As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.
The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.
Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:
“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”
Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.
We on the Right may find ourselves tempted at times to look at the failures of Obama’s presidency and think that we’ve won. We may think that we’ve proven, once and for all, that stifling statism and stealth socialism cannot prevail in America.
Have you stopped to think that what we think of as failures may instead be part of a grand radical strategy? Former Florida Congressman Allen West has, and he shared his thoughts on Fox News:
West, a Republican, said he recently reread the Cloward-Piven strategy, proposed by two sociologists and political activists in 1966. The purpose of the strategy, offered to Democrats at the time, was to overload the welfare system so that people could be given “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty.”
Obama’s economic policies may be intended to do something similar, West hinted during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News Channel’s ”On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
“We’re seeing an incredible growth of the welfare nanny state; we’re seeing the poverty rolls explode; we’re seeing the food stamp rolls explode; we’re seeing more dependency on government largesse and programs,” he said. “We’re seeing a desperation and a despondency out there that’s being created by this administration.”
Authors Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven proposed a plan to end capitalism quickly by overloading bureaucracy with dependents so that the system would collapse under its own weight.
They proposed a “massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.” Cloward and Piven calculated that persuading even a fraction of potential welfare recipients to demand their entitlements would bankrupt the system. The result, they predicted, would be “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces for major economic reform at the national level.”
Their strategy involved a radical tactic known as community organizing (sound familiar?) to whip the poor into a frenzy and drive them on to welfare rolls. Voting-rights drives and a push for a “living wage” factored in to the Cloward-Piven strategy as well. Cloward and Piven were also reportedly behind the controversy in the 2000 presidential election.
Does all of this sound far fetched? Bear in mind that, like President Obama, Cloward and Piven were disciples of Saul Alinsky.
I sure hope I’m wrong, but if Obama’s policies thus far are part of a Cloward-Piven styled strategy, 2014 is more crucial than ever in terms of stemming the tide of stealth socialism.
Second wave feminism, popularized in the 1960′s, is a rich white girl’s game. Just ask Betty Friedan, or better yet, Wendy Davis.
PBS’s 1964 featured commentary on the then-nascent women’s movement that would become known as Second Wave Feminism. The segment contains clips of commercials advertising household products marketed to women to make their lives easier in the home juxtaposed by Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan’s response to these technological innovations: Women were increasingly bored.
Clips from a Friedan interview (what a miserable looking hag) reveal a perspective fueled by stereotypical thinking. Describing “the problem that has no name” she explains, “it’s not being anybody in themselves, really…” detailing that these women lack role models; even the women on TV are nothing more than ”mindless little drudge[s]…whose greatest thrill is to get that kitchen sink pure white…”. Embracing Freudian psychology, Friedan dismissed the roles of wife and mother as useless, even detrimental in light of the now-disputed Alfred Kinsey’s quack theory that “parasitical mother-love” made men gay.
The stereotypes upon which Friedan based her claim revels in the kind of ignorance common among upper middle class white women who could afford to be bored at home. Women composed over 1/3 of the workforce in 1960; contrary to Friedan’s audience, 19 million women were active in the labor force in 1964. When commenting on why black women by and large never read Friedan’s book, Michelle Bernard observed that most black women “…believed that Friedan’s work spoke only to a privileged class of white women who had nothing better to do than whine about how difficult life was as a stay at home mother.”
It becomes obvious reading The Feminine Mystique that Friedan never intended to market to an audience of working women who would’ve appreciated the technological innovations entering the home. Friedan loaded her book with (now disputed) academic citations that would only have been recognizable by her fellow Smith College graduates and their educated, upper-class compatriots. This nomeklatura-style intellectualism comes as no surprise when Friedan’s communist past and Marxist agenda is taken into account:
“…under her maiden name, Betty Goldstein, she was a political activist and professional propagandist for the Communist left for a quarter of a century before the publication of “The Feminist Mystique” launched the modern women’s movement.
…Friedan was from her college days, and until her mid-30s, a Stalinist Marxist, the political intimate of the leaders of America’s Cold War fifth column and for a time even the lover of a young Communist physicist working on atomic bomb projects in Berkeley’s radiation lab with J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her famous description of America’s suburban family household as “a comfortable concentration camp” in “The Feminine Mystique” therefore had more to do with her Marxist hatred for America than with any of her actual experience as a housewife or mother. (Her husband, Carl, also a leftist, once complained that his wife “was in the world during the whole marriage,” had a full-time maid and “seldom was a wife and a mother”).”
America is celebrating The Beatles’ Jubilee. 50 years ago this year The Fab Four landed on this side of the Atlantic and the ’60s officially began. (At least, that is, according to PBS.) With the announcement that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, will reunite at the Grammys on January 26 and perform a concert to air on February 9, 50 years to the day of their Ed Sullivan premiere, it would seem that Beatlemania (unlike much of organized religion) is making a resurgence in pop culture. Think the Fab Four are so yesterday? Think again:
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.
Imagine a mathematician trying to quantify each Beatles’ album with Martha Stewart-like graphics. Wait, you don’t have to, just check out one Millennial’s 4 Simple Charts Visualizing The Beatles’ Major Albums and you’ll find out that The Beatles aren’t just for rock n’rollers, they’re for nerds, too. ”A new project on Kickstarter aims to tap into the passion of teenyboppers young and old withVisualising the Beatles, a book of infographics about each of the Fab Four’s major records.” Seriously: If that doesn’t make you want to start a Revolution, nothing will.
Huff Po details A Comprehensive Guide to The Beatles’ Invasion of Comic Culture for Millennial comic fans:
“Thanks to a book by Enzo Gentile and Fabio Schiavo, appropriately titled “The Beatles in Comic Strips,” we’ve been enlightened on the Fab Four’s history of comic book appearances. From subtle cameos to entire issues, the group managed to squeeze their iconic faces and psychedelic style into more than a few works of comic art.”
