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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 21-Jan-08
The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X

Web Log - January, 2008

The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X

Who's more to blame for our troubles: The Boomer generation or Generation X?

I've had some reader complaints about my criticisms of Generation X, so I thought that a more thorough treatment was in order. I'll discuss the specific reader complaints towards the end.

Boomers and Lenscap Stupidity

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I've never hesitated to criticize Boomer politicians, journalists, analysts and pundits for the really stupid things that they say and do. I've frequently criticized Ben Bernanke for his simplistic view of macroeconomics. And when Senator Joe Biden appeared on Meet the Press, saying one unbelievably stupid thing after another, I was very critical. The Neocon strategy of democracy through invasion is nonsense.

Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz (right) looks through binoculars with the lens cap on. On the left is the army's new Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. They're reviewing a military drill in the Golan Heights. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz (right) looks through binoculars with the lens cap on. On the left is the army's new Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. They're reviewing a military drill in the Golan Heights. (Source:

The poster "child" for Boomer stupidity is Amir Peretz, who was Israel's Defense Minister last February. When this happened, I named Peretz as the idiot of the week. In the scene photographed above, Peretz is reviewing a military drill in the Golan Heights. The army's new Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, is explaining what's going on and pointing out the manoeuver's fine points. Several times, Peretz raises his binoculars and looks through them, but of course he can't see anything because the lens cap is on.

This is the perfect prototypical example of the stupidity of Boomers today. They don't know what's going on in the world, so they make up "facts" as they go along. They don't WANT to know what's going on in the world, because not knowing gives them certain advantages and tranquilizes their anxieties.

This example is so compelling, I'm going to use the phrase Lenscap Stupidity to refer to this kind of behavior in Boomers.

The disaffected Xers

It's not surprising Xers are furious at Boomers. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Generation-Xers are in the "Nomad" archetype. The Nomads were identified by Neil Howe and William A. Strauss, the founding fathers of generational theory, as the generation born during a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s and 1970s. The previous American Nomad generation was the "Lost Generation," born during the Awakening era of the 1890s and 1900s decades. Like today's Generation-Xers, the Lost Generation was disillusioned, disaffected and angry, contemptuous of everything that came before, and recklessly willing to destroy it.

This Xer hatred of Boomers runs very, very deep.

According to a New York Times article early in 2007, Generation-Xer Barack Obama believes that Americans are sick of feuding Boomers, and ready to turn to Generation X, "after the campus culture wars between freaks and straights, and after young people had given up on what überboomer Hillary Rodham Clinton called in a 1969 commencement address a search for 'a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.'"

"In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004," writes Obama in his book, The Audacity of Hope, , "I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage."

He's not alone in that view. Here's what Democratic Party strategist and Clinton aide Paul Begala has written:

"I hate the Baby Boomers. They're the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history. As they enter late middle age, the Boomers still can't grow up. Guys who once dropped acid are now downing Viagra; women who once eschewed lipstick are now getting liposuction."

Well, Begala's certainly wrong about one thing: The Boomers, the generation born right after WW II, is not "most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history." The Missionary Generation, born right after the Civil War, was just as self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing.

Another way of viewing the Xer hatred of Boomers is to look at their music legacy. For the Hero Generation of World War II, music was an escape from the horrors of the Depression and the War; for the Silent Generation, it sweet love ballads about getting on with life again; for Boomers, it was protest music.

So it's really quite a shock to see some of the nihilistic music popular among Generation-Xers, and it conveys the deep hatred they have for Boomers. Let's look at some examples of some lyrics:

The artist Slayer's 1986 song, "Raining blood (Reign in Blood)" contains the following lyrics, which appear to me to be a warning to Boomers of coming retribution:

"Trapped in purgatory
A lifeless object, alive
Awaiting reprisal
Death will be their acquisition

The sky is turning red
Return to power draws near
Fall into me, the skys crimson tears
Abolish the rules made of stone

Pierced from below, souls of my treacherous past
Betrayed by many, now ornaments dripping above

Awaiting the hour of reprisal
Your time slips away

Raining blood
From a lacerated sky
Bleeding its horror
Creating my structure
Now I shall reign in blood!

