the views of their professors to middle America. No different from today, the students were blind vanguards of the social policies of real Power.

      In this way, Boomers represent nothing but a particularly destructive stage of the total warfare waged against us. The Zoomers could easily shape up to be worse, and we have to look longer and harder than blaming mamaw in the nursing home because she argued with her mother about Blacks.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. bluecat57 says:

        I hope you aren’t too insulted if I observe that you write like an academic.

        There is nothing new under the sun. Ecc. 1:9

        From the history reported in Genesis 3 onward, humans have committed themselves to all sorts of depravity. From merely “bad” to truly evil.

        Each subsequent generation thinks they are better than the last and blames the last for all the problems of the world. Yet they are merely repeating the human mistakes of all generations.

        All we can do is commit to moving forward and attempting to Make Earth Great Again.

        PS – You wouldn’t insult me if you said I write like a preacher. I’m not, but I’m not opposed to a little fire and brimstone once in awhile.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Wemplen says:

      Well, not really, you can’t pin it all on “muh demonrats”. Conservative boomers almost unanimously support the civil rights era and race issues, in that sense, it isn’t hard to find some LARPing or trying to re-live this through the BLM bullshit. The boomer instinct of “fight against racism like they do on the tv” is alive and well not only in democrats

      Like

      1. bluecat57 says:

        Stereotypes have a source but usually they don’t represent the hidden majority. And it is amazing how fast attitudes change the first time you have to file a tax return.

        Like

  5. GDR says:

    Ebook link to the boomer book

    https://b-ok.cc/book/11245893/e21536

    Like

  6. nc says:

    TO dAy or not TWO A
    BTW-Boomer parent (and 4/5 siblings) already got vaxed or are in the queue. Will see if summer 2021 is the summer of grief vs the summer of love in 1969.

    Like

  7. Prince Albert says:

    I disagree that the Right owned Anti-Boomerism at the outset. The first, real, institutional anti-boomer sentiments came in the form of Douglas Coupland’s 1991 book ‘Generation X’, which popularized the term. It was very much left-wing, and the criticism of their cohort was much gentler than we see today, but the core issues were there: rootlessness, declining living standards for the young, obtuse consumerism, no families, no sense of future.

    Ultimately boomers are victims of the system just as we are. However their generation never had the intellectual tools for system critique. They have no idea what has happened to them and cannot know. None of this is their fault, but the current system is riding on their naiveté. To us media meta-narratives are maddeningly obvious. Clumsy. Garish. But they are not for us. They’re for the frightened boomer sliding towards the nursing home, hoping the correct voting lever (a device the newest generation of voters have never seen) will deliver them from evil.

    When they are gone it will be knives out for real.

    Like

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