In March, Vans will release four pairs of Beatles-themed shoes for their Millennial audience:
“The most expensive of the bunch, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, features stylized portraits of all four Beatles running up the ankles apropos to cartoon portraits of each as they were animated for the film. The other shoes each feature psychedelic tableaus from the film. The Classic Slip-Ons play off the movie’s Sea of Monsters, showing trippy marine life swimming in an ocean of pink. The Era shoes depict all four band members, some wearing rainbow pants, hanging out in a yellow garden. And the final pair, a model called Authentic, is adorned with a pattern that reads “Allyouneedislove” running over and over again and into itself in purple, yellow and green.”
Apparently we are experiencing a weather event of epic proportions. The headlines on Drudge tonight screamed:
CHICAGO SMASHES RECORDS…
COLDEST AIR IN 20 YEARS…
‘Exposed skin may freeze in less than five minutes’…
Power Demand Soars…
Texas grid pushed to edge…
Indianapolis Mayor Bans Driving…
JETBLUE To Halt All Flights To, From Boston, NY, NJ…
AMERICAN AIRLINES Cancels Flights Over Frozen Fuel Supply, Cold Employees…
Here in Ohio, as early as Wednesday afternoon schools began closing in anticipation of the frigid temperatures and wind chills. Even the Cleveland Horseshoe Casino and local ski resorts closed due to the “dangerous wind chill temperatures.”
Immediate mockery by nearly every Ohioan over the age of forty began on Facebook:
- Well I see all the public schools in my area have already WIMPED OUT and cancelled school for the next two days because of . . . snow and ice and cold temperatures. Heavens. I guess the poor little dumplings can’t take it. Is everyone going to cancel work too because it’s so cold?
- I can’t believe they cancelled already when the temps are still ok and not one flake has fallen. Hello Wussy USA!!!
- My wife rode the bus from the time she and her sisters were in elementary school. If there were one or two foot snow drifts. . .if they could get the buses out of the barns. . .they went to school. Parents can walk or drive their kids. We are turning our kids into wimps nowadays.
- I delivered newspapers when in snowstorms many times. I think the real problem is that parents want their kids to be protected every minute from the time they leave home. They probably have a greater chance of getting shot in school than getting frostbite but that is another issue.
- I’m only 20. But even I know things have happened a lot worse than what we have now. It’s sad to see that we’ve come so far just to be so annoyingly weak.
My personal reaction to the wall-to-wall news coverage of this “dangerous weather event” has been something along the lines of “seriously?”
Why all this derision — even hostility — simply because the schools and some businesses wanted the public to stay home for a couple of days until this cold weather blew over?
Quite simply, Ohioans of a certain age remember January 26, 1978, the day the Great Blizzard of ’78, also known as the White Hurricane, also known as the Cleveland Superbomb, descended upon Ohio.
Here is what I’ve learned from my study of the Intellectual love affair with Marxism, along with one simple solution for winning the war against the Nomenklatura, the intellectual Marxist elite within our government, mass media, and public education systems.
Concurrent to the Russian Revolution, Liberalism in America became Marxism. Based on my research it would appear that the Victorian social justice movement and an increasingly European-influenced intellectual movement, with the help of Soviet spies and American commie traitors, gave birth to the Liberal Marxist hybrid. Its fate as a movement wasn’t sealed until the 60′s, when anti-Stalinist liberals like the Trillings were washed away by the rising tide of Soviet disinformation that conquered liberalism and began framing American culture for the takeover.
The first generation of intellectuals who first embraced Marx through figureheads like Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin would pave the way for the second generation of intellectuals to assume the role of the American Nomenklatura. Through the Frankfurt School and folks like Susan Sontag and the writers of Partisan Review, it became very clear that Marxism is a lens through which one sees the world. Therefore, for groupthink to succeed, Marxists must imbue doubt in previously trusted individuals and institutions like, for instance, the United States Military and the fine soldiers thereof. Marxism, though, is about structure, not anarchy: For every institution the Nomenklatura destroyed, they provided a Marxist alternative. Nowhere is this more evident than in Second Wave Feminism’s advocacy for the destruction of the roles and institutions of Mother, Father and Family that paved the way for the creation of the Nanny State.
“The personal is political” indeed. Marxism is more than a political philosophy; it is the supreme religion of the State. All religious and political gods that contradict the message of faith in the State must be done away with. Despite their best attempts to preach equality among the masses, Marxists must enthrone gods of their own to supersede those of other faiths. Speaking of other faiths, the unconquerable Messiah must be converted to Marxism in the eyes of His worshipers. If His worshipers do not accept this Marxist version of their Messiah, they will be cut off from the State. Those who worship the God with no face must themselves be converted to Marxism, or suffer the consequences.
1. There once was a black country blues guitarist named Arnold Schultz. Originally from Kentucky, Schultz was a travelling laborer who had a huge impact on American blues music during his short life.
2. Schultz taught this guy, Ike Everly, a unique thumb-picking guitar style native to Western Kentucky.
3. Ike Everly taught this style to his neighbor and fellow coal miner Merle Travis.
4. Ike Everly would bring his sons, Don and Phil, into the family band. They’d grow up to form the famous American music group, the Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers would go on to influence many musicians, including the Beatles. It is said that the harmonies in one of the Beatles’ first hits, Please Please Me, were inspired by the fraternal duo.
5. Merle Travis would go on to become a famous country and western musician, popularizing that fingerpicking style his neighbor Ike Everly taught him so much that it became known as Travis Picking.
