The Boomer Epidemic

The covid pandemic is mostly a Boomer thing. The Chinese Flu kills a tiny percentage of people younger than the Boomers. Like every other medical difficulty, it kills rather more of their parents than it does of Boomers. Only the Boomers and their parents then are much at risk from the disease. Their parents are no longer much able to sway either public discourse or public policy. The Boomers are in charge. So the panic about covid, and the policies implemented in respect thereto, are mostly the result of Boomers worried about themselves. They have shown themselves – in the person of such governors as Cuomo – totally willing to throw the generation of their parents under the bus. Because, hey, those guys were going to die soon anyway. They have also shown themselves utterly indifferent to the manifold catastrophe their disastrous policy responses to the disease have inflicted upon all younger generations.

As with every other thing they have touched, the Boomers have ruined public health by ruining civil society.

I am a liminal Boomer. I was born at the very tail end of the Boom, or as measured by some just after it, but I was old enough at the time to know about and rather like the ideas promoted by the Summer of Love – which the Established chattering class of that day, controlled by the Greatest Generation, very much approved. I can remember thinking, “Boy, when the Boomers come to power, things are going to change for the better; it will be a *revolution.*” I bought the Establishment Line propagated by 60 Minutes, Margaret Mead, Esalen, and Coca Cola. So I count myself a recovering Boomer.

Speaking then as an informed observer of the Boomers, from within the phenomenon and, now, from without, I have to ask: what is it with these guys? How did they come to think that they had what it took to remake culture from the ground up – that, i.e., their puerile wisdom sufficed to overmaster the wisdom of ages? Had they never heard of Icarus?

I should know the answers, but I don’t.

A nexus of notions suggest themselves in no particular order:

  • Pride of victory in WWII and subsequent, massive American power bred cultural pride, which goeth always before a moral and then practical Fall.
  • Massive post war prosperity almost eliminated the economic penalty of personal failure due to behavioral experimentation.
  • Liberal “Christianity” and the seppuku of the mainline Protestant churches; triumph of scientism, logical positivism, skepticism, and so forth; metaphysical ignorance; the disenchantment of the world, giving rise to extraordinary panic at the prospect of death, and to a frantic search for some way to enchant it again; exploration of Eastern religions, New Age, occult, etc.
  • Too many people going to university who had no business there; too many “educated.”
  • Florescence of decades of work by the KGB and its moles (in the CIA, the State Department, the universities, etc.) to undermine Western culture. Viz., atheism, abstract art, architectural brutalism and the International Style, Urban Renewal, atonality, transgressive fashion, sexual license, pornography: the general celebration of ugliness and disorder, in life, art, artifice, morals, act.
  • Birth control and no fault divorce.
  • The explosion of mass media and mass advertising, giving rise to fashion as a factor in the lives of the middle class, so as to fuel consumption.
  • Abandonment of the gold standard, with reckless and unlimited government spending.
  • Delinking of culture from the real world; from agriculture, at bottom; the predominance of virtual culture over real culture. Rise of utopian or chiliastic fantasies; of gnosticism light and heavy, in manifold variety.
  • Demons.

Just suggestions; no answers. All are at work, concurrently, and in mutual reinforcement, so as to generate a perfect storm of social deliquescence. There may be others; and they may have begun decades ago, or even millennia: the Cabal? The Freemasons?

And let’s not forget the nominalists!

Whatever the case, it begins to look in retrospect as though the real disease is of the memetic sort, and that the Boomers are its latter day vector.

40 thoughts on “The Boomer Epidemic

  1. I have a few theories I’ve been mulling over to explain this phenomenon.

    The #1 intended effect of most if not all boomer policies is to soften reality. I would trace the inception at least one additional generation back.

    Industrialization, Revolution, The Great War, Depression. Lets limit our scope to just these events, which range between late 1890’s to the 1930’s. I think it’s fair to say that these were some very brutal years, if not superlatively so. A common theme I have heard anecdotally is to improve life for the next generation. Maybe you can validate that experience: that this generation wanted, above all else, to spare the boomer generation trauma and tragedy. The popular cliche comes into play from here: Strong men make good times, good times make soft men, soft men make hard times, hard times make strong men.

    The boomer generation grew up in a comfortable and all-enveloping prosperity. The post-war economy took off like a rocket, technology improved by leaps and bounds. Someone once made the joke that a Tradition is anything a boomer did twice, and pointed to popular christmas music. How that came to be, it’s hard to say, but I think it has something to do with chasing that comfortable feeling, free of consequences or trauma.

