Boomers by Helen Andrews
Modelled after Strachey's "Eminent Victorians", Andrews does not pull too many punches. A quick read through the quotes below will make that plainly evident.
Most of her commentary can be unified into the following critique:
Empires need someone to beat up; if you stop them from beating up outsiders (barbarians in foreign lands), they just start beating up insiders.
This makes the book feel like a political platform, echoing Teddy Roosevelt. His anti-Trust reforms become anti-district-attorney/legal over-reach, and instead of abandoning Panama and the Philippines, would champion their full tax-paying Statehood.
I graduated from college in 2008 already with a sense that the millennials were, in some deep spiritual sense, a dispossessed generation. Then the financial crash came, and the sense of dispossession became more literal. Those were lean years for me and my friends, made worse by the burden of student debt, which boomers urged us to take on as much of as we could in order to go to the best school that would have us.
The rise of television, for example, has altered the human mind as much as the printing press did, and one of the ways it has altered it has been to make sustained concentration virtually impossible for those raised in its atmosphere, the way a third dimension is unthinkable for the inhabitants of Flatland.
I am sympathetic to this line of argument -- to a point. As a woman, if I had been born in another century, my schooling might well have stopped at age twelve. On the other hand, in this age I attended some of the best schools in the world until I was twenty-one and still didn't receive an education that those benighted eras would have considered standard. Is this necessarily an improvement?
When Jack Weinberg originated the phrase "We don't trust anyone over thirty" in 1964, it was in the course of telling an interviewer that the Berkeley Free Speech Movement didn't owe anything to the radicals and Communists still kicking around California at the time. He was talking about the Old Left, not old people in general. That was the point of announcing a "New Left": to declare independence from the old kind. The Old Left saw it coming. They had always figured that consumerism would kill socialism, and so it did. This was most obvious in Europe, where socialism was politically potent in a way it never was in the United States. The welfare state as we know it was invented by the Labour government of Clement Attlee, which inaugurated its majority by singing "The Red Flag" on the floor of the House of Commons
Unfortunately, this was also the moment when the working class was most in need of champions, with globalization and mass immigration both presenting problems with new urgency thanks to technological developments. Instead of champions, the working class got neoliberal triangulators like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
"Apple, you guys were the rebels, man, the underdogs. People believed in you," Stewart said. "Remember back in 1984 you had those awesome ads about overthrowing Big Brother? Look in the mirror, man!" Calling the cops on a journalist was something Bill Gates might have done, before he left Microsoft for the world of global philanthropy. "Now you guys are busting down doors in Palo Alto while Commandant Gates is ridding the world of mosquitoes? What the fuck is going on?"
Stewart was right that criticizing Steve Jobs would be controversial with his audience. The Daily Show's viewership skewed educated and affluent, just like Apple's customers. Even among smartphone owners, who by definition are not poor, the iPhone is the top seller with professionals, six-figure earners, and holders of advanced degrees.
Peter Suderman of the libertarian magazine Reason has a different phrase for it. Video games mimic the process of setting goals and achieving them. Strange as it sounds, this fake achievement produces real feelings of contentment. If America's jobless can't achieve meaningful goals in the real world, he asks, why not let them have the simulacrum? Video games, says Suderman, are a kind of "universal basic income for the soul."
One journalist for The New York Times couldn't understand why her transcripts of Palmieri always looked like "It's, um, I don't, I don't, we would, uh, it is, uh, I just saw the president's, um, uh, comments, about it and Like, we have a plan," literally, until it hit her: it was a way of rendering herself unquotable. John F. Kennedy used to do the same thing for the TV cameras -- give short, punchy answers to questions he liked and long, rambling answers to questions he didn't.
Things were not quite as bad as the figures suggested. The supposed decline in living standards was measured against the artificially low prices and high wages of terminal Communism and took no account of the prices people had actually been paying on the black market, when the items they wanted were available at all.
There, he was blamed for things that weren't his fault. Now he operates on the assumption that if you're going to be blamed whether the politicians listen to you or not, you had better make sure they listen to you. That, at least, would explain his newfound tendency to bellow, insult, and abuse people who stand in the way of his objectives. "He's a bully," says one deputy secretary-general who worked with Sachs at the United Nations. "For the record, he's a bully."
Powell was the most famous politician in Harlem, but insiders might still have said that its most powerful politician was J. Raymond Jones, known as the Harlem Fox. Jones was born on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas and immigrated to New York in the 1920s, finding work as a railroad porter. He joined Tammany Hall and rose through the ranks the old-fashioned way, diligently serving the organization in unglamorous backstage positions and making shrewd alliances. In 1964, he attained Tammany's highest office, head of the New York County (Manhattan) Democratic Party, making him the first and only black boss of Tammany Hall.
No one in civil rights is better at extracting large sums from big corporations than Jesse Jackson, which is why Al Sharpton spent so much time studying him. Jackson's method is like Operation Breadbasket on a larger scale. He chooses a company and, if possible, waits for a moment when it will be legally vulnerable, like a merger or an IPO. He then makes an accusation of racial discrimination, at which point the company has two choices. It can take its chances with bad press and a lawsuit, or it can come to an agreement with Jackson. That agreement can involve making a donation to one of his nonprofits, putting one of his friends on the board, giving a franchise contract to one of his family members, or any combination of the above.
Ta-Nehisi Coates in his National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me spoke for the conventional wisdom when he blamed "self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities."
It was not "self-generated" fears that made the Jewish population of the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan fall from ten thousand to twenty-five hundred in the space of four years between 1968 and 1972. The neighborhood was experiencing as many as thirty robberies a week. With an influx of new black residents, street crime became epidemic. The local rabbi was temporarily blinded when acid was thrown in his face by two black youths who rang his doorbell and handed him a note telling him to "lead the Jewish racists out of Mattapan." Another rabbi repeatedly assured an elderly congregant that he would never abandon the neighborhood "as long as you are alive and come to the synagogue." The congregant was murdered in a break-in in 1973. "The elderly Jews live in fear for their lives and they are not wrong," a local dentist said. "I know because my office is in Dorchester and I have to repair their broken teeth."
"Maybe I'm jaded but if I re-open a pool in New York, on a hot day, to much fanfare, I expect a crowd, I expect kids, and I expect beef," Coates wrote in a blog post about the brawl. "It is by no means shocking that some kids decided to rush a lifeguard instead of listening to him. You need cops there." It may surprise Coates to hear it, but there are many places in America where a day at the public pool is not a form of recreation thought to require a police presence.
The Congressional Black Caucus was split during the primary. Jesse Jackson endorsed Obama on March 30 but a few months later was caught on a hot mic during a Fox News appearance saying that he wanted "to cut [Obama's] nuts out" for "talking down to black people" in a Father's Day speech in which Obama talked about family breakdown. Jackson was effectively banned from the White House for the duration of Obama's two terms
In some ways this was a reversion to the old Sharpton, not the svelte MSNBC host, but the tracksuited marcher. He coached the street peddler Eric Garner's family into extracting a $5.9 million settlement from the City of New York, even though a grand jury concluded that the fatal heart attack Garner suffered during his arrest had more to do with his being 350 pounds and asthmatic than any rough handling from the NYPD.
But the truth is that America's race problem is not gothic or ghost haunted. It survives not because we are psychologically too guilt-ridden to deal with it but because the people invested in it gain too much from it to let it go away.