6. Travis Picking is the style of guitar playing featured in the latest Coen Brothers release, Inside Llewyn Davis.
So, as we remember the life and legacy of Phil Everly and the Everly Brothers
We should celebrate the gift of American music
Without which the Beatles would not have existed
And we’d be forced to jam to techno-pop
Instead of those awesome Hillbilly tunes.
“Although Senator Kerry never fully revealed the source of those outrageous accusations, I recognized them as being the product of another KGB disinformation operation. In the 1960s and ’70s, when I was a leader of the Soviet bloc intelligence community, the KGB spread those same vitriolic accusations, almost word for word, throughout American and European leftist movements. They were part of a KGB disinformation operation aimed at discouraging the United States from protecting the world against communist expansion.”
In his book Disinformation, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa notes that by 1968 there were 7 million anti-war protesters in the United States. Many of them, including Secretary of State John Kerry, were operating on disinformation about the Vietnam War thanks to a carefully constructed KGB campaign called “Operation Ares”.
Created by the KGB with the “dual purpose of counteracting American efforts to protect the world against communist expansion, and of creating doubt around the world about American power, judgement, and credibility,” Operation Ares was named by KGB chief Yuri Andropov after the Greek god of war. Pacepa details the great lengths to which the KGB went to follow through on the disinformation campaign, including the creation of the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam. The Conference, which met annually through 1972 acted as the clearinghouse for the distribution of “..fabricated descriptions of American atrocities committed against civilians in Vietnam, as well as counterfeited pictures supporting the allegations.”
In his discussion of Ares, Pacepa poignantly reflects upon Andropov’s belief that, by planting the seeds of disinformation, these lies about American involvement in Vietnam would grow into its own unique breed of acculturated disinformation:
“Eventually, American leftists would seize upon our Ares and would start pursuing it of their own accord. In the end, our original involvement would be forgotten and Ares would take on a life of its own.”
See the previous parts of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s blogging on Ion Mihai Pacepa’s Disinformation:
Susan Sontag, who characterized the KGB’s disinformation play about Pope Pius XII as “an excellent theatrical idea,” spearheaded the transformation of the intellectual movement in the 1960s. New York Magazine described Sontag as “the last significant member” of the New York intellectual crowd (which included the likes of Lionel Trilling) and the source of its demise. What Irving Howe would come to define as “the new sensibility” would usher in the conquest of high culture in the name of pop and the metamorphosis of the intellectual class from theological Marxists into a nihilistic oligarchy.
While Sontag was by no means alone in her endeavor, as an academic she pioneered the already closing gap between high and popular cultures by essentially defaming Matthew Arnold, the Victorian father of modern literary criticism. Arnold defined culture as “a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world.”
Susan Sontag declared this notion “historically and humanly obsolescent.” According to art critic Hilton Kramer,
“The Matthew Arnold notion of culture,” she wrote, “defines art as the criticism of life – this being understood as the propounding of moral, social and political ideas.” This was deemed abhorrent on several grounds. It took literature, with “its heavy burden of ‘content,’ both reportage and moral judgement,” as a model, and this would no longer do.
Sontag embraced late 19th century aestheticism. Beauty would no longer be the source of moral value; according to Sontag’s stylistics, beauty — or, rather, the pleasure one received from viewing or listening to a piece — would be the only way to value a piece of art. Arnold’s concept of content as character building was thrown out the window along with Arnold’s definition of art. Kramer details,
The people no longer had an interest in distinguishing between Arnold’s implicit high and low cultures. Rather, as Sontag wrote, “the feeling (or sensation) given off by a Rauschenberg painting might be like that of a song by the Supremes.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone with even the vaguest sense of mid-20th century American history that Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, wanted President John F. Kennedy dead. After learning of the naval blockade Kennedy ordered during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev located the highest ranking American businessman in Moscow, Westinghouse Electric President William Knox, and “summoned him to the Kremlin ‘for three hours of threats, complaints, and peasant jokes’” – threats Khrushchev hoped would reach the ears of Kennedy himself.
In his new book Disinformation, PJ columnist Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa details Lee Harvey Oswald’s Soviet connections and the litany of evidence indicating that he was, in fact, a defector and Soviet agent. Pacepa also addresses Jack Ruby’s Cuban connections and the evidence that Castro himself was informed of the plot to assassinate Kennedy. He then unravels the disinformation scheme known as the Dragon Operation created by the KGB to throw the American government off the Soviet trail, a plan that socialist intellectuals, some of whom were paid KGB agents, pounced on. I.F. Stone, his sister Judy Stone, Joachim Joesten, and Mark Lane cultivated Soviet disinformation into the conspiracy theories. Thanks to modern leftist propagandists like Oliver Stone these lies continue to assault the American psyche to this day.
Having been assigned to the Dragon Operation, Pacepa writes:
“Now, in late November 1963, a special KGB courier notified the management of the DIE [the Romanian intelligence counterpart to the KGB] that within the Dragon Operation we should include mention of a jealous President Johnson as the instigator of the CIA plot, which he, allegedly, had personally arranged to take place in Texas on his home turf. By December, as part of the plot, the KGB added the ‘sharks’ of the ‘American military industrial complex’, who were allegedly furious at Kennedy for wanting to cut back on the American military presence abroad and therefore on arms spending (and the sharks’ profits).
The Dragon Operation has become one of the most successful disinformation operations in contemporary history. According to JFK, a 1991 movie made by Oliver Stone, the assassination of President Kennedy was the result of a conspiracy at the US government’s highest level, implicating members of the military-industrial complex, the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Mafia and Lyndon Johnson. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and it won two. According to a later Gallup poll, between two-thirds and three-quarters of Americans believed there had indeed been a CIA conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy.”