A similar theme can be found in the 1994 song "Mr. Self Destruct," by Nine Inch Nails, some of whose lyrics are as follows:

"I am the voice inside your head
and I control you
I am the lover in your bed
and I control you
I am the sex that you provide
and I control you
I am the hate you try to hide
and I control you ...

I am the needle in your vein
I am the high you can't sustain
I am the pusher I'm a whore
I am the need you have for more
I am the bullet in the gun
I am the truth from which you run
I am the silencing machine
I am the end of all your dreams
I take you where you want to go
I give you all you need to know
I drag you down I use you up
and I control you
Mr. Self-destruct

Finally, "No Surprises," the 1997 song from Radiohead, exhibits similar disaffection, though less dramatically:

"A heart that's full up like a landfill
A job that slowly kills you
Bruises that won't heal

You look so tired and unhappy
Bring down the government
They don't, they don't speak for us
I'll take a quiet life
A handshake of carbon monoxide

You know, there are still some people who doubt the validity of generational theory, and believe that one generation is pretty much the same as another. I don't seen how anyone can still believe that, after examining the world views of the different generations through their music.

Nihilism and Generation-X

Kids of the generational "Nomad" archetype grow up during the social turmoil of the Awakening period, and become angry, disaffected youth. Throughout Anglo-American history, the Nomads have been shown to have the highest crime rate. They spend their lives in the shadow of the powerful Prophet generation (like America's Boomers). The Prophets excoriate the disaffected Nomads, and the Nomads return the favor by hating the older Prophets. And the Nomads end up being more powerful than the Prophets during the next crisis war, because Nomads lead the younger Hero generation into the next Crisis war. Remarkably, some of the world's worst dictators are early Nomads (born 16-25 years after the end of the last crisis war), including Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Shamil Basayev (the guy who masterminded the 2004 Beslan school massacre.) While Prophets are talkers and complainers and sometimes visionaries, Nomads are pragmatists and doers, and they implement the programs that lead the nation through the next crisis war.

I used the word "Nihilistic" to describe Gen-X music in the section above. It's worth noting that there are several definitions of Nihilism, falling into two categories that we might describe, using the terminology of bipolar disease, as the "depressive" category and the "manic" category.

The "depressive" category of Nihilism was the original philosophical view that life was meaningless and empty, along with the denial of real existence. There are variations of this that question whether life exists or, perversely, anything BESIDES life exists.

But the one we're most interested in is the "manic" category.

It began in Russia in the 1860s as a "Nihilist Movement," reacting to Russia's humiliating loss in the Crimean War in the 1850s. According to this movement, existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society.

Although the original movement ended, Nihilism in this form permiated the Russian Revolution. Stalin and Trotsky destroyed every Russian institution possible to bring about Communism as a form of government, and led Russia into more than a decade of bloody civil war. Adolf Hitler was so destructive that he's sometimes referred to as a nihilist. Osama bin Laden is in Saudi Arabia's last Nomad generation.

I'm approaching the subject this way in order to emphasize the power of Nomads, as contrasted with the Prophet generation that they follow.

If many of the villains of World War II were Nomads, then so were many of the heroes: Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Charles de Gaulle, for example.

It's the Nomad generations, like Generation-X, that push the world forward -- not through words and ideas, but by force and war.

In today's America, a good example of destructive nihilism is, the radical left Gen-X wing of the Democratic Party.

At their time of maximum strength around the end of 2006, the Xers in drove the party into the most destructive and self-destructive of policies -- a determination to do everything possible to cause an American loss and humiliation in Iraq. This policy was destructive to America, destructive to the Democratic Party, and destructive to the individual Democrats who are being forced to support that policy. The Boomer Democrats appeared to be completely helpless at this Xer onslaught. They feebly exhibited passive destruction and self-destruction, as the Xers practice active destruction and self-destruction.

