Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Putting the Boomer Era to Bed: The rebellious rise of Orthodoxy

"Virtue, modesty, obedience, self-mastery…these are now considered forms of oppression and when heresy is the norm, the only rebellion left is orthodoxy."  

G. W. Chesterton.

 William Cobbett, proto Distributist agrarian democratic revolutionary.

I've found myself, in spite of myself, watching the HBO series The Young Pope.

First off, let me note that I didn't really like it.  I'm not sure if I disliked it either.  And I didn't watch all of it.  So this is neither a review or an endorsement.  And this isn't even a post about the show, for that matter, as odd as that may sound.

This is a post about rebellion or perhaps reaction, and by that I mean justified and righteous reaction.

Okay, where am I coming from and what's this have to to with The Young Pope?

Let's start, briefly, with the television series.  In the series an American Cardinal become Pope in his late 40s.  It says something about our current era that any year in our 40s is regarded as "young".  Indeed, I think that has something to do with the topic I'm addressing here, but just to start off noting it there have been a huge number  of Popes, including the first one, St. Peter, who were in their 40s or below.  Peter is estimated to have been about 32 years old when he became Pope and 66 when he was executed (his successor as Pope, St. Linus, was, however, 57 years old at the time of his succession, but was also 66 when he was martyred).  If I recall correctly the ABA cuts off its Young Lawyers Division at age 40 which is, frankly, totally absurd. At age 40, barrister, you aren't young.

Anyhow, as noted, the protagonist becomes Pope in his late 40s.  As the newly chosen Pope he then starts off on a sharp turn towards orthodoxy.  He is what is called in Catholic circles a "Rad Trad", a Radical Traditionalist.  And indeed, while the show can't really be regarded as a standard bearer for that line of thought. . . maybe. . . . that's been noted and heralded by some Catholic bloggers even while they not the many defects of the show.  For example, Father Z of Father Z's blog admits to finding himself cheering for one of the traditional items noted.  And a Rad Trad blog, I'd note (which I found when hoping to find some sort of good image to insert here) actually starts off on this very same topic in regards to this show, openly musing, or complaining, that HBO, it claims, better understands the Church than some churchmen.  I doubt that, but I do think that HBO has tapped into a zeitgeist that many are missing, and it's broader than the topic of Catholics.

Anyhow, regarding the show, very early on we learn that the new Pope, Lenny Belardo prior to his becoming Pope Pius XIII, was abandoned as a child, about age 8 or so, and that his parents were hippies.  Indeed, one of my complaint s about the show is that the plot of element of the parents being hippies has allowed HBO to liberally sprinkle the show with out of sequence nude, and I mean fully nude, images of Oliva Macklin, a lessor known actress but one who is apparently willing to appear on television totally nude.  Indeed, not speaking, ever, but simply there, nude.  I'd grant that there's a place for some nudity in art and that film can be art but HBO has gone way over the top in regards to this and crossed into what seems to fairly clearly be "look, it's Oliva Macklin nude!".  For that reason (I'm not going to participate in the excuse that I'm watching television and therefore seeing Macklin constantly nude is okay as its art) I frankly skipped through most of the first bunch of episodes before being oddly compelled to go to the end.

Because I did so skip, I think that I at first missed a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, point that is in some ways the main point of the show.  

Its' a giant allegory.

And the allegory is this.  Belardo's parents were libertine hippies of the Baby Boom generation, interested only in themselves to such a degree that they were willing to abandon their offspring to his fate. Freed of any standards, they freed themselves of responsibility and abandoned the next generation. That generation, in turn, and the ones that followed it, engaged in lifelong titanic struggles to recover the standards, traditions, and their meanings that were lost.

And there's a lot to that.

And I bet that while that allegory has been noted by people other than me, I also bet the Boomer generation completely misses it.

What this thread is not about, bashing Boomers

Now, let me say here (and I will repeat it in this essay again and again) the entire concept that members of any one generation can be defined collectively is suspect.  That is, at the same time we had hippies going to Woodstock, volunteerism for the U.S. Army in wartime was at an all time high.  So, it isn't really fair at all to call a generation something like the Woodstock Generation, or whatever.

 Boomers fighting the Vietnam War, from our thread; Boomer, wake up. Generations, Part One of Three.

Well, maybe not fair, but not totally unfair either.*

The Stamp of Generations

And its not totally unfair as generations really do bear the stamps of certain things, events, occurrences and attitudes and these do tend to really define generations.  While I haven't looked into it, my guess is that a lot of this has to do with influences of the time, that is external forces. So, for example, if we look at the generation that grew up in the Great Depression, well, that massive economic disaster impacted them and much about them.  The fact that the Depression concluded with World War Two no doubt had an impact as well.  How could it not?

 Soup line, 1942.  Yes, 1942, at which time we were fighting in the Second World War.  My guess is that enduring this would make a pretty permanent impact on a person.  Kids in this line are of an age where they likely would have been working by the early 1950s and having their own children shortly thereafter.

A couple of sociologist have taken what I think is a general observation on this and developed it into a theory that bears their name, the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory.  We'll take a look at that, even if we do not fully agree with it, as we think there's something to it.

Controversially, the Strauss–Howe generational theory holds that generational characteristics are hard fixed in human behavior and repeat in cycles.  Indeed, they hold this theory so strongly that I once heard one of the authors of it, in an interview, claim that the only thing that was capable of disrupting the cycles would be a massive disastrous event.  Challenged to given example, his example was an asteroid hitting the Earth.**

Strauss and Howe, writing in their book Generations, theorized a pattern in historical generations revolving around generational events which they call "turnings."  The turnings, they claim, are "The High", "The Awakening", "The Unraveling" and "The Crisis".  FWIW they believe that we're in a "Fourth Turning" now which, again FWIW, neatly dovetails with what I'm observing here in that they' believe that we're in the "Crisis" turning and we are, accordingly, seeing the rise of the according crisis generation.  I don't know that we're in what I'd call a crisis, but my observations of the current era aren't far off from theirs, irrespective of whether they're right or not.  The general gist of it is that, they claim, there are two different types of eras and two formative age locations associated with them, those being childhood and young adulthood. The result, they claims, produces four generational archetypes that repeat sequentially, in rhythm with the cycle of Crises and Awakenings. In Generations, they referred to these four archetypes as Idealist, Reactive, Civic, and Adaptive, but in The Fourth Turning they renamed their archetypes to Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist.  I'm not sure why, but it's certainly more dramatic.

Strauss and Howe are so bold as to say the generations in each archetype share both a similar age-location in history but also some basic attitudes towards family, risk, culture, values, and civic engagement.

