PJ O’Rourke once again proves that it is possible to agree with an obnoxious, self-important Republican columnist.


O’Rourke vivisects the overblown ‘legacy’ of Woodstock. My Inner Sanctum has often heard me drunkenly railing against the pernicious cultural and political influence of the demographically dominant Baby Boomers. When yet ANOTHER glowingly sentimental film about Woodstock was released this year (to the sound of one hand flopping) I groaned and cast my gaze heavenward for mercy. These people need to get over themselves. I mean, I love you and everything, but let’s get a little wind in our sails that isn’t blowing from the foetid nostalgia of your failed ‘revolution,’ SHALL WE?? Here’s some Change We Can Believe In: abolish the dominance of the ex-hippies!

My post-Boomer manifesto would demand the decimation of the following tired phenomena:

1. ‘Classic rock’ and ‘golden oldie’ radio (not to mention ALL ‘drive-time’ djs.) Go smoke on your OWN water. We are nauseated by the endless repetition, for DECADES now, of the same 16 songs played in heavy rotation on your boring radio stations!

2. The greying Left’s insistence on ineffectual pacifism in the face of state violence. Please note the qualifier ‘ineffectual.’ I do believe in effective pacifism, but it requires ACTION and SACRIFICE, and cannot be replaced by permitted marches that shuffle in an orderly fashion through liberal city centers at lunchtime, stopping for every traffic light, smiling for the surveillance videos. Gandhi’s movement started with economic sabotage of the British salt monopoly. And guess what? People had to be willing to DIE in order for pacifism to make lasting change.

3. The current greenwashing delusion that environmental catastrophe can be averted through shopping with unbleached organic cotton grocery bags. I cannot stomach the fact that the generation responsible for creating the go-go hyperconsumerist maxed-credit ethos of the last 2 decades is now trying to re-invent itself as a morally upright tribe of innocent forest-dwelling creatures that just feel SO much empathy for Mother Gaia and the national parks and the wittle WHALES. Look, your mistakes are bigger than that. You can’t just switch to organic oatmeal and fake leather and plant some grass on top of your skyscraper and sleep peacefully at night knowing you’re part of the privileged 1% elect that gets to hoard 90% of the resources while everyone else works as your de facto slaves. You care about The Environment? Prove it. Get down to the dirt. Redistribute your ill-gotten goods voluntarily, or the teeming masses might just roll through your gated community some night and do it for you.

4. The mirage that the last civil rights movement has successfully blossomed into a ‘colorblind’ society where race ‘just isn’t that important anymore.’ This is flat-out preposterous. If you’re white, and you’re born and raised in a white-dominated society, you’re a beneficiary of racial privilege, no matter how long you’ve been subscribing to The Nation and listening to sanitized backpack hip hop. Your work is not done yet, not even close. This phenomenon has only gotten worse with the election of Obama (“So articulate! So dignified! Went to Harvard!”) which has allowed the boomers to continue the convulsive back-patting of self-congratulation, as though getting off your bloated ass to vote (which only 63% of registered voters did – and 30% of those eligible to register haven’t even SIGNED UP) and then punching your chad for the black man somehow absolves you of culpability for the 40 years since MLK’s assasination. You abandoned your ideals. You might have marched on Washington, but then you went home. It was enough to shock your parents, but not enough to disrupt the social structure. Get back on the front lines; we’re sick of being cannon fodder in the struggles you should have finished yourselves.

5. The use of the terms ‘revolution’ or ‘revolutionary’ to describe minor brand-retooling or the release of iphone apps. “Revolutionary new product” is an oxymoronic phrase. It serves only to shore up the illusion of significance that you’ve been clinging to so desparately. That motivational speaker? Not revolutionary. Your elegant software solution for process management? Not revolutionary. The sleek new dashboard design in your SUV? Not revolutionary. The latest diet that involves eating only highly processed frozen dinners and attending group-therapeutic self-esteem classes? Not revolutionary. Your kindergentler corporate culture with its trust-building rope courses and benificent toleration for same-sex partner benefits? Not revolutionary. We haven’t had a revolution for more than 200 years, which means we’re about 190 years overdue, according to Thomas Jefferson.

6. I could go on. Really, I could. For hours.

Anyway, O’Rourke is fun to read – check him out. (Don’t be scared; it’ll be Our Little Secret that you’re a closet Weekly Standard reader.)