Finance: From Lenscap Stupidity to Nihilism

Generational 'moods' overlaying Dow Industrials since 1950
Generational 'moods' overlaying Dow Industrials since 1950

The world is facing an imminent financial crisis, the climax of the creation of a series of huge bubbles, starting with the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, and continuing with a real estate bubble, a stock market bubble, a commodities bubble, a liquidity bubble, and a credit bubble. All of these bubbles are currently leaking and about to burst.

In an article that I wrote in November, I broke this process of bubble creation into two parts, one led by Boomers and one led by Gen-Xers. In brief, here are the two parts:

Once you really begin to understand what's going on with securitization of credit, structured finance, credit derivatives and CDOs, you realize what a totally debauched, depraved and abusive design they are. This is no simple passive mistake -- that's what the dot-com bubble was. This was a massively destructive and self-destructive financial architecture, devised by a generation with a hate-filled and Nihilistic view of life. This was active destruction at its most debauched and depraved, condoned by Boomers who were making too much money to want to stop the destruction.

Much of what the Xers did was fraudulent, illegal, and contemptuous of the entire global financial system. I've pointed out several examples of fraud on this web site, especially fraudulent methods used to avoid having to apply "mark to market" to overpriced CDOs.

You might argue that the financial engineers didn't realize the consequences of what they were doing in 2003, 2004, 2005 or 2006, but the fraudulent practices only accelerated in 2007, and by that time there could no doubt that they knew what they were doing, knew that they were screwing investors for their own gain, and were damaging the entire financial system.

We're not talking about any overt conspiracy here. This is all generational. Generation-Xers share an enormous hatred for Boomers, and enormous contempt for anything that Boomers do or believe. The fraudulent actions taken by individual Xers were not conspiratorial, but were massively performed behaviors of an entire generation, based on shared attitudes and beliefs.

Examples from the computer industry

I became a computer industry consultant in the late 1970s, and have worked for dozens of clients over the years.

I had worked for Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC or Dec) as an employee for most of the 1970s, when DEC was producing a wide range of leading edge technical products, led by its wildly popular PDP minicomputer series. The Hero and Silent generations from WW II were in charge. Corporate discipline was high, people worked late, management control was strict, and morale was high.

In 1994, I returned to Dec for a few months as a consultant. Dec's products were struggling. Dec's VAX minicomputer product line was aging, and other product lines were being discontinued. The Boomers were in charge. Management control was weak, and morale was low.

I was appalled by what I saw. With Ken Olsen gone, the project supervisors and managers were obviously frightened to death of being laid off. I witnessed conversations where managers lied to upper management, hiding development problems, and giving the appearance of being on time, on schedule, when that was far from the truth. The culture was rife with lying to upper management -- open lies to upper management that everyone knew were lies except the VP.

Did the VP know they were lying? At the time, I thought not, but today I do. This is how "Lenscap Stupidity" works. As I think back over the conversations I witnessed, it now seems clear to me that the VP realized that the supervisors were lying, but didn't want to know.

I was absolutely appalled by this widespread dishonesty at a company that I'd worked for for so many years, and was shocked by how the DEC corporate culture had become so corrupt. DEC was becoming rotten to the core. Not surprisingly, it was just four years later, in 1998, that DEC went completely out of business, acquired by Compaq Computer Corp. (which itself was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2002).

How could any company have avoided the internal rot and decay that came with the rise of the Boomers to top level management positions in the 1990s? At the very least, it requires top level management to avoid Lenscap Stupidity by forcing full accountability at every management level.

The experience of IBM in the 1990s contrasts sharply with that of DEC.

In the 1980s, IBM had achieved what many thought was almost a miracle -- The IBM PC was the gold standard for personal computers, the AS/400 had been a highly successful minicomputer product line, and IBM mainframe product line ran businesses around the world.

