Thursday, November 6, 2008

The "corporations" left and the baby boomers

I hesitate to post anything related to my personal life on the blog, if only because I feel references to one's personal life cheapen serious discussions and sidetrack them into being about feelings rather than objective ideas. But sometimes one's personal life provides such a perfect example of what one wants to talk about that I feel it's acceptable.

Vanishing American recently had an entry on the Baby Boomers and how they're blamed for allowing our nation to start down the wrong path. My parents are Baby Boomers, and in many ways they represent the worst of that generation. They rebelled against "the system," they tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, they shacked up together before marriage at a time when it was still scandalous to do so, and the cumulative effect of millions of people doing so, starting with their generation, has led to the practice being totally accepted today. Still, like many if not most people, they have always been somewhat apolitical pragmatists. As someone with strong philosophical views, I've never understood how people can vacillate between the two major parties, sometimes voting Republican, sometimes Democrat, yet that is what my parents did in their younger years. My father, however, has since gone off the deep end, something I'm reminded of every time I talk to him.

He was a Reagan supporter in the 1980s, on the basis of limited government, wanting to keep more of his own income, and the idea that welfare was bad because we shouldn't have unproductive members of society leeching off productive people's money. I think he voted for George H.W. Bush in 1988, though in the subsequent elections he was a Clinton supporter. Now, however, he's become a raging leftist, and seems to be reading through all of Kevin Phillips' books. Again, this is something I have trouble grasping. How can one's views change that drastically? When that happens to someone, is it a sign that they never really held their old views deeply to begin with?

He is not, however, the kind of leftist often discussed at traditionalist websites: the kind whose main motivation is culturally left-wing philosophical views, for whom everything revolves around the notion that America, whites, and the West are racist and guilty and are oppressing "diverse" peoples. In fact, he has the makings of a race realist: he recently remarked, only semi-facetiously, in reference to the state of South Africa, "you can't put black people in charge of anything!" Rather, he's one of these "corporations" people--you know, the soak-the-rich kind, the kind for whom everything comes down to money. Our society is run by the rich, they're the movers and shakers, the people who pull the strings behind the scenes, and they've got everything rigged to benefit themselves and screw the rest of us, and the politicians are all in bed with them, their congressional votes bought with lobbyist money, buying themselves tax breaks and corporate welfare, etc. Everything comes down to money. Everything the rich and corporations do, they do it to enrich themselves; everything politicians do they do for bribes from the rich; meanwhile, it is foolish and wrong for the non-rich to consider anything other than their own short-term material gain (i.e., there is something the matter with Kansas.)

And it's impossible to argue against this; anytime I say anything that conflicts with this view, he insists it all comes down to money. I mentioned the mental health regulations that had been snuck into the bailout bill, and his immediate reaction was, "who paid for that?" I replied that I thought it was cultural; the left just thinks mental health is so important, and a great injustice is being done to so many people who are being denied the essential mental health coverage they so desperately need, and so on. He insisted that no, someone must be paying for it, there must be some lobby, someone must stand to get rich off of it and that's why it was in the bill. He reiterated his support for universal single-payer health care, saying that every time the people are polled, the people want it, but we don't listen to the people in this country, we listen to corporations. He said that McCain accused Obama of supporting single-payer, which he does not, meaning Obama's not leftist enough. He said that the powers that be are so entrenched that Obama doesn't represent enough change; he was disappointed with the Rahm Emmanuel pick because Emmanuel is an insider; what we need is another FDR who will get in there and make sweeping changes and say, "I don't care that this is illegal, it's what needs to be done." So he wants the executive to push the country so far to the left that he breaks the law in doing so. And Bush is the "imperial president"?!

Again, how does someone go from being a Reagan supporter to this, in 20 years?

A potential answer is in Aesop's fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. My father has spent his life self-employed, and has never been good at managing money; not much of a businessman. (A trait I seem to have inherited, and one that perhaps shows there are different aspects of intelligence--despite having scored in the 99th percentile on the MCAT, I can't begin to fathom how people do things like play the stock market or manage a successful business.) In the 1980s, he was doing OK financially, supporting a family, and wanted to keep more of the money he earned. Now that he's near retirement age, however, he wants the government to wait on him hand and foot. Since he lived paycheck-to-paycheck and has no nest egg, now it's suddenly not fair that there are rich people who have more than he does. If true, this explanation shows how the everything-comes-down-to-money view feeds back on itself.

But I still can't quite grasp how someone can be so unprincipled. And while I do blame the baby boomers, I also blame the generation that raised them: the so-called "Greatest Generation," the one that elected and supported FDR. After all, they didn't actively turn against Western culture the way the baby boomers did; they were shocked and horrified at their children's rebellion. But they did pave the way for FDR and his New Deal, the introduction of socialism into the policy of the federal government, thus making it possible for FDR to be considered a hero today for ignoring the law to force economic redistribution and social welfare on the nation. And I wonder, if so many people are so unprincipled, if so many, however little they care for the culture of the West, care even less for the founding American principles of private property and self-reliance, can we really ever take this country back?