    The boomer generation grew up and didn’t know how to handle suffering, and so raised a generation of hedonists and narcissists (Gen X), who gave way to the millennial, who seem to have a self awareness about the popular nihilism but who seem split on whether or not to embrace it or reject it.

    Everything about the Boomers lives, from birth to their ever darkening twilight years, was to end suffering at all costs. And for the formative years, it worked. It’s not a wonder to me that they would chase that even unto their own destruction.

  2. I would add that the boomers were the first generation in which there was widespread use of mind-altering drugs. The effect was not limited to boomers who altered their minds with drugs, but was extended to a larger population through drug-fueled music, literature and film. I would include in this the regular dopamine injections that accompany orgasm. Boomers believed that a man would go crazy if he failed to have orgasms, but I don’t believe they asked about the psychic consequences of too many orgasms. We could add to this a widespread pursuit of “high-adrenaline” sports and other activities that boost serotonin. This was underworld behavior until the 1960s.

    I’m a late boomer myself, and so sensitive to the boomer hate that is so popular nowadays. The restless Xer is understandable eager to throw the boomer out of the corner office, but it is not clear that Xer has any reason to boast.

    • Gen X here. Gen X is worse than Boomers. Millennials are worse than Gen X. I expect Gen Z to be worse than Millennials.

      However, there’s a difference. The flaws of other generations are mostly a consequence of the ideology of the Boomer generation but the flaws of the Boomer generation are NOT a consequence of the ideology of the previous generarions.

      Boomer was the first post-Chistian generation (there had been post-Chrstian people before, since the Enlightenment, but they were limited to the elite). They rejected the Christianity of their parents and embraced liberal hedonism. Ideologically they were not children of their parents (but of their teachers and mass media, since it was the first mass-schooled ans media-addicted generation ).

      However, ideologically, Gen X people are children of their parents. There were raised as a liberal hedonists by their Boomer parents and embraced their ideology. They were worse than Boomers because they followed liberal hedonism with more coherence than their fathers by removing some unprincipled exceptions (google it together with “Auster”). Millennial are even more consequent than Gen X and have removed more unprincipled exceptions. So each generation is child of its parents (as the Dostoyevsky socialist character was a ideological son of the liberal character), except Boomers.

  3. This is a great essay.
    In regard to the last paragraph, what do you mean by “memetic”? That Boomers cling to the theory of evolution and evolutionary explanations over and above faith and the Bible? Or do you mean that Boomers are a de-evolution of the human race?

    • Memes are ideas or forms. Richard Dawkins coined the term. Beware the genetic fallacy, now! That an atheist comes up with a notion does not make it ipso facto false or evil. He coined the term so that he could refer to the evolution of forms in computer simulations he seeded with certain memes, and which then iteratively recombined them and subjected them to selection pressures of his choosing. Dawkins demonstrated that a population of memes randomly recombining in this way and subject to selection criteria would often develop quite astonishing degrees of complexity.

      NB: Dawkins had to write the programs, set the selection rules, and then seed the programs; he had to provide the programs with a computational matrix in which they could evolve, and power each iteration of their games. He had to be to them, in other words, as a god. In his argument, he overlooked all those things he had to do in order to get his demonstration to demonstrate anything.

      Memetic evolution is like genetic evolution. Memes are also like virii: they can exist only in minds (or in their instruments, such as computers or networks or libraries), and propagate through populations of minds. Memes are also like parasites, or symbionts. And memes come along as ecologies, with niches. They are symbionts not only with their human and animal hosts, but with each other. E.g., nihilism comes along with atheism. The latter forms a fit niche for the former, which is soon filled.

      It’s a nifty idea. Memetics is now a science.

      A memetic disease is an idea, or a complex of ideas – a memeplex – that is toxic to its host population. Most are not lethal, although many – Communism, homosexuality, abortion, despair – come very close. Feminism and liberalism would seem to be memetic diseases that are not lethal, but rather morbid.

      Genetic evolution turns out to be a department of memetic evolution: of the evolution of what in Latin are called forms, and in Greek are called ideas.

      • Isn’t memetics related to pragmatic philosophy? Not that Dawkins was influenced by the pragmatists, but there is the same functional analysis of ideas. The pragmatists said that truth is whatever works for the believer. Memetics says that truth is whatever works for the idea. The advance of memetics over pragmatism is that a successful meme can kill its host so long as this does not impede adoption. Atheism is clearly one such meme. It will very nearly kill any host population in five generations, but it defends itself by giving its host the false belief that this is not the case.

