P.J. O’Rourke: “Of thee I sigh: Baby boomers bust.”
My sad generation of baby boomers can be blamed. We were born into an America where material needs were fulfilled to a degree unprecedented in history. We were a demographic benison, cherished and taught to be self-cherishing. We were cosseted by a lush economy and spoiled by a society grown permissive in its fatigue with the strictures of depression and war. The child being father to the man, and necessity being the mother of invention, we wound up as the orphans of effort and ingenuity. And pleased to be so. Sixty-six years of us would be enough to take the starch out of any nation.
The baby boom was skeptical about America’s inventive triumphalism. We took a lot of it for granted: light bulb, telephone, television, telegraph, phonograph, photographic film, skyscraper, airplane, air conditioning, movies. Many of our country’s creations seemed boring and square: cotton gin, combine harvester, cash register, electric stove, dishwasher, can opener, clothes hanger, paper bag, toilet paper roll, ear muffs, mass-produced automobiles. Some we regarded as sinister: revolver, repeating rifle, machine gun, atomic bomb, electric chair, assembly line. And, ouch, those Salk vaccine polio shots hurt.
The Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik caused a blip in chauvinistic tech enthusiasm among those of us who were in grade school at the time. But then we learned that the math and science excellence being urged upon us meant more long division and multiplying fractions.
The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs were cool, but not as cool as the sex, drugs, and rock and roll we’d discovered in the meantime. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in 1969, many of us had already been out in space for years, visiting all sorts of galaxies—in our own heads. And in our own heads was where my generation spent most of its time.
Read the whole thing. O’Rourke, in his witty style, captures the failure of my baby boom generation perfectly.