The Baby Boomers, American Politics, and Resisting Inter-Generational Resentment
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank says the legislators of the Baby Boom generation are to blame for the current state of dysfunction in Washington. Is that a fair assessment? If it is, what's the solution?
What's the Latest?
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes about political theater on the Hill. His articles often linger into the realm of the absurd (necessarily so, considering his topic) and are served with a hearty dose of trolling. Milbank's latest -- a scathing critique of baby boomer legislators -- features less levity than his usual faire. Instead, he makes a dire prediction about the inevitable crises he sees baby boomers leading us into, from which the next generations will need to lead us out.
Milbank begins by telling of how earlier this week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eulogized the late Sen. Howard Baker, anointing the former majority leader as "the Great Conciliator." That he chose those words is curious to Milbank because, to him, McConnell and his democrat counterpart Harry Reid possess little of what made Baker a great statesman, specifically a selfless insistence on compromise for America's sake.
Baker, born in 1925, was at the tail end of the G.I. generation that survived the Depression, won the Second World War, triumphed in the Cold War and built the United States’ economic might. McConnell, born in 1942, was just ahead of — and for practical purposes part of — the baby boom generation that wrecked our politics over the past 20 years.
Milbank then goes on to list the differences in legislative values between the two generations. He makes a compelling (if not predictable) case for blaming the baby boomers for the current state of Washington gridlock, the global financial crisis, the War in Iraq, and the fact that the boomers' children -- the millennials -- will be the first generation in U.S. History to be worse off than their parents. Milbank accuses baby boomers of inheriting an estate and passing down a ruin.
“Boomers are the scorched-earth, values-driven generation,” said Neil Howe, who with William Strauss chronicled the recurring patterns of generations in the United States. “They invented the culture wars and they’re taking it with them as they grow older, which is this complete polarization and gridlock. It’s very hard to compromise over values.”
What's the Big Idea?
On the rare occasion that it takes a break from investigating the plight of millennials, the national media can't help but break into outbursts of blame toward baby boomers. Perhaps they can't control it. Perhaps they've got some sort of generational Tourette's.
With that said, Milbank's diatribe blaming boomers falls upon weary ears. This isn't to say that his arguments aren't at least somewhat valid; the boomer generation certainly has not been among the finest of this nation's stewards. But finger-pointing and a hindsight-fueled blame game accomplishes nothing. It's all sound and fury signifying (and accomplishing) nothing. Milbank, whose byline deems him a writer on political theater, should understand that.
The links above may be useful in relaying information but the real reason major media outlets run that stuff is because inter-generational conflict sells. Self-aggrandizing baby boomers love bashing lazy millennials. Self-aggrandizing millennials love bashing selfish baby boomers. Ad infinitum et ultra.
To fuel that sort of inter-generational conflict is to be like McConnell and Reid -- always at each other's throats without ever thinking of the greater good. In this respect, Milbank falls into a self-laid trap. You can't criticize people who refuse to find solutions by failing to propose a solution. But just as McConnell and Reid need to sell to their constituents, Milbank needs to sell his column. Solutions don't sell. Conflict does. That's Theater 101.
One actually useful thing Milbank provides is an appeal to history in forming a prediction of the future:
It was, Howe notes, “a generation like this (the boomers) that took us into the Civil War, and it was a generation like this that took us into the Great Depression.”
War soon followed the 1852 death of [Henry] Clay, the Great Compromiser. Let’s pray that the passing of the Great Conciliator’s generation, and the disastrous reign of the boomers, doesn’t end in such misery.
If Milbank's analysis holds water and history does indeed repeat itself, we may be on the precipice of a large crisis.
Read more at The Washington Post
Photo credit: mdgn / Shutterstock
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University of Utah research finds that men are especially well suited for fisticuffs.
- With males having more upper-body mass than women, a study looks to find the reason.
- The study is based on the assumption that men have been fighters for so long that evolution has selected those best-equipped for the task.
- If men fought other men, winners would have survived and reproduced, losers not so much.