      • I suppose I would say that memetics is related to pragmatism insofar as pragmatism is an effort to discern the epistemological character of the scientific method specifically, and empiricism more generally; and memetics, like genetics, is a scientific hypothesis or model, or even just something natural historians notice at work in nature (in the way that they notice sexual reproduction at work in nature). It is, i.e., an explanatory entity in the general epistemological project of science, and so like all scientific activity comes under the purview of pragmatism (and other motions in the philosophy of science, such as Kuhnian paradigms or Popperian verification).

        But I don’t think that memetics *derives* from pragmatism. It is, rather, a generalization of genetics, which turns out to be a special case of memetics, which like all the sciences is the matter of philosophy of science generally, and in particular of pragmatism.

        I should also say that pragmatism is one of the methodological premises of science as actually practiced. Scientists use the pragmatic dictum that if an idea works out well it is probably true in the same way that they use Ockham’s Razor, the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the Criterion of Elegance, and so on. These are all taken by practicing scientists to be signs, but not determinants, of truth.

        Pragmatism is often misunderstood to argue that ideas that work out well given our preferences *just are* therefore, hey presto, ipso facto true, period full stop – which can be misinterpreted to mean that truth is just something we make up because it suits our quotidian selfish purposes, and that there are no objective truths out there to be learned. Pragmatism says no such thing. Its most popular and influential proponent, William James, sometimes talks about it in an enthusiastic way that can be read so as to draw that identity. But if you read him carefully, he never draws it himself. What he says rather is that we are so made that we cannot but take ideas that work out well as at least provisionally true, until another better idea haps along. He’s not talking about what truth actually is, but about how our minds work. The other important Pragmatists – Dewey and Peirce – are far more careful in their rhetoric, and (as I read them, anyway), never provide an opportunity to think they are suggesting that truth is *nothing but* what happens to work out well given our preferences about what constitutes wellness.

        All the first generation of Pragmatists offer obeisance to the condition I elaborated here in Kwagunt: Creek and Canyon: that a notion which disagrees with the objective truth simply *cannot* work out well in practice, *because* it is false, and so will lead us astray. The Order of Being radically constrains what we can possibly believe to be true; what can possibly work out well.

        I taught my children about this with a caveat: Careful there, kids; gravity is still in effect.

        The pragmatic success of a doctrine then is an index of its verisimilitude, but not determinant thereof. In just the same way, the practical consequences of a policy, whether good or bad, are an index of its moral character, but not determinant thereof. Bad policy has bad consequences. The consequences don’t make it bad; rather, its evil – its disagreement with the Good – makes it bad. And its badness then leads to its bad consequences. Likewise, the practical consequences of a hypothesis, whether or not it works out well, are an index of its veridical character, but not determinant thereof.

        Notwithstanding all of that, the distinction you draw between the pragmatic consequences of an idea for those who believe it and for the idea itself is brilliant. I never would have thought of it.

        A last wrinkle: we ourselves, in each of our moments, are implementations in actuality of forms, of ideas, of memes. The traditional term for the meme of JM Smith is the soul of JM Smith. So, what works out well for the meme of JM Smith is what works out well for the life of JM Smith, which is an implementation of that idea; which is the living spirit informed by that idea. This is where memetics links up – and agrees – with Aristotle, and with Christian anthropology. Memetics – the study of the propagation of ideas through populations of minds – turns out to be applied Platonism.

      • Memes are ideas or forms or concepts: formal specifications of potential states of actual being. In Christian anthropology, the soul is the form or idea or concept of a living animate body. It is the specification of the essential common form of potential states of an actual life; of a series of occasions of being that all share the same essential formal character. The soul is not the subject of experience, but rather the form of that subject; is its essential nature. It is by their common essential character that we can tell that moments in Jack’s life are moments in Jack’s life – that Jack remains Jack from one moment (of sleep, say) to another (of building a dog house, say) in his life. It is by the differences between the essential character of all Jack’s moments and that of all Kristor’s moments that we can tell Jack and Kristor apart.

        The life of the soul, and of the body – the subject of experience – is the spirit.

        So, the soul is the meme of a living animal. The living animal itself is the implementation in actuality of its meme.

        This may all sound weird, but really all we are doing is substituting “meme” for “form” in Aristotle’s anthropology. I covered it in more detail in Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Soul versus Spirit.