However, like DEC's products, IBM's products lost their luster in the early 1990s. The PC was commoditized, so there was no longer any profit to be made. Minicomputers were losing out to Unix servers. And even IBM's core mainframe business was losing sales to multi-processor Unix systems that could perform dozens of operations simultaneously.

Developing a new mainframe architecture is INCREDIBLY complicated. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was typical for IBM to have ten or twenty new mainframe development projects going on simultaneously, because the failure rate was so high. A new mainframe system probably had R&D costs in the billions of dollars (which doesn't seem like much in today's bubble-ridden world, but was real money in the 70s and 80s.) A typical reason for one of these projects to fail is that after spending tens or hundreds of millions to develop a prototype, they discover that the computer runs 5-10% slower than they had anticipated. That's enough to completely kill a mainframe project, and force a complete restart.

In 1994, around the time that I was observing the Lenscap Stupidity at DEC, it looked like the end of the road for IBM, and few people at that time thought that IBM would survive long. The widespread view was that the mainframe computer that formed the heart of IBM's business was a dinosaur that would soon be obsolete.

Whereas DEC never found a suitable successor to Ken Olsen, IBM brought in a top level executive from the outside.

Here's how IBM's web site describes the situation:

"During the 1980s and early 1990s, IBM was thrown into turmoil by back-to-back revolutions. The PC revolution placed computers directly in the hands of millions of people. And then, the client/server revolution sought to link all of those PCs (the "clients") with larger computers that labored in the background (the "servers" that served data and applications to client machines). ...

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. arrived as IBM's chairman and CEO on April 1, 1993. For the first time in the company's history IBM had found a leader from outside its ranks. Gerstner had been chairman and CEO of RJR Nabisco for four years, and had previously spent 11 years as a top executive at American Express.

Gerstner brought with him a customer-oriented sensibility and the strategic-thinking expertise that he had honed through years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. Soon after he arrived, he had to take dramatic action to stabilize the company. These steps included rebuilding IBM's product line, continuing to shrink the workforce and making significant cost reductions. Despite mounting pressure to split IBM into separate, independent companies, Gerstner decided to keep the company together. He recognized that one of IBM's enduring strengths was its ability to provide integrated solutions for customers - someone to represent more than piece parts or components. Splitting the company would have destroyed a unique IBM advantage."

IBM got through that crisis for two obvious reasons. First was account control, which was always a large part of IBM's success. And second, IBM was able to show that new generation IBM mainframes could substantially outperform multi-processor Unix systems in very high transaction environments. IBM spent mind-bogglingly large amounts of money to develop these systems, and it paid off in the company's continued survival.

But the major reason is that he didn't succumb to Lenscap Stupidity. He forced management at every level to be accountable for everything they did.

As a computer industry consultant since the late 1970s, I've worked for dozens of clients, and I've noticed one questionable policy that occurred several times. When I work as subcontractor to a contracting firm, if I really dig into a software development project and get it done faster than expected, this can often really ANNOY the managers I'm working for, since getting something done quickly means that they can no longer continue charging time to their client. They'd rather see a project take longer than expected, so that they can hire more subcontractors and charge more time to the client.

However, none of this compares to what I've been seeing more recently.

In the last couple of years, Gen-Xers are replacing Boomers as managers at increasing rates. The Lenscap Stupidity that I witnessed at DEC in the 1990s is nothing compared to the Gen-Xer Nihilism that I saw at one midsized computer industry company that I spent a few months working for. I won't provide the real name, at least in this article, so I'll just call it

I've had dozens of computer industry clients in my career, but these were the two stupidest people I've ever seen trying to run a software development group. The supervisor had absolutely no technical understanding of the system, even though she herself had previously written some of the software. Her manager knew even less than she did, and was contemptuous of the company's product development and customer relationships. There was more concern about social relationships than there was about meeting customer needs.

There were many similarities between Dec and iWidgets: There was massive dishonesty across several departments that I saw, openly lying to upper management, and Lenscap Stupidity of upper management who purposely closed their eyes to what they knew (or must have known) were lies.