Before going on, it's worth noting that they've claimed to observe the following historical generations.At least some of these aren't unique to them, I'd note, particularly the later ones, as those terms are fairly common.
  • Arthurian Generation (1433–1460) (Hero)
  • Humanist Generation (1461–1482) (Artist)
  • Reformation Generation (1483–1511) (Prophet)
  • Reprisal Generation (1512–1540) (Nomad)
  • Elizabethan Generation (1541–1565) (Hero)
  • Parliamentary Generation (1566–1587) (Artist)
  • Puritan Generation (1588–1617) (Prophet)
  • Cavalier Generation (1618–1647) (Nomad)
  • Glorious Generation (1648–1673) (Hero)
  • Enlightenment Generation (1674–1700) (Artist)
  • Awakening Generation (1701–1723) (Prophet)
  • Liberty Generation (1724–1741) (Nomad)
  • Republican Generation (1742–1766) (Hero)
  • Compromise Generation (1767–1791) (Artist)
  • Transcendental Generation (1792–1821) (Prophet)
  • Gilded Generation (1822–1842) (Nomad)
  • Progressive Generation (1843–1859) (Artist)
  • Missionary Generation (1860–1882) (Prophet)
  • Lost Generation (1883–1900) (Nomad)
 I'll start looking at these generations a little closer with this one.

Catholic church in France being used as a field hospital for American soldiers.
This generation, I'd note, is definitely one that  others have identified as existing.  It's also regarded as the World War One Generation, as they're the generation that fought the Great War.

The attitudes of this generation have been lost, I'd note, to time.  World War Two, fought by their children, was so big that it simply swallowed up much about this generation.  If you ever hear them interviewed, however, their views were remarkable.   According to Strauss Howe, as we'll more fully note below, Nomad Generations are supposedly characterized by "grow[ing] up as under-protected children during this Awakening, com[ing] of age as alienated, post-Awakening adults, becom[ing] pragmatic midlife leaders during a Crisis, and age into resilient post-Crisis elders."

I don't know if that describes their views, but what seems to be the case is that, at least for Americans, they did not regard World War One as particularly remarkable.  The view seems to have been, with this generation, that life was hard and that was part of a hard life.  Following the war, while some were clearly alienated, most seem to have just returned home to find jobs and carry on.  The Jazz Age did follow, of course, so again there was a period of alienation amongst some of them.
  • G.I. Generation (1901–1924)(Hero)

U.S. Marines, Peleliu, 1944.
This too is a commonly identified generation.  Up until its strong association with World War Two, I used to hear of it referred to as the Depression Era Generation.  Thanks to Tom Brokaw, it's now also called the Greatest Generation, although I frankly think the title is overdone, and quite a few members of that generation feel the same way.  In Germany, it's interesting to note, a recent television drama has given the same generation in Germany, which would necessarily have different characteristics, the name Generation War.
  • Silent Generation (1925–1942) (Artist) 
Again, this is a commonly used term for this generation.  I can't say much about them other than that both of my parents would have fit into it.  According to Strauss and Howe that would mean:
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.
I definitely don't see that in my parents generation.  Indeed, I really think that there was very little difference between the World War Two generation and them, other than they were born at an age where they were either serving very late in the war, or in the next one.  In other words, if the artist category describes people born in the late 1920s, anyhow, this doesn't seem right to me at all. And indeed, perhaps the generational years assigned to this cohort are flat out wrong.  It wouldn't strike me, for example, that kids born in the Jazz Age year of 1925, who would have been eligible for military service in 1943, would share that much in common with people born in 1945.
  • Baby Boom Generation (1943–1960) (Prophet)
A long identified generation, and the one that we've basically come to analyze, in a way, in this thread.
  • Generation X (1961–1981) (Nomad)
I'm pleased to note, would fit into Generation X, which they regards as a "Nomad" generation.  I"m not pleased because I'm a nomad, although I've always liked the  Chevrolet Nomad, but rather because they at least correctly don't lump my generation into the Boomers, which some demographers used to do.  Also, it puts me and my wife in the same generation, even though we were born ten years apart, which seems correct to me in a lot of ways.
It's interesting to me that Strauss and Howe would place Generation X in the same category as the Lost Generation, i.e., Nomad generations.  I say interesting, as I think that in a lot of ways these two generations oddly have the same outlook. But, by the same token, I think that they also share a lot in common with the next two, which are:
  • Millennial Generation(1982–2004) (Hero)
  • Homeland Generation (2005–present) Artist
So let's start there, according to these fellows, my generation is, as noted, a Nomad Generation, according to Strauss and Howe. According to Wikipedia that means:
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.
Does this define us?  Hmmmm, . . . m'eh.  Well, maybe it does . . .hmmm. . . .

Well what about the one in front of me, the Boomers, whom this thread is about.  According to Wikipedia:
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.
Well. . . I see some of that, but not others. That "guiding another Crisis" is disturbing, as it does relate to what we're now seeing, assuming (as Strauss and Howe do) that we're at the start of the crisis.  In no small part, the crisis was created, in my view, due to the self absorption otherwise described by the leaders of the generation, but certainly not every member of it.

Noting, once again, that no generational characteristic can possibly describe every member of a generation (see again footnotes).

Well, we might as well be complete and look at the remaining couple of current generations.  While I don't think these categorizations are prefect by any means, , I don't know that they're all that far off the mark either. Consider the other categories?  How about the generation after mine, the Millennials, about whom the Boomers like to complaint.  They are, this theory holds a Hero Generation.
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
Hmmm. . . again, I don't know.  I think they're more like the Lost Generation, which is supposedly a Nomad generation.

And finally, I guess, the most recent generation just coming of age, which is supposedly an Artist generation.
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.
Can't comment on that one really.

Well, what about the cycles? Again, according to Wikipedia:


According to Strauss and Howe, the First Turning is a High, which occurs after a Crisis. During The High institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, though those outside the majoritarian center often feel stifled by the conformity.
According to the authors, the most recent First Turning in the US was the post-World War II American High, beginning in 1946 and ending with the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Well, there does seem to me to be something to that. The immediate post war era was different. Does this describe it?  Well, partially, but probably not fully.


According to the theory, the Second Turning is an Awakening. This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy. Just when society is reaching its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of "self-awareness", "spirituality" and "personal authenticity". Young activists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural and spiritual poverty.
Strauss & Howe say the US's most recent Awakening was the “Consciousness Revolution,” which spanned from the campus and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the early 1980s.
This is an interesting way to put it.  I'd agree that something was going on from about 1963 to some particular Baby Boom influenced era. Does it go to the early 1980s?  I'm tempted to say no, but at the same time I feel that the "60s" included much of the "70s".  So maybe it does. And I'd otherwise say much of this definition is correct.  Forgotten now, it seems, the 70s where characterized by what was called at the time the "Me Generation".


