October 12, 2003

"...cohort psychological dependence on their "coming-of-age" experience."

It is not just "the Net of a billion lies" it is also the Net of a million moments of weird synchronicity. No sooner had I posted the item immediately below on the major malfunciton of modern major media mugwhumps, than I clicked over to Slate's "Doonesbury" page. Now I never, ever, bother to read or pay attention to Doonesbury any more -- too much of the "been there, done that, have the T-shirt" quality in that old chestnut. But I had some thoughts about Chris Muir's Day by Day as the Doonesbury of this decade and I wanted to check in on the Trudeau factory and see what it was churning out.

What it is churning out, this week, is this:

You'll have to click and enlarge the image to get a clear idea of the content, but it is exactly what the item below talks about: The ossified intellect of person who came of age in the late 60s, who learned to leverage that sensibility into a comfortable life,and now churns out work in the 21st century that has nothing to do with the times we live in, but everything to do with the times he was young in.

This is no surprise when it comes to Trudeau. He's been struck in an intellectual roach motel ("The ideas check in, but they don't check out!") for over 20 years. But this strip, part of a running "gag", is essential evidence for the propostion that the intellectual ideas of Left/Liberal Americans are, like the American Groves of Academe, stands of petrified forest.

You have the Apocalypse Now 'updated' river patrol, you've got the assumption that the new grunts are the same as the old grunts, and you've got 'Duke' the Hunter Thompson avatar still crazy and still young after all these years. It's tired and it's trivial and it's lacking in new ideas. Worst of all, it isn't funny. At best, it elicits a wry, mocking sort of dry chuckle inside of dry souls.

You can almost hear Trudeau singing as he cobbles this strip together:

V is for the vic-tor-y we blew off!
I is for the inside scoops I got.
E is for the enemy that Jane loved.
T is for the time when I was hot

N is for my ni-hil-is-tic humor
A is for awards that come my way
M is for the money I've been making....

Put them all together,
They spell VIET-NAM!
The word that means
The world
To Me!

So maybe all this really is a bunch of aging media hipsters pining for the fjords of their lost youth. Scanning Doonesbury, buying Michael Moore and Al Franken ephemera, sending in fat checks to Howard Dean... a kind of generational upper-midlife-crisis. That would be one explanation and a benign one. The possibility that they actually still get off on this stuff is too horrible to contemplate.

Posted by Vanderleun at October 12, 2003 3:25 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Man. That hurts.

I wonder if 20 years from now it'll hurt that bad.

I hope not.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at October 13, 2003 10:30 AM

As a prime boomer, born in 1947, I have been saying for the past quarter century that a large part of my generation had a temper tantrum in the late sixties and they are still having it. I find it much easier to admit that I believed and said foolish things when I was fueled by testosterone and adrenaline than to continue saying them now. The point that some of my generation parlayed their counter cultural anti materialistic attitudes into big bucks is an interesting and valid point.

Posted by: Steve Wilson at October 13, 2003 4:47 PM

Sometimes, no, most of the time, it's not what you say but how (well) you say it. Take this:

He's been struck in an intellectual roach motel ("The ideas check in, but they don't check out!")


Posted by: aka Monique at October 13, 2003 6:52 PM

Wish I knew who coined the phrase 'Aging Aquarians'. It's a 10 ring hit.

Posted by: JSAllison at October 14, 2003 7:26 AM

Has "Doonesbury" become our generation's "Nancy and Sluggo"?

Posted by: Paul Stinchfield at October 14, 2003 10:23 AM

I speak as a boomer too, though a little on the later side (1954).

See William Strauss and Neil Howe's fascinating book 'Generations' to trace the boomers' progress from orgiastic pleasure seeking in their youth to the current aggressively moralizing prudishness in late middle age.

The unifying theme has been a combination of narcissistic self-indulgence and self-righteousness at every stage along the way.

Unfortunately Strauss and Howe show how the lesson of previous generations in American history which experienced an 'awakening' in their youth is that as these people age they will learn essentially nothing, and are only going to become even more strident, more intolerant and in the end more a more reckless influence on policy both at home and abroad than they have been up to now.

As the whole tenor of the discussion above suggests, we have to get used to them because they aren't going to change until their megaphones are, to coin a phrase, 'prised from their cold, dead fingers'.

Posted by: JK at October 14, 2003 10:39 AM

Nice to see another GENERATIONS fan.

But Strauss and Howe also say that a consensus begins to emerge at about this point in the cycle. I think what we're seeing with Trudeau et al is the ones whose ideas aren't making it into the consensus (which is, very roughly, "we have to do whatever it takes to make the world a safer place for following generations") and want to bust it up.

Posted by: Jay Manifold at October 14, 2003 11:09 AM

Thanks for the pointers to that Generations book.

