Shit. I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this without slagging on myself in a bizarre 2nd-person self-argument.
So this book is both more and less than it could have been. It's more than a GenXer excoriating the Baby Boomer generation for existing; true to the title, Gibney goes through pedantically running the gestalt behavior of his special breed of 'boomer (white, privileged, born between 1941 and 1965) through the DSM V to prove that the generation as a whole behaves sociopathically. It's less than a complete account of what the fuck to do about it.
Bruce Gibney has been lucky in life. His college roommate was Mark Zuckerberg so he made some good investments early on. He then parlayed that into a job with Peter Thiel, however, and continued to make money. He was at Founder's Fund in 2011; he's the one who wrote "They promised us flying cars, instead we got 140 characters." His basic beef is legitimate: what happened to basic research and investment in the future? His argument is that the 'boomer generation, for reasons he doesn't get into nearly enough, squandered the greatest birthright in the history of civilization on entitlements. He further argues that the bill is going to come due (has always been coming due) right about the time the 'boomers are all dead, which is why we're all fucked.
Gibney's basic point is that it's fatuous to argue democrat vs. republican because on matters of generational largess, the 'boomers have always come together. Lower the voting age? Happened immediately and bilaterally when the 'boomers first turned 18. Raise the drinking age? Happened immediately and bilaterally when the last 'boomers turned 21. Why does social security run out in 2030? Because that's when the last 'boomer will start collecting. Why does everything run out in 2030? Because that's when the last 'boomer stops paying for it.
Really, the majority of the book is about the various and sundry civil, financial, governmental and environmental moves made by the 'boomers to push the problems to 2030 and pull the benefits to themselves. He's not much for counterarguments so you have to take much of what he says on face value; the book is heavily footnoted so if you felt like having an adventure in the weeds you certainly could. And to be fair, he excuses minorities unilaterally, arguing that white 'boomers have held the reigns of power in ways minority 'boomers haven't but he also glosses over how these "sociopathic" boomers act remarkably in step while failing to recognize shit like this:
So yeah, if they're a generation of sociopaths they're pretty well fucking each other, too. And I recognize that kinda messes with his basic point but if they're all sitting there happily living off the flesh of future generations why are they so angry and voting for Trump?
Far more interesting - to me, at any rate - was the one measly chapter Gibney dedicates to why. We all love to slag on the 'boomers and act as if they're somehow different than anybody else and Gibney, bless his black heart, has about 35 graphs illustrating that no, really - they are. But why?
Gibney points to three things:
1) The 'boomers were the generation most exposed to tetraethyllead.
For reference, the oh-holy-shit lead levels everyone lost their mind over in Flint were 1.87 micrograms/d;l. If you were six in 1970, your lead level was 24. Note that the blue graph is offset 23 years; take it wikipedia:
- Increased blood lead level in children has been correlated with decreases in intelligence, nonverbal reasoning, short-term memory, attention, reading and arithmetic ability, fine motor skills, emotional regulation, and social engagement.
Also apparently it fucks up your nails. Which explains those white spots I always had. New Mexico banned leaded gasoline after I went to college. Kinda explains all the high school friends I have that have been murdered, have murdered, or are in prison. Moving on:
2) The 'boomers were the least breastfed generation in the history of mankind.
Let's skip over the hornet's nest that is that little bundle of psychology and simply point out that it's there.
3) the 'boomers were the first and only generation to grow up with unfettered use of television.
Negative impacts of television on children are hardly controversial at this point but Dr. Spock literally said not to worry about how much TV your kid watches until the 1972 edition of his book. Interestingly enough, the average age of the TV viewing audience increases by one year every year; it's fair to say that TV is fundamentally a 'boomer trend that will die with the 'boomers.
Gibney goes as far as saying that people do better when they have an adversary and that the 'boomers are an excellent adversary to rally against (while steadfastly ignoring the fact that it's grandma). In my opinion, a better book could have been written about what to do about the lead-poisoned, bottle-fed attention-starved TV generation that insists all the resources belong to them. It's one thing to hate your enemy. It's quite another to understand them. And when you look at the last 40 years of politics (and probably the next 30) in terms of a large group of mentally-impaired individuals attempting to run the world as best they can, I think you make different decisions.
I'm still thinking about this one.