According to Strauss and Howe, the Third Turning is an Unraveling. The mood of this era they say is in many ways the opposite of a High: Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. The authors say Highs come after Crises, when society wants to coalesce and build and avoid the death and destruction of the previous crisis. Unravelings come after Awakenings, when society wants to atomize and enjoy.  They say the most recent Unraveling in the US began in the 1980s and includes the Long Boom and Culture War.
Again, I guess I see something to this.  I'd define it differently, however.


According to the authors, the Fourth Turning is a Crisis. This is an era of destruction, often involving war, in which institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation's survival. After the crisis, civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group.  The authors say the previous Fourth Turning in the US began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and climaxed with the end of World War II. The G.I. Generation (which they call a Hero archetype, born 1901 to 1924) came of age during this era. They say their confidence, optimism, and collective outlook epitomized the mood of that era.  The authors assert the Millennial Generation (which they also describe as a Hero archetype, born 1981 to 2004) show many similar traits to those of the G.I. youth, which they describe as including: rising civic engagement, improving behavior, and collective confidence.
Okay, that's s a lot to digest and it may be completely in error, but there's something to it. And that something is, in my view, both more and less than Strauss and Howe might suspect.

Let's throw in a little science and a little natural law theory

It depends upon how you may view. If you are an evolutionary biologist what you might state is that human beings are obviously evolved in nature for certain patterns and ways to live.   Get outside of those patterns, and people surely do, and people become unhappy and then start to struggle.  Part of that struggle is to restore the pattern to the natural norm.  If you are an adherent of Natural Law theory then you can say something similar.  Those who argue for Natural Law maintain that human beings have the sense of the natural law in their minds and hearts at all time, irrespective of culture or era, and that they'll tend towards it even if they will also reject it.

Natural law theory is, also, conservative in a true sense, as opposed to the political sense we tend to use that term in. The two are not unrelated (conversely, the term "liberal" in the modern political context and in the traditional context are in fact nearly completely unrelated).  It is conservative as it accepts flaws and deviation whereas modern liberal, or progressive, political thought does not. That is, both evolutionary biologist and Natural Law theorist accept that there's an archetype for, let's say, a tiger, and that that archetype would include natural camouflage and a hunting instinct, but they'd also accept that some tigers may be albinos and at risk in the wild and some may be bad hunters.  They'd hold that such examples fall outside of the natural archetype due to defect without holding, for example, that it must be the archetype that's flawed.

So, what's your point?  Well, one of those wind of change things.

That has a deep relationship, I think, to what we're seeing here.  That is, I think there's something to the concept of turnings, even if I don't fully agree with the theory set out by Strauss and Howe, and I think we see something of that going on.  And what I think I see is sort of a conservative revolution amongst the young.

Now, to be really careful, I don't mean a conservative revolution in that Paul Ryan is the hero of the younger set, and Donald Trump, who isn't a conservative, definitely isn't.  And I'm not even talking about politics, although I see it reflected back, dimly (and through a Boomer lens to a degree) in politics.  And that's what I think The Young Pope has cleverly picked up on.

Put another way, I think I"m seeing a rejection, and a big one, of the Boomer's world, or rather the world created by the Boomer elite (which many of their fellows were against) with younger generations reaching back across the generations all the way back to the one before the Boomer, and even, in some ways, much further back than that.

I also think I see the Boomer elite dimly holding on like they're the only ones in the world who can be trusted to run anything.

The Boomer elite

Okay, why do I think that?  Well, before I get to that (and yes, I know that this thread is already of epic length) let's talk about the impact of the Boomer generation  (caveat, see footnotes again)*.  Before we do that, we once again have to keep in mind, however, that we're really talking about a Boomer subset, not every single Boomer.  Indeed, many of the Boomers outside the Boomer elite, and that's most Boomers, were left out of the force towards change propelled by the Boomer elite, and may have even been strongly in disagreement with it.*

According to Strauss and Howe the Boomers are a "prophet" generation and, as noted, that's characterized, again, by the following:
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.
As a generation, they were born at the end of World War Two, which was the end of one crisis, although I'd note that it was the beginning of another, the Cold War.  That was a time of renewed economic and community life, in no small apart due to the long societal winter of the The Great Depression and the horror of the Second World War.  And we can say that the Boomers, as a generation, grew up as "increasingly indulged children" and that they came of age as "self-absorbed" young people.  I think that is what defines the generation's leaders and elites.

Now, here, before I go further and make every Boomer on earth mad, I don't think that characterizes every boomer, and that's something that's very critical to note.*  I think this definition defines the influential part of the generation, but it sure doesn't define them all.  For example, something that's rarely noted about the Boomer generation is that while they were at one time stuck with the loss of the Vietnam War as a generation, they actually volunteered for it at a rate higher than Americans volunteered for prior 20th Century wars. That doesn't fit their image at all, but it's a fact.

 US Army advisers and Vietnamese Special Forces, Vietnam War.  Definitely not Hippies and all volunteers.  For students of such things, this photographs is interesting in that the two Americans in this photograph are wearing Vietnamese uniforms, not American ones, in spite of the strong association of "tiger stripe" uniforms with the Speical forces.  Also, the Americans are armed with M16A1s but the visible weapons carried by the Vietnamese solders are M1 or M2 carbines even though M16s were issued quite early to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

But what is also a fact is that the Boomer generation was the first American generation which was able to expect college and university as a right and at the same point in time during which attending college or university still guaranteed white collar employment.  Simply guaranteed it.   That put them in a uniquely privileged class in ways that were distinctly different than those before them, or after.  They were one of only two generations for which there was mass upper level education in an economy which enormously valued and employed the well educated.  Basically, although they would not see it that way, they were the beneficiaries of a type of economy that started coming to an end in the very early 1970s.  Prior to that, a college degree was an absolute guaranty of success, no matter what it was in.  Period portrayals retained in film are surprisingly accurate in these regards, even if somewhat of a shock to modern viewers.  Films like The Man In the Grey Flannel Suit, The Apartment, Days of Wine and Roses, The Graduate and Everything You Need To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, all depict, some seriously and some comedically, and some even tragically, men who are well employed simply by virtue of an unnamed bachelor's level degree (with that degree being fictitious in Everything You Need To Succeed In Business).***

And they also had that privilege at a time in which it meant that they were stewed in massive social foment, much of which they had not created, but much of which they did.  This caused, throughout the Western World, a situation in which the elite of this privileged indulged generation went after the conventions in their societies with abandon, and we've lived with the massively negative consequences of their assault on tradition ever since.