      • There is some value in discussing the spread of ideas and beliefs in a way that abstracts from the question of their truth. I remember my excitement when I first read Berger and Luckmann’s “The Social Construction of Reality.” However, this sort of investigation won’t do the work that Dawkins, in his polemical mode, wants it to do, because both true and false beliefs, “scientific” and “superstitious” beliefs, “education” and “indoctrination” lend themselves to such analysis and appear therein more or less on a level. In fact, I would say that this agnosticism is the main value of such an approach; it allows one to look at the inculcation of beliefs in one’s society from a purely sociological perspective, setting to the side for the moment one’s assurance that our beliefs (as opposed to those of all other societies) are enlightened and scientific. Once one starts contaminating this perspective with epistemological value judgments that certain modes of discourse are irrational, or that certain consensus-generating structures are unreliable, one loses the whole advantage of this mental exercise.

      • Cultural geographers used to describe this as the diffusion of “mentifacts,” although I don’t believe anyone worked out a detailed description of the properties that make a successful meme. The internet gags that go under that name today have properties that cause them to “go viral,” but they are also as ephemeral as mayflies. I would say this is because gags go brown at the edges very quickly. Since we’re talking about Dawkins, atheism is also a meme that spreads rapidly under the right conditions. It’s great memetic virtue is extreme simplicity, making the intellectual cost of adoption very low. There are certainly psychological costs, but rapid diffusion seems to occur as soon as the social costs drop to a certain level.

      • @ JM Smith: Atheism proffers a terrific reduction in overall cognitive dissonance: it appears at first to eliminate all religious questions as malformed, and with them the bother of finding answers to their sort, and then to boot the moral and practical prudence of conforming one’s mind, will, and behavior to the irksome difficult constraints implied by those answers. Atheism allows one to do whatever the hell one wants. So, cool, right? Whatever! Follow your bliss!

        Prima facie, that seems like wisdom. So it seemed, too, in Eden.

        Same for moral relativism, nominalism, and so on; for all the moral and intellectual errors we have here catalogued since 2012. They are all terrifically tempting because they offer release from all intellectual difficulty of any consequential sort. Nothing remains but meaningless inconsequential amoral play.

      • Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn used to say that socialism was popular because idea could be explained to a simpleton in 15 minutes. Consuming these idea is easy, like eating a bag of potato chips instead of making a proper dinner.

      • @ Bonald: Exactly. Dawkins wants his memetic demonstration to indicate the truth of the meme of atheism, and what is more the truth of the meme of ateleology, and indeed of the meme of meaninglessness: the complex forms generated by his stochastic program meant nothing, and aimed at nothing – so far as he knew, anyway (who can tell what *they* knew?).

        But memetics prescinds from evaluations of the truth value, or even the internal coherence, of the memes it studies. This is one of its most important methodological advantages. A bit of nonsense can be a very successful meme, as Lewis Carroll has demonstrated.

        The memetic game Dawkins ran tells neither for nor against the memes in it. Memetics in general likewise tells neither for nor against any meme. It therefore tells neither for nor against the memes that have infected Dawkins himself, and which he rather likes. Indeed, memetics tells neither for nor against the meme of memetics. Which is to say, that as a guide to truth or meaning of memes, it just does not tell, period full stop. So, it can’t do the dialectical job Dawkins wants it to do.

        That said, Dawkins had great rhetorical success with it. Or it with him, perhaps. Either way, his meme of memetics caught on.

        In just the same way that memetic success does not tell us anything about the truth or coherence of memes, the pragmatic success of a proposition does not demonstrate that it is true, or even meaningful. Nevertheless, pragmatically successful propositions, such as those of memetics that survive the selection pressures of the scientific mill, are more likely to be true than those that do not. So it is at least not unreasonable for us to infer their truth, at least as operating hypotheses, until something even more reliable comes along; and it is reasonable that our mental, physiological and genetic adaptation to reality should have inclined us to such inferences from experience.

        The propositions to which we thus inductively infer are hypotheses. There are also hypertheses; these are found only in math, logic, and metaphysics. To them, we infer deductively. Or we can, at any rate.

  4. “The boomer generation grew up and didn’t know how to handle suffering, and so raised a generation of hedonists and narcissists (Gen X), who gave way to the millennial, who seem to have a self awareness about the popular nihilism but who seem split on whether or not to embrace it or reject it.”

    I am an Xer, and in good faith of an intergenerational exchange, I’d like to offer my viewpoints here.