But there was a big difference between Dec and iWidgets. The supervisors at Dec were trying their best to get products completed on time; when development ran into trouble, the supervisors lied about the problems and upper management ignored the lies in an exercise of lenscap stupidity. This resulted in the company going completely out of business within four years.

But the supervisors at iWidgets went much farther, following the pattern of Generation-X Nihilism. They were openly contemptuous of their own product development and their own customer relationships, even to the point of sabotaging them. The supervisors lied about their reckless behavior and upper management ignored the lies in an exercise of Lenscap Stupidity and Lenscap Nihilism. What's even worse, this company is working on contracts for Homeland Security, and so our entire country is in danger from the Gen-X Nihilism at this company.

This is what characterizes many in Generation-X today -- fury and hatred directed at Boomers, utter contempt for everything that came before, and a recklessly eager willingness to destroy it for personal gain or perceived personal gain. Instead of a customer-centered approach, customers are treated as contemptuous morons.

We see it in anecdotes that have been posted on the internet in the last few months in the finance and mortgage lending industries: Someone complains about fraudulent practices and is fired; stockbrokers and securities salesmen having open discussions about lying to customers, and "jamming" worthless securities down their throats; encouraging people to lie about income on their mortgage applications; selling adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) with teaser rates, knowing that the customer will lose his home; and, incredibly, at the end of last year, subprime mortgage firms that hold off ending the business until January, so that year-end bonuses can be paid.

Whether it's a company in the computer industry, the finance industry, the real estate industry, or any other industry, the Nihilistic pattern is the same: Fraud committed by Gen-Xers; Boomer managers who are aware of the fraud, but exercise Lenscap Stupidity, pretending not to know.

A company like iWidgets, which is permeated with a culture of Nihilism, with top level management reeking with Lenscap Stupidity, is so rotten internally that it has little chance of surviving. The current top level management does not want to know what's going on, and is incompetent to lead the company anywhere but down. The only thing that can save iWidgets is to bring strong management leadership in from the outside, as IBM brought Gerstner in from RJR Nabisco. Such a leader would have to force accountability at every level, eliminate fraud and contempt for customers, and turn around the Nihilistic / Lencap Gen-X culture, just as Gerstner turned IBM's Boomer stupidity culture around in the mid-1990s. However, I'm not aware that anything like that is being considered for iWidgets.

The generational problem

This Nihilism is not confined to one company or one industry. This is a GENERATIONAL problem, that runs across all companies in all industries.

Individual companies can survive by doing what Gerstner did at IBM in 1994: Throw off the lenscap and make everyone -- Boomers and Xers alike -- totally responsible and accountable for their actions on a continuing basis.

When management at the top simply acquiesces to the Boomer vileness or Gen-X Nihilism, it creates an extremely corrosive corporate culture that can end up destroying the company, unless it's stopped in time. I saw it myself at Dec and iWidgets, and it's been pervasive in companies in the financial area, as illustrated by the fact that venerable companies like Citibank and Merrill Lynch are today close to bankruptcy, and are surviving only because of cash infusions from China, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and other foreign countries.

There's an unwritten and unstated assumption in law that most people are honest, and that honest people provide a check on dishonest people. So if the local bank tries to swindle people, the bank's customers will complain to authorities or, if the swindle is too sophisticated, then bankers at other institutions will figure it out and complain to authorities.

These assumptions break down during generational Crisis eras, because the dishonesty and Nihilism becomes a generational problem that affects every company. A bank that swindles people won't be reported if all other banks are also swindling people, and if government agencies are closing their eyes to the dishonesty through lenscap dishonesty.

So who's to blame -- Boomers or Xers?

As I said at the beginning, this posting is motivated by some recent messages from web site readers, complaining that I'm blaming Generation-Xers for the faults of Boomers. Let's look at some of those complaints.

