2005-02-05

Who led the baby boom astray?

Bashing the baby boom seems big business these days (2012 and on)
(e.g., [Keller] and [Friedman and Mandelbaum]).
Why not blame them for everything that has gone wrong in our society?
It surely spares other parties from having to accept the blame.
Why blame the pre-baby boom generations or the Democratic Party for the unjust and unsustainable transfer of wealth from the young to the old embodied in the Social Security and Medicare systems,
or blame the neocons and their fellow travelers for our invasion of Iraq,
or blame the feminists for working against compromise with the Taliban which might enable the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan without endangering U.S. security,
or blame the all-powerful Israel lobby for covering up the role U.S. support for Israel played in motivating al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack on America,
or blame Ivan Boesky (born 1937) et al. for, rather than portraying greed as a sin, the traditional Christian view, portraying it as “healthy”,
when you can blame the whole baby boom generation for these problems?

My view is that it is unfair to blame the baby boom generation,
the leading edge of which I am a part,
for these problems, rather than the more specific segments and interest groups in society mentioned above,
for various specific now-agreed social ills.
However, even so, the baby boom as a whole
certainly had a different attitude on many issues than our parents did.
But how did this happen?
What are its causes?
Were baby boom kids different genetically from their predecessors?
I think not.
But they (we) sure were brought up in a different cultural and educational environment,
perhaps best exemplified by the Supreme Court rulings of 1962 and 1963 which banned prayer in the schools.
Even the most determined baby boom-basher surely must admit that had a vast effect on the moral and ethical values the schools could imbue their students with,
and that the baby boom itself was not responsible for that ruling.
But even more than that,
there was the vast and, in my view, malign effect on the educational system
of the propaganda effort of the “Frankfurt School”,
a deliberate, and successful, attempt to overturn conventional values
with the goal of, well, I could tell you exactly what its goal was,
but that would be perhaps a bridge too far in the path toward political correctness,
so I will leave you to divine what the goals of Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse were.

I had some form of indoctrination to their countercultural ideas when I spent five and a half years (1967-1973) as a graduate student at the home university of one of the major domos of the Frankfurt School, Herbert Marcuse, that is, Brandeis University, during a period of intense protests against the Vietnam War and other aspects of our society.
While I fortunately was in a department of the hard sciences, where, so far as I could tell, there was no effect of those social currents on the subject matter at hand, none the less the entire campus environment was awash in protest movements, protesting either the war, racism, or some other aspect of society.

It may be hard for people now to either remember or imagine
how radical those days were.
To give you a contemporaneous view,
here is an excerpt from President Richard M. Nixon’s second inaugural address on January 20, 1973.

Above all else, the time has come
for us to renew our faith in ourselves and in America.

In recent years, that faith has been challenged.

Our children have been taught to be
ashamed of their country,
ashamed of their parents,
ashamed of America’s record at home and its role in the world.

At every turn we have been beset by
those who find everything wrong with America
and little that is right.

But I am confident that this will not be the judgment of history
on these remarkable times in which we are privileged to live.

America’s record in this century
has been unparalleled in the world’s history
for its responsibility,
for its generosity,
for its creativity, and
for its progress.

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