American History, Book Reviews, Charles, Social Behavior
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Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster (Helen Andrews)

Boomers Cover

What is a “baby boomer”? Technically, it is an American born between 1945 and 1964. More communicatively, a boomer is a member of the worst generation in American history, and perhaps the worst generation in human history. The boomers, handed a wonderful, successful, stable society, fed it into a woodchipper, starting the very instant they could have any influence on society. They cobbled together the brakeless clown car in which we now all must ride, and dumped the rest of us into it, after picking our pockets and stripping every shred of our dignity. And now the author of this excellent book, Helen Andrews, who is not a boomer, expertly analyzes this decline and ongoing fall, through profiles of six boomers, each an exemplar (but not exemplary).

I’m not a boomer either; I’m Generation X (1965–1980), from the middle of it. We’ve always been oppressed by the boomers, who ate the seed corn that should have fueled our generation’s success. But at least we came of age before the boomers truly ruined everything for the Millennials and later generations. That meant that at least some of us, especially those in the professional-managerial elite, were able to navigate the crumbling of our society to some degree of success and stability. The destruction wrought by the boomers, however, has now made it much harder for those who came later, Millennials and Generation Z, and nearly impossible for those not part of the upper tier of the two-tier, extractive, stupid society the boomers built.

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Despite not offering optimism, Boomers is a joy to read. Andrews’s writing is sparkling. She self-identifies as mean, though her touch is actually mostly fairly gentle; I would excoriate the boomers without mercy, but she is willing to give some of them the benefit of the doubt. So this book is not a polemic; if anything Andrews errs on the side of a mild lashing, rather than a vigorous flogging. Her book attempts to understand, and to show, how certain of the boomers, representative of their generation, “had all the elements of greatness but [their] effect on the world was tragically and often ironically contrary to their intentions.” I suppose that’s one way to put it.

The inspiration for Boomers was, Andrews tells us, Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, which, in the anger that followed the Great War, tore down those who had actually contributed to making an outstanding society. The two books really prove opposites, however: Strachey lied that the Victorians were a corrupt and incompetent ruling class; Andrews demonstrates that is precisely what the boomers are. But she explicitly wants, as Strachey reduced the influence of the Victorians on his world, to reduce the influence of the boomers on our world. Whether and how that can be done we will see later. And while Strachey is the author’s putative model, I think Boomers has more in common with Czesław Milosz’s The Captive Mind, which studied the accommodations, or not, made with Communism by four exemplars chosen by Milosz. Unlike Strachey, but like Milosz, Andrews accurately gives credit where credit is due, without holding fire when that’s called for.

What did the boomers destroy? Andrews makes no attempt to itemize all their harms; this is a short book, and those facts have been often covered by others, though certainly elements crop up in the six profiles. In short, the boomers destroyed the fabric of society. They demanded rights, and rejected responsibilities. They destroyed families, and thereby the fulfillment of both men and women (Andrews attacks, in passing, Betty Friedan and her odious and lying screed, The Feminine Mystique). They destroyed education, substituting cant and leftist ideology for rigor and the transmission of American ideals. They crushed the working class, both through their extractive economics, such as globalization, and by smashing all intermediary institutions, while they exalted the federal government and the priesthood of the administrative state, thereby neutering the working class as a political force and mutating beyond recognition the political structure of the Republic. They destroyed high culture in everything from architecture to music to film. And much more—but, in short, they ruined everything that makes a society strong, capable, and enjoyable for all its members, rather than benefits only an elite, extractive few. There can be no doubt of any of this, which all began in the 1960s, at the very moment the boomers were able to begin hijacking the existing system, with the help of dissatisfied members of former generations who at that time occupied positions of power, but who were soon enough shown the door as insufficiently dedicated to remaking America.

Andrews picks her six exemplar boomers to represent six fields—technology, entertainment, economics, academia, politics, and law. She shows how each left an area of American life worse off than it was given to him. One might view them as personifications of six deadly sins, each of whom had a different axis of destruction. Steve Jobs eroded moral virtue, though unlike the others his sins were not intended. Aaron Sorkin, propagandist of our screens, poured poison into the porches of our ears. Jeffrey Sachs, economic imperialist and destroyer of cultural fabrics. Camille Paglia, corrupter of our youth. Al Sharpton, racial grifter. Sonia Sotomayor, racial grievance hustler. These sins are all projects of the Left, of course, but Andrews does not view her subjects, for the most part, through a political lens, but rather through a sociological lens. Regardless, collectively, these types created the putrefying blob that is 2021 America.