Built for mayhem<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY2NDIyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzk4NTQ2OX0.my6nML12F3fEQu3H4G0BScdqgaMZkRQHxgyj-Cmjmzk/img.jpg?width=980" id="906fc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd77af7a881631355ed8972437846394" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Ollyy/Shutterstock<p>The researchers are, of course, talking averages here, not stating a rule: There are plenty of accomplished female pugilists, as well as lots of males who have no idea how to throw a punch.</p><p>Even so, says co-author <a href="https://www.wofford.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/biology/faculty-and-staff" target="_blank">Jeremy Morris</a> says, "The general approach to understanding why sexual dimorphism evolves is to measure the actual differences in the muscles or the skeletons of males and females of a given species, and then look at the behaviors that might be driving those differences."</p><p>Carrier has been interested in the idea that millennia of male fighting has shaped certain structures in male bodies. Previous research has reinforced his hunch:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/2/236" target="_blank">When a hand is formed into a fist, its structure is self-protective</a>.</li> <li><a href="https://unews.utah.edu/flat-footed-fighters/" target="_blank">Heels planted firmly on the ground augment upper-body power</a>.</li> <li><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24909544" target="_blank">A study examined facial bone structure as being especially well-suited for taking a punch</a>.</li> </ul> <p>(That last one is our favorite. Do you know the German word "<a href="https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Backpfeifengesicht" target="_blank">backpfeifengesicht</a>?" It's an adjective describing "a face that badly needs a punching.")</p><p>"One of the predictions that comes out of those," asserts Carrier, "is if we are specialized for punching, you might expect males to be particularly strong in the muscles that are associated with throwing a punch."</p>
Testing the theory<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjY2NDIzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzMxMTE2MH0.UXJICMy57UPYUWskhK98alctOrPidJL9yxMkz3HDQrM/img.jpg?width=980" id="98718" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b12287684ac3e740b70392e6433a6b8f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Ollyy/Shutterstock<p>The researchers measured the punching — and spear-throwing — force of 20 men and 19 women. The assumption was that early humans were punchers <em>and</em> spear-throwers.</p><p>Prior to testing, each participant had filled out an activity questionnaire so that "we weren't getting couch potatoes, we were getting people that were very fit and active," says Morris.</p><p>For punching, participants operated a hand crank that required movement similar to throwing a haymaker. The purpose of the hand crank was to spare participants any damage that might be inflicted on their fists by throwing actual punches. Subjects were also measured pulling a line forward over their heads to assess their strength at throwing a spear.</p><p>Even though all of the participants, male and female, were routinely fit, the average power of males was assessed as being 162% greater than females. There were no gender differences in throwing strength recorded. Other untested, though presumably likely, hand-to-hand combat activities come to mind including tackling, clubbing, running, kicking, scratching, and biting.</p><p>Carrier's takeaway: "This is a dramatic example of sexual dimorphism that's consistent with males becoming more specialized for fighting, and males fighting in a particular way, which is throwing punches."</p>
Boys will be boys<p>It, er, strikes us as odd that, even in science fiction — hi-tech weaponry notwithstanding — the hero <em>is</em> going to wind up duking it out with some bad guy, or alien, in the climactic battle. What is it about men punching, anyway? Are they more sexually attractive? The study suggests so:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>The results of this study add to a set of recently identified characters indicating that sexual selection on male aggressive performance has played a role in the evolution of the human musculoskeletal system and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in hominins.</em></p><p>It's tough to contribute to the gene pool after being killed in battle.</p><p>Also, while the authors aren't <em>quite</em> saying that males' historical fighting role is mandated by biology and not by social expectations, neither are they quite <em>not</em> saying it.</p><p>As Carrier explain to <a href="https://attheu.utah.edu/facultystaff/carrier-punch/" target="_blank">theU</a>: "Human nature is also characterized by avoiding violence and finding ways to be cooperative and work together, to have empathy, to care for each other, right? There are two sides to who we are as a species. If our goal is to minimize all forms of violence in the future, then understanding our tendencies and what our nature really is, is going to help."</p>
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The Labour Economics study suggests two potential reasons for the increase: corruption and increased capacity.
Cool hand rebuke<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMTIyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjY1NTYyOH0.0MCPKN3If94mYCNf3mMNrnTvJXjXN_bKLhgk9203EXk/img.jpg?width=917&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=453" id="1627b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6d76421ba1ea0de4b09956b97e80c384" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A chart showing prison population rates (per 100,000 people) in 2018. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.