by Will Nichols, a Millennial
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
As the Baby Boomer generation heads into retirement, and hopefully irrelevance, the time comes to reflect on their legacy. What did those born between 1946 and 1960 do with their time here on this earth and what did it all mean? If the generation scarred by World War I was the Lost Generation, and the generation that rose to the occasion to defend freedom in World War II was the Greatest Generation, then what buzz-phrase can we honestly apply to the ladies and gentlemen born in the triumphant post-war birth explosion as the United States captured the whole planet’s imagination as the newly crowned Leader of the Free World? The answer is simple and more than a little disappointing: the Worst Generation. The phrase “Baby Boomer” won’t stick because it only describes their births, not their legacy. Those of us heading into retirement today are without question the Worst Generation and the first generation to leave an America and a world for their children worse off than when they found it. This is an open letter to the Worst Generation.
Your parents, card-carrying members of the Greatest Generation, grew up saving every penny they had and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in the Great Depression. They put their lives on the line for freedom, love, God, and country and single-handedly stopped the racist, fascist Nazi war machine from eating the world. Then they were proud just to have a spouse, a house, a car, a fresh-cut lawn, and most of all you, their children. And they never demanded fifteen minutes of fame. They tried to pass these stoic and heroic values on to you, but you T.V. babies had other ideas.
As teenagers, you scoffed at how uptight your parents were and thought their Cold War didn’t mean anything. A Soviet Russia that killed thirty million of its own people and imprisoned many times more in gulags and a Communist China that turned children against their own parents in a “Cultural Revolution” of brainwashing, and mind control couldn’t possibly be threats to the world in your bizarre utopian vacuum. We should all just put flowers in our gun barrels and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let a totalitarian boot stamping on a human face with a few clever slogans about “helping the workers” eat the world while you blame your parents for not understanding “peace and love”. You thought your country’s own military and intelligence services were the enemy, which is exactly what the real life Orwellian 1984 governments across the ocean wanted you to think. You became their useful idiots.
Sure, Vietnam was a disastrous example of our politicians being conned by the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex of defense contractors lobbying for war as a one-size-fits-all foreign policy solution to line their own pockets. But did that mean the Cold War meant nothing and defeating World Communism wasn’t just as imperative as defeating the Nazis? Did that mean that nothing is worth fighting for? Absolutely not, but those were the false lessons the Soviets wanted you to take from Vietnam and you were suckered into believing them. And who warned you about the Military-Industrial Complex in the first place? Was it one of your own? No, it was General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower who warned you, a hero of World War II even older than the Greatest Generation.
As you grew up, you prided yourselves on the successes of the Civil Rights Movement as if you were in any position to take credit for them. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks were all born in the 1910s and 1920s, all members of the Greatest Generation. You were only along for the ride. And then you took the wonders they accomplished and twisted it into some sort of nervous, walking on egg shells, reverse racism political correctness that continues today. You still don’t have the faintest clue of what it means to be a post-racial society.
Before you even try to take credit for the musical and cinematic renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s, let me stop you. You love to boast about the great music and movies your generation enjoyed growing up while bemoaning the garbage Millennials are consuming. But were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese part of the Worst Generation? No, they were all born in the late 1930s and early 1940s, members of the In-Between generation while you Worsters were only along for the ride. And who gave them the major record deals and radio promotion and studio contracts that brought great art to the masses? The Greatest Generation did, a bunch of Frank Sinatra fans that hated rock music and didn’t understand groundbreaking movies but had the balls to take risks because they knew they were selling art and not pencils. Hell, even an uncompromising and ingenious musician’s musician like Frank Zappa had a major record deal in the 1960s. Now you can’t even get a major record deal if you play an instrument.
And whose fault is that, I wonder? Whose fault is it that Millennials are only fed remakes of remakes? Why is it that now you can only get a major record deal if you agree to remake the career of someone proven to sell records (i.e. Lady Gaga with Madonna) and you can only get a major Hollywood studio to back you if you’re remaking a movie or a T.V. show that was already a proven hit? Why is it that major networks are only putting out trashy and sadistic “reality” shows where they don’t have to pay writers to actually create anything? I’ll tell you why; it’s because the Worsters running today’s music and movie and T.V. industries don’t have an eighth of the cojones their parents did and they’re trying to sell art like they’re selling paper clips. So if you want to scoff at the music Millennials are listening to, just know that you’re really scoffing at yourself. Somehow, though, I admit, that a small swath of the Worst Generation working on premium cable channels managed to, probably by accident, create the golden age of scripted television with mind-bendingly brilliant shows like The Sopranos, whose quality even bled onto regular cable channels like the sublime Breaking Bad on AMC. We need more of that.
And one last note on art in the public sphere. What the hell have you done with intelligent black culture? What did you do with John Coltrane and Miles Davis? The best you’re giving us access to now is Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz? At least give some major record deals and radio promotion to people who can actually rap like Rakim and Talib Kweli. And what ever happened to signing people who play instruments? Would it kill you to take a risk? The thing you don’t understand about taking risks is, while you’re right that they can sometimes fail, they can also pay off WAY better than playing it safe. Stop polluting our culture with safe, lowest common denominator garbage.
(To be continued …)
Image: Courtesy of: http://mipropiadecadencia.blogspot.com/2011/05/las-influencias-sociales-vencen-la.html