First on the chopping block is Steve Jobs. At first, I wasn’t sure why Andrews included, and started with, Jobs. But her choice is clever, because she shows an exception can prove the rule, most of all by contrasting Jobs with his worthless successor as head of Apple, Tim Cook. Not that Jobs didn’t exemplify plenty of boomer personality traits, notably grossly excessive self-focus. But her considered conclusion is that “Jobs’s greatest rebellion was against his own generation,” and I think that’s true. “The big difference between Jobs and his fellow boomers comes down to this: they were institution destroyers, and he was an institution builder.”

Now, to be fair, I have a personal soft spot for Jobs. Although he was a hugely defective person, he is one of the few business geniuses I recognize. As a successful entrepreneur myself, and a corporate lawyer before that, I have long recognized that almost all high-profile businessmen are in fact nothing special at all. The prototypical example is Jack Welch, but you can pick any modern CEO at random, and realize that any modestly intelligent and competent person could perform the same job just as well or better. Sure, Jobs was often flaky, and frequently acted like an overgrown child, but those are personal defects, not judgments on his achievements. What I also liked about Jobs was his refusal to get sucked into donating money to causes, particularly left-wing causes. As he said of Bill Gates, “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy.”

Still, Jobs enabled the vices peddled by the boomers to reach all of us, through the technology he thought would benefit us. Andrews faults Jobs because his creations created a world “that gives free rein to the boomers’ worse vices,” most of all those that destroyed the working classes to benefit the boomers. Jobs effectuated, as Andrews says, “limbic capitalism,” “the redirection of America’s productive energies into inducing and servicing addictions.” Pornography, job instability, drug addiction, gig work, and the fake achievement of video games are the new normal, which seems normal to us, even though any time traveler from the past would immediately see this as the foolery of an society at its end. But creating this wasn’t Jobs’s goal; he simply had an overly optimistic view of human nature—and nobody foresaw that the internet, and the technology that relies on and revolves around it, would be, on balance, very much a net negative for society.

This comes into clearest focus when Andrews discusses the boomer who now runs Apple, Cook. He has none of Jobs’s vision; he’s a nasty little bean-counter who sucks up to China while oppressing decent Americans who aren’t coastal elites. Jobs was “a family-obsessed psychological basket case haunted by themes of inheritance and lineage.” But that’s much preferable to Cook, a deracinated, childless homosexual. (As Joseph Schumpeter pointed out about John Maynard Keynes, though Andrews shrinks a bit from endorsing it, homosexuals can have little or no investment in the future.) Cook’s primary goal, other than lining his pockets, is being a “global citizen,” an impossible entity, yet the logical end point of boomer navel-gazing and self-love. Cook has taken what Jobs created and used it to corrode America in ways unimaginable to the Jobs of 1986.

Next up is Aaron Sorkin, entertainer. I must admit I know nothing at all about Sorkin. I have never watched a single episode of The West Wing, the show for which Sorkin is famous. My impression has long been that show was simply a standard piece of left-wing agitprop. Andrews seems to disagree, yet all the specific examples she gives about the show merely strongly confirm my impression. Television was, we know, the boomers’ main vehicle for distributing poison to destroy the strong culture that America had in 1960, a project that continues today. Certainly, most television, especially television news, is unwatchable for anyone with any intelligence—when it is not overt lies, which is most of the time, it is cultural propaganda directed at Left ends. Even the few decent shows, such as The Expanse, are filled with propaganda. Andrews paints Sorkin as a type of ingénue, unable to grasp how most Americans, especially conservative ones, think, yet trying to understand. I think that’s false. I think Sorkin is a prototypical boomer propagandist, one of many active agents of American destruction, all of whom should be beaten with chains and sentenced to perpetual silence for their sins.

