The Last Word

The Last Word

By Dan Berman '01
Dan.jpg (306806 bytes)

 From my vantage point, it's painfully clear that the baby boom generation is out of control. I'm not too sure how it happened, but somehow an attitude of superiority mixed with yearning for a lost youth has leaked into boomers' brains, and they're taking it out on the rest of us.

Let me explain. As a 20-year-old college student, I am on the borderline between the post-baby-boom generation and the post-post-baby-boom generation, known to the rest of America as Generations X and Y, respectively.

Of course the boomers are the ones doing the naming, out of some strange need to classify and rank generations of Americans. Generation X is so named because boomers couldn't find anything else that could explain these people other than a symbol signifying "random."

Generation Y is simply the offspring of that lazy imagination. Gen Y also happens to be the offspring of the baby boomers themselves, which leads to labels such as "technologically savvy," a compliment they pay us mainly for knowing the skill of VCR programming, an event that apparently elicits the same awe and excitement as the moon landing.

The 30th anniversary of the moon landing was just one event that boomers latched onto in the summer of 1999, a banner season for nostalgia. It all started with the untimely death of JFK, Jr. In the days following his fatal plane crash, there was no shortage of stories about how this even cut across all generational boundaries, how he was a symbol of his father and a simpler, more idealistic time. However, simply because everyone was aware of who JFK, Jr. was certainly didn't mean that they shared in the meaning of his death.

Certainly I knew who JFK, Jr. was, but his death did not rekindle the memories of the 1960s because I have no memories of the 1960s. It was before my time, and therefore my feelings about the crash are limited to today's realities.

That reality is pessimistic and skeptical. I have been conditioned to look for the negative first, perhaps the positive later. I didn't watch JFK's inauguration in seventh grade; I watched Anita Hill testify instead. Times change.

Is this bad? Is it wrong? One of the subconscious preoccupations of baby boomers seems to be to compare other generations to their own in an attempt, basically, to make themselves feel better.

For example, boomers somehow believe every generation needs some defining moment to provide a point of reference so that generation can be more easily understood. The boomers cite several such touchstones, including the Kennedy assassinations, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the moon landing, all nicely framed by the Cold War.

They speak of a lost innocence and lost idealism, but have a strange sense of accomplishment in having experienced so much.

Now my generation is asked to rekindle that lost spirit. We even had our turn at Woodstock '99.

But another Woodstock is just that: Woodstock repeated. The second one had $150 ticket prices and beer gardens, with coverage on MTV promoting the pay-per-view option. This had nothing to do with the '60s and everything to do with cashing in on nostalgia, and
everyone knew it. What will they think up next?

In the end, my generation doesn't have anything to lose. The bar has been lowered to the point where even if we meet others' expectations, nobody will notice. It's impossible to win in a battle where the opponent defines and changes the rules to stay on top.

The reason my generation is frowned upon is that we have chosen not to fight previous generations, which is seen as a sign not of strength, but of apathy--which is, by the outdated definition, wrong.

Apathy is simply a sign of individualism. In a world against us, it is a pretty nice trait to have. When told we have no prospects yet still carry heavy burdens (someone has to pay for Social Security, for example), our hopes for success must rest within ourselves. We have been forced to defend ourselves first; then we'll save the world.

Unfortunately, the experiences of baby boomers have been reduced to convenient marketing tools, so that they can spend their money on nostalgic things like the new VW Beetle (which may also be popular because it can fit next to the SUV in the garage).

I see this commercialism, the second Woodstock, the capitalist nostalgia, and that's how I relate to the baby boom. Is there any wonder that I'm sick of it?

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