“Failure to adjust.” That’s what Becky, the cheerful optician, said my problem was with the new progressive lenses. “Failure to adjust” sounds like it should be in the same category as “doesn’t play well with others,” or “runs with scissors,” so her words stung a little and I inwardly berated myself for not making more of an effort to make the new glasses work.
For the last few years I have been getting by with dollar store reading glasses as my near vision deteriorated, apparently in anticipation of my 50th birthday. Twenty years ago I had surgery to correct my distance vision and had enjoyed a blissful, lens-free life until about five years ago, when I began to squint when reading small print. Then came the embarrassing stage of holding everything at arm’s length. I avoided reading glasses as long as possible, but eventually, my arms became too short and I could no longer read anything smaller than a STOP sign without glasses.
My dollar store reading glasses, if not fashionable, were cheap enough that I could have a pair handy at all times. Well, at least, I owned enough glasses that I should have had a pair handy at all times. I had a pair in my purse, my car, the living room, the kitchen — even the bathroom. Nevertheless, I could never seem to locate a pair when I needed them. It seemed I had a pair for every room except for the room I was in. I’d find myself at Walmart, unable to read any of the prices and straining to find the English print sandwiched between the French and Spanish warnings. I’d fumble around in my purse looking for the reading glasses, only to remember that I had taken them out of my purse at home because I couldn’t find the pair that had somehow migrated from the living room to who-knows-where.
It could be worse. Recently my husband and I we were at a restaurant with friends — Bob Evans, where people my age are supposed to eat, I’m told — and my friend’s husband had to borrow my reading glasses because he didn’t have his handy. Right there in Bob Evans! At least I haven’t sunk that low yet.
I mean, not completely. I recently returned home from a trip to Kohl’s (Kohl’s is where almost-50-year-old women like to shop because they jigger the sizes so that it looks like you wear a size 4 when you really wear a size 6) and told my husband about how much trouble I had trouble shopping without my glasses, which had mysteriously disappeared from my purse. Again. His eyes widened as he contemplated the prospect of his wife loose at that store with a Kohl’s charge, oblivious to the price tags she was unable to read. But I had a 20% off coupon! (Or maybe it was 10%. It was a little blurry.)
When I turned 16 I had a choice: A Sweet Sixteen Party or a trip to London. Unlike the rest of my peers I chose the latter. Not for the Spice Girls, but for the Beatles. I had spent the past year and a half papering my walls with photocopies my Dad would make on his lunch hour from books I’d checked out of the library. While most of my fellow classmates were crying along with Jewel, I was blasting the likes of The Supremes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the Mamas and the Papas. Backstreet Boys versus NSYNC lunchroom arguments baffled me as I tried to explain to my friends how Yoko Ono busted up my favorite boy band of all time.
Thanks to Brad Pitt I was beginning to think I had some kind of mental Benjamin Button syndrome until the other week when I came across the Pew Center’s “How Millennial Are You?” quiz (h/t Becky Graebner). Technically I fall into David Swindle’s Millennial-X’er Blend generation, but according to the Pew Center, I’m a Baby Boomer verging on Generation X.
No wonder I tend to gravitate towards my elders, especially when it comes to entertainment. Of course, being Jewish, I blame it all on my Mother. At 7 our first video rental was the Amy Irving film Crossing Delancey. Years later I married a good Jewish boy with curly hair and New York roots, and I still have a thing for Peter Riegert. Unlike fellow high schoolers obsessed with Ross and Rachel, my teen years were defined by Rupert Holmes‘s much under noticed classic Remember WENN, a dramedy set at a Pittsburgh radio station in the days before World War II. I scoffed at fellow film students in college who balked at the idea of watching anything in black and white. The other day, when I found out that Jason Alexander would be performing live in my neck of the woods, I scrambled online to get tickets. I am a middle-aged woman stuck in a Gen X/Millennial body. How did this happen?
I first came to the attention of Hipster Anne Frank thanks to the Forward. I don’t Tweet much and when I do, I’m not exactly looking to hook up with faux profiles. Like most pre-tech dinosaurs (currently known as “the work force”), I can barely keep up with the real friends I have through the ‘net. Most of us still catch up on each other’s news the old-fashioned way — through talking, preferably in person. I found this out this weekend when three folks I collided into at a friend’s wedding all asked me, “So, what are you doing lately?” I did not respond, “Don’t you read my Facebook?” Why not? Because that would’ve been, well, weird.
Unfortunately, most folks don’t have such a laissez-faire relationship with social media. In fact, in the world of 24 hour news and instant Internet, news agencies rely on technology to provide them with fresh material around the clock. Hence a Twitter profile for Hipster Anne Frank became big news in some big publications including Ha’aretz, The Atlantic, and Time. Jumping on the trend, Renee Ghert-Zand proffered her opinion at the Forward: “Nonetheless, I maintain that there are better ways to get young people to learn about Anne Frank’s legacy.”
There absolutely are, and by pointing out that fact, Renee Ghert-Zand has missed the point of Hipster Anne Frank. This Twitter account, as with most faux-Twitter profiles, doesn’t exist to educate or inform, but to feed off the postmodern millennial belief that everything is nothing and can therefore be manipulated at will for the ultimate currency: hits, followers, re-tweets.
“I fear that this kind of tasteless misappropriation of Anne Frank’s memory and legacy, and that of other historical personalities, will only increase now that people can hide behind Twitter handles,” Ghert-Zand remarked.
Exactly. That’s the point.
Among my preoccupations for a number of years has been the theory of generational archetypes laid out in Neil Howe and William Strauss’s 1992 book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, 1997′s The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy and 2000′s Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.