There was hardly anything that t he Boomer generations elite did not attack.  Social norms were set aside and remain set aside to this day.  Concepts of family and marriage were regarded as somewhat optional, a view that proved to be so corrosive that the impact of it has been massive and so enduring its proven to be impossible, so far, to fix.  Drugs entered society in a fashion regarded as acceptable that's causing damage to the current day.  Institutions that had ancient concepts as their base were questioned, with the impact that the Protestant churches in the Western World proved largely unable to endure them and became shadows of their former selves and a series of aggravating "reforms" on a local level took hold in the Catholic Church that were easy to cause in the wake of Vatican II, which really had nothing to do with that effort.  Gender bending ideas about the roles of women, which started off with legitimate expansion of the work place roles of women following the introduction of domestic machinery, were advanced by radicals who were divorced of any understanding of biology and nature and the last fruits of that are still breaking on the shores of our society today.  As the Boomers moved into work in the 1970s their self absorption translated from the Flower Children ethos of the 1960s into a hyper greed focused one of the 1970s and concepts of the absolute value of money took hold in the national economy, which we still live with today.

Beyond that, a self absorption that came about from an early indulgence has proven to be enduring.  A society that went, from prior to 1950, to one that had a fair number of younger people in important roles at any one time yielded to Boomer influence and then control starting in the 1960s and evolved into one that remains Boomer dominated today. The last Presidential election saw the first post Boomer President go in favor of two main candidates who were in their prime decades ago.  The Supreme Court is dominated by lawyers who formative years were the 60s and the 70s.   The Boomers, or rather the Boomer elite, just won't let go.

But mentally, younger generations would like them to let go.

And that produces the interesting quiet revolution going on today.

Those darned kids.

Boomers are fond of talking about the irresponsibly of younger generations. But they aren't.  Indeed, their values, while muddled due to the Boomers (ie, their elite) having wrecked so many of them in a form that makes them very difficult to find, are more traditional, and solid, than the Boomers by far.

One way this manifests itself is in their rejection of the Boomer concepts of work and career.  Boomers started off in the late 1960s massively rejecting their parents concepts about the same things, and satirizing them.  Perhaps that comes across the best in the now dated portrayal of The Graduate, but you can pick it up in lots of other period pieces as well, such as Easy Rider.  Musically we could look towards, for example, Taking Care of  Business.  The Boomers created the myth of their parents generation being cartoonishly "straight" and devoted to work and career, but in fact the relationship of their parents to work was much more urban than prior generations, but reflected the values of those prior generations.

Money has always been an element, and a corrosive element, in American life, but the manic focus on money and career is really something that came into American society with and through the Boomers.  Prior to that, the focus on work was on a "job", and those prior generations continued to speak of their work as jobs their entire life.  I can't recall hearing the word "career" used in the same fashion it is today until the 1990s by which time aging Boomers had become obsessed with "career", both for themselves and for their offspring.

The difference is that prior to the Boomers, the concept of work was that you probably had to work to live.  The general conditions of life, which really haven't changed but which have become hopelessly warped, were that at some point you were likely to marry, and even if you didn't you had to get by, and you were going to need to work.  Prior to the huge expansion of college education starting in the late 1940s that tended to mean that for most people, particularly in some demographics, they were going to look for solid blue collar jobs starting in their teens, keeping in mind that the focus on work was much more heavy amongst males than females.  People did go to college, of course, but the concept there tended to be that attending college, any college, meant you could enter business as a white collar worker.

A lot of this traditional outlook survived even into the 1970s but at some point the focus on "career" really took over.  The reason was that that the self absorption of the Boomers meant that work had to have some meaning, and perhaps was the meaning itself, as they were doing it.

That may be a little difficult to grasp, but frankly most work doesn't have that much meaning and people didn't used to expect it to.  Machinist at general motors didn't regard that as a career, they regarded it as a job, and they didn't feel that it had some existential meaning.  But the Boomers changed that.

With the Boomers there came to be a focus on "career" and there were and are all sorts of angst filled programs and whatnot on careers. As women were fully incorporated into the world of work they were really sold a bill of goods on career and how women could "have it all" by adding a career to their lives.  It's a lie, but its a life that remains widely told today.

But it's a lie that isn't very widely believed in the post boomer generation, which is part of the quiet revolution that's going on.

Boomers have noted, with distress, that younger generations allegiance to work is thin.  It isn't that they don't work, but they're pretty quick to change jobs and even careers.  It's like they view the purpose of work as being something other than a "career".  They do, and hence the irony.

In The Graduate the young college graduate is shown struggling against a society in which "career" si viewed as and end all and be all.  But that was the view the Boomers brought in, not the one that preceded them. The prior generation viewed having and retaining a job as hugely important, but that's different.  The current younger generation, to the Boomers ongoing angst, views having a job as important but they're not all that tied up about careers.  So the Boomers are what they criticized and the younger, and ironically the older, generations are what the Boomers believed themselves to be when they were young. The Boomers aren't like to say "plastics!", like they satirized their parents as saying, but they're pretty likely to say "technology!" to the young.

Part of this explains a rebellion this past election, although it doesn't' seem apparent to the Boomer elite that it did.  On one hand you had a widely popular advanced by pre Boomer, Silent Generation, politician Bernie Sanders for free college.  Sounding fresh, it's an idea that really looks like something right out of the Great Depression or the immediate post World War Two era.  It's also a really bad idea.  But it was liked by Millennial and the "Homeland Generation".  It was probably liked by them, however for a reason that their Boomer parents and grandparents fail to grasp.  It might not have been so much a desire to get something for nothing so much as it acknowledges that the evolution of the economy under the Boomers, but certainly not fully attributable to them, has forced that generation into college whether they want to be there or not.  In essence, by asking for it to be free, they're saying "you caused this, I have to live it, you should help pay for it."  This is partially, by the way, what the reaction to the Affordable Health Care Act likely is well, but in the reverse, i.e., "you're requiring me to pay for you in your old age, and I don't want to be forced into doing that in an economy where all the jobs are crappy".

If this is correct, the blue collar rebellion, which includes the Boomer non elite who did not go to college, is similar.  In essence, those people, who didn't participate in their generations revolutions, and who didn't welcome them, are joined with younger generations in saying that they want elements of the old economy back.  This is causing a fit amongst American elites who just hate the idea that people miss the machine tool floor and don't want high tech jobs, but the fact of the matter is that this is exactly the case.  For the first time since English peasants smashed the machines a certain demographic is looking at a "modern" evolving economy and saying no.

The apoplexy that this is causing amongst elites, both Boomer and post Boomers that are part of the elite, is amusing.  They simply can't believe it and are condescending about it. But they should not be.  It's a profound, existential, rejection of the economy that has come into being and everything it stands for.  Basically, these people are saying "we don't want careers, we want lives and jobs.  Take your high tech world and stuff  it".  Whether they can really have an impact on the evolving global economy that we've forced into being is another question, it may be too late to change directions, but it will have some impact at a bare minimum.

