Friday, May 10, 2013

like there was no tomorrow | a small idea from Raising Adults

1976. Tom Wolfe is right about Boomers; at least in broad strokes. But what the popular media do with his insights seems all wrong.
The ‘Me’ Decade has a street date of August 23. In a matter of weeks the media turn The Me Decade into The Me Generation—by which time no one means what Wolfe meant. They aren’t describing the spirit of the age—that zeitgeist we inherited and embellished from our parents. They mean people born when we were born, growing up as we grew up.  They mean Boomers and no one else. The Me Generation is defined by demographics, and the question on everybody’s mind is: “How do we sell them stuff?”
How do you sell to people reputedly driven by unbridled self-interest? Are you kidding me?
Nothing, apparently, could be easier.
And so the sixties became the eighties—Boomer youth culture, darkly celebrated by Buck Henry and Mike Nichols in The Graduate (1967), lasting only a moment, it’s death conceded by Lawrence Kasdan in The Big Chill (1983).
Boomers may have been slow starters but they took to business in a big way. Which is where the money came from to build those bigger better suburbs beyond the suburbs; upgrading the shopping centers with mega-malls; importing European and Japanese cars from former manufacturers of tanks and bombers; electing Ronald Reagan and George Bush 41 hoping they would be good for business ... Some were nervy enough to display Grateful Dead stickers in the rear windows of four-door imports (not the skeletons; those cute dancing bears ... You know who you are).
So, what happened to the revolution? For some the answer was, “Nothing! Just shut up! We ended The War. We made Nixon resign. We invented Earth Day. We went to Woodstock: Three days of PeaceLove&Understanding! How can you say we’re self-absorbed!”
But that’s exactly what they said. Tom Wolfe updated his vision of the Me Decade in his 1987 novel, Bonfire of the Vanities (the book, not the awful Brian DePalma film), and a decade later in A Man in Full (1998).
Wolfe’s characters wander, self-consumed and thoroughly disoriented through these comic horrors. But his vision goes beyond caricature. God help us, these characters are just like us; our youth spent, our idealism gone to seed. How could this happen! 
No one knows; it just did. We laid aside the macramé, got real jobs and spent money like there was no tomorrow.

— from Raising Adults

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