Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America Paperback – March 6, 2018 by Bruce Cannon Gibney (Hachette Books)

A Generation of Sociopaths is a polemic, but what a polemic: filled with data, rich in anecdote, deadly serious yet wickedly funny."The core of Gibney's argument, that the boomers are guilty of 'generationaplunder,' is spot-on. He accuses them of 'the mass, democratically-sanctioned transfer of wealth away from the young and toward the Boomers,' and he's right."―Dana Milbank, Washington Post. This book is remarkable and mpressively weighted with hard numbers and specifics, the volume serves as both an indictment of and rebuttal to a Woodstock Generation that has gleefully celebrated themselves for decades while gradually running the country into the ground ... Gibney paints a persuasive and frequently hilarious portrait of the Me Generation.

In A Generation of Sociopaths, Gibney examines the disastrous policies of the most powerful generation in modern history, showing how the Boomers ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of future generations.

Acting without empathy, prudence, or respect for facts--acting, in other words, as sociopaths--the Boomers turned American dynamism into stagnation, inequality, and bipartisan fiasco. The Boomers have set a time bomb for the 2030s, when damage to Social Security, public finances, and the environment will become catastrophic and possibly irreversible--and when, not coincidentally, Boomers will be dying off. 

Gibney argues that younger generations have a fleeting window to hold the Boomers accountable and begin restoring America. 

"Like Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Bruce Cannon Gibney's A Generation of Sociopaths proceeds from a deceptively simple premise: that the gains made by the American middle class in the period after the world wars of the previous century were a fluke.... A damning, searingly relevant indictment."―The Globe and Mail

"[Gibney] has a wry, amusing style and plenty of well parsed statistics to back him up ... Read A Generation of Sociopaths and hope for the best. Gibney is more optimistic than those who predict an imminent third world war, than the scientists who warn of sudden climate shifts and the end of antibiotics, and even - in one sense - than the evangelicals who believe in the Rapture. He also has a better sense of humor."―Jane Smiley, The Guardian

"[Gibney] maintains that the Boomer Generation, privilege incarnate, exhibit all the traits associated with that clinical pathology: 'deceit, selfishness, imprudence, remorselessness, hostility, the works.' He argues the case well."―Toronto Star

 As a former psychotherapist born in 1957, I find the title and flinging around of serious psychopathology by someone whose claim to fame is investing in PayPal and Facebook (and now thinks he's an expert on the DSM) both irresponsible and demonstrative of the same narcissistic lack of empathic imagination he projects onto a generation. Or a capacity to differentiate between, as one other commenter suggested, correlation and causation. Yes, the political and economic decisions apparently described herein were made in the period during which Baby Boomers grew into adulthood and assumed the role of leadership, but that is correlative not causative, and is not diagnostic of a generation any more than the stupid suggestion that the "Me" or the "Gen-X" or the "Millenial" designation is meaningful.

I'm an "Echo Boomer," by the way, which means that I fall into the group blamed with betrayal, but not just because I was born in 1957. The "echo" is in the fact that I am the youngest child in a family. My peers also born in 1957 who were first children in families do not qualify for the designation because their "views" of the world do not include the memory of experience of life post-WWII. I would submit, then, to this author and anyone who would fall for his theories without question, that he did not address the one causal factor in the lives of any child who entered school in the early to late 50s and 60s -- the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. No, we didn't walk through security into our schools as many of you did, and we can't fully imagine what it is like to look around at your peers and wonder if they're gonna bring in an assault weapon and mow us down. But unless you remember what it was like or can attempt to imagine school drills that included nuclear fall-out shelters, wearing dogtags to school so they could identify your body in the event of nuclear war, living through the shock of the death of a young president and countless other Americans who were seeking to improve the lives of all, or years-long anxiety over whether or not Walter Cronkite's listing of casualties in the Vietnam War would include your brother or the young man who used to wink at you in church, STFU until you can. Until you grasp the effects of living in a world where bombers and fighter pilots and hand-to-hand combat, as gruesome as they were, were threats to your existence only if they were waged in your village, onlly to wake up to the newfound awareness that "over there" no longer had meaning, what future plans would you have made? What generations to come would you have planned for? Under those circumstances, it takes significant moral courage, which has never been in great supply, to continue to think in terms of preparing for children who might not ever be.

Even so, I didn't give this a 1-star rating because I suspect it is true that the book does indeed talk about the ill-fated decisions made in relation to economics and policies and technology and global integration in the years from 1968 forward, and their effects. Attention to what resulted from them, irrespective of who made them, is key to slowing the ungodly scourge of man-made destruction of the environment, growing income inequality, and actions by agreeably the most incompetent -- and perhaps sociopathic -- group of individuals ever to be "elected" to public office. Your first job as the leaders of tomorrow is to begin throwing them out in the upcoming elections of 2018.

But blaming us Boomers, even as we are guilty, won't change a damn thing. The past cannot be cured, and we're gonna be around longer than you think because of the medical advancements we made. The book that needs to be written is "How Some Baby Boomers Screwed it Up and How We're Gonna Fix It Without Finishing the Job." Write that and I'm with you, born in 1957 or not.

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