Just put it in my shopping cart at Amazon:


Posted by: vanderleun at October 14, 2003 11:32 AM

Vintage of '49, here. I've read several Strauss & Howe books, Prechter, Barzun, and some others. They all suggest that the next 20 years will be challenging indeed.

Some of us never got with the Boom program, and I've wondered for decades what drives the particular Boom cocktail of narcissism and naivete.

My best understanding to date is that most Boomers are still in adolescent rebellion against their fathers, now represented by the successful, the powerful, and the responsible. Many fathers (not mine) could never find an /authoritative/ middle ground between permissive and authoritarian, gyrating instead from pole to pole.

Authoritarian extreme, father feels guilty, tries to compensate with extreme permissiveness. Back and forth. Hey, Boomers, does that ring true?

Net result is a generation dedicated to the idea that love equals permissiveness -- which is a near-certain path to the social chaos we see all around us in the name of "justice for the oppressed." All enforced, of course, with the same authoritarianism they learnt from their fathers. Check out the local academic speech codes if you need an example.

Little wonder that such Boomer types gravitate to academia, government, and media where they don't have to succeed in order to have security, have never had to make a payroll, and have never had to live or die (literally or figuratively) as a consequence of their choices. And where they have the best opportunity to impose their views on others.

Boomers will hit their peak power in about '08, but we can already see their totalitarian inclinations as they sense their agenda slipping away from them.

They would be highly amusing if they weren't so damned dangerous and destructive.

Posted by: Bart (Kansas, USA) at October 14, 2003 11:48 AM

I'm a later boomer '55, got all the crap from the older boomers. I'd say 1/3 of boomers are these moralistic, know it alls, like the Clintons or algore, but they get 90% of the press attention. I've been sick of this crap for 25 years, will it never end?

Generation X and the Milleniums don't buy all this anti-American crap from the encrusted, rusted and busted-butt boomers in the colleges. The kids are far more patriotic than the professors. They're far more connected to their grandparents than their self-indulgent, egotisical, selfish parents.

So, things are looking up.

Posted by: Jabba the Nutt at October 14, 2003 3:20 PM

I'm the same vintage as Jabba ('55) - too young for the "Summer of Love", too old to have just read about it.

I came of age in the mid '70s, the burnout of the '60s. Some people have called that time the real '60s, when a lot of what was talked about in the '60s was actually implemented.

IMHO, unlike other generations, the behavior, dress, and music of the boomers isn't going to age gracefully. It seems that so much of the zeitgeist of the '60s won't let these people grow up.

What are we going to do with all the elderly people with ratty gray ponytails spouting Carlos Castaneda and tettering to "Satisfaction"?

ps - JSAllison - if you start to see the same perfectly hemispherical rock in each frame, you'll know.

Posted by: Keith Macdonald at October 14, 2003 5:08 PM

The "intellectual roach motel" is a cute idea, but it's actually backwards. Trudeau has actually been spewing out the same ideas, and _not_ letting any new ones in.

I'm not sure that lends itself to a clever analogy. A jammed xerox machine, stuck on "infinite repeat", that's been running for 25 years? Maybe if we stopped putting money in it...

Posted by: PJ/Maryland at October 14, 2003 5:38 PM

I thought the more telling Dooensbury sequence was the series attacking Dean supporters as naive, idealistic airheads, followed shortly thereafter by a week of hilariously schoolgirlish swooning over Wesley Clark. When the only humor is unintentional, that's a very bad sign.

Posted by: Kurt at October 14, 2003 5:43 PM

Having been born in 1971, I think of my cohort as "Children of the Information Age". We were the first who were able to own and use computers as children.

I suppose that's 'Generation X' land, but I find that label to be mostly empty. 1971 is also the actual start of the Information Age, it was the first year info. processing activities passed industrial as share of GDP.

Our coming of age was what, Pac Man? We still go to 80's nights in droves, dear god will I be listening to New Order when I'm 80?

Posted by: David Mercer at October 15, 2003 2:22 AM

Apparently Wesley Clark has just leapfrogged Howard Dean in the polls in California.

It's odd to see how the boomers are now at each stage flocking to support whichever candidate they and the rest of the public momentarily know the least about.

On the other hand maybe this is not odd at all. This desire to leap into the unknown, to 'escape' from reality, recalls very sharply the days when they would grab a hit of any drug on offer - the more exotic it sounded and the less they knew about its long term effects the more eagerly they grabbed for it.

Posted by: JK at October 15, 2003 8:12 AM

Ahh you non-drug taking rightwingers have no sense of humour. I reckon Trudeau's neo-Vietnam spoof is right on the money. Sure, the Iraq situation is not "another Vietnam" but it sure as hell isn't going according to plan is it?

Posted by: Sauce at October 29, 2003 5:11 PM