The central idea underlying generational theory is the belief that across American and British history since the colonial era there have been four repeating generations, each with a kind of “peer personality” shaped by shared experiences at similar times in life that united together those born in close proximity. A 5 year old experiencing World War II is shaped differently by the experience than a 15 year old, 30 year old, or 50 year-old. Howe and Strauss name the four generations — which shift every 15-20 years — with character types from literature, Wikipedia’s summary works to explain the basics:
The two different types of eras and two formative age locations associated with them (childhood and young adulthood) produce four generational archetypes that repeat sequentially, in rhythm with the cycle of Crises and Awakenings. In Generations, Strauss and Howe refer to these four archetypes as Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive. In The Fourth Turning (1997) they update this terminology to Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist. The generations in each archetype not only share a similar age-location in history, they also share some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture and values, and civic engagement….
Prophet generations are born near the end of a Crisis, during a time of rejuvenated community life and consensus around a new societal order. Prophets grow up as the increasingly indulged children of this post-Crisis era, come of age as self-absorbed young crusaders of an Awakening, focus on morals and principles in midlife, and emerge as elders guiding another Crisis.
Due to their location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their coming-of-age fervor and their values-oriented elder leadership. Their main societal contributions are in the area of vision, values, and religion. Their best-known historical leaders include John Winthrop, William Berkeley, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt. These people were principled moralists who waged idealistic wars and incited others to sacrifice. Few of them fought themselves in decisive wars, and they are remembered more for their inspiring words than for great actions. (Example among today’s living generations: Baby Boomers.)….
Nomad generations are born during an Awakening, a time of social ideals and spiritual agendas, when young adults are passionately attacking the established institutional order. Nomads grow up as under-protected children during this Awakening, come of age as alienated, post-Awakening adults, become pragmatic midlife leaders during a Crisis, and age into resilient post-Crisis elders.
Due to their location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their adrift, alienated rising-adult years and their midlife years of pragmatic leadership. Their main societal contributions are in the area of liberty, survival and honor. Their best-known historical leaders include Nathaniel Bacon, William Stoughton, George Washington, John Adams, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower. These were shrewd realists who preferred individualistic, pragmatic solutions to problems. (Example among today’s living generations: Generation X.…
Hero generations are born after an Awakening, during an Unraveling, a time of individual pragmatism, self-reliance, and laissez faire. Heroes grow up as increasingly protected post-Awakening children, come of age as team-oriented young optimists during a Crisis, emerge as energetic, overly-confident midlifers, and age into politically powerful elders attacked by another Awakening.
Due to their location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their collective military triumphs in young adulthood and their political achievements as elders. Their main societal contributions are in the area of community, affluence, andtechnology. Their best-known historical leaders include Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John F. Kennedyand Ronald Reagan. These have been vigorous and rational institution builders. In midlife, all have been aggressive advocates of economic prosperity and public optimism, and all have maintained a reputation for civic energy and competence in old age. (Examples among today’s living generations: G.I. Generation and the Millennials.)
Artist generations are born after an Unraveling, during a Crisis, a time when great dangers cut down social and political complexity in favor of public consensus, aggressive institutions, and an ethic of personal sacrifice. Artists grow up overprotected by adults preoccupied with the Crisis, come of age as the socialized and conformist young adults of a post-Crisis world, break out as process-oriented midlife leaders during an Awakening, and age into thoughtful post-Awakening elders.
Due to their location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their quiet years of rising adulthood and their midlife years of flexible, consensus-building leadership. Their main societal contributions are in the area of expertise and due process. Their best-known historical leaders include William Shirley, Cadwallader Colden, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, andTheodore Roosevelt. These have been complex social technicians and advocates for fairness and inclusion. (Examples among today’s living generations: Silent and Homelanders.)
As these different imprinted generations age and interact they take the different experiences of their childhood — and the effects of the very different parenting styles of each era — and then set out to compensate for the excesses of the previous generations. And often this happens in conflicting ways, and not always consciously. Different religions and ideological movements, though having the same experiences, may argue about how to understand them and what to do in response. So comparable peer personalities will take on different forms and then engage in political combat and cultural warfare.
An article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that baby boomers are snapping up cars that are marketed towards younger buyers. To some, this is weird and unexpected, similar to that odd conundrum when moms and daughters fall in love with the same pair of tight, hip-hugging jeans — thankfully cars are a little more forgiving. But what’s the deal? Why/how could something marketed towards 20-somethings attract 60-somethings?
Let’s start with the economy.
With the economy in a rough place, the automotive industry has been cautious. Auto makers have been targeting the younger generations with cool, sporty cars in hopes of securing their brand loyalty: you buy a Corolla at age 20, and, hopefully, you’ll love it and buy Toyota for the rest of your life. That’s the theory anyway. Companies hope to lure first-time buyers with Bluetooth, Pandora, navigation systems, and touchscreen everything. The real problem with this whole theory is that the younger generation is poor. Nice to meet you Mr. Recession and Mrs. Debt!
This is where the baby boomers come in…
The baby boomers are still pretty cool. These men and women of the mid-20th century are looking for something other than the “senior citizen mobile.” They are drawn to the smaller, sportier sedans and hatchbacks on the market — think the Scion line up, the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500, and the Kia Soul… the cars meant for their grandkids.
I’m not surprised that the baby boomers are buying up these little cars; nobody should be denied a fun, cool car due to age. Nobody puts Baby in a corner! I think the auto makers might be overlooking two things when it comes to surviving in this tough economy…
Recently a former college roommate of my husband’s requested that once again I write about classic rock music; so Bob Z. from Pittsburgh, PA this column is for you!
Like many of my past classic rock pieces this one is meant to foster group discussion at social gatherings or stimulate some “deep” personal thinking after imbibing an adult beverage or two.