Laurel Loflund said...

Jim Quinn did an updated version of the Ant and the Grasshopper in the 1990s, which is quite politically accurate.

Here's the last paragraph. Worth reading the whole thing (it's short).

"The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he's in....which just happens to be the ant's old house.... crumbles around him since he doesn't know how to maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. And on the TV; which the grasshopper bought by selling most of the ant's food, Bill Clinton is standing before a wildly applauding group of Democrats announcing that a new era of "Fairness" has dawned in America."

Here's the link:

God bless,

Vanishing American said...

Hermes - thanks for the mention.
Interesting post. I am not sure I have an answer for your question. I do know that I encounter a lot of people who are equally mercurial in their political views or party leanings. I have relatives who, while they hold many conservative views, stubbornly vote Democrat, despite the party's championing the very opposite views.

I also know people who've vacillated between left and right in their lifetimes, seemingly without rhyme or reason. Many people, especially women, so it seems, vote based on 'feelings' or on the personal charisma of the candidate.

But people can and do have real changes of heart or mind politically. I've mentioned that I used to be quite leftist and have gone further right based on life experience. However, I, like most baby-boomers, had a traditional upbringing; I was brought up with old-fashioned beliefs and a Protestant work ethic. So going conservative as I grew order was simply reverting to my upbringing. The leftism was an aberration which I outgrew.

One little nitpick: the 'Greatest Generation', my parents' generation, were not the ones who voted in FDR or the New Deal. My Dad, for instance, would only been of age to vote in 1941, so he may have voted for FDR only the last time he ran for President. The generations who were born in the late 19th century, or pre-WWI, would have been the ones who brought FDR to power, and they would have been part of the 'Old Left' movement of the 20s and 30s, in some cases.The trend goes farther back than it may appear.

I think you have put your finger on something, though, in that many Americans make political choices which lack consistency or principles.

S/W said...

I think you're correct in saying that it wasn't only the baby boomers who got us into this mess. This country has been drifting to the left since 1900. Once economic equality is sold to the public (1930s), cultural Marxism is soon to follow (1960s). The major exception to this was the Southern Democrats, who supported FDR's economic interventions but resisted the civil rights movement and desegregation. They defected en masse to the Republican Party by the mid 1960's and became "conservatives". Their descendants are the "red staters" in the South that are so often demonized.

Even though it wasn't their fault entirely, I do blame baby boomers the most for our current dilemma. Unlike the Southern Democrats of the Greatest Generation, many baby boomers never had any concrete core of beliefs. Their ideologies drifted with their economic situation. As they age, they are going to demand more money than we can give for their medical care and cost of living. Add this to the demands of the rising minority population, and we're going to have two large groups of people competing for our paychecks. Baby boomers are almost 25% of the population. This will inevitably bankrupt the US. As all of the baby boomers retire and are replaced by minorities and apathetic GenX/Yers, we'll witness first hand the transition to third world status. In a twist of irony, the boomers are the last generation that can make this country run on time.

Terry Morris said...

Out with the old "Greatest Generation" and in with the new one. After all, you can't expect to be able to claim the tribute of "Greatest Generation" forever. Ask the founding fathers.


Hermes said...

I just corrected a major error in this entry, which I can't believe I didn't notice upon posting it. The second sentence in the second-to-last paragraph had read "my father has spent his life unemployed." This was a complete typo; it should have read "self-employed" all along. My father was never unemployed. Sorry, Dad.

Rusty Mason said...

I have been going through a similar situation with parents, inlaws, older co-workers. They all seemed to have been staunchly conservative many years ago, maybe slightly liberal when it came to having fun now and again, but basically strongly conservative in every way. Today they are closer to the liberals of the 1960's but they think they are the same old conservatives.

They have taken in subconsciously all the lies of the trotskyist/neo-cons. What's really weird is, if I can get them alone and serious for a couple of hours, I can get them to agree on all the facts of what's really going on, but then they refuse to admit to the obvious conclusions until years later. They seem to know the truth but are unwilling to realize it.

Older conservatives today live in a fantasy land of the 1950's. They imagine that our government can be fixed by electing the right guys to office or by getting "one more conservative supreme court justice" appointed. I don't think they realize how bad things have gotten socially and spiritually. Even if they do, they don't want to admit that the pool of conservatives to choose from is very tiny and that even if a true leader did present himself (e.g., Ron Paul) he would not be recognized by the unwashed masses as such, and certainly would not be permitted an audience by the MSM.

I think most older people, liberal or conservative, are completely confused and just don't care to figure it out anymore. They just want their government/retirement checks and sports on TV.

There is always hope, of course, we're just going to have to work much harder to find it in the everyday.