The Worst Generation

America’s future as seen by a fan at a Beatles concert in Indiana on Sept. 4, 1964. Bob Daugherty | AP file

Given all the grief that old-timers give millennials — and Gen X’ers, when we remember that there is such a generation — it’s high time baby boomers stepped to the plate to acknowledge that which is self-evident: Ours is the worst generation.

We knew when we were kids that there would soon be a generation coming that would be worse off than the one that preceded it. Our goal, then, was to make sure it wasn’t ours.

Mission accomplished.

Bruce Cannon Gibney’s op-ed in the Boston Globe is the latest treatise on the subject not written by a Baby Boomer.

My indictment of boomers may seem overbroad, but the thesis is quite specific: the unusual prevalence of sociopathy in an unusually large generation. How does that disorder manifest? Improvidence is reflected in low levels of savings and high levels of bankruptcy.

Deceit shows up as a distaste for facts, a subject on display in everything from Enron’s quarterly reports to daily press briefings. Interpersonal failures and unbridled hostility appeared in unusually high levels of divorce and crime from the 1970s to early 1990s. These problems expressed themselves at generationally unique levels in boomers, to a greater extent than in boomers’ parents or children at comparable ages. (My forthcoming book lays out all these data in detail.)

Boomers weren’t genetically predestined to be dysfunctional; they were conditioned to be. They were the first generation to be raised permissively, the first reared on television and subject to its developmental harms, and the only living group raised in an era of seemingly effortless prosperity. Can too much license, TV, and unearned wealth distort personalities? May I suggest looking south toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Where is the Baby Boomer to acknowledge that his/hers is the Worst Generation?

I’ll tell you where. He’s going on vacation to Florida just as soon as he finishes this post to sample the life of affluence, kept by a generation of working kids who have nowhere near the possibility of such a life thanks to the world we left. I’ll feel guilty about it when I get back. Maybe.

Henceforth, let us expect no more from people who achieved so little, who have such small interest in the future. Let us dispense with ideas that aging flower children have substantial claims on goodness, as boomers liberal and conservative alike engaged in warrantless wiretapping, extrajudicial assassinations, gratuitous assaults on the dignity of minorities, mass disenfranchisement, the erection of a vast and useless penal state, and policies of cavalier disregard.

Today’s discussion topic: Can the Greatest Generation really be the greatest generation if it raised the Worst Generation?

See what I did there?