  1. Anonymous said:

    I would like to change the complexion of those Classic Rock and Oldies radio stations, but even if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t do away with them altogether. They provide new generations of listeners with a one-year indoctrination into the sounds of an era that produced much that’s worth preserving. We’re not supposed to hang out there indefinitely. We’re supposed to hang out there until we’re bored, and then we can switch channels. But just because _we’re_ bored doesn’t mean the station has ceased to have value.

  2. S said:

    Yeah, but radio isn’t really the primary medium of transmission anymore. There are many, many sources for music – and many of us have parents who will, by default, indoctrinate us into the era’s cultural suppositions and make us familiar with its products. And I wouldn’t mind _a_ station or two on the dial, there’s just little else to turn the dial _to_. If it was a little less prevalent, it would be more valuable. But it’s common as mud, so I feel no obligation to be a part of preserving it. The internet is a ginormous archive; that’s not radio’s function. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Well, ok, but “demand the decimation of” and “feel no obligation to be a part of preserving” are completely different things, assuming that you mean the informal definition of “decimation”. In any case, can we really blame the baby-boomers for the staying power of their music? Make no mistake, I’m no fan of the homogenization of the radio dial, but corporations making money by selling what works doesn’t seem to me like it’s the fault of baby-boomers; it seems like the fault of “the market” or ClearChannel or somesuch.

  4. S said:

    I guess my ‘polite disagreement’ would be to probe the idea that “the market” and ClearChannel are somehow inhuman forces for which no one’s really responsible. Who invented ClearChannel? Who sits on its board, writes its business plan, perpetuates its power? Who buys its advertising slots? ClearChannel IS the baby boomers; so, to some degree, is “the market:” a function of demography and concentration of wealth. Also, we should remember that for-profit radio stations are NOT in the business of selling music to listeners, they are in the business of selling listeners to advertisers. And it’s the nature of radio that information about its ‘consumers’ is necessarily estimated, never certain. In this case, I must say, ‘selling what works’ is not a straightforward matter of a majority of customers choosing what they like and companies responding to their tastes. The ‘staying power’ of the music is a reflection of historically particular methods of distribution and profit-making, not an entirely ‘natural’ upswelling of popular sentiment.And while we’re on the subject of popular sentiment: politically, I have strong populist leanings, but aesthetically, I am an unabashed elitist. Whether a million people like a song is no clear indicator of that song’s aesthetic worth. I tend to think that good taste is rather rare. I don’t want a committee of Joe the Plumbers selecting my music for me; I would prefer that task be left to a single, fiercely dedicated, savagely critical curator-libertine. A member of an aesthetic elite. Thus, even if American mainstream radio WAS indicative of popular taste (which I doubt) it would still be aesthetically objectionable to me. (And I welcome further comments about the inflammatory manifesto – it is intended to provoke controversy. There’s really no one else reading this, anyway…)

  5. Anonymous said:

    “ClearChannel IS the baby boomers.”ClearChannel is not the baby boomers. ClearChannel is, at most, a tiny subset of the baby boomers, and what I object to in your manifesto is the implied premise that this tiny set of business-minded boomers are manifesting behavior that is either A) specific to or B) representative of the boomer generation as a whole. I think you’re looking at a few amoral, tasteless, jerkoff business people who happen to be boomers and ascribing their amoral, tasteless jerkoffery to them being boomers when it would be more appropriately attributed to their being business people. I think corporate fatcat douchiness crosses generational lines.”The ‘staying power’ of the music…”I don’t disagree with any of this nor do I disagree with the implied premise that the homogenized radio dial in this country is a total wasteland. What I don’t see is how it’s the fault of boomers or how boomers are acting any differently under these circumstances than the greatest generation would have or GenX will.”I am an unabashed elitist.”The aesthetic worth of the songs is not at issue nor is your elitism. What is at issue is that boomers are somehow behaving differently en masse than another generation would in this fetid, overly deregulated market. What is at issue is whether there is something specific about the boomer experience that makes the current crop of wealthy corporate elite, who happen to be boomers, characteristic of boomers rather than characteristic of humans.Perhaps a manifesto isn’t the place for this, but what I think is lacking is an explanation of how boomer behavior today is unique among generations and what, specifically, in the boomer experience led them to become this way.