Plastics indeed.

Indeed, an interesting recent byproduct of this has been a sort of an anti college movement recently.  I'm skeptical of how far this can go, in a society such as we currently have, but there is one going on out there. Focused on technical training, it takes the position that not everyone should have to go to college and is very rearward looking, if you will.

Perhaps the best known proponent of this is Mike Rowe, who is famous for his former television series Dirty Jobs. Rowe is sort of a blue collar hero for that television show, which he followed up with Dangerous Catch, which celebrated Alaska crab fishermen.  Rowe himself, however, who fits into Generation X, like me, is a college graduate, having graduated from Towson University with a degree in communications.  I'm not sure what to make of that, if anything, but he is a pretty effective communicator and one of the things he's been communicating about is an organization called Profoundly Disconnected which focuses on vocational training for young Americans.  Rowe broke out from his prior roles to become a bit of a commentator, and a very effective one, during the last election in which he spoke on blue collar views.  Part of what he's noting, and correctly, is that college doesn't work for everyone now. What can be done about that is an open question, but Rowe takes the view that there are a lot of jobs out there that don't require college education and we should help the young get to them.  The fact that this is receiving a warm reception is evidence that a lot of post Boomers are looking backwards in career terms and rejecting the Boomer thesis that everyone most go to university and have some sort of hard charging "career"

Speaking of career, a back-channel in this story is the interesting rise of small scale farming.

A person has to be careful about this, as an ongoing cultural connection with farming in the United States has never left us.  So, even in eras when everyone was seemingly leaving the farm, people have looked back to farming.  But it seems to me that something different is going on.

Now some would, and do, claim to see a connection between this current trend, which I'll address in a moment, and the "back to the land" movement of the 60s.  I don't.  That movement was always really vague and was communal in nature.  If it looked to anything, it looked to an imaginary world that never existed in farming and it recalled similar movements in the mid 19th Century here and abroad.

That's not what's going on now.  Now we have a collection of people who sometimes refer to their concept as "homesteading" (inaccurately, at least if that's intended to recall the Homestead Acts) and sometimes refer to it in other ways.  At any rate, the movement is fairly agrarian.

It varies from young people who have been born into farming in some ways but who are modifying their farming practices along more agrarian, and older, lines and those who have entered it from outside of the framing community.  Practices and outlooks vary greatly but the common theme is a general agrarian outlook in which these people are consuming their own production and selling production as well, so they have mixed economy, traditional, farms.

Farms of that type were the norm prior to the 1950s at which time science combined with the Cold War entered farming in a major way.  A national policy of "cheap food" was emphasized to force or encourage farming "fence to fence" on mono culture farms. This became the American norm, encouraged by larger and larger machinery and chemicals and it remains the norm today.

But even while it has remained the norm, a counter movement beginning perhaps fifteen or so years ago, as Gen Xers entered the picture, has looked back to more agrarian practices.  Small scale, these outfits raise mixtures of livestock and grains, or livestock and vegetables, much the way that farms prior to the 1950s did.  Even in livestock country, which has never had much of  a mix, efforts by Gen X ranchers sometimes focus on the direct sale of beef cattle and swine, something that hadn't been much for an extremely long time. . . basically since the demise of the local packing houses in the 40s and 50s.

With that has come a return of hunting and fishing.

One of the things that really marked the Boomers as a generation (again, but not individual Boomers in every case by any means) was a strong focus on the urban.  After some flirtation with "back to the land" in the late 1960s they became strongly focused on big cities in the 1970s and everything about the cities, even the gritty ones, was portrayed as glamorous, even the grit.  In the 2010s we might have had Longmire as a television policing hero, but in the 1970s we had Shaft, Popeye Doyle, and Harry Callahan.  Of course we still have the urban dramas, NBC would have us believe that Chicago exists in a perpetual state of near civil insurrection that would make Petrograd, 1917, look like a playground.  But, no matter, in the 1970s, while here were counter trends, the movement of the Boomers from college into city careers reflected itself in the society.  Old rural pursuits therefore started to wane.

Almost unnoticed that trend started to reverse itself in the 2000s, as Gen Xers again came into their own.  Old urban sports that had existed for a long time really lost their prior glamour.  Golf, for example, started to suffer.  Hunting and fishing started to gain.  Target and sport shooting, once a very rural pursuit, took on a focus in American life that's arguably greater than it has ever been.  As this occurred many of these activities crossed the gender line and were taken up by women really for the first time.  At any rate, it's interesting that sporting pursuits taken up by Gen Xers had been the same ones that the Silent Generation and the GI Generation, and every generation prior, had participated in but which had fewer adherents amongst the Boomers.  Quite a few younger Americans now shoot on pistol ranges with the same models of handguns that their great grandfathers shot with.

Not all post Boomers live on farms, of course, but another oddity of their views is that they returned to a view of housing that had been common prior to the Boomers.  The Boomers cherished individual mobility and the big house, as their societal status increased.  Prior to that most Americans looked for a house when they got married and they often kept it for the rest of their lives.

We still live in the big house era, to be sure, but at the same time a strong counter trend exists in which younger generations, particularly post Gen Xers, focus on small houses.  It's been a marked noted trend.  They often look for small houses, often holder houses, that they wish to fix up and keep nice, but which they don't want to sink a fortune into.  While this doesn't perfectly mirror the views of their per Boomer ancestors, it's not far off.

If they're looking back to prior generations in housing and work, they often look like they're part of a prior generation as well. Perhaps that's been one of the most visible and amusing aspects of their "rebellion", if it is one, or their rejection of prior generations.

A person has to be really careful about drawing too many conclusions from clothing or costume, but there is something to it.   It is not true, as so often asserted, that every generation adopts some fashion to protest against the prior one, and indeed it isn't true either that every generation actually rebels against the prior one.  Indeed, the thesis here is that the Gen Xers and Millennials are all rebelling or rejecting the Boomers.  But clothing can send a message, even if unintentionally.

If we look at the 20th Century, while we'd find lots of curious clothing trends amongst the young throughout it, we'd also find that really pronounced ones were fairly rare.  Indeed, they tend to only come when society is really flush.  The first really notable one was in the 1920s when the Jazz Age really hit.  Flapper dress lasted up until the stock market crashed in 1929 and then nobody had the cash for that sort of thing anymore and, oddly enough, the emphasis came to be dressing conservatively and fairly well, if you could.

After that, the first real clothing rebellion, if you will, came in the mid 1960s.