But we can all get behind Andrews’s next target, Jeffrey Sachs. Again, I’ve never paid much attention to Sachs, even though he floated around the edges of my own life tied to Eastern Europe and as a young corporate drone in the 1990s. As Andrews deftly outlines, he made an entire career out of destroying other societies through his economic advice as a “development economist.” He started with Poland, wrecking it and handing decades-long ascendance to the former Communists who looted the country (whose power was only recently put down by the awesome Law and Justice Party), and then “he did what every great man does when he is overwhelmed by hubris. He decided to go to Russia.” There he became tangled in, and indirectly participated in, the web of corruption that nearly destroyed that country. Hitting the eject button, he next went to Africa, and ruined countries there, through involvement in the United Nations’s Millennium Villages program. Sachs was earlier ably pilloried by William Easterly, whom Andrews discusses—although she doesn’t endorse Easterly either, with his overly Hayekian, libertarian approach. Ironically in a way, given Strachey as her model, she endorses the Victorians, the colonialists. After all, with maybe some very rare exceptions, the colonized were never better off than under colonialism—something that I am certain will get even more true as the world spins apart over the next decade or two, returning those sections of the world now totally dependent on Western handouts to the barbarism from which they came.

Camille Paglia is chosen to represent academia. I can’t decide if this is an inspired or cramped choice, given that of all the six areas Andrews examines, academia is today the closest to a singularity of cretinhood, with tens of thousands of possible choices for sinners, many more academically mainstream. Andrews’s criticisms of Paglia are less related to the academy, although Paglia’s superficiality and repetition do characterize the academy, and more related to her greatly contributing, under the guise of iconoclasm against the Left, to the destruction of culture. This included the mainstreaming of pornography, which has turned out, along with the culture of contraception, to be a disaster of the first order. The boomers caused this; they normalized obscenity and made it impossible to prohibit, through their control of the courts. Andrews ties this degradation to the degrading of culture more generally; there was high culture and folk culture; now there is only pop culture, and Paglia was instrumental, or at least highly visible, in this process as well. I think it began long before Paglia, though. But it doesn’t really matter; we can all agree that American culture today, if one can even use the term, is a sink of turpitude.

Al Sharpton exemplifies the boomer belief in transformational, rather than transactional, politics. He combines this with being a greasy, lying shakedown artist. Andrews seems to have a grudging respect for Sharpton; I suppose the same kind of respect one has for a slick con man you see performing a con on someone else. Of course, as Andrews does somewhat more than hint at, Sharpton and all the other supposed black leaders among the boomers have actually made the average black American worse off. Far worse off. Yes, a thin crust of black people have made it to the professional-managerial elite, in part due to opportunities formerly closed now being open, in part due to various forms of extortion, either using threats or appeals to the supposed need for remedies for past wrongs to obtain handouts. Most black people today in America, though, are far worse off, relatively speaking in economic terms, and, as far as family and social structure go, absolutely speaking, than they were in 1960.

Andrews pulls few punches here, nor should she, especially since the gross falsehoods used to slander white people during and after the Floyd Riots has entirely justifiably enraged white people in America (my point, not hers), though they know they have to keep silent or face extreme punishment. It’s not black people as a whole at whom they should be enraged, though. As voting patterns in November showed, there are plenty of black people, and more Hispanics, who don’t believe the lies they are told, and they also keep silent for fear of punishment. (Not to mention there are others who do believe the lies, but could be persuaded by the truth.) It’s the racial grifters, many white, at whom decent people of all races should be directing their righteous anger. When those racial sectarians are silenced and destroyed, run out of town on a rail, then we can have nice things again, including the degree of racial harmony that’s possible among disparate people working together for common goals.

Andrews is certainly hard on those grifters. She correctly points out, for example, that Ta-Nehisi Coates is an inveterate racist. She slags James Baldwin as the very opposite of oppressed, rather, he “was coddled by white America from the time he was in grade school.” His “writing was inspired not by oppression but by his personal neuroses.” “America’s race problem . . . survives not because we are psychologically too guilt-ridden to deal with it but because the people invested in it gain too much from it to let it go away.” Andrews even daringly points out that “white flight” was merely an inevitable reaction to the criminality that accompanied blacks moving into white neighborhoods. I think she probably gives short shrift to the real problems black people faced in acquiring real estate prior to the 1950s and 1960s, expertly covered by Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law. It can both be true that white flight made sense and that white people unfairly kept black people from acquiring desirable real estate. But Andrews’s core point, that transformation politics as adopted by the boomers has only benefited a small elite of America’s black population, is spot on.

