On Boomer Hate

It’s trendy to hate Boomers. Literally, everyone is doing it. I did as well.

But when something is trendy, it’s usually garbage.

But a funny thing happened on the way to critical thinking: I’ve changed my opinion.

The more I thought about generational struggles, the more I realized that generational warfare hurts us all:

What I’m getting at is that I think generational warfare is stupid and counterproductive. And I’m not just talking about the young. Us older folks do it too and we should to stop it.

The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that the righteous Gen X indignation against Boomers is pretty hypocritical, especially since many of us express the same sentiments towards Millennials.

Does repeating the same mistakes you decry really make anything better?

So back to Boomers. I had these thoughts, and then I read Generations, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. One of the most important thing I gleaned from this book is that while generations have some commonalities, they are hardly monolithic. Even Boomers.

Continue reading “On Boomer Hate”

Reset: Chapter 26: Friday, September 7, 2001 (1)

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“You’ve had a day. Has anything about this started ringing any bells? Anything at all?”

To Joe’s dismay, everyone shook their heads. Deflated, he slumped further back, resting his head against the wall behind him.

“To be fair, I can’t even remember last night,” said Jonesy, who had run straight back to his room once the fracas with Steve Carter and his friends had begun. He sat on the couch next to Quinn, slouched down with his chin resting on his chest.

“You don’t count,” said Nick as he paced in a small circle. Zack and Game, sitting in their desk chairs, followed his nervous motion with their eyes. “Maybe only things that are about to happen resonate.” He pointed at Carlos, sitting next to Joe on one bed. “Like, maybe Joe resonated with you because you were about to meet him anyway.”

Carlos shrugged. “Could be.”

“I still think this is really cool,” said Jonesy. He was holding a can of Mountain Dew which he sipped from periodically with a loud slurp.

“Kind of,” said Quinn. “But it’s also pretty weird.”

“So I’ve thought of some plans,” said Zack. “I don’t know about you guys, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything else at all today.”

“I hear you,” said Joe. His day was a blur. He returned to Delino’s class with Nick, but they sat in the back with their heads down, no jokes and no participation. His English class was much the same. Afterwards, he skipped his appointment with his advisor to change classes without giving her notice; he felt bad about it, but not so bad that he lost focus of the three-thousand people soon to die.

“I still don’t see why we don’t just call the government,” said Jonesy. “I mean, we might get arrested or whatever, but we’d save everybody.”

“We’ve gone over that,” said Joe, “I think we need to stop them in the act.”

“So they can’t regroup,” said Zack, nodding. “Which brings me to my two best ideas. Number one, we get on the planes and fight the hijackers. If they do it like you say, with box cutters and the element of surprise, enough of us will be able to stop them from even getting in the cockpit.”

“And there’s the rub,” said Joe. “‘Enough of us.’”

“What if we get some other guys?” said Zack. “Big dudes from the team–”

“No,” said Nick. “No, no, no. We can’t tell anybody else. This has already gotten pretty ridiculous.”

“Let the man finish,” said Game.

Zack raised a hand. “There’s, what, nineteen of these guys? Twenty? If we only have one or two of us per plane, our chances are much worse.”

“Element of surprise,” said Quinn. “Joe said one of the planes was brought down in the countryside somewhere.”

“Pennsylvania,” said Joe.

Quinn nodded. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to get out of this alive.”

Zack nodded. “Same here. Which brings me to idea number two: we stop them before they get on the planes.”

Joe snapped his fingers and pointed at Zack. “You took the words out of my mouth. That’s the only viable way to do this, isn’t it? Get all flights grounded.”

“Easier said than done, right?” said Jonesy, slurping more soda. “I love a challenge.” Continue reading Reset: Chapter 26: Friday, September 7, 2001 (1)”

Pop Culture Is All We’ve Got

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Why do people care so much about big blockbuster movies and pop music and comic books and video games and television and sci-fi and fantasy books and all other pop culture? This stuff is junk. This stuff doesn’t matter. This stuff just isn’t that important, right?

But it is.

High culture is dead. It died a long time ago and is firmly in the “smells funny” phase. Pop culture matters because pop culture is all we’ve got.

Culture helps transmit values. This used to be the province of myth and story, painting and sculpture and poetry and music.

We are talking things that are shared by a people. Things that are enjoyed for their portrayal of truth, their embodiment of beauty, and the pleasure they bring to the eye or to the ear or to the mind or to the soul.

Maybe these things are cliched, but some things are cliche for a reason. They are cliche because they work. Hence the continuing popularity of narratives that show the struggle of good triumphing over evil.

“That’s not realistic!” many say. “It’s simplistic!” they criticize. But that’s the pointGood doesn’t always win, but that doesn’t mean human beings want a culture that reinforces the worst case scenario all the time, one that embodies and exalts the nastiest parts of being alive. It’s not in our nature.

Back to high art: Quick! Name a modern “serious music” composer who matters! Or a poet! Or a painter!

You can’t.

But I’m sure you know who Taylor Swift is. Or what Star Wars is. Or what team LeBron James plays for. Because pop culture has become our culture, for better or for worse.

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This is why people argue about movies involving aliens and laser swords. Or books taking place in fantastical realms with dragons and magic. Or television shows about zombies. These stories reflect and shape who we are as a people. This stuff matters. Continue reading “Pop Culture Is All We’ve Got”

Book Review: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, by William Strauss and Neil Howe

Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. I don’t think I fully buy their theory just yet . . . but get back to me when I’m in my nineties and I might have a different opinion.