    To my generation, it was egregiously apparent that the last wave of Boomers (also called Generation Jones), were true hedonists to the core. The amount of drugs, promiscuity, sarcasm, and cruel, destructive practical jokes were unparalleled in modern history and continue to haunt our childhood memories. After reading this post, it makes sense for me to learn that their purpose was to avoid suffering.

    Granted, there are some groups of Xers that are hedonistic, but as a whole, Xers are far from being hedonists. The common motivation of Xers is to seek stability and security. They want to escape all the horrors of their childhood, the constant threat of cold war nuclear annihilation, divorce, and the superficial materialism of the 80s, and the accompanying Bugs Bunny nonsense of the world. In our consciousness, we have embraced an inner reality that is more real than outer reality (hard to describe), thus earning us the labels “narcissists” by the Boomers, and “dreamers” by the Millennials. Thus, Xers are existentialists to the core. So, Xers also seek to avoid suffering, but take an introverted approach.

    Having several close Millennial friends, I think you are quite correct to describe Millennials as nihilists. Nihilism avoids suffering by externalizing it and “othering” it (also hard to describe).

    I expect Gen Z to be stoics. Stoics avoid suffering by objectifying emotion.

    In conclusion, the avoidance of suffering is common to human nature.

    • I’m a millenial myself, and see nihilism often and everywhere. Granted, of course, that my comment is ripe with generalizations but hopefully helpful ones. You make a good point that many (most?) Gen Xers seek security, in whatever form that may be.

      Avoidance of suffering is indeed common to human nature but the successful avoidance is contrary to human nature. Fulton Sheen has a great saying about how the communists take the cross without Christ, and the west takes Christ without the cross. I believe the post-war prosperity allowed for many people to not experience comparable hardship for a long time. Thats where i’m deriving my argument, anyway.

  5. Pingback: The Boomer Epidemic | Reaction Times

    • Yes. Atonality got started even before WWI. All sorts of rotten things started long before WWII. But then, like ugly architecture and Urban Renewal, many of them absolutely exploded after WWII, and what is more they amplified their ugliness by an order of magnitude. Before WWII you had Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg. Whatever else they were, those guys were brilliant, honest, and – most important – *they intended beauty,* and often achieved it. After, you got John Cage.

      The weird thing is that all those dyscultural phenomena amplified all at once, as if the process were coordinated. Suddenly, all of them were everywhere. Like the curve that describes the output of a positive feedback circuit.

      • Really, John Cage? Might not be to every taste but certainly he “intends beauty”. There’s plenty of his work available on youtube, you can check for yourself. (And I guess that is my justification for continuing to hang around these precincts; it helps me grow my appreciation for all the things you dislike).

        I take it you’ve never actually listened to John Cage but just read somewhere that you are supposed to hate it. There’s a word for people who dismiss art because it doesn’t conform to narrow preconceived ideas — philistine.

      • Not only have I listened to John Cage – indeed, he was maestro at one concert I attended (one couldn’t say that he conducted – he made a great point of abjuring any such role, and walked off the stage to let the randomness proceed) – I have performed in one of his loosely scripted events (one couldn’t quite call them compositions). I have performed a lot of modern music. I have still from memory most of The Earth’s a Baked Apple, by Michael Colgrass – a stupid, ugly piece, which I did my best to sing as well as I could – and to forget.

        Unfortunately for me, where Colgrass failed as a musician, he succeeded as a memetician. I can’t get that piece out of my head!

        Philistine, eh? As a professional countertenor, I have sung hundreds of pieces from all centuries after roughly 700. Some were written much earlier, but the records go back only so far. Of the music of all those epochs, only one sort has provoked disgust: that of our own. To be sure, some part of that reaction might have been due to the fact that the ages have not yet deleted from memory, or from active performance, the dross of today. But I doubt it. The loathsome dreck of the Baroque – the equivalent in its era of today’s Muzak, long forgotten until the Early Music revolution motivated its recovery – is coruscant brilliance compared to almost everything written since 1945.

        Fortunately, there are composers working today who are trying, not to transgress, but rather to fulfill their proper office. Arvo Part and John Tavener come to mind, prominently. Gorgeous stuff; sublime, heartrending. I particularly commend the Hilliard Ensemble performance of Part’s Passio for Good Friday listening. It is a masterpiece for the ages. Were it not for its fiendish difficulty – it makes the Symphonie Fantastique look like child’s play – it would certainly be in the canon from now on and forever, with Bach’s St. John Passion and Handel’s Messiah.