Sonia Sotomayor, on the other hand, is an entirely different type of racial hustler, one who ignores politics entirely to instead achieve her ends by corrupting the rule of law. She’s a type anyone in the professional-managerial elite knows well: an unintelligent person (in her case perhaps as dumb as Earl Warren, Andrews says) elevated far beyond what she could ever have accomplished on her own, simply because of her race, or ethnicity, or sexual hungers, and hugely resentful as a result. In Sotomayor’s case, as in many such individuals, this emerges as hectoring and bullying, and an aggressive need to silence anyone who would point out the truth. When I worked in a big law firm, this type was very common, and inevitably rose in the law firm hierarchy, as high as he or, more often, she wished and therefore dictated, as a result. Of course, the administrative state makes this corruption possible, most of all through the so-called Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, backed up by the courts which have abandoned the rule of law.

And that’s all six. This is a lot of sins. But should all the boomers be indicted for the sins of some? I’m not really sure. On the one hand, most boomers weren’t destructive. We associate the odious Left project, implemented by boomers, of the Port Huron Statement, with all the boomers, and that is somewhat unfair. I’m currently reading the first volume of Niall Ferguson’s biography of Henry Kissinger, and he notes in passing that in 1968, fifty-nine percent of those in their twenties wanted aggressive expansion of the Vietnam War. That is to say, most boomers rejected the Left; that the Left has triumphed is not their fault. On the other hand, they didn’t do anything to stop the boomer elites from destroying America, did they? And now, all the boomers, Left, Right, and center, are parasitically draining America—more than half of federal spending, at least until the Wuhan Plague, consisted of cash payments to those over sixty-five. And, worst of all, the huge cohort of boomers didn’t accomplish anything to counterbalance what they destroyed. I can’t think, off the cuff, of a single boomer who accomplished anything great. Can you? I mean, I’m racking my brain, and I can’t think of one. I can list endless boomers who destroyed a small part of America, but like Abraham arguing with God over Sodom, can’t find any ones who benefitted America.

Andrews ends pessimistically, in essence afraid that the boomers have left nothing for the rest of us, having successfully gutted America, and that recapturing the Western tradition in these circumstances will be a tall order indeed. Certainly, that many Millennials are woketards suggests salvation is not to be found among them, though perhaps there are gems waiting to be discovered in that generation. She’s right, but she doesn’t take the next logical step, which is that something crippled that cannot be healed should be put down. We should burn it all with holy fire, every aspect of our elites—their government, their law, their economics, their academy, their control of technology—and then rebuild, perhaps with the assistance of Generation Z, among whom there are signs of a return to basing in reality. No time like the present to get started, though perhaps we should wait until some greater instability, to maximize the push.

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  1. len conrad says

    slandering an entire generation for the crimes of a few boomers at the top of the Capitalist oligarchy is really dumb.

    Every time business and Capitalism gets control, the country suffers badly, eg,

    Robber Barons,

    the Roaring 20s leading to the financial crash of the 30s,

    the boom and bust,

    neoliberal 2000s leading to the Banksters’ Great Depression, and

    now the pro-business, insanely neo-liberal Repugs botching the Trump-Made Pandemic into a horrendous public health and economic disaster.

    Plenty of boomers have been screwed by the few of their cohort running the show.

    Pitting one generation against others is a strategy of the all-powerful, untouchable, extractive, predatory, corrupt Capitalist oligarchy of deflecting blame onto other for the sh!tshow they have created for the non-oligarchy and the planet.

    • Charles says

      This comment completely fails to respond to the review, and is therefore not helpful.

  2. Robert Bundens says

    The review does not go far enough in addressing the broader issue of why even think in terms of generational differences and is the author of the book simply making a straw man argument in promoting the fallacy of generational differences. The problem with the use of generational differences is that it LACKS SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY and it is not innocuous: it creates impressions and stereotypes about different generations that can potentially lead to discriminatory behavior, including, for example, not hiring “baby boomers” or “generation X” workers into an organization that has predominantly “millennial” workers. The other problem is that by highlighting a potentially false narrative about generational differences, it creates an unnecessary adversarial and hostile relationship between age groups (Harter, 2019; Kingston, 2020; Smith, 2020) and becomes another form of identity politics within an organization. This false narrative is created by critics utilizing descriptive narratives about “generations” to make inferences about future behaviors and interactions between generations. These specious inferences are simply not supported by research or are supported by research that have methodological design problems or non-representative samples.

