Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Last spring I went into a bookstore and a book on the shelf caught my eye (the cover looks like an explosion). When I stopped to read the cover blurb, which describes it as a book about "generational warfare between profligate Baby Boomers and younger Americans who don't want to be stuck paying the bill," I remember thinking to myself, standing there in the aisle, this is the book I've been waiting for all my life.

I'm a member of what Jonathan Pontell calls Generation Jones. Isn't that a good name? It's anonymous, like Smith, because for so long we were just lumped in with the end of the baby boom. It's also about having a craving for drugs, which in our case was a craving for all sorts of unfulfilled expectations raised by the boomers but enjoyed only by them. I can't even tell you how much I identify with Boomsday's main character, Cassandra, when she says "Here it comes. Where were you when JFK was shot? If I hear one more Baby Boomer tell me, in mind-numbing detail, I think I'll throw up." Also when she says "So we've gone from 'Don't trust anyone over thirty' to 'Don't drink any Scotch under thirty? Is this what's become of your revolution?"

The way Cassandra foments revolution among younger folk is by typing on her blog, Concerned Americans for Social Security Amendment Now, Debt Reduction and Accountability. The acronym is, of course, symbolic as she says: "She warned that the city would fall to the Greeks. They ignored her."

What she types on her blog is a proposal (and yes, she mentions the word "modest") that Boomers who "transition" (voluntarily suicide) at age 65 or 70 in order to save social security will get "a package of incentives. Free medical. Drugs--all the drugs you want. Boomers love that kind of pork. The big one is no estate tax....if only twenty percent of seventy-seven million Baby Boomers go for it, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid will be solvent."

The Boomer lobby, ABBA, eventually supports transitioning when it becomes a bill with enough pork attached to make it ineffective (their motto is "From cradle to grave, special in every way"). Cass gets the attention of Gen X by asking them "what would you say if I told you that one-third to one-half of everything you earn over your lifetime will go to paying off debt incurred before you were born?" The novel taps into my resentment of Boomers very nicely. You know, they never did work out satisfactory day care or lasting knee replacements for themselves so I could come along later and reap the benefits.

I ordered this book for my classes in the fall of 2007, and my students, part of the echo boom generation, were surprised to see how little the facts have to be exaggerated to make satiric points. Since I'm blogging about the book, I have to say that the power of blogging and texting, as opposed to calling people on the telephone and knocking on doors, seems to me to be little exaggerated--and that's a good thing. My daughter and I agree that tv shows should be available when you're ready to watch them. Same for news and political advertising. Just as it's important to have a free press, it's important to have a free world wide web (as recent attempts to censor--or in China, to uncensor--the web have shown us). In Boomsday "the FBI, invoking some obscure antiterrorism statues, had shut down CASSANDRA, but Cass's followers kept starting new ones, called CASSANDRA.2, etc. The latest CASSANDRA was .54."

As Cass says, "in cyberspace, everyone can hear you scream." And isn't that a heck of a good thing, as long as you can tune in selectively?

No comments: