“Guys who once dropped acid are now downing Viagra; women who once eschewed lipstick are now getting liposuction. At the risk of feeding their narcissism, I believe it’s time someone stated the simple truth: The baby boomers are the most self-centred, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in … history.”
— Journalist and political operative Paul Begala (1961- )
You talkin’ to me, Paul Begala? You must be. Because it’s your view that in my view, nobody else exists. I certainly don’t want to feed into your skewered impression of our people. Still, I must point out that even the Harper government is funding and fostering our narcissism by contributing tax dollars to a CBC-TV Doc Zone production called The Boomer Revolution. It runs next Thursday at 9 p.m.
“[Boomers are] going to be around for a long, long time,” the CBC says in its promotional material, sounding turned off by the prospect in spite of itself. “Life expectancy has gone up over 30 years in the last century, and it’s rising about two years for every decade — so [they are] reaping a longevity bonus.”
No doubt, the 30 per cent of us who make up Canadian society will be glued to the tube. We do like to navel-gaze, don’t we? The good news? No one but boomers watches network television anymore. So we will likely be revelling in ourselves more or less in private. There’s a name for that.
The thing is, boomers are the Toronto of generations — which is to say, everyone who isn’t living in our world seems to hate us. Our parents thought our music was cacophonic and juvenile. Our kids find it treacly and unsubtle. Here’s a typical comment on that score.
Blogger Tim Byron says our taste in tunes “got more and more boring as the years went on; by the mid-1990s it was the baby boomers buying big quantities of Michael Bolton and Celine Dion. [They] seemed to give up on new music,” he adds, “retreating to the warm safety of deluxe remastered 40th-anniversary editions of albums they used to own on vinyl.”
OK. I’ll cop to the boxed set of The Band. But Celine Dion? That’s a low blow.
More than our taste in culture apparently deeply offends those who came before and after us. In fact, we seem to get blamed for everything — and I mean everything. Here’s a short list:
• The economy: In an online Atlantic magazine article called Who Destroyed the Economy? The Case Against the Baby Boomers, Jim Tankersley writes: “I love my dad fiercely … even though he is, statistically and generationally speaking, a parasite. … Boomers have run up incomes for the very wealthiest … shrunk the middle class, and, via careless borrowing and reckless financial engineering, driven the economy into the worst recession in 80 years.”
• Emotional misery brought on by bad visual imagery: “Ads are getting so depressing,” writes an anonymous National Post reporter in an online article called Ten Reasons to Hate the Boomers. “Turning on the television, walking down a subway platform or switching on the radio is fast becoming a collision with mortality. We are reminded daily that our sex lives will need help, our hearts will need help, everything will need help. And that our parents are still ‘doing it.’ Ewwwww.”
And here’s my personal favourite:
• The Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal: In what came to be known as the blame Woodstock defence, a five-year study, concluded in 2011, cited some priests’ poor adaptation to the turmoil of the ’60s as a major reason for their propensity to abuse children.
“There’s a sexual revolution, there’s an increased amount of drug use, there’s an increase in crime, there’s an increase in things like premarital sex, in divorce,” said Karen Terry, the principal investigator of the study. “In a number of factors, there’s change. And the men who are in the priesthood are affected by these social factors.” Right.
No wonder Paul Begala is a self-hating boomer. Everyone else seems to be turning on us. I’d like to say that because we’re older, they won’t have boomers to kick around for much longer. But it seems we’re going to live forever.
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