And nothing stimulates deep personal thinking more than the question: What are your top 10 favorite Beatles songs?
Before I reveal my list, I can almost hear my Father saying, “The Beatles are just a passing fad.” That was his response in 1964 after watching them perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, reflecting an opinion commonly held by many parents at the time.
Except that “passing fad” dramatically affected culture, helped impact world events and changed music forever, along with the hearts, minds and souls of every baby boomer born in the first wave from 1946 to 1955.
So with all that in mind, here are my top 10 favorite Beatles songs.
This song is so hauntingly beautiful that 45 years later, it sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did when it first appeared on the “White Album.”
Below is George Harrison singing a post-Beatles acoustic version.
A perfect song for remembering or honoring someone you love, and often heard at funerals or “life celebrations.”
In my opinion, In My Life does not receive the accolades it deserves as one of the Beatles most melodic and meaningful songs.
Today, Come Together sounds as bizarre and beautiful as it did when I first heard it at age 14.
4. Back in the U.S.S.R. - Paul McCartney, 1968 – The Beatles “White Album”
How can anyone sit still while listening to this song?
But most important the song reminds us of the Beatles’ role in hastening the demise of Soviet communism.
5. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - John Lennon, 1969 - Abbey Road
This was another Beatles breakthrough song that sounded like no other in 1969 and I chronicled the experience of hearing it for the first time in this Classic Rock series.
6. Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison, 1969 – Abbey Road
Such a happy song of hope! It is nearly impossible not to be uplifted after hearing it.
7. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - Lennon/McCartney, 1965 – Rubber Soul
Another groundbreaking song known for the first time a sitar was used by a rock band.
I always loved the main guitar riff along with the catchy tune.
9. Paperback Writer - Lennon/McCartney, 1966 - (Released only as a single but later appeared on several Beatles compilation albums.)
Such an engaging song with an unforgettable guitar riff that hooked the 11-year-old me onto music that eventually evolved into “heavy metal,” explaining my love for Led Zeppelin.
An overlooked Beatles masterpiece that never got the attention it deserved because many of their greatest songs were released around this same time.
So what’s on your list?
Every aging baby boomer has many favorite Beatles songs, but now it’s time to commit to naming your top 10.
Making this task easier, I have provided a list of all the Beatles songs ever recorded. Then, if you were in the “3rd reading group” and need even further assistance, here is Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs.
Go get started now so we can have some fun reading each others’ lists, while at the same time stimulate your brain with some “deep personal thinking.”
It is amazing how 48 years later this “passing fad” still continues to entertain and has stood the test of time.
Related on Rock ‘n’ Roll at PJ Lifestyle:
In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”
Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.
I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.
While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.
All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).
As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)
When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing. Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.
Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.
When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.
This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.
3. Self worth/Self esteem
You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)
Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.
He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.
5. Playing the Game
Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”
As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.
But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.
This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.
Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”
Happy New Year’s everyone!
More on generations at PJ Lifestyle:
My new car comes equipped with a three month trial subscription to Sirius XM radio and when Patriot Channel talk gets repetitive, I occasionally switch to 60′s on Channel 6, where I know the words to every song.
So the other day I happened to hear a song which really jolted my memory bank. It was A Taste of Honey by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, but while listening, all I could think about was the album cover.
And if you are of a certain age, you know exactly what I mean.
In 1965 when the album, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, was released the cover was considered “veddy” racy.
And here is the hit song, A Taste of Honey from the album.
Whipped Cream was my parent’s album, but even as a Beatles loving 10-year-old I enjoyed it along with them. However, it was the cover that really made an impression. I even remember spreading whipped cream all over my arms in tribute to the girl on the cover.
This Sirius XM Radio childhood flashback got me thinking about what other album covers made lasting, even mind blowing visual impressions. So here is that small stack of album covers which came tumbling off a dusty shelf in the far reaches of my brain — presented in chronological order.
The Mamas and the Papas — If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
In the middle of 1966 Beatlemania, this album by the Mamas and the Papas was released. To me, the music and the cover were equally impactful, for sitting in a bathtub fully dressed struck me as rather extreme. Chiefly responsible for the brain dent was Michelle Phillips, who was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, wearing those jeans and cowboy boots. I remember getting into our dry bathtub pretending to be her. Yes, I was an impressionable pre-teen!
The Beatles — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Of course the most famous album cover in history absorbed hours of 1967 summer time fun for me and my friends as we tried in vain to identify all the faces on the cover. Since we were stumped by so many, I remember having to ask my parents. (Oh the horror of asking your parents to explain a Beatles album cover!) But I had no choice since Google was 31 years in the future. Now, in one Google second here is the complete list. (How I love the modern age!)
Psychedelic flower power anyone? Released in November of 1967, this album cover fascinated me. On the inside I loved Cream’s music too, but something about the album design with all the fuchsia colors, totally blew my 12-year-old mind and opened doors of endless creative possibilities.
Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
This 1971 album by Traffic was so graphically unique with its die-cut design, it truly broke new ground and decades later the title song is still one of my favorite classic rock tunes. So here is a 1972 live version to enjoy, especially if it has been awhile since you have heard Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
We must not fret about the passing of album cover art for it now lives on the net with many sites dedicated to its greatness. There are also numerous cover art quizzes that will be used as “game time” trivia at nursing homes around 2040 when I am in my 80’s. (Now at my mother’s nursing home they play trivia contest games with Broadway show tunes and my mother is often the proud winner of a new fluffy nap blanket.)
Speaking of getting old, here is the Whipped Cream girl from that famous 1965 album cover now age 76.
So what classic rock covers blew your mind at a tender age?
And if you can recall them now, remember them for later when a new fluffy nap blanket is at stake.
