All this talk about the Boomers being responsible for so much that's gone wrong economically and politically over the past 30-odd years got me thinking: why don't they moralistically preen about how oppressive their generation has been over other generations? Both the older ones who they threw overboard, like the Greatest Gen, and those they have tried to block from advancement, like Gen X?
After all, Boomers pioneered the art of publicly complaining about how one's in-group was responsible for keeping down some out-group, to whom it owed some kind of reparations. This is a stronger form of disloyalty than mere cultural defection. If some small chunk of the in-group feels like they don't identify with their culture, and want to join or at least affiliate with a more distant culture, what's the big loss to their in-group? Let 'em go. But when that small group of discontents wants to take something big away from their in-group and give it to the out-group, to correct what they see as unjust domination, now they plan on dealing a much larger wallop to Us in favor of Them.
What areas of life are subject to this thinking and action about correcting injustices between the in-group and the out-group? Whites and blacks, men and women, heteros and homos, those born into wealth and those who were not, and so on. These are all demographic groups whose membership is not a matter of choice, unlike a political party, church denomination, marital status, number of children, place of residence, etc. They have a sense of guilt from having been born into a dominant demographic group (whites, males), whose dominance is unjust and whose oppression of subordinate groups requires atonement.
In their minds, there's just something unnatural about one group being dominant, when its members were accidentally born into it, rather than admitted or elected on the basis of merit. The state of nature, they believe, is egalitarian, so that if whites come out ahead of blacks in economic life, it is a grossly artificial state of affairs, and could only have come about through concerted and sustained manipulation by the dominant group. With this new awareness — after a little "consciousness-raising" — they feel compelled to atone for the historical sins of the dominant group that they were accidentally born into.
But in all those cases, there is a natural inequality across groups that is biological rather than historical: whites have higher IQ on average than blacks, men produce tons more testosterone than women, heterosexuals are more capable of deferring gratification.
Whether this natural inequality ought to be allowed to show up in status inequality is a matter of debate, which is not important here. The point is: Boomers don't even realize, indeed they emphatically deny that these inequalities have a natural basis. They want so much social engineering to minimize these inequalities precisely because they believe that they have no natural basis, but are rather the outcome of so much social engineering by the current dominant groups in the opposite direction.
Thus, in their view, their sweeping plans are not introducing social engineering into an unregulated state of nature, but correcting an existing set of plans for social engineering (drafted and enforced by the dominant group for its own benefit) with a different set of plans in the opposite direction, in order to restore society back to the egalitarian state of nature.
You'll have to forgive this exploration of the Boomer mind, but it is crucial to understand the psychology behind their characteristic damning of the dominant in-groups that they belong to.
Why then don't they feel the same way toward dominant, manipulative, and greedy generations, when they belong to just such a group? Why do they indeed appear blind to the very facts of their dominance and destructiveness? Why do they go so far as to celebrate their generational in-group as a never-ending underdog victory for the causes of fairness and equality, and indulge any chance they get to insult the generational out-groups? It is so entirely opposite to their mindset and behavior in the cases of being born into a race, a sex, and a sexual orientation, where they are only too happy to show public disloyalty to the in-group.
They can't be so clueless as to not realize that your generation is another one of those groups you're born into. But unlike races and sexes, which have a history extending far back into the past, a generation is a one-of-a-kind collective entity. There were no Boomers before there were Boomers, so they have no historical sins to atone for. Any current high status they enjoy must therefore be an achievement based on merit, not an inheritance of privilege based on good luck at birth. And they feel no remorse over slandering generational out-groups because they, too, have no history — and hence no "legacy of oppression" that has contributed to their current marginal status. If your generation isn't doing as well as ours, that's your own fault for being too lazy, ignorant, and complacent. *
We could throw in the Silents with the Boomers, since they are co-conquerers within the Me Generation. But they aren't as strident as the Boomers, so they're more difficult to study. Overall the pattern is similar, though. Their one-of-a-kind generation was born into the Depression, then through hard work and merit — rather than Midcentury liberal policies and an older generation willing to vacate spaces in the economy — they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps into lasting prosperity. If you young 'uns can't do the same, you just don't got the grit that us old-timers do.
We don't need to look into Gen X or the Millennials because they are not dominant generations, and so could neither pass nor fail the test of loyalty detailed for the Boomers. It's not that X-ers and Millennials are genetically superior, or free from sin — if the historical forces had lined them up to be the ones who took over society, they would've been just as devoutly loyal to their generation as the Boomers have been to theirs.
People who think about generations have emphasized how one-of-a-kind they are, and how new ones are constantly being created, unlike other demographic groups that you're born into like race, sex, and class. But as far as I'm aware, they haven't followed that observation to see where leads. For one thing, it makes generations perhaps the most resistant to disloyalty among major groups. You'd have to go to blood relations to find a group that is equally unwilling to claim that their in-group has oppressed an out-group and needs to atone for it.
Thus in societies with weakening kinship ties, ties of generation will become primary. Kinship bonds are impossible to scale up to the level of a nation, but it is automatic for generations: everyone born in that nation at that time, growing up in those formative years, will feel like members of a great big family which, however dysfunctional, still needs to hold together to defend itself against hostile other generations. From kin group vs. kin group to generation vs. generation.
* In fairness, that charge is not wide of the mark for Millennials, but the Boomers had the same condescending view of Gen X, and of the much older pre-Boomer folks who they viewed as an entire generation of undeservedly rich layabouts ("Boo unions").
Even with the Millennials, generations are shaped as much by what's going on in the older generations as by what's going on in their own. Millennial childhoods were shaped by Boomer parenting practices such as everybody gets a trophy for being the best just the way they are, and nobody can criticize my awesome special little snowflake or there'll be hell to pay. And in the broader society, Boomers are squatting on all the jobs, now including low-level entry jobs such as supermarket cashiers as they come to realize that they'll need to keep working well into their senior years due to never saving and always racking up more debt.
If there are so few paths to make a living from honest hard work, why bother learning how to do it in the first place? Might as well follow the path of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" — whine and hope that your parents or substitute parents in the economy and government will kick enough your way to shut you up for awhile. It's no different from the way that a negligent parent parks their bored child in front of a kaleidoscopic glowing screen and hands them some chips and soda, so that mommy can get back to being busy, rather than give them some chores to do around the house to encourage responsibility.
I don't claim this is the sole or even the primary cause behind the brattiness of the Millennials — only to point out these unseen ways by which the incumbent generations can stunt the entrant generations.