24.8.06

FOURTH TURNING ALERT. At Chicago Boyz, John Jay suggests there are going to be plenty of opportunities for bashing first-wave Baby Boomers. First a disclaimer followed by an anecdote.
Perceptions of the prime Boomer generation by late Boomers and Gen Xers tend to be highly selective. I’ll give you an example. I was in the Mall the other week. I was dressed in my normal business casual – slacks and a short sleeve button down shirt. I happened to glance over at a guy about 70 or 75 years old. He was dressed almost the same as I, save for a baseball cap that proclaimed that he was a veteran of Chosin. Holy cow. I gave him a smile and a nod. Walking up the stairs between us was a guy about 55 or 60. Receding gray hair worn long and in a pony tail wearing shorts, a tie-died Grateful Dead t-shirt with the colorful dancing bears (one of whom was toking on a bong), and socks with sandals (for which he should be whipped with lederhosen daily). The image of two adults two generations apart looking at an overgrown child with gray hair between us has stuck in my mind for over a week. I’m sure that I saw numerous other Boomers that day, but it’s the bozo that sticks in my mind. Selective perception.
After some reflection and qualification, a prediction.

Quantum Shift Coaching and the Hidden Messages in Water are just the sort of New-Agey crapfests that I associate with the Boomers. But let’s be fair. There’s a significant segment of my generation that would go for this crap, too. The junior positions in consulting firms are staffed by Gen X and Gen Y parasites. It’s just that in absolute numbers, the Boomers so dominate idiotic vocations such as life coaching that I tend to associate the evils of such activities with that generation. Selective perception of the segment. Confirmation bias.

If there hadn’t been so dang many of them relative to other generational cohorts, a lot of this youthful idiocy would have slipped into historical obscurity. And if they had not been born into a period of relative affluence, a lot of them would have shed their youthful misperceptions and become fully-fledged adults. But the economy (at first) did not demand all that much from them, and there were an awful lot of them. The Boomers are like the great Dane in the room who knocks vases off of the shelf when he wags his tail. A generational cohort bigger than either the preceding or succeeding one warps the social space-time continuum around itself.

With potentially dire consequences (particularly when the Social Security contingent liabilities turn into real claims on resources?)
As I said above, while the Boomer generation is somewhat skewed left and New Agey, I’m not sure that its character is hugely different from other generations, past or present. I’m pretty sure it’s shifted a bit left of my generation, but the Boomer demographic segment is so large that its flaws tend to be written in fire on the wall rather than in the fine print of history books. And when that demographic finally comes to the end of its productive years and beginning to draw a significant degree of wealth from younger folks, the perceptions are going to get more and more selective.
More potential for social upheaval.

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