    So, what has the discussion of “generational differences” contributed to society and our understanding of people? Here’s an exercise I challenge you to do. In a search engine, type in, “boomers are sensitive”. Then in the search engine, type in, “millennials are sensitive”, and “generation z are sensitive”. Doing this exercise should give you a gut check on how far the concept has created a false narrative and how destructive and viciously this concept has been employed in our society – by insulting one group with the term “OK Boomer” to calling another generation the “snowflake generation”. The validity of a “generations” character is true only to the extent to which they believe and act as if it is valid. It is no more valid than astrology. In fact, it is not too far a reach to state that the “science” behind “generations” is not much different than the “science” behind astrology, except the “character” formation is within a larger timeframe: one deals with an approximate 20-year time frame to develop a character and the other premises it on a one-month time frame. So, the next time you want to walk the path of “generational differences”, do some intelligent study and reasoning and it will give you pause to think whether you want to take that step.

    People lived certain events in a certain historical time frame and they had immense challenges. It is easy to pick apart the unwise decisions made during those times and infer certain characteristics of that generation, and then moralize and label people living in those times as contributing to the horrible conditions we are living in presently. Take the statement in the review about “boomers (which I am sure reflects sentiments by many chastising the “boomers”): “destroyed the fabric of society. They demanded rights, and rejected responsibilities….” Now apply that to various movements existing today and the demand for such things as “forgiveness of student loans” and I’m sure one could readily argue that such specious generalizations could apply to the current generation. Perhaps in 50 years, future generations will also damn Generation Z for the collapse of the United States?

    • acetone says

      We have to have some way to account credit and blame to people in the pest. Generalizing and talking of generations is one of the most economical way to have this discussion. And history repeats, so understanding the past is the best way to solve the malaise in which we are currently stuck. Only the generation that is currently in power, IMO, can be blamed for mistakes that are happening now. So mistakes of 2020/2021 are the fault of the boomers. Mistakes of the past are the fault of older generations. Problems of America today were largely baked into the cake in the1960s. People in positions of power that could effect direction of the 1960s were from the silent and greatest generations.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Generalizations, like stereotypes, are both necessary and useful. It has nothing to do with “science”; I agree that, e.g., tripe such as The Fourth Turning doesn’t work.

      The boomers made it possible for some today to demand forgiveness of student loans. But those demanding that forgiveness are a small segment, elite and heavily skewed Left. They are a product of what the boomers did to us.>

      • Robert Bundens says

        So, by that argument we should necessarily and usefully generalize and stereotype races, sex, political spectrums, etc. So, the boomers made it possible? REALLY?? No accountability of those that actually demand forgiveness of student loans? Let’s just go on an infinite regress of blaming every previous generation …… i.e., we can blame those that fought in the Civil War for saving the nation, which then led to the Boomers….and the Civil War is the product of those that fought in the Revolutionary War. It’s purely specious logic and conjecture to begin “blaming” past generations.

  3. Argylist says

    If you are interested in some fascinating first person accounts of Boomers (and who would be given their endless navel-gazing!), I’d recommend watching some of the interviews David Hoffman made in the lates 80s for his documentary “Making Sense of the Sixties” for PBS. He’s posted many on YouTube. The documentary is a run of the mill story about the 60s. But the one-on-one interviews are captivating. There’s something to the Boomers in their 30s and 40s reflecting on the Sixties movement. On the one hand, it’s obvious they experienced something exciting and full of possibilities. And yet their stories exude a sense of loss and melancholy. Something was broken and will never be the same again. And the interviews with parents of Boomers (the Silent Generation) are heartbreaking. Certainly worth a watch.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Sounds very interesting. Watching any videos from the 80s is fascinating, and usually dispiriting.

  4. Clearly it’s up to us, Gen X, to turn things around in the 20 productive years we have left. Over 60s and under 35s are hopeless and helpless.

    • As a Gen Xer, I completely agree. They are the largest narcissistic generation ever. Marketers and advertisers catered to them, so they thought the world revolved around them. And it did. America was “rotten to the core” until they came of age in the 1960’s. They thought they were the smartest generation ever. They said not trust government or anyone over 30. Now they have become a massive wrecking ball to all of our institutions – family, religion, culture, entertainment, academia, government, medicine, technology, and on and on. They created our current millennial Frankenstein by training them to hate America. Boomers have become the very people they warned the rest of the world never to trust. Freaking Hilarious. I sensed this my entire life. I paid close attention to the destructive, narcissistic Boomers who were in charge of everything. Kudos for Helen Andrews to acknowledge what we all know in this book.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yes, I agree with that. Doing it within the structures we have been given will not be possible, though.