It’s one of my biggest disappointments that I’ve only begun to accept in the past few years: the average level of maturity that we experience in high school is as good as it gets. That’s where most people stop their emotional and intellectual development. Once one realizes and accepts that overgrown teenagers dominate the planet, then literally everything starts to make much more sense.
First in my post-college years in the workplace and second as I began a career of full-time new media editing the same questions continually emerged. What happened to America’s grown-ups? How come so many “adults” still act like adolescents spreading gossip, stabbing each other in the back, lying, nursing petty rivalries, and obsessing over how much fun sex is? Isn’t college supposed to be the last hurrah where you get all the stupid things you need to do out of your system before your idiocy can hurt others too much?
As the Obama campaign dragged the national dialogue down to the locker room level thanks to Lena Dunham and Sandra Fluke, baby boomer conservatives uniformly predicted victory for their white knight Mitt Romney. This Ward Cleaver epitome of adult respectability would inspire the legions of “Silent Majority” American grown-ups (who somehow the pollsters kept missing) to awaken to the truth of Obama’s fantasy of raising taxes on “the rich” for fairness’s sake regardless of the disastrous economic consequences and the pitiful extra 8 days’ worth of revenue to gain.
But those voters didn’t show up. They don’t exist anymore. Decades of cultural Marxist infiltration have finally started to bear fruit. Two rising cohorts that played key roles in Obama’s victory include the never-married and the irreligious (two interrelated subjects, as readers of David P. Goldman’s How Civilizations Die know).
Where did these voters come from to assist the president in his fundamental transformation of America?
Certainly all you aging baby boomers out there remember this song.
It was 1969 when Spirit in the Sky first hit the airwaves and we used to all sing the chorus:
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
As I sang along, the lyrics invoking the name of Jesus confused me since Spirit in the Sky was performed by Norman Greenbaum who had an obvious Jewish sounding last name.
Noticing that, I distinctly remember thinking, “why would someone who was Jewish sing about Jesus?”
Important to note here: I too was Jewish. However, since my parents were totally non-religious, so was I. But there was one aspect of my heritage about which I was totally versed and that was Jews did not believe in Jesus.
My questioning this belief began around the age of 11 as I was singing a Christmas carol in school.
(During the 1960s in my public school everyone sang Christmas carols, regardless of your faith.)
The song which sparked my question was The First Noel, with its chorus, “born is the King of Israel.”
Since my Jewish family did not celebrate Christmas (a real bone of contention with me from a very early age) I began wondering why we ignored this Jewish Jesus who I just learned from a song was “born the King of Israel.”
Prompted by this phrase, I asked my mother, “Why don’t we believe in Jesus if He was born the King of Israel?”
Her scholarly reply was “because we are Jewish.”
Now fast forward a few years, as I am listening to Norman Greenbaum sing:
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with the spirit in the sky
These lyrics, combined with the Christmas carol incident just left me more confused about this “forbidden Jesus,” who was “born the King of Israel” and now I hear is “gonna set me up with the spirit in the sky.”
Throughout my teenage years more seeds of religious curiosity were planted, eventually sprouting into a glorious garden leading me to be baptized, “in the name of Jesus” at the age of 21.
So how many of you practice a faith that is different from the one in which you were born and raised?
Many of you is my guess.
For the record, baby boomers are a relatively religious bunch. According to Pew Research:
Among Baby Boomers, 43% say they are a “strong” member of their religion, a higher share than among younger adults and a lower share than among older ones. Four-in-ten say they attend religious services at least once a week.
Then, a new Gallup study on religion just released this week states:
Although it is always difficult to predict the future, certain trends in the age composition of the American public suggest that religion may become increasingly important in the years to come. This is mostly the result of the fact that the number of Americans who are 65 and older will essentially double over the next 20 years, dramatically increasing the number of older Americans. As long as these aging baby boomers become more religious as they age — following the path of their elders — the average religiousness in the population will go up.
So from Pew and Gallup we learn that Christianity, and this message, as reflected in the Spirit in the Sky lyrics is increasingly striking a chord with aging baby boomers:
Prepare yourself, you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you to the spirit in the sky
While researching this piece I discovered some interesting facts.
Mr. “Spirit in the Sky,” Norman Greenbaum was born in 1942 (which means he is NOT a baby boomer) and is from my hometown of Boston.
Since my maternal Grandmother’s maiden name was also Greenbaum and she settled in Boston after arriving from Russia around 1910, is it safe to assume that Norman and I are somehow related?
Furthermore, Wiki has this to say about my newly discovered long lost relative:
Although “Spirit in the Sky” has a clear Christian theme, Greenbaum was, and still is, a practicing Jew. Greenbaum says he was inspired to write the song after watching country singers Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing a religious song on television.
Regardless of Norman’s motives in writing his only hit, the song played a role in bringing me to believe that Jesus was and is the Jewish Messiah, “born the King of Israel.”
(And as you can imagine, Dora Greenbaum Cohen’s daughter, my non-religious Jewish mother Gloria Cohen Kahn, was not at all happy about my embracing that Jewish King.)
So please do comment about any family trauma your faith change may have caused and we can all compare notes.
Recently while dining with my favorite husband at a restaurant with live music, the singer performed Danny’s Song, an old favorite of mine.
Since I had not heard this song in years it touched a raw emotional chord in my memory bank and the song has stayed on my mind ever since.
At the height of the song’s popularity I was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. Whenever it played on the radio (which was quite frequently) my girlfriends and I would sing along at the top of our lungs.
But above all I remember the lyrics making a huge psychological impact on me, helping formulate my sweet 16 view of love, relationships and future marriage.
Now looking back at the song from my 57-year-old perspective it was the chorus that imprinted itself on my heart.
And even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey, everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes,
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.