  6. S said:

    OK, yes. This debate is winding to a civil close, I think. I would like to gently acknowledge, in your final sentence, the awareness that a manifesto is a particular genre. I did not purport, writing my screed, to offer a rational, statistically-evidenced, or balanced analysis of the actual behavior of an actual collection of actual humans. I’m engaging, more, in an assault on the image of Boomer culture. And engaging, too, in the time-honored practice of searing attacks on the generation immediately prior to one’s own. The son must slay the father. It may not be logically defensible. But it is psychologically satisfying, as catharsis. Xoxoxox.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Damn! Curse your civility! I have so many follow-ups, not the least of which would be that your screed (your word, so not meant pejoratively) highlights the failings of Gen X and Gen Y (and aren’t you really Gen Y, by the way?) rather than any of the boomers.Anyway, though, you don’t have to “gently” acknowledge it. I know you’re not writing a scholarly historical analysis.But bearing in mind that a manifesto is what it is, I think your psychology as evidenced by the manifesto is interesting, and were you of a mind, I would explore the following thoughts (possibly somewhere else; these comment sections don’t really seem like they’re set up for long-threaded discussions):1. Boomers don’t perpetuate the standing of the 60s, Gen Xers do. Boomers may still be the biggest demographic, but not a single one of them today is a member of that all-powerful demographic: white male aged 18-45. I doubt that “Taking Woodstock” is aimed at boomers any more than “That 70s Show” was.2. The hippie revolution may have failed, but at least they had a revolution. The staying power of the 60s experience isn’t a result of some conspiracy or some accident of marketing and distribution; it’s a direct result of Gen X and Gen Y having done *nothing* to compete with it and of members of those generations having to look backward rather than inward to find inspiration. Boomers have a right to feel proud of the 60s even if they didn’t accomplish as much as we would have liked.3. Boomers did nothing wrong by getting older. You say they abandoned their principles and haven’t done enough for racial equality in the 40 years since MLK’s death, but I would argue that it’s not their fault. It’s _our_ fault. We were supposed to pick up the mantle, and we dropped the ball – it’s probably worth exploring whether there is something in how they raised us that made us drop the ball, but drop we undeniably did. The boomers did much in the 60s, and then they got older and settled down to have families. They did enough. It’s our generations that have done nothing.My 2¢.

  8. S said:

    1. Sure they (Gen X) do. Perpetuate. That sux. They oughtta revolt too. But at least they are not congratulating themselves for a revolution that never happened. Not sure, however, that whitemale18-45 really is the all-powerful demographic anymore – I would be interested to see a nice infographic that tied wealth to age group, or election results to age group voting patterns, or control of institutions/media outlets/corporations/gov offices to age group. What I suspect is that 18-45 is not as powerful for our generation as it was for theirs. 2. Um. We’ve done a few things. (WTO?) But (I mean AND) state power has increased; the disproportion between state and street power has increased. Yeah, we need to do muchmuch more, and I’ve aimed many manifestos at my generation, and many many more, internally, at myself, as I seek forms of effective action/sabotage/expression/exchange/community. Really. I think some of my ‘gen’ are trying. And ‘our’ moment isn’t OVER yet; it can’t be retroactively analyzed quite yet. To be fair, boomers’ moment isn’t over either. Maybe as they grow older and more crippled they will once again be seized by zeal for freedom and cast their withered forms on the pyre of risk and exaltation. Hope so.3. “Settling down to have families” is not mutually exclusive with the possibility of ‘doing something for racial equality,’ in your mild phrasing. Doing the former is absolutely no excuse for disregarding the latter. Or for disregarding a wide array of other potentials. “Settling down to have families” should not be revered as a sacred activity that pre-empts social responsibility or engagement with one’s national mess. I absolutely disagree that the boomers “did enough” in the 1960s and should therefore be excused for everything that happened after they turned 23 years old. If, in fact, that 18-45 demographic is “all-powerful,” they should be remembered for everything that they did during the years they were “all-powerful.” It’s not all as pretty as 1968. Obviously, none of us has done “enough.” While I understand (acutely and personally, I assure you) that Utopia always moves a step away when you move a step toward it, I refuse to accept that there’s a certain age or social status at which one becomes exempt from moving forward at all.

  9. Anonymous said:

    I am sadly losing the combination of time and motivation to continue this at a reasonable pace. I may have to switch to email or sumthin’. Stupid concentration.

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