Strauss and Howe posit that, throughout America’s history things occur in cycles, including people. The big breakthrough in this book was Strauss and Howe’s description of recurring generational archetypes that shape, and are in turn shaped by, events. They are not the first social scientists to put forth a generational theory, but they are the first, as far as I can tell, to have a four-stroke generational cycle, as well as clearly defining the generational types.

The authors of Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, William Strauss and Neil Howe

Each generational cycle, as observed by Strauss and Howe, consists of the following generational types:

  • Idealist (dominant)
  • Reactive (recessive)
  • Civic (dominant)
  • Adaptive (recessive)

I’ll explain dominant and recessive generations later, but suffice it to say that each generational archetype has its own personality and tendencies.

Still alive today, we see the following generational breakdown:

  • G.I. (“The Greatest Generation”) (Civic) (born 1901-1924)
  • Silent (Adaptive) (born 1925-1942) (end of the prior “Great Power Cycle”)
  • Boomers (Idealist) (born 1943-1960) (beginning of the current “Millennial Cycle”)
  • 13er (“Gen X”) (Reactive) (born 1961-1981)
  • Millennial (Civic) (born 1982-2003)

The book was published in 1991, so this is where the analysis ends, but it’s easy to see that what is sometimes called “Generation Z” (those born in or around 2004) would be considered an Adaptive generation by Strauss and Howe, more similar to the Silent generation than to their parents and grandparents.

Each generation lasts approximately 22 years, and is split into two waves. While there may be some differences between, say, first-wave Adaptives and their second-wave counterparts, these are nothing close to the differences between those second-wavers born on the cusp of the next generation–in Strauss and Howe’s analysis, these tend to have far more in common with their first-wave generational cohort than the succeeding generation. As one born in 1981–the last birth year for 13ers–I find this particularly fascinating.

But there’s even more groundwork needed to understand this hypothesis. It sounds complicated, but the pieces fit together quite nicely. Continue reading “Book Review: Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss and Neil Howe”

Death to Convenience!

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Human history is a funny thing: we spent millennia fighting off predators and toiling in the fields, painstakingly developing labor-saving methods and machines in search of convenience, only to now feel deep dissatisfaction with the industrialized world.

At least, some of us feel dissatisfied.

It’s a thing Jack Donovan touches on in much of his writing. And it’s also the kind of scorching hot take the chattering class likes to bring up when they trot out the whole “It’s a woman’s world now/Are men obsolete?” canard.

You see, apparently things like strengthdecisiveness, and physical courage are outdated and outmoded. As though only men display these things . . .

But this dissatisfaction is not just a man-thing. It’s a human thing.

All this labor-saving, all this technology, and all this existential angst. Is it any wonder that people feel useless? Anxious? Unhappy?

Maybe all of this convenience is the enemy.

This is a great time to be alive in many ways, especially in the West. Fantastic. An anomaly in human history:

  • Hunting and farming? Just press a button, and food is brought to you.
  • Courtship? Romance? Nah! We have devices. Soon, sex robots will be a thing. And if you really crave “the human element,” there are apps for that.
  • Disease? Most of the ones that used to ravage humanity are gone, or held at bay so as to be nearly eradicated.
  • Travel? Never been easier. You don’t even need to own your own vehicle to get from point A to point B, let alone a horse.

And so on.

But we’re all stressed. We suffer from ennui and listlessness and isolation. Pure enervation. Achievement is just not worth the effort since the rewards are ever-dwindling…right?

I mean, look around you, especially if you’re in a city. Things seem designed to keep us apart from each other. Where are the smiles? Hell, it’s weird to even see an athletic physique, isn’t it?

Convenience is killing us. This is not a great revelation when it comes to our personal lives. But what about when it comes to everything else?

How about convenience making us not even want to vote, or learn about important issues? Nothing really ever changes, right?

Our convenience even stops us from asking deep questions, introspective questionsabout ourselves, our legacies, the meaning of life, God, the eternal, the unknowable.

Convenience is a trap. It’s the cage of safety writ large. And this convenience was designed, so the official story goes, to make our lives better.

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And it has.

But as with most everything, there is a price. Continue reading “Death to Convenience!”

Interesting Times

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It’s easy to feel yourself swept away by things, insignificant and out of control. Watching the world unfold, one question–maybe the first question–should be:

Why do you care?

The second question, then, might be:

How could you not?

Simple questions with no good answers. Simple questions that, I’m sure, human beings have been asking our ancestors first formed questions in their minds.

I imagine a caveman watching the blizzard from the relative comfort of his cave and pondering his existence. Is this all there is? Am I destined for nothing but fleeing the saber-toothed, hunting the mammoth, and finding shelter? Luckily for us, his answer, and those of thousands like him, was no.

So what’s our excuse?

Are we destined only to scrape enough to pay the taxman and the other bill collectors, to undue the sub-par education of our children, and to try and end life without running afoul of the endless laws that surround us?

It’s a reactive pose, which is why I suspect it creates such deep feelings of powerlessness.

The caveman sure thought so. It was this discomfort that eventually led to the skyscraper and insulation and central heating, the firearm, architectural principles, and the automobile.

So what’s our excuse? Continue reading “Interesting Times”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! These days, it seems we need it more than ever.

I have left off the God stuff for a while, but today is a perfect day to reflect on the blessings in our lives. We have it so good and yet we remain intent on tearing each other apart…as well as ourselves.

Evil is real. But thankfully, so is good. Never forget this.

Pray for God’s blessings. And don’t be shy about it.

And please, please, please enjoy your family and friends. Sincerity and happiness are underrated, out-of-date, and long overdue for a comeback.

God bless everyone, whomever you are, and Happy Thanksgiving.

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