      • I’ve only ever listed to John Cage’s “4’33”. While I can find no technical deficiency in the composition, neither can I consider it music.

      • Cage remarked that everything we do is music. Now, on the one hand, this is absolutely true, on any high religion – as Pythagoreanism, Stoicism, Platonism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism or Christianity: everything that happens does so in accord with the Music of the Lógos, who is the divine muse of all becoming. On that reckoning, it behooves us to do everything with at least some jot of the reverence and care – charity, love, attention – with which we approach the highest most contemplative prayer. I Thessalonians 5:17-18. Confer also the admonition of Saint Francis: “Preach always; when necessary, use words.” We could paraphrase him in the present context: Sing always; when necessary, use tones. We could recall also in this context the aphorism long attributed to Saint Augustine: who sings prays twice.

        On the other, if everything we do is music, then nothing we do is *particularly* musical. Nothing then distinguishes music from noise; so everything is noise. In that case, nothing Cage does can be picked out as musical, and everything he does is noise. He makes his music as much when he goes to the crapper as when he whistles a jingle. And in that case, the entire edifice of music is radically sapped. Sapping that citadel was an important aspect of Cage’s life work. 4.33 is an exercise in ironic ridicule of all music – including, by a simple implication, the Pythagorean Music of the Spheres, the Love that moves the stars, and the love we offer in return, whether in prayer or preaching, whether with words or tones, whether in stillness or silence, and as beautifully as we may.

        Which of the two perspectives is correct? Well, both. Their resolution, which rescues us from Cage’s nihilism, is this: everything is indeed music, but not all creatures are equally musical, and most fall short of the musical perfection – and the perfect musical delectation – which is their proper natural end.

      • Glibly, what you’ve just said is Cage is a Satanist: everything we do is music because everything we do taps into the Divine, will we or nil we, so the proper action of absolute self-determination is to make our actions as non-musical as possible.

      • Yes; in effect, anyway. Although I doubt Cage construed himself a Satanist, or indeed as anything other than a decent, honest chap trying bravely to do the right thing. I hazard that most Satanists these days think Satan is a silly superstition, to which they are nowise subject, and would feel rather offended at the suggestion that they were his unwitting servants. Not, see, at the suggestion that they were rebels against the Order of Being – most of them don’t believe in that, either – but at the suggestion that their rebellion implicitly endorsed the real existence of the Enemy. Not, i.e., at the suggestion that they were nihilist, but at the suggestion that they were unsophisticates who at all credited such nonsense as demons.

        NB: I do not for a moment presume to suggest that I am better *in effect* than Cage or other unwitting Satanists. To be Fallen is to be more or less committed to Satan’s project – otherwise, his temptations would not be tempting to us – and I am, certainly, Fallen (what is much worse, I am as a Christian also a *witting* Satanist: I *know* that I sin, and I go ahead and sin). I may – *may* – have better intentions than Cage. But we know where they lead.

        So, in no way do I count myself superior to Cage, or to any other man trying to do his best by his own dim lights. I would not want to be a religious philistine, certainly. But nor would I want to be a religious snob.

      • Cage was a practitioner of Zen. Buddhism is not unacquainted with demons.

        I apologize for the snark about philistinism. You obviously don’t get what Cage is about, but that doesn’t make you stupid, maybe it’s just not your thing, which is quite understandable.

      • Apology accepted. I never take your snark personally anyway, so I was not offended.

        No serious practitioner of spiritual discipline can long remain unaware of demons; for, spiritual discipline involves wariness of demons, eo ipso.

        Thus even though Buddhist metaphysics denies the real existence of demons (and every other sort of creature), Buddhist practitioners are among the most sapient observers of their antics – as they are of all other sorts of phenomena.

        Whether Cage believed demons are real or, as a careful Buddhist would rather say, only “real,” is an open question. Because he was a modern Westerner, I doubt he thought them simply real. Almost no one does, these days; not even many serious Christians and Muslims. To believe in demons and angels these days is on a par with believing seriously in the fairies who frolic of a summer’s eve at the bottom of the garden.

        Not to shortchange fairies, of course. The Shining Ones may not be disrespected without peril. If we believe there may be discarnate spirits of any sort, it behooves us to allow that there may be all sorts of entities in this world, of whom our philosophy has told us nothing.

        Is it obvious that I don’t get what Cage was about? Or is it perhaps that I understand him well enough, and see through him, and beyond? At my first encounter with Cage, I was rather intrigued, and read up on him a bit, interested to learn of his insights. I finished quickly.

