Who’s “Self-Absorbed”?

Is there a rule in newspaper stylebooks that says reporters cannot write about Baby Boomers without calling us “self-absorbed”? Because that’s the only way this headline makes sense —

Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65

Is the headline writer saying that we’re getting older only because we’re selfish?

The article writer, Dan Barry, continues,

Though other generations, from the Greatest to the Millennial, may mutter that it’s time to get over yourselves, this birthday actually matters. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 19 years, about 10,000 people “will cross that threshold” every day — and many of them, whether through exercise or Botox, have no intention of ceding to others what they consider rightfully theirs: youth.

Mr. Barry is a 1980 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, Wikipedia says, which suggests he was born at the tail end of the Boom, in the group that was too young to have watched Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show or appreciate Woodstock and the Summer of Love. Jealous, are we?

This means that the 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of this country’s population, will be redefining what it means to be older, and placing greater demands on the social safety net. They are living longer, working longer and, researchers say, nursing some disappointment about how their lives have turned out. The self-aware, or self-absorbed, feel less self-fulfilled, and thus are racked with self-pity.

So, then, to those who once never trusted anyone over 30: Raise that bowl of high-fiber granola, antioxidant-rich blueberries and skim milk and give yourself a Happy Birthday toast.

Yeah, and you can stuff your high-fiber granola where the sun don’t shine, Barry.

The real reason we Boomers are being made out to be selfish, of course, is that the oldest among us are eligible for Medicare this year. There have been an epidemic of stories about how us selfish, self-absorbed Boomers are about to drain Medicare, which is awfully self-absorbed of us.

We were socked with big increases in FICA taxes, in particular during the Reagan years when most of us were still early in our careers, and now we’re being told we’re selfish for expecting to receive benefits. The Beltway Bobbleheads are telling us to suck it up and do with less, for the good of the country.

The real issue is not just that there’s so damn many of us, but that on the whole we are getting older without all the pension benefits most of our parents had. Some of us are quite well off, of course, but many of us are not, and the safety net already has shrunk an awful lot from what it was when our Greatest Generation folks retired.

So if you want to see real social problems, just kick the rest of the props out from under us and watch several million older people sink into poverty. I guess then we’ll be told we’re selfish if we don’t voluntarily strand ourselves on ice floes — if there still are ice floes — or march off to the Soylent Green factory.

41 thoughts on “Who’s “Self-Absorbed”?

  1. If our corporate media overlords didn’t gin up intergenerational warfare, pitting us baby boomers against both the Greatest Generation (Look at how great they were! No burden on society!) and the generations to follow (Look how screwed they are! Giving all their hard-earned tax money to keep a bunch of selfish BB geezers in slothful retirement!) then none of us would notice who the real enemy is.

    I try very hard NOT to get baited into this kind of discussion. But we will be hearing it nonstop from now until we all die off.

    I keep telling my millennial kids and their friends: if the the whole safety net is kicked away for us boomer geezers, THEY will face a choice – watch their parents suffer in poverty and sickness, or have us move in with them just when they’re trying to raise their own families.

    I just can’t believe how ugly this is going to get.

  2. Maha, I was just reading around this morning when I found a story on the sudden necessity to cut Social Security and the background of said notion. I’ll share the link:


    So now we have lowered taxes on the wealthy, borrowed money to pay for it, and are supposed to throw more of our retirement money at the feet of the big spenders because we haven’t spent the last 36 years huddled in garrets while feeling all warm and toasty about how carefully the financial folks are managing our savings so that at least we will be able to retire comfortably.

  3. Yes, we truly are part of a magical generation, or at least very special. For one thing, we all steadfastly believe whatever goofball popular statements became momentarily popular among a significant percentage of wannabees when we were in our early twenties. E.g. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” We have all remained unchanged by the course of time and still remain naive about social and politcal matters, child-like in our well intentioned amalgam of altruism and self-absorption and randy as hell despite advancing into our sunset years.

    The “Great Generation” was selfless, though not in an evil “socialist” way, patriotic and wholesome. But, they were rubbish at childrearing, being misled by the evil Dr. Spock. So, they engendered a selfish cohort of faithless, self important whelps, who were miserable specimens of humanity, but sufficiently skilled at childrearing to produce Gen X and the Millennials who were, like nearly everyone else, their moral superiors.

    My sweet mother collected social security for nearly thirty years, was saved from bankruptcy by Medicare, but hated the New Deal and Great Society and thought young people were selfish to plan retirement at all. She was not self absorbed. The young people cocooned in their video games, plugged into their Ipods, insulated by echelons of technological devices and living in their boomer parents’ spare rooms at the age of 30, are not self absorbed. The boomers, trying to buy fresh spinach from the farmer in the neighboring county are clearly self absorbed elitists. I remain a yuppie, despite being middle aged, rural and a farmer as opposed to young, urban and professional. We are truly a magical generation.

    Hey, regarding Ed Sullivan, I am not sure about the spelling, but don’t forget Topo Gigio, the little Italian mouse. He may have contributed to our moral decline as well. “Eedddieeee. Keeese me goodnight” indeed!!!

  4. So, “The Greatest Generation” apparently bred “The Greediest Generation.”
    How did that happen?
    Well, to start off, for their great, and I do mean great, sacrifice, they got great rewards. The government that fought two wars, decided to reward the citizens. You had the GI Bill, with education, job training and housing benefiets, VA care, and an economy, given a big push in the early and mid-’30’s, went into full gear for, and after, the war. Also, the Marshall Plan saw to it that markets abroad would return faster than normal, adding jet fuel to our growing economy. Plus, the parents of this greatest generation now had some level of security thanks to SS, so their childern were freer to move about the country, without having to take total care of their elderly relatives.
    All on the government.
    How? Higher tax rate.
    The greatest public educations system known to man. Superhighways were built nationwide, subway and rail lines built or expanded, airports built, medical access for seniors, building civil rights, going to the moon.
    All on the government.
    How? Higher tax rate.
    We were then probably the greatest nation on earth. The “Can Do” spirit was strong.
    Ah, now lets give that great generation tax breaks! Big ones. They deserve
    Then everything starts to unravel. Education, roads, airports, all start to decline. Space shuttles fall, undeclared wars fