(1) Recently, George Bush
went to Saudi Arabia to ask the ruling House of Saud to pump more oil.
That request had about as much chance of success as the Democratic-led
congressional effort to "sue" the Saudis in American courts for their
The current U.S. energy debate has devolved into doing the same old
thing - consume, don't produce and complain - while somehow expecting
different results. Congress talks endlessly about the bright future of
wind, solar and new fuels while it stops us from getting through the
messy present by using abundant coal, shale and tar sands; nuclear
power; and untapped oil in Alaska and off our coasts.
(2) For the last five years, we fretted over a "housing boom" that
priced an entire generation out of the market. In response, government
and lending agencies got "creative" by relaxing standards to allow
shaky "first-time" buyers into the red-hot market of high-priced homes.
Home-improvement TV shows proliferated on how to "flip" houses and buy
When the bubble inevitably burst, cries of outrage followed about
how "they" (never "we") caused a "depression" in housing. Our leaders
shrieked about greedy lenders and incompetent regulators who foreclosed
on us - never that the American people themselves caused much of the
speculation problem, or that housing prices are finally becoming
affordable again for new couples.
(3) More than 70 percent of Americans, and a majority of Democratic
senators, wanted to remove Saddam Hussein - overwhelming support for
the administration's war that rose even higher as a brilliant campaign
finished off the Ba'athists in three weeks.
But when a messy insurgency erupted, suddenly we heard that was ruined by "stupid occupation."
(4) The current Social Security system is unsustainable. But the
baby boomers who gave us Botox aren't about to up the retirement age
and freeze their cost-of-living increases to allow the cash-strapped
next generation a little help paying for our out-of-control benefits.
There is a pattern in all these dilemmas. And it is not
conservative-versus-liberal politics, but generational chaos. Those who
came of age in the 1960s now hold the reins of power and influence -
and we are starting to see why their values have worried almost
everyone for nearly a half-century.
History has seen something like them before in the "blame them"
years of Demosthenes' Athens, the self-indulgence of Julio-Claudian
Rome, the "after me, the deluge" generation of late 18th-century
France, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties.
What are the baby boomers' collective traits? Like all perpetual
adolescents who suffer arrested development, we always want things both
ways: We won't drill or explore for more energy but nevertheless demand
ever more fuel from other suppliers.
There are never bad and worse choices, but only a Never Never Land
of good and even-better alternatives. Housing not only has to stay
affordable for buyers, but also must appreciate in value to give
instant equity to those who have just become owners.
When things don't go well, we always blame someone else. Why drill
off Santa Barbara or Alaska when we can sue those terrible Saudis for
not putting more oil platforms in their Persian Gulf?
And why accept that the conduct of all wars is flawed and victory
goes usually to those who persevere in making the needed adjustments
when we can just keep pointing fingers at the official who disbanded
the Iraqi army or sent too few troops after the invasion?
The sense of self-importance is never far away. We "earned" our
generous unsustainable Social Security benefits, so why should we have
to suffer by cutting them?
Sociologists have correctly diagnosed the perfect storm that created
the "me" generation - sudden postwar affluence, sacrificing parents who
did not wish us to suffer as they had in the Great Depression and World
War II, and the rise of therapeutic education that encouraged
Perhaps the greatest trademark of the 1960s cohort was
self-congratulation. baby boomers alone claimed to have brought about
changes in civil rights, women's liberation and environmental awareness
- as if these were not concerns of earlier generations.
We apparently created all our wealth rather than having inherited
our roads, schools and bountiful infrastructure from someone else. And
in our self-absorption, no one accepted that our notorious appetites
created more problems than our supposed "caring" solved.
Our present problems were not really caused by an unpopular
president, a spendthrift Congress, the neo-con bogeymen, the greedy
Saudis, shifty bankers or corporate oilmen in black hats and handlebar
moustaches - much less the anonymous "they."
The fault of this age, dear baby boomers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.