If you watch The Young Pope, and don't know anything else about the Hippies of the late 60s and early 70s, you'd conclude that demographic didn't wear clothing at all.  Obviously they did, but the flashback or whatever secences of that show are correct that there was a real marked departure in the 1960s from any prior clothing standard.  Blue jeans, which had actually come on strong in the 1950s for the first time became nearly universal wear amongst the young but with the additional of bell bottoms, and often really massive bell bottoms.  Floppy shirts and often wildly colored shirts came in as well.  And, in large groups, such as Woodstock, standards would break down sufficiently such that indeed public nudity wasn't uncommon.  The feminist movement then, as now, seemed to focus on women's breasts and for a time burning bras and going without the same was an act of protest, although then as now men largely didn't object much to that making such protests something that they weren't intended to be.

The Boomers took a very long time to return to the clothing standards of prior generations and in fact they never did.  A lasting impact of the Baby Boom era has been to basically slowly dismantle any American clothing standard, giving Americans the reputation of being the sloppiest people on earth.  Ironically, as they've aged, its often been the Boomers who have decried the increasingly absence of a clothing standard in the young.  And, at this point, there really isn't one.

Having said that, it's interesting that the first clothing rebellion amongst the post Boomers was by that group labeled "Preppies".  A real subset of their generation, they affected clothing that recalled Prep Schools in a minor way.  Really overemphasized in popular media, in many instances it just meant that they affected careful grooming and polo shirts, not much of  statement except that it came in the wake of the hairy sloppy 60s.  The fad largely came and went and didn't leave much of an impact other than that it imperiled the male institution of the barber in favor of hair stylists, an odd byproduct.

Going forward, however, the more outlandish clothing of the 60s and 70s disappeared for a more neutral type of clothing.  Starting sometime within the last decade, however, the trend setters amongst the Millenials started affecting highly rural clothing and appearances.  Now, in any location where there are a lot of young men, you'll see Levi 501s, sometimes bought sufficiency long that their cuffs are turned up, Munson Last boots, plaid flannel shirts and heavy beards.  The beards, moreover, are worn by young men with cropped hair, a look that hasn't really been around since the 1910s.  They definitely don't look like hippies so much as they look like their distant ancestors on North Dakota farms prior to World War One.  Some sort of message is being sent, for sure, it and it isn't a white collar career oriented one.

Another area where messages have been sent, and received, are in the churches.  This is a change that's seemingly gone unnoticed by the press, but it's definitely there.

One of the real changes of the 1960s was the "liberalization" of Christian denominations world wide.  This came about in different ways but it was pronounced and well advanced by the 1970s.  In the various Protestant denominations, particularly the old "main line" denominations, it came in the form of the acceptance of more "liberal theology" as the Boomer generation took its place in the pulpit.  The same thing occurred in the Catholic Church as well, but it had somewhat less of an impact there because of the global reach of the church and its strong structure.

Many of these changes were at the ambo level. That is, they came on from younger pastors and the older parishioners, as they had always done with the generation of their offspring, just accepted or tolerated it.  The result was largely disastrous and over time can account for the huge decline in various old main line Protestant denominations in particular.  As orthodoxy declined, attendance did as well, with seemingly there being no way to arrest it.

Much less noted, however, is that as post Boomers came into their own this story has changed significantly.  The fortunes of the liberalized churches have not improved, but that's not the full story.  Indeed, the liberalized churches seem set for disappearance.  In the Protestant community, however, denominations that never went down this path remain strong.  In the Episcopal Church, formerly the bastion of American Protestantism, a separatist branch that adheres strongly to retained Catholic tradition has done well.  Interestingly, the Orthodox churches have received a boost from Protestant refugees who, in leaving their old denominations, have searched their way into a strongly traditional branch of Christianity.

In the Catholic Church the situation dramatized in The Young Pope isn't all that far off the mark.  Lots of parishes across the country had liberal priests for decades but starting during the Papacy of St. John Paul the Great a group of younger, much more orthodox, priests started taking the pulpit.  Over time they younger Catholics have slowly reclaimed ground and reversed much of the irritating changes effected by their elders and have even corrected what may have been regarded as abuses in procedure in some instances.  For the first time in a long time Catholic Churches in many places have communion bells once again and services that have started to reincorporate aspects of the older Latin Mass.  And of course in some places the Latin Mass itself has returned.  Highly educated by the Internet, younger Catholics are very well educated in their faith in a way that no prior generation has been and they are intolerant of improper departures and innovations.  Their focus is a justifiably traditional one.

Even in a thing like Church music this reflects itself, at least in the Catholic Church.  A recent poll of parishioners found that they young detest guitars and the like at Mass and want traditional music, often extremely traditional music going back to the Middle Ages.  But its not solely in things like that but in a myriad of things that we see a turn towards traditional practices amongst the young.  And they've exhibited some frustration with not getting a more reverent traditional form returned.  I heard one radio interview in which a younger parishioner complained to a Priest about an older Priest at his parish and the Priest, to my surprise, simply stated that the problem would be solved as the older ones die off, as they're the only ones holding on to the reform of the 60s and 70s.  A pretty blunt reply.

Maybe no area was more impacted by the Boomers than the relationship between men and women.  That's the area where the Boomer elite was the most destructive, although they had some help in that from the generation that immediately proceeded them.

We'll get back to that in a moment, but it occurs to me that before we do, we probably need to address the Boomers and women in society in general.  And by that we inevitably mean the Boomer elite and their concept of women in society in general.

Boomer elites enormously advanced the concept that prior to them, women  had been enslaved in the home (again taking into account that we're speaking of the Boomer elite). Starting in the 1970s in particular Feminist advanced the notion of "women's liberation" and many, but certainly not all, young women signed on to this. This had, ironically, a male centric aspect when it came to sex, as we'll get back to below, but it also took on a radical view that there were no differences between men and women at all.  For a really amusing time a person can find this view still espoused by some college professors but they're really the only ones who believe it, which given that universities remain the only place that people believe, for example, that Marxism can work, that's no huge surprise.  In terms of science we actually know more about the differences between men and women than we did in the early 1970s, and indeed they're enormously real.

Feminist, starting in the early 1970s, the height of Boomerism, really assaulted this topic and achieved real results.  Not noticed by them, however, the non Boomer women never really signed on to the campaign in the way that the elite did.  Nobody appreciated that the role of women in society had changed, for good or ill, due to external forces that got rolling in the mid 20th Century, but what young women of the period did appreciate is that they should be able to enter most roles in society on a basis equal to men.  Society as a whole accepted that notion fairly rapidly and by the end of the 1980s it was a generally accepted thesis.