Here's the first one:

"I'm disappointed; you normally do better than that. .. [H]ow can you lay the blame of CDOs principally on the laps of Xers, when the Boomers (eg Paulsen at Goldman Sachs) were the generals calling the plays in the war on financial prudence, and the Xers were the field commanders and foot soldiers, and the Silents (Rubin and Greenspan) condoned it?"

Here's another one:

"Did you really pen these words? "But I've since come to the conclusion that the mess that we're in was done on purpose -- by contemptuous and nihilistic Generation-Xers taking advantage of airhead Boomers"

What credibility can you possibly have by writing these obnoxious words? Your generation has bombed everything this country stands for and my generation and my kids generation will be sweeping your dust for many years to come. Shame on you and your arrogance. And yes, I agree with many of your other words but you've degraded yourself by these attacks on a generation that is always trailing behind you cleaning up your mistakes and messes. Now look where we're at.

I chuckled at the use of the word "pen," but let's just go on to the third complaint:

"Typically, I agree with you. But John, I cannot let you generalize and put all the blame on one generation. I am 33 years old. I am an Xer. Let me say that of the Boomers I know, they are holding on to power until the corporations kick them out the door. Most have gone in debt, drive fancy cars, cashed out their home values for equity lines, and stayed behind the desk until they are fat and gray. Honestly, do you think that Xers are now in control? If we (my generation) have done this under the nose of your generation, than I think your generation done a poor job preparing mine for the hand over. I work with a boomer who has told me he is going to retire for 5 years. I asked him why he has not done so.... He told me greed. He said that when you make more than you ever thought possible you just dont leave easily. Everything I do is questioned by boomers less educated and in power. It is so frustrating. My boss is a high school drop out that makes over $150,000 a year. He is so desperate to keep his job. He says, I just need to make it until 65. I feel sorry for the boomers. Most are misled easily and encourage misdealings to stay in power or get ahead. That is how the Boomers will be remembered. That generation really did nothing great and that sticks. No man on the moon or victory over many nations. Just a bunch of pot smoking idiots that have sold our country out to globalization. Bring back nationalism. Time will take care of this issue."

This comment actually says the same thing I'm saying, but highlights the relationship between Boomers and Xers. He says that Boomers "are misled easily and encourage misdealings to stay in power or get ahead." This is a man who makes $150K a year, and is probably in over his head in debt. He encourages misdealings -- presumably by his peers and by his Xer employees -- and he's easily misled -- this being "Lenscap Stupidity," where he may or may not know what's going on, but purposely closes his eyes to it.

So you have a situation where the Xer employee is committing fraud, right under the nose of his Boomer boss, who gives tacit approval, and both the employee and the boss gain financially from the fraud. Now, who's more to blame for the fraud? I would say the Boomer boss is, because he's supposed to know better, and he should stop it before it destroys himself and the company.

Let's take this quote from PIMCO's Bill Gross in a recent monthly column:

"During times of market turmoil it helps to simplify and get basic – explain things to a public and even yourself in terms of what can be easily understood. Goodness knows it’s not a piece of cake for anyone over 40 these days to understand the maze of financial structures that now appear to be unwinding. They were created by youthful financial engineers trained to exploit cheap money and leverage who showed no fear and who have, until the last few weeks, never known the sting of the market’s lash. They are wizards of complexity. I, however, having just turned 63, am a professor of simplicity."

Bill Gross is a Boomer running one of the world's largest bond investment companies. He was running that same company during all the years when "youthful financial engineers" created "the maze of financial structures that now appear to be unwinding."

OK, Mr. Gross, here are my questions: Did you just become a "professor of simplicity" now that things are falling apart, or were you also a "professor of simplicity" when you were making tons of money from this "maze of financial structures"? Did you know what was going on, understanding that it was securities fraud, but allowing it to continue so that you could make money? Or are you saying that you had no idea what was happening? In other words, were you a crook or a moron? Please make your choice -- enquiring minds want to know!

So let's get back to the subject of blame.

