Nov 3, 2008

Obama and Generational Change -- Didn't We Skip A Generation Here ?


The expected election of Obama is heralded as being both a transformational and a generational change, which is likely true.

It is transformational in that it (hopefully) adds a sturdy nail to the coffin of this nation's ugly racial history as well as project to the world an image of a people ready and willing to recognize its place as a member of the global comunity, freshly aware of those shades-of-gray nuances of the new world order that were not well-served by our departing Idiot Prince and his vicious gang of Vandals disguised as neocons. Hopefully, the Global Village's dwellers buy into the thinking that even good people can make a mistake now and then -- and Bush was our 'gimme.'

It is, in fact, generational in that Obama will be the first president of the post-baby boom demographic, which (again: hopefully) makes him immune to the Viet Nam psyche and the subsequent Culture War that little quagmire later spawned. He thankfully shows signs of that being the case.

The common analysis is to point at Obama's two immediate predecessors -- Bubba and Dubya -- as being the Oval Office representatives of that Baby Boom populace, given their entry-dates into this world. But by painting with such a wide brush, such an analysis is flawed.

The boomers are better defined not as a single socio-demographic / psychographic entity; but as two. Such a breakdown might go like this:

The Early Boomers

These folks had their formative (high school) years best represented (in a pop-culture kind of way) by George Lucas' movie American Graffiti. The guys were car-crazed, beer swilling, clean-cut, non-flauntingly patriotic and optimistic, all looking ahead to a pre-destined adult future. Those from blue collar families were locked-in to blue collar jobs (with a possible stop in the military) and those from white collar families to a college - driven path into traditional professions such as local banking and dentistry.

The girls, meanwhile, bode their time as football cheerleaders while eyeing their future mates across the cafeteria table, all while maintaining a remote, safe and respectable distance.

Their soundtrack was Elvis and the Beatles---at least up until when the Fab Four "got a little weird" come Sgt Pepper (an actual observation by none other than Bush the Younger).

The Later Boomers

Those in this wave were best highlighted (or lowlighted?) in the movie Dazed and Confused. Without a war draft to contend with, the guys took the opportunity to face the world as just one never-ending party. Smoking pot at the same rate as their parents smoked cigarettes, it was all about finding the next kegger or concert and getting laid. Despite their nihilistic view of the world, they subtly (and unconsciously) held professional-class ambitions; even those with blue collar pedigrees. But the reality was that they didn't have a clue as to what form that would take. Dazed and cofused, indeed.

The girls were treated in a more egalitarian fashion and were more embedded into the guys' circles than were their older, Early Boomer sisters. This no doubt served as Reason #1 for the mass development of casual sex amongst this crowd. And all of this was happening at the height of the Rock Era, which provided the background noise.

These are two different tribes, my friends. Siblings from opposing ends of the spectrum eyed one another suspiciously and lead very different lives --even while living under the same roof. I personally must have been right on the dividing line; I recall a certain amount of tension and hostility between my high school class and the one that was a year ahead of us. Whereas we would refer to them as the "Opie Cunningham Class," they would frequently accuse us of being too tolerant of the hippie types floating around campus or not being serious enough about our athletic pursuits. Fortunately, all was forgiven in the years after, when we were all forced to deal with the real world.

So, does this difference in lifestlyes mark its respective recipients with different views of the world? To quote Mrs Palin: You Betcha!

You don't think that somone whose rite of passage was tooling the rod down the main drag, one step away from marrying his/her high school prom date and reporting to a union job down the street from where born ends up with a different life experience and world view than someone whose coming of age milestone was an acid trip at a Led Zeppelin show prior to embarking on a lifetime road trip that included many hundreds of friends, lovers, neighbors and associates before settling into a groove on the opposite coast? If not; we disagree.

Whereas the Early Boomers got their not-so-different after all members Clinton and Bush to the White House, the Later Boomers like myself never got ours. While we produced the movers and shakers of the first phase of the technology revolution (think Jobs, Wozniak, Gates), we never collectively mastered the political game. Probably because it never hit our radar screens.

Maybe that fact ended up serving everyone well.



Lom-Dom said...

Whoah, was that playful, gutteral, interesting though, but I would have liked to see you move on from the high school and college days to the logical progression into the age of less rigid thinkers as job holding voting tax paying better educated adults (shalI I say free thinkers) and informed skeptics (we learned about Watergate and the Pentagon Papers in grammer school and the ramifications in high school didn't we?).

While the Raygun, Bush Sr. (head of CIA becomes president, still have a tough time with that one, thanks Ronnie) Bubba and Wya years had our head spinning now is the time to start really demanding that someone closer to our school of thought decides to slow down on the rhetoric and politics as usual and really show the world that WE collectively (with the right person at the helm) have what it takes to make a difference in this world and lead the US in the right direction for a change. Now that we have the sex, drugs and rock and roll out of our system (or under a reasonable amount of control after years of trial and error, or counseling and rehab) let's get to work and really make a go of it.

Banker Bill said...

D&C is the best movie I have ever seen about that period of time. It should be playing in an endless loop at the Smithsonian.

In a way, it is like Seinfeld's tv show. "It's all about nothing!"

Yes, the 70's were all about nothing., But for those of us that were there, it was our everything.

Great piece, btw.