At that point most Boomer women who were not part of the societal elite viewed the goal as being clearly defined and stopped wanting to advance the concept of a gender neutral world view.  But the Feminist elite never did, and as our society continues to be dominated by the Boomer elite, this has continued to influence public policy. The recent concept that women should have a role in military combat reflects this view, even though, interestingly enough, many career female GenXers in the military opposed the change.  A majority, in fact, opposed it.

Which reflects back to what has been noted, but only somewhat, about the views of post Boomer women, and indeed Boomer women outside the Boomer elite.Most of these women wanted to retain the option of their traditional roles in the home if they could.  Economics, however, and social pressure, has made it difficult for them to do so.

But as they've entered formally male dominated roles, and entered them in the time frame of "the career", as opposed to "the job", they've learned, as Boomers as a whole have learned, that much of the emphasis on "the career" is a bit of a fraud.  While women have definitely appreciated that they do not have to be limited to the few career roles open to women before this all started to change in the 1970s, they've also found that the entire concept of "fulfillment in career" is mostly baloney.  And many of them have struggled over time to recapture the right to live out a more traditional role.

Recently, in fact, they've grown militant about it, which has been an interesting phenomenon.  That is, women who would opt for the right to stay at home and raise children have been vocal about their right to do so.

And beyond that, they've become very distinct in their views on not having to follow their Boomer elders.

This played a role in the last election in no small way.  Hillary Clinton was, in the view of the view of the Boomer Feminist elite, the final step in the enshrinement of their long held goals.  A Feminist herself, with the conventional Feminist views of the 1970s, there was no amount of window dressing that could make her appealing to younger women.  They simply rejected her in large numbers, to the outrage of their Feminist elders.  This is, simply, because the hold much more traditional views about their roles.

 Posed photo (reenactment) of Hillary Clinton being sworn in as a Senator from New York.  On her right is her daughter and husband Bill and on her left Al Gore.  All three, both Clinton's and Gore, are Boomer era politicians, although their views did not necessarily dovetail perfectly.  Clinton here wears her archetypal light colored pantsuit, a costume that came in during the early 1970s and which somewhat came to identify her.

Indeed, they strongly resemble much earlier generations in that way, but the fact has been completely lost.  Just as young men tend to affect the look and appearance of a much earlier generation, young women have a somewhat cynical but also much more realistic concept of nature and their role in society.  Women of today probably could sit down with Nellie Tayloe Ross much more easily than Gloria Steinem.  But this fact, while it became notable during the past election, has not yet been fully appreciated.  The era of NOW is now way over.

 First female governor in the United States, Wyoming's Nellie Tayloe Ross. She was later Director of Mints and, as can be seen here, a farmer.

One of the interesting aspects of all of this has been the rise of home schooling, which is something I still don't really fully understand.  I do understand that when I was a kid this was completely unknown.  I don't know that very many adults would have even have grasped it as being legal, quite frankly.

More recently I tended to associate home schooling with people who have very distance religious views.  But I've had to concede that may not be really correct as I've come to know a few people who home schooled who didn't necessarily fit this view, although I'm still confused by it.  In some cases the parents were very religious, but even so they lived in areas where religious schools were available, so there was at least something else at work.  That something seems to be a feeling that the parents can do a better job, in part, but it's also partially a reaction to the very expanded nature of public schools.  I suspect that this will become increasingly common as younger parents whose social views do not sync with a late boomer boosted social view react to it.  Things like confusion over what gender is what are mostly common in the rarefied salons of upper middle class and wealthy whites, and others who lack such confusion don't want their children confused by them, and are opting not to send them to school.  As noted, more recently some of the parents I've met who took this option were quite far from what I had assumed the likely demographic to be, so clearly, at least, my earlier perceptions about this topic were in error.

Going back to the boomer revolution against sexual standard, and going back to the topic of Boomer views in general, under the definition that Strauss and Howe provided, we recall that they claimed that their generation should "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."  I very much doubt that some of this definition fits them, as noted above, but the "self absorbed" aspect of it does.

Part of that self absorption really started when they were young and reflected back and aspect of the moral decay that war brings about, in part.  Or perhaps.  Anyhow, as has been discussed here before, Playboy magazine began its assault on women in 1953, at which time the youngest Boomers were only ten, and at which time the public was already partially acclimated to portrays of "bombshell" women due to World War Two.****  Ten is a pretty formative period and that meant that by the time the Boomers were well rolling along the magazine and its toy view of women was making real inroads in society.  The damage done has been extensive and ongoing.

When the birth control pill hit in the early 1960s and the Boomers were solidly in college as young adults at the time this expressed itself in the "sexual revolution", which really took place in the 1970s.  Its impacts have been massive and the result was to do huge damage to the long established relationships between men and women.  Indeed, the long term impact has been to virtually force women into bed as toys of men and to do huge damage to the institution of marriage.  Most recently its gone so far as to confuse what marriage actually is such that same sex unions are now regarded as marriages irrespective of it being impossible to easy define those unions in that sense, given the natural purpose of marriage.  Of interest what had been a major societal debate converted into national law with a decision authored by Anthony Kennedy which clearly and joyfully cited evolving public opinion.  Kennedy was born in 1936, which would put him in the "Silent Generation", along with Bernie Saunders.  That shows, at least in part, that the generational boundaries are neither completely real nor completely defining in a strict sense, but what is interesting about that is that it shows the very pronounced trend in modern American life of the very elderly and the elderly seeking to define what younger generations supposedly want, and really missing the mark.

The Boomers have been in the forefront of all of this, none of which came about, of course, overnight.  And now society has a widespread mess. This past week, for example, we have learned that male Marines have been treating the small number of their female colleagues like toys, something that shouldn't be surprising to us but which apparently is.  Given the moral sewer nature of American sexual relationships, how this can come as a surprise is, well, surprising.  If one of the nation's premier magazines features nearly nude models on its cover for ogling, and if celebrities past photos of themselves nude, by accident or design nearly everywhere and then ask for that to be excused or celebrated, how exactly do we expect a group of mostly young men not to do the very thing that the public is asking them to do.  Put another way, when Kate Upton goes on the cover of Sports Illustrated barely dressed, do we expect young men to comment on her fine athletic form, or do we think they make comments of a different nature.


Be that as it may, the reaction to the Marine Corps nude scandal may be telling, and something has been going on for a long time, although its subtle.

One of the things that younger people were sold following the sexual revolution is that the widespread use of abortion as birth control is okay.  Abortion has become very common in American society, but what is notable is that the approval of it has declined markedly amongst Gen Xers and below.  Indeed it's often noted that there's been a huge increase in single mothers, which is quite true, but part of this is because the conduct that leads to children is widely approved of and even pushed on society but the young are not accepting of abortion as the solution when things go wrong.  That, therefore, is a turn towards social conservatism, and a marked one.  It's even been celebrated in film, with the young single heroine Juno being the focus of a film by that name.