In the 1960s-90s, Boomers never did anything but complain, and allowed the older World War II Hero and Silent generations to take care of everything. When those generations retired, Boomers still waited to be taken care of, and Xers took over that role, but with reckless contempt for the rules.

So even though I'm happy to talk about the Lenscap Stupidity of Boomers, their inability to lead, the way they make up facts to suit their political views, and so forth, I am going to say that, in my opinion, Gen-Xers are worse than Boomers because it's Gen-Xers that are actually committing the fraud; but Boomers are more to blame than Xers, because Boomers should be stopping the fraud, rather than benefiting from passive Lenscap Stupidity. Is it a copout to be blaming both generations like that? Maybe, but that's the way I think of it.

In a sense it doesn't matter. Everyone is going to suffer because all the lies, the fraud, the contempt for customers -- it's backfiring now on all of us. We're on the edge of an enormously disastrous worldwide financial crisis that's going to destroy many people, because of Boomer stupidity and Gen-Xer Nihilism.

Returning now to the complaining web site readers quoted above, they express their anger at Boomers, but they make important mistakes when they look ahead to the future, and try to guess how Boomers will be viewed by future historians. My responses to these kinds of comments from Gen-Xer web site readers have been similar, and have all said something like the following:

"I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings, but what you and other Gen-Xers don't understand is that, as bad as Boomers are, Gen-Xers are worse. You think you'll be cleaning up after our mistakes, but you'll actually be making one huge blunder after another. Motivated by fury and anger at Boomers for doing nothing, you'll rush in to "do something", and the things you do will be disastrous -- lead to world war, lead to financial disaster. Your generation's utter contempt for everything that came before you, and your recklessly eager willingness to destroy it, will backfire on you and lead you to desperation and self-destruction. We're already seeing that with the disastrous results of the "financial engineering" that was implemented by Xers under the nose of Boomers. If you even survive the next 10 years, you'll come out of it bitter and angry. And it won't be the Boomers who'll be blamed or remembered for these disasters. You'll be blamed."

This is a time of great desperation for everyone, and it's going to get much, much worse. The way things are going, that's going to happen before too much longer.

I'm also well aware that nothing I've written here will change the Nihilism of any of the Gen-Xers reading it. Whether it's the politicians at, the supervisors at iWidgets, or the financial engineers at Merrill Lynch, these Gen-Xers are committed to this destruction and self-destruction and won't be stopped -- certainly not by their Boomer bosses who don't even want to know what's going on.

As a Greek, an understanding of tragedy is in my bones. Tragedy as an art form was invented in ancient Greece, and three of four great tragic artists of all time were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides of ancient Greece, with the fourth being Shakespeare.

Many people misunderstand the deepest meanings of tragedy. If a child is killed in a random traffic accident, then it's a terrible event but it's not a tragedy in the classical sense, because of that randomness.

The essence of classical tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it MUST occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the very CHARACTER of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop.

Like the child killed in a random traffic accident, the protagonists of a true tragedy have a great future before them, and in the Greek view, perhaps even a heroic future. But the heroic future turns into disaster because the players in the true tragedy move step by step towards that disaster; only a person on the outside, like myself, can see it coming, because these particular players are uniquely capable of inflicting this disaster on one another.

Aeschylus's tragic character Prometheus refuses to submit to fate, just before the universe crashes around him:

"There is no torture and no cunning trick,
There is no force that can compel my speech. ...
So let [Zeus] hurl his blazing thunderbolt,
And with the white wings of snow,
With lightning and with earthquake,
Confound the reeling world.
None of this will bend my will. ...
Seek to persuade the sea wave not to break.
You will persuade me no more easily."

[From The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton]

Prometheus could have been a Generation-Xer.

As the battles between Gen-Xers and Boomers continue, let's all give a thought to the kids in the young Millennial generation. They listen to all this screaming by their elders, and they have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the f--k is going on, but they're still going to bear the brunt of it. (21-Jan-08) Permanent Link
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