The Boomer Bust

 

The Baby Boom generation spans eighteen years. Already, the earliest boomers have reached retirement age. Many are getting more conservative as they get older. WSJ's Jason Bellini reports.

We are the generation that changed everything. Of all the eras and epochs of Americans, ours is the one that made the biggest impression—on ourselves. That's an important accomplishment, because we're the generation that created the self, made the firmament of the self, divided the light of the self from the darkness of the self, and said, "Let there be self." If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you may have noticed this yourself. That's not to say we're a selfish generation. Selfish means "too concerned with the self," and we're not. Self isn't something we're just, you know, concerned with. We are self. Before us, self was without form and void, like our parents in their dumpy clothes and vague ideas. Then we came along.

Now the personal is the political. The personal is the socioeconomic. The personal is the religious and the secular, science and the arts. The personal is everything that creepeth upon the earth after his (and, let us hasten to add, her) kind. If the baby boom has done one thing, it's to beget a personal universe. (Our apologies for anyone who personally happens to be a jerk.)

Self is like fish, proverbially speaking. Give a man a fish and you've fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and, if he turns into a dry-fly catch-and-release angling fanatic up to his liver in icy water wearing ridiculous waders and an absurd hat, pestering trout with 3-pound test line on a $1,000 graphite rod, and going on endlessly about Royal Coachman lures that he tied himself using muskrat fur and partridge feathers…well, at least his life partner is glad to have him out of the house.

So here we are in the baby-boom cosmos, formed in our image, personally tailored to our individual needs, and predetermined to be eternally fresh and novel. And we saw that it was good. Or pretty good.

Justin Paget/Corbis; photo illustration by Stephen Webster

We should have had a cooler name, the way the Lost Generation did. Except good luck to anybody who tries to tell us to get lost. Anyway, it's too late now. We're stuck with being forever described as exploding infants. And maybe it's time, now that we've splattered ourselves all over the place, for the baby boom to look back and think. "What made us who we are?" "And what caused us to act the way we do?" "And WTF?" Because the truth is, if we hadn't decided to be young forever, we'd be old.

The youngest baby boomers, born in the last year when anybody thought it was hip to like Lyndon Johnson, are turning 50. We'd be sad about getting old if we weren't too busy remarrying younger wives, reviving careers that hit glass ceilings when children arrived and renewing prescriptions for drugs that keep us from being sad. And we'll never retire. We can't. The mortgage is underwater. We're in debt up to the Rogaine for the kids' college education. And it serves us right—we're the generation who insisted that a passion for living should replace working for one.

Still, it's an appropriate moment for us to weigh what we've wrought and tally what we've added to and subtracted from existence. We've reached the age of accountability. The world is our fault. We are the generation that has an excuse for everything—one of our greatest contributions to modern life—but the world is still our fault.

This is every generation's fate. It's a matter of power and privilege and demography. Whenever anything happens anywhere, somebody over 50 signs the bill for it. And the baby boom, seated as we are at the head of life's table, is hearing Generation X, Generation Y and the Millennials all saying, "Check, please!"

To address America's baby boom is to face big, broad problems. We number more than 75 million, and we're not only diverse but take a thorny pride in our every deviation from the norm (even though we're in therapy for it). We are all alike in that each of us thinks we're unusual.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304011304579220174176053820

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