    • Robert Bundens says

      People talk about a “generation” as if it’s a collective mind-set ….. as if it’s a person. Yes, many “boomers” had their dreams – including racial and societal justice, and “peace”. But if you think you are going to turn it around with the technology we have today that promotes getting hooked on social media, focused on one’s own identity rather than community and family, and instilling the arrogance of man to save the world from climate change, good luck. The arrogance of even thinking that Gen X will “turn things around in the 20 productive years” left for you is reflective of the entire mindset of a society that believes how great the generation with which they identify is – just like the majority of people on social media will tout how great they are, until the veil is dropped 20 years from now. You say that the under 35s are hopeless and helpless – those are YOUR spores that you are teaching and guiding so that speaks A LOT about how you will bring your offspring up. You’re going to turn things around but you can’t bring up your offspring to not be hopeless and helpless?

  5. Prism says

    ‘He has none of Jobs’s vision; he’s a nasty little bean-counter who sucks up to China’.

    Ehm, so did Mr Jobs, who first went to China. And he ‘sucks’ up to China because they make a lot of money there–more than anywhere else abroad. The American Right’s recent China obsession surely stems, in part, from the jealousy of seeing a country with competent elites.

    Second, the idea that the Victorians knew what they were doing abroad is, I’m sorry to say, stupid. It is confusing being contrarian with being correct.

    They stumbled into adventures abroad that destroyed the hegemony bestowed on them by Nelson. Remember the omni-shambles of the Crimean War? They achieved nothing in India or Ireland, much less Africa. Then, jealous of the Germans for taking Industry seriously rather than as a hobby they pissed down the flower of their youth on the fields of the mainland.

    I dunno which generation President Reagan was, but surely he bears some responsibility for the current state of your country. As I understand it from the ‘memes’, he instituted the ‘tax cuts and Inshallah’ mindset of the GOP and shifted your country’s demography by handing the Left a ton of voters all the while governing with less statesmanship than Poppy Bush and with less economic deftness than Slick Willy.

    • acetone says

      Who are you Prism? You write like someone from a developing country!

      The Victorians did nothing wrong. Explored the world. Made discoveries. Mined the minerals. Spread knowledge, learning and civilization to backwards peoples. They were ambitious in ways we are not. Many interesting opportunities for westerners in foreign places. And smart peoples from developing countries benefited. Africa/Ireland never had it so good as when they were ruled by civilized Europeans. Where has Joyce gone? And what are the Irish doing now? Content to milk EU corporate tax revenue and abort their unborn children. Same problems in Scotland sadly. Where are the 21st century’s Scottish Watt and Maxwell? These places are now spiritually broken. I hope for better for them.

      Also, I don’t think you will find many on dissident right who support mainstream republican politicians.

      • Prism says

        Hello Acetone,

        I am Nigerian.

        Saying that the Victorians ‘did nothing wrong’ is proof that you’re engaged in adulation, not analysis. I gave you examples of exactly some of the things they did wrong. If nothing else, they are to blame for the sentimental approach to international relations that plague us still.

        As for Africa and Ireland never having it ‘so good’, go pull up charts on literacy and per capita GDP sometimes. You will find the opposite. The typical British District Officer was drunk, enervated by the climate (no ACs then) and surrounded by people they hated and vice versa. Spiritual…please. Surely you recall who oversaw the famine in Ireland.

        Literary every generation of man, everywhere, explored the world, made discoveries, mined minerals etc. That the Victorians did too does not set them apart. My original reply to Charles was a simple one. Contra the viewpoints of Mrs Andrews, him and you, the foreign policy legacy of the Victorians was damning and quite often characterised more by amateurish pluck than professional competence.

        • acetone says

          Hi Prism, thanks for answering my question.

          As you suggested, I pulled up the chart on Nigerian literacy rate (see link below). Improvement appears uneven with overall literacy rate low. British literacy rate much higher. Also, GDP much higher despite little oil wealth. I suggest a returning to colonial rule to improve the literacy and GDP of Nigeria. For your country, many benefits are to be gained from rule by civilized Europeans. Same is true for Ireland as well!

          • Prism says

            The literacy rate was 10% after 100-60 years of British rule. We have been independent for 60 years, and did much better educating the wider populace, despite Muslim resistance. GDP Per Capita is also higher as an independent country.

            The Europeans were terrible at administering countries abroad. Westerners still are. The Brits had centuries to work their magic in India, yet they left on the heels of a famine and with a country that still had untouchables. The USA has been in Afghanistan for a generation, what has it achieved really? Hell, Mexico has been next to it for centuries and it is a warzone.