If it is a turn towards social conservatism, it's also a rediscovery of the old standards backwards, which in our backwards society is about the only way it can be done.  Being constantly told that they must have sex and all the time, with anyone, (Friends, Big Bang Theory, Vanderpump Rules, you name it) they've discovered what the Boomers sought to avoid, sex causes children.  Unlike the Boomers however, they aren't as ready to discard their children no matter what the cost of that may be.

In an an era not all that long ago pregnancies of that type invariably lead to marriage.  The Boomers sold the country and the law on the notion that this wasn't a good thing and they were pretty successful in stopping the "shotgun marriage".  Indeed changes in the law starting in the 1940s promoted "no fault" divorce which resulted in the high divorce rate we currently have, by making it so easy, but which did not result in universal happiness as was supposed to be the case.  Divorce rates, contrary to the public myth, are not as high as widely believed, but are high.

The damage done to marriage also resulted in many unwed couples living together with being married, something that was illegal in some places and widely looked down upon as immoral everywhere.  The oddity of that, however, has been to slowly revive Common Law Marriage without calling it that.

That's been an odd development and it gets into the widely misunderstood nature of marriage. This is admittedly a dangerous topic as people like the myths associated with this topic better than the reality, but none the less its worth looking at.  Widely forgotten by moderns, the role of the Church and the State in licensing a marriage is not nearly as old or prominent as we think.  Originally marriages, at least in the West, were simply contracted between the parties.  This is true of Christian marriages. That is, for most people, no ceremony was involved at all.  It was simply an agreement between two people, one male, and one female.

That changed a bit when the Church began to take a role, but it did so mostly to protect women, an other forgotten aspect of the history of marriage. As marriage involves sex, and sex involves children, the Church entered the picture so as to make sure that marriages were witnessed and therefore men couldn't simply dump women that they claimed they'd never married. With no public ceremony, it was hard to tell if a marriage was real or not.  Nonetheless in most areas of the West this reform arrived much later than supposed.  The role of the state arrived even later when, during the Reformation, the Protestant governments wanted to make sure that weddings weren't Catholic weddings.  By controlling licensure they were controlling where people got married.

As the entry of the state brought in a financial element to this, by the English Industrial Revolution it became the case that some poor couples could not afford licensure so they didn't do it. Recognizing this, the English Common Law recognized that these couples were in a state of de facto, if not de jure, marriage.  The number of people this applied to turns out to be much smaller than generally supposed, but it did occur.

We're now recreating that, interestingly enough, through the application of laws that seek to recognize the rights of couples that live together but aren't married. Its a recreation of Common Law marriages, and some such couples even refer to each other as husband and wife for shorthand, but what's interesting about it is that its another example of the more stable nature of tradition and old customs coming back in, but backwards, due to the destruction that's been done by their predecessors.  I suspect that this works back, sooner or later, into more formal and traditional marriage, but of course we haven't seen that yet.

Also missed is that many of the young actually have started to behave much more conservatively than their Boomer predecessors.  The Sexual Revolution left so many bloody bodies that young don't care to fight it.  Boomers, proud of a libertine legacy, don't recognize that. But everywhere, in the law, and in society, the old customs are coming back in.

Which gets us back to The Young Pope.  A Gen Xer rejecting the libertine ways of his Boomer parents, and those Boomer parents never recognizing the rejection of their Weltanshung for a more traditional one.  Not only drama, but, frankly, real life.  And that partial turn toward a more conservative past.  That's not a turn toward Trump, or even Reagan, but towards something else, and a much deeper something else at that.

And it'll likely succeed, but not before the Boomer grasp on American society ends, by which time the generation just coming into its own now will have children of its own.  It's a phenomenon, in some ways, that has happened before.  The Civil War generation bravely fought the war and then went on to dominate society for decades, to the point of becoming a burden on it by defining everything in the country in relationship to their service during the war.  The Boomer elite has done that now.  The Boomers aren't without some things to be proud of, and as individuals they have as many great men and women as any generation (including the much heralded "Greatest Generation") but their elite has a lot of confusion and destruction to its name as well.  Individual Boomers are wholly different, often standing in real contrast to their generation. But the slow revolutionary trend is towards a type of existential conservatism that they oppose, and younger generations crave.  The extent to which that trend towards tradition, conservatism and standards come in, in a productive form, to some extent remains in the hands of the Boomers, whose resistance to any change in the Boomer elites legacy is fiercely resisted in every form.


* A real risk of a thread of this type is that I insult everyone over about 55 years of age.  That would be totally unfair.

Rather, this addresses big movements in society.  But big movements don't include everyone in the same way.  I'd note that in the 1980s I served in the National Guard with a lot of Boomers and none of them were Hippies by a long shot.  Indeed, I'd guess that the overwhelming majority of them were conservatives in various ways.  A lot of them were Vietnam Veterans.

  photo 2-28-2012_111-1.jpg
Mostly Boomers and Gen Xers, in South Korea.  And not the kind that we really speak about here, in terms of the Boomers.

**Clearly a rather extreme view, and one I do not credit.

Indeed, it's often forgotten that big crises will change generational outlooks overnight.  The British generation that fought early World War Two, or at least the college educated part of that generation (a comparatively small number) had steadfastly maintained prior to he war that they'd never fight for their country.  They did.

The Few.  Remembered for saving Britain, prior to the war they maintained they'd have nothing to do with future wars.

***Contrast these films with The Best Years Of Our Lives.  In that film returning servicemen are depicted going back to their civilian lives, with some rocky experiences associated with that.  Only one of the three figures being followed might have college experiences. We can assume the banker character does, but it's not really ever discussed.  Also of interest that character is a Non Commissioned Officer whereas the one officer clearly has no college experience.  The expectation of really good work, also, is imply absent in the picture.  The expectation, or perhaps the hope, is simply for work, showing the retained Depression mindset, perhaps, of the characters.

****This may seem like a stretch, but World War Two was a marketing opportunity for magazines like Esquire and Yank which pioneered the cheesecake portrayal of young women in a way that Playboy would later pick up on.  They weren't alone however as World War Two was probably the pinnacle of the highly stylized, and very fictionalized, airbrushed painting of pinup girls.  Airbrushing was a new artistic technique and it had already seen use in scandalous portrayals of young women before the war, for which it was ideally suited as it didn't require them to actually pose sans clothing.  This all expanded during the war and saw its most famous expression in portrayals of young women on the sides of Army Air Corps aircraft in some, but not all, units.  This came to an abrupt end after the war, but less than a decade had gone by before Playboy picked it back up.  This provides one more example of how Playboy is not the pioneering rag it pretended to be, it was really only exploiting already plowed ground successfully.

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