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Stats & Data

December 15, 2008


Let's make one thing clear: I don't hate old people. That's ageism, and it's wrong. Why? Because important people who study sociology say so.

What I do hate, with no apologies, is the Baby Boom generation, now getting old enough to retire. I listen to the protest music from their long-forgotten past on a nearly continuous loop, imagining, as some of them still must, what could have been. But overall, they are the most entitled, spoiled generation in this country's history, and as author James Howard Kunstler (a boomer) says, they'll be remembered as "the generation that wrecked America" for their collective greed and gluttony. It wouldn't be so bad if the boomers, as a generation, had not declared victory. But they have. And they are throwing themselves a fucking grand national parade of self-congratulation that will last for many years until they're all finally dead.

Just look at how they are marketing products to themselves. Whether it's investments, hair loss treatments, boner pills or luxury cars, the t.v. ads aimed at aging Baby Boomers are uniformly flattering of their supposed generational accomplishments, to the point of hyperbole. These ads always start with an iconic boomer anthem written by a wilder, more admirable member of the herd who raged and died young. These songs are chosen to evoke a pavlovian "Yeah, maaan!" response among the failed idealists, and are inevitably accompanied by a video montage of moments that the Baby Boomers have declared to be grounds for their own sainthood: the moon landing, Woodstock and the Chicago convention. (The boomers never want their ads to remind them of the fall of Saigon or the CIA killing of two Kennedy brothers.)

"You were the generation that went to the moon, freed love and changed the world!" the smarmy voiceover always reminds their needy egos. "Who could have ever imagined that you would one day get old enough to retire?" (Or want prescription drugs, exploit future generations, need diapers or whatever else the product requires.) Who could have ever imagined? Me. Or any scientist. Or anyone else who understands human mortality.

All their real Baby Boom heroes -- like Hunter S. Thompson and John Lennon -- died trying to change the world, a task which for some reason the rest of them believe was accomplished when Nixon was forced from office. ("We did it! Nixon's gone! Let's all start complaining and become Republicans!" goes the logic.) So who's the best they can come up with now for a generational spokesman? Dennis Hopper! You can hear the marketing guys: "Is any famous old hippie still alive? Does he still represent some superficial image of rebellion while being desperate and/or soulless enough to sell out and do an ad for a bunch of bankers? Hopper? OK, get him in here." So for the last couple of years, Dennis Hopper has cut commericals rapping at wilting flower children in the rigidly informal tones they find soothing: "Time's they are a-changin' brother! You need a retirement plan, maaan!"

But when the economic collapse suddenly hit this year, and all the old hippies lost half their gambled "savings," the surviving investment firms scrambled for something to tell the disquieted crowd. So they panicked and pushed Dennis Hopper back out on stage to explain why everyone's retirement dreams were suddenly turning into a bad trip: "Didja think the journey would be easy, maaan?" he asked, in ads that are still airing. "You gotta climb the mountain before you can reach the ultimate high!" What the fuck, Hopper? You're not a spirit guide in someone's peyote trip, asshole. You were just paid a load of money to convince these balding long-hairs that it was cool to invest in The Man. How dare you act cool about it?

Sometimes I feel bad for the boomers. I think what these dying babies need is a public service announcement, in the self-congratulatory style they respond to so well, simply informing the aging boomers that they are, in fact, mortal:

"You were the generation that went to the moon and blah, blah, blah. Who could have ever imagined that you would one day get old and slide towards death? Well, actually, it turns out, the Baby Boom generation is doomed to die, just like every generation before it. And ya can't go to Canada to escape this draft, maaan. You turned on, you tuned in, you dropped out. But now it's time to drop dead. YOU ARE GOING TO DIE AND BE FORGOTTEN LIKE EVERYONE ELSE."

(A public service announcement from the Ad Council, AARP and Rolling Stone Magazine.)