            Europeans have a narrow set of institutions that work perfectly within their individual borders but have proven resistant to export. Note that even the British could not export their constitutional set-up *within* Europe, and not for lack of trying. Similarly, the USA model is sui generis even within the West. Compare the transmissibility of the the Confucian and later the Japanese model within East Asia, in comparison.

            When one compares the later trajectories of former Japanese provinces with European-ruled ones, well European ones just do not compare favourably. When your rule left dire legacies with countries as disparate as India, Pakistan, Ireland, Algeria, Nigeria etc, maybe, just maybe, the problem is the rulers and not the ruled.

            But for some weird reason, the ‘Right’ thinks contrarian=right. European rule abroad sucked. That is just facts.


            By their fruits, do ye not know them?

            The legacy of the Victorians was the destruction of all that was bequeathed to them and all that they built. Their country has not recovered since.

            I suppose the Boomers still have time to match that if they drag you people into a shooting war over some damn thing in the South China Sea🤣.

      • Charles Haywood says

        What acetone said. That the Victorians, and Europe in general, shattered themselves and the West in a stupid war is certainly terrible, but says nothing about their overall success and virtue.

  6. Altitude Zero says

    It should be pointed out that most of the really destructive aspects of the ’60’s and ’70’s – the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Hart-Cellar, no-fault divorce, Frankfurt school-style deconstruction, “Free Love” – were actually the responsibility of members of the Greatest and Silent Generations. Yes, the Boomers did nothing to stop it or roll it back, and they amplified many of the changes in extremely unhealthy ways. But in 1964, the year the baleful changes really started, the oldest Boomer was nineteen, and couldn’t even vote, while the “average” Boomer was nine.It was the older generations of that time that actually got the ball rolling.

    America was most certainly a lot, lot healthier in 1960 than today, but the seeds had already been planted, and were growing. The Boomers watered them and tended them with care, but they hadn’t planted the garden. The blame, and the causes, runs much deeper.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yes, this is definitely true. But of course it was the Boomers who turned those things from possible wounds to fatal injuries. I, of course, think the seeds were planted with the Enlightenment, and that the Boomers were merely the sword of judgment that would have come around sooner or later. But they still were terrible.

  7. Altitude Zero says

    That being said, Andrews book sounds great, and I can’t wait to buy and read it.

  8. Lalawithika says

    The sine qui non of boomery is the never retiring. Examples: Pelosi , John McCain , Mitch McConnell, Sumner Redstone… Word has it that Diane Finestein has filed to run again for the Senate. She is 87 now..Some of these Boomer pols would reanimate their corpse and run again as a zombie if they could…

  9. David says

    Charles, my son, who is 16, falls into Generation Z. Anecdotal evidence is showing him (and me) that the boys his age seem to be understanding that leftism and the woke culture is debilitating, unfair and should be thrown into the trash. The problem is the girls don’t seem to be following this. This is coming from someone who lives in a small city in Ontario.

    Thank-you for the review!

    • Charles Haywood says

      Interesting. Yes, this seems to be a gap, and probably a widening one. I just read an American Mind piece by Helen Roy, which touches on this. She says, I think correctly, that “The dominant culture being so intensely liberal, it follows that women, as natural conformists, are generally feminists and racialists by default now.” Now, my experience as a conservative single man, more than two decades ago, was the opposite of being “untouchable,” as Roy says it is now. But that is probably the change.

      Roy’s piece is worth reading; in essence she says men should lead, and women will follow. But she has a bunch of good thoughts in there.

      • demosthenes1d says

        Younger men and women have been coming apart culturally and politically for some time. It is reaching critical levels. I have probably posted it before, but this Spotted Toad post is helpful:

        50+ year old men and women have very similar political preferences (women slightly more likely to vote democrat). 18-34 men are +3 Republican and 18-34 women are +44(!) Democrat. Given the increased salience and gravity of political views this represents a incredible, and troubling, delamination.

  10. Dean Ericson says

    “I can’t think, off the cuff, of a single boomer who accomplished anything great. Can you?”

    Well, there’s Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Other than him… no, can’t think of one.

  11. Carlos Danger says

    Having been born during the so-called “baby boom” in the United States, I guess that makes me a “boomer”. But my wife was born in Japan during those years too, and does not qualify for that country’s baby boom (which lasted just from 1947 to 1949). Does the label “boomer” mean much? I don’t think so. But Helen Andrews does think so, so so be it.