      • Is it obvious that I don’t get what Cage was about? Or is it perhaps that I understand him well enough, and see through him, and beyond?

        Perhaps. It seems to me (and this is what I really meant by “philistinism”) is that you view him chiefly as an enemy in some long-running cultural war. That’s how he got mentioned in the first place, after all.

        And maybe he is your enemy! You would have more standing than me to say. But we usually have poor models of our enemies, we don’t understand what they really want or what they are trying to do. Your model of Cage as a nihilist or satanist appears to me to be based on this sort of almost willful misunderstanding. But maybe I’m wrong and you get him better than I do.

        Going to drop this subject for now but will leave you with this John Cage quote: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

      • I don’t think of Cage as an enemy, but more as a rather pathetic pawn of spiritual and cultural forces, of which he mistakenly thought himself transcendent, but of which he was entirely a tool. Most of us are just like him, in that respect.

        I would never go so far as to suggest that Cage thought of himself as nihilist or Satanist. On the contrary, he has always struck me as rather a cheerful fellow, and full of good humor. Bloody minded, he was not.

        Few nihilists or Satanists think of themselves as such. Most of those who do think of themselves as such are not, really; for, one can’t live life as it must be lived as a consistent nihilist or Satanist. Most avowed nihilists and Satanists are LARPing. They brush their teeth every morning, e.g.: an unprincipled practical exception to their professed devotion to nothing, or to evil.

        Like so many modern rebels, Cage rebelled in fact not against the Establishment, but was rather entirely its instrument. He was a servant of the modern, naturalist, positivist, atheist, nominalist, amoral, liberal Establishment, that has ruled our society – not without some challenges – since … well, I suppose since about the time JFK was murdered. He was an epiphenomenal acolyte of that Establishment’s triumphant rejection of the ancient traditional regime.

        I feel rather sorry for him, for in retrospect his work looks silly. Most works of modern art and artifice are suffering the same fate: no one actually likes them much.

        As in evolutionary biology, so in art, artifice, and culture: most innovations are lethal. That’s why it makes sense to be wary of new ideas.

        Despite my pity for Cage, I rather admire his seriousness, and his daring.

        Soviet Communism and its conscious overlords were my enemy; the Russians were not. Likewise, the Modern Establishment and its conscious overlords both mortal and immortal are my enemy. Their unwitting pawns are not.

  6. Where I come from virtually no one wears a mask in public, not even the vast majority of Boomers, who make up a significant percentage of the population. We have, nevertheless, our “true believers” too of course, but they are a tiny fraction of the population and are mostly content to wear that filthy thing and leave it to everyone else to decide for themselves whether to wear a mask or not. One of the ironies of mask wearing for boomers and their parents is of course that the persons most in need of clean oxygen intake are getting the least.

    When I got home from work yesterday evening my wife proceeded to tell me the story of her encounter earlier in the day with a “mask nazi” at the local Dollar Store, where she had stopped in to pick up a few grocery items. The store happened to be inhabited by all women as is generally the case during working hours, mostly customers like my wife and of course female employees. All except for the mask nazi in question, who was in fact a Boomer. As this man was giving these gals – employee and customer alike – the “wut fur” about the necessity of mask wearing to prevent the spread of COVID, my wife said she was thinking the whole time, “if Terry were here you wouldn’t be saying any of this.” Which is probably true; he’d have no doubt noticed right away that I’m a no nonsense type who would not have taken kindly at all to some jackass berating a bunch of more or less helpless women and acting like a damn idiot, especially were one of those women my wife or one of my daughters. He’d have clearly seen my severe displeasure written all over my face since of course I don’t wear a mask in public, never have, never will.

    But as I pointed out to my wife, he wouldn’t have been acting like that had virtually any man from aound these parts been in the store at that time.

  7. Interesting post and site. As noted elsewhere here, you are a member of Generation Jones (between the Boomers and Generation X). I’ve seen different experts offer varying birth dates, but probably the most common is 1954 to 1965. If you google this, you’ll see that tons of big-time media (New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, Fox, USA Today, etc.) talk about Generation Jones. It’s important to distinguish between the “real” Boomers vs. Jonesers in this thoughtful discussion here about the Boomers and their impact on civil society.

  8. Rather than attempt to pick out generational characteristics, I am going to try to bring to the fore what I consider to be the historical causes of Boomerism and the salient characteristics of latter generations as well. As a millennial myself, I speak under correction.