As a teenager that chorus spoke to me saying “whether you are rich or poor, love conquers all.”
I truly embraced the message.
Then of course you grow up and strap yourself in for a ride on the roller coaster of life. When hurricanes strike and the roller coaster gets swept out to sea (like this one in New Jersey recently) with you still on it, but your partner is gone and your wallet is empty, then you wise up and realize that song’s message was just a sweet 16 fairy tale.
As many aging baby boomers experienced their roller coaster ride through life, money issues were often deal breakers in marriages.
My peers may have started out singing “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey” but then we watched as the record got severely scratched or broken after the roller-coaster took some sharp unexpected turns.
Since I like to think of myself as a one person aging baby boomer focus group… and if I was so heavily impacted by this song’s idyllic message, how many of you were as well?
In the comments section, you are allowed to stomp on your ex who stole your wallet, but just do not use real names!
On the other hand, if you are still in your first baby boomer marriage that is a testament to Danny’s Song, congratulations, and please share your story, but don’t make the rest of us feel too bad.
And get caught up on Myra’s previous Baby Boomer nostalgia adventures in this series’ predecessor, Classic Rock and Cheap Wine:
The 79 million boomers alive today make up over a quarter of the entire American population. Last year, the oldest members of the generation turned 65. For the next 18 years, 10,000 boomers will turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, the average life expectancy for women in America is 81 years old. For men, it is 76 years old. According to Gallup, the expected retirement age in the United States is 67. So, as Boomers enter into the retirement that precedes the end of their lives, will they find meaning and satisfaction as they age? Will they thrive, flourish, take a slow ride off into the sunset?
This is an enormously important question not just because of the implications it has on the happiness of real people, but also for the consequences it will have on society, social services, and our culture as a whole. As Pew points out, “By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they’ve made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.”
The baby boomers are becoming characterized by startlingly high rates of depression and pessimism. Boomers are more depressed and less satisfied with their lives than both those who are older and younger than them, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review in 2008.
Women, in particular, are suffering. In the American population generally, women tend to be more depressive than men, and this is true of the boomers as well. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1999 and 2004, rates of suicide increased by 20 percent for 45-to-54-year-olds, a far greater increase than that experienced in nearly every other age group. Among women who were 45-to-54-year-olds, the increase was a staggering 31 percent. Suicide aside, boomers have found another way to cope with their doldrums: according to the National Institute of Health, between 2002 and 2011, the number of illicit drugs users aged 50 to 59 tripled.
What is going on? This is a generation that is better educated, more successful, and has better access to health care than the generations that directly preceded it. This is the generation whose women benefitted from the gains of second wave feminism.
Experts on aging, depression, and happiness are at a loss for what is causing the boomers’ funk. One explanation is stress. “Much of the research is pointing to daily stress as a precipitator of their depression,” according to Donald A. Malone, Jr., the director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
In 1972 (or what I like to refer to as “prehistoric times” before cell phones, internet or cable) I was a junior at Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
In homeroom, my assigned seat was next to a student named Peter, who my friends had designated “most likely to die of a drug overdose.” But Peter, despite “having issues,” had cultivated a reputation for being on the cutting edge of rock music hip-ness.
So one day during homeroom “quiet time,” I passed Peter a note asking what bands he was currently listening to and he wrote back Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac.
These names fascinated me because I had yet to hear of any of them.
Why do I even remember this note passing incident from 40 years ago?
Two reasons: first, as predicted, not long after high school Peter tragically died of a drug overdose. And second, the music of the bands named in Peter’s note formed a prophetic soundtrack for my life in the years ahead.
Starting in September of 1973, Pink Floyd and I had a monumental first meeting during my freshman year at Ohio State University. The experience resulted in lifelong friendship bonds chronicled here a few months ago.
Then there is Black Sabbath, or rather Ozzy Osbourne. Although I was never a big fan of his, the lyrics, “I am going off the rails of the crazy train” is a favorite phrase that occasionally pops up in my writing, but more often in conversation when I am describing the current state of our nation.
But most prophetic was Fleetwood Mac, a band with whom I had a love affair which lasted years. Later in 1972 a friend introduced me to their new album called Bare Trees. A good album I thought, but not life altering.
But in 1977, during my senior year in college, Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumours and that was life altering. Songs from Rumours were always playing in the background as I transitioned from college to Washington D.C with first jobs and first marriage.
I will not bore you with all the tawdry details of why I am so emotionally tied to this album, but please do write some comments about yours! For if you are about my age I know you have some, because this album greatly impacted millions of baby boomers.
Especially one 1946 “first crop” baby boomer by the name of Bill Clinton, who in 1992 revived the popularity of Rumours and Fleetwood Mac by choosing Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow as his presidential campaign theme song.
President Clinton even convinced the band to get back together to play at his 1993 inaugural ball.
Back in the late 70’s, due to the popularity of Rumours, I discovered the first and only album by Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Nicks entitled Buckingham Nicks. This spectacular album, largely forgotten and never released on CD, was a foreshadowing of this duo’s future greatness. Here is the entire album if you have never heard it.
So in honor of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey, Stevie and Peter (may he rest in peace) what shall we drink?
Absolutely nothing but spring water! Because this morning I am sitting in Manitou Springs, Colorado elevation 6,412 feet with a pounding headache that started last night after I imbibed three glasses of Pinot Noir with my dinner of wild boar spare ribs and a few bites of my husband’s antelope.
Apparently, since I now live at sea level (literally next to the sea), an elevation of 6,412 feet and wine do not make beautiful music together for this aging baby boomer.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may I recommend that your family along with ours sing this really classic song before dinner.
And will someone please try that “favorite rock song conversation game” I wrote about recently over the long holiday weekend when gossiping about other family members finally runs dry?