    Being a boomer, reading this book would be self-flagellation, I thought, but still I got a copy to read and put it on my stack, where it sat for a few weeks. Reading a podcast in the New York Times (of Ezra Klein interviewing Helen Andrews and Jill Filipovic on the subject of us boomers) made me pull the book out and read it.

    The book isn’t bad. For me, at least, reading biography always enlightens, and this book has several mini-biographies (six people have chapters of their own, while others get some mention also). Two of the people — Steve Jobs and Jeffrey Sachs — I know quite a bit about. I never met either one, but I worked over the years with a few people who knew them well, and heard personal stories to go along with what I’ve read in other books.

    Judging by what she says about Steve Jobs and Jeffrey Sachs, I’d guess that Helen Andrews does a reasonable job distilling all her stories down to a short chapter. (Though far from perfect — her description of Steve Jobs’s response to his cancer diagnosis dangerously distorts what really happened.) If she had just told the stories, I would have liked the book.

    But Helen Andrews doesn’t just tell stories of individuals, she generalizes from these individuals to an entire generation. She castigates and condemns all of us for the supposed sins of a few. Her last sentence seems to lay down a harsh sentence on us “boomers”:

    “And if the boomers think that they can unmoor millennials from our past, immiserate our futures, tell us we’re rich because we can afford iPhones but not families, teach us that narcissism is the highest form of patriotism, and still have a nation resilient enough to bounce back to normal after the younger generation starts to riot in the streets, then the boomers will be wrong about us.”

    That sentence, though damning, is a little hard to parse. Is she blaming boomers for today’s societal ills? Is she excusing her generation’s inability to fix those problems? A little of both? Or is she just having us on, with the whole book being just a bit of a lark?

    Hard to say, about the sentence or the book. For me, that made the book weak and shallow, and the time spent reading it (largely) wasted.

  12. goodlander says

    I share the allergy to collective indictment but In a culture as hollowed out as ours, making generalizations about generations is to reference about the only shared meta-experience left. There is something to it.

    The experience of a boomer is to have the mere the headcount to take power by zerg at the precise moment in time political power was more-or-less handed entirely to institutions yet untainted by the taste of power. I suspect being of a large generation begets a collectivist mindset. The boomers are locusts that happened upon an exceptionally large and ripe crop.

    I’m a millennial–the baby boom’s baby boom. We too have the numbers and thus think democracy is always the answer. Even the tech we famously build is really about the boomer project of building consensus; such is the pathological mindset of a populous mega-gen. Luckily the boomer hunger has left us simply unable to do the harm we would if not mired in serfdom and self-obsession. We have all of the pathologies of the boomers but with added cruelty and resentment.

    As mentioned, Gen Z is more promising. By the time they grew up the left controlled absolutely everything so there is only one option for (honest) rebellion. Their finances are in better shape than millennials’ were at their age. The worst thing going for Gen Z is their mental health, particularly among Gen Z women. Probably because they had Instagram in middle school or something. How this will effect them I don’t know.

    Sadly I think the future that matters most is in the hands of Gen X.

  13. Carlos Danger says

    This article in the Spectator by Joel Kotkin ( reminded me of this book review. Over a year later Charles’s review here has aged well.

    This book Boomers, Charles’s review of it, and Joel Kotkin’s article all make a well-reasoned case for blaming boomers like me for eating the seed corn that future generations could have planted. But does laying blame help much?

    Probably not. For one problem, it’s hard to find the people to hold liable for problems. Blacks have that problem. Some argue that they deserve reparations for slavery, but anyone that owned slaves is long dead, as are those who were slaves. Reparations by the non-responsible to the non-enslaved seems to solve nothing.

    For those of any age and any generation, looking backward to lay blame seems unlikely to improve the future. We are where we are. We can’t change the past. We can change our trajectory into the future. Focus on that.

    If we are going to do anything but drift at the mercy of the currents we are in, complaining as we go, we need to start paddling and steer a course. Unfortunately, no one seems to have any good ideas on how to do that.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thank you! tend to agree that blame is pointless. But reorganizing priorities to place the young first, and the old, not last, but somewhere in between, is crucial. Economically, of course, but even more important, as the Wuhan Plague shows, the old will dictate destructive policies to the young, just to make sure they maximize their life spans. That should never be allowed.

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