    Silents and Greats certainly had their own share of moral degradation. I think of Waugh’s A Handful of Dust as only one example, but I think it makes the point that rootlessness, nihilism, narcissism, and social decay are not unique or new to the latter generations. Before Boomers came along divorce, fornication, and irreligion were making themselves felt as the acids dissolving civilization that they are.

    The thing that makes Boomers different is that they are the first generation with no ties to the antebellum social order. The Silent Generation has a tenuous connection from their youth. The Greatest Generation was raised by the Silents. The Boomers had no first-hand nor second-hand experience of what even an ailing civilization looks like. They grew up on the corpse and thought this was normal.

    Pulling this forward, Generation X rejects Boomerism, but it is a purely negative rejection; they have no positive antecedent to substitute, so the rejection falls into omphaloskepsis, wherein they recognize the corpse for what it is and reject death, but are unable to draw upon life.

    Millennials’ situation rhymes with Boomers’, which is a large portion of what drives the cross-generational vitriol. We remember – more or less – not when a civilization existed, but rather when the bones hadn’t yet been completely picked clean and then ground into dust by the vultures and ragmen. Our early childhoods coincide roughly with the transitional time between ‘you can play outside’ vs. ‘stranger danger’. The cri de coeur of the millennial is something like, “I was promised that if I did well in school and went to college I could get a career and a house and a wife and a family, but all I got was crushing debt and a dead-end job at Starbucks.”

    Meanwhile Zoomers’ situation rhymes with that of Generation X. They don’t remember even the bones of the civilization that used to be, but they reject the entitlement and the willful blind destructiveness of millennials. That rejection, however, is also negative, with no positive antecedent for substitution.

    • It sounds to me like you are arguing that each successive generation has been alienated more and more from any common cultural bond that could be described as “american”. Would that be an accurate summary? It’s a potent analysis. I like the generational rhyming methodology you present, as well.

      • I think that is basically accurate, but I want to also emphasize the successive loss of so-called ‘social technology’ – those particular pieces of how-people-interact that are unique to how a given culture works but also themselves serve particular useful functions for lubricating and uniting a society. Each generation progressively lost more and more of those compared to their parents, often reinventing short-sighted, self-destructive substitutes.

        I do think these are technical losses, and that offsets the narrative of technological and material progress of the 20th century. The very fact that narrative exists shows that people have lost the trick of thinking of these things – how and why to throw a dinner party or a soirée, or maintain genial contact with ones’ neighbours, or bring a church congregation together instead of remaining atoms purely in relation with the preacher, etc. – as involving specific techniques that need to be regularly practiced, maintained and taught to a new generation.

    • I’m also a millennial and this might be my first comment here (maybe not…I’ve been reading this blog for a long time but rarely commenting) but I think you have Silents and Greats mixed up. From what I’ve heard the Silent Generation were the ones who were born in the depression, grew up during the depression and WWII, maybe fought in Korea, and were parents to late boomers/ generation Jones.

      Otherwise I basically agree with your point. I feel like I’ve never lived in a real, healthy civilization, but my early memories sort of reach out to a world that was decidedly better.

      • My impression while writing the comment was that the Silents were the generation faced with WW1 through the Roaring 20’s and the Greats were the generation faced with WW2, broadly speaking. A quick search shows that to be incorrect labeling. Turns out, according to Le Wik, it goes Lost – Greatest – Silent – Boomer. Oops.

  9. I am not much fan of generational astrology, I see all kinds of people in all kinds of age buckets, but one thing I have noticed: when our parents have rebelled against our grandparents, and then we rebel against our parents, we end up becoming much like our grandparents. So my parents Boomer generation in the seventies liked a scruffy, unkempt look which annoyed their parents, and my generation when we were young in the nineties wanted to look rich and succesful which ended to be closer to the neatness of our grandparents. And something similar in the more important matters too.
    So if you assume the median Boomer was born in 1950, his parents in 1925 and his grandparents in 1900, then what you get is basically that it was his grandparents who made the Roaring Twenties happen. And there are lot of similarities between the Roaring Twenties than the 1965-1975 period when the Boomers were young.

    • Counterpoint/Devil’s Advocation: you may not be interested in generational astrology, but generational astrology is interested in you.

      Regardless of the truth of the claims, the cultural narrative exists and has power and causes people to behave in certain ways depending on where they fit into the narrative and where they think others fit into the narrative and, most important of all, where they think others think they and others fit into the narrative.

      That’s how narratives work.


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