On behalf of the Boomers, let me try to explain and apologize.He's a few years older than I, and his lived experience somewhat different.
We came along at the end of history’s earlier biggest trauma, the Second World War, following the hard stumble of the Great Depression — which, by the way, for those of you unsure of chronology, followed the First World War, an epic, purposeless slaughter that utterly demoralized Western civilization. What a set-up for my parents’ generation.
We Boomer boys had his war as movies and comic books: Sergeant Rock and John Wayne on the beach at Iwo! We had all the fruits of that postwar bonanza. We had Disneyland, the 1964 World’s Fair, the Carousel-of-Progress, and Rock Around the Clock. We eventually had a war of our own, Vietnam, but it was optional for college kids. I declined to go get my ass shot off, of course.It's the early 1970s when I start college, and my academic life involved researching heavy industry as heavy industry was coming apart around me. But his recollection, and mine, are distinct impressions of the same squandering of the victory dividend. (That Carousel of Progress, not so much. That's a meditation for another day.)
You have no idea what a fantastic bacchanal college was in the 1960s. Let the sunshine in! The great anti-war protests gave us a chance to pretend we were serious, but, believe me, it was much more about finding someone to hook-up with at the teach-ins and the street marches. The birth control pill was a fabulous novelty. We ignored the side-effects — especially the social side effects that led later on to an epidemic of divorces and broken families. When you are a young man, sex is at least half of what you think of minute-by-minute. I was on a campus where all you saw were waves of nubile, joggling breasts coming at you beneath those sheer peasant blouses (which, you understand, suggests that the women were in on it, too, being every bit as incited by their own frisky hormones).
Personally, I was not altogether on board with the hippie program, though I let my hair grow. A lot about it gave me the creeps — the lurid posters of Hindu gods with elephant heads, the dumb-ass “Hey, man,” lingo, the neurotic sharing of everything from clothing to money, the wooly armpits, the ghastly organic cuisine…. I mostly eschewed drugs, never dropped acid, and smoked pot infrequently due to a chastening episode of frightening paranoia early on. Anyway, after Charlie Manson’s caper, the whole thing lost its luster and by the early 1970s there wasn’t much left but sideburns, and by then many of us were in an office of some kind.
The political economy might be interesting, though.
The Boomers should never have been allowed in those offices, especially the ones within ten miles of Wall Street. That’s where the cleverest among us came up with the signal innovations that have now wrecked the world. The corona virus is a very bad thing, for sure, but it’s really nothing compared to the deliberate wickedness that engineered the so-called financialized economy — a supernatural matrix of something-for-nothing swindles and frauds that purported to replace actual work that produced things of value. The great lesson of the age was lost: the virtual is not a substitute for the authentic.Perhaps, although one of the Tom Clancy allusions that has recently come to mind is the reset of the financial markets in Debt of Honor. The productive bits of the economy are still there, perhaps repurposed for medical goods at the moment, and concentrating on delivering food for home consumption, and the task to come will be banishing sufficient fear that people will be willing to venture to the arenas and eateries and coffee houses once we have a better understanding of this virus.
And now the Boomer geniuses of finance are scrambling frantically to hurl imaginary money into the black hole they have opened with their own reckless wizardry. But black holes are nothing like ordinary holes. They are unfillable. They just suck everything into a cosmic vacuum that resembles something like death — which, in its implacable mystery, may just be a door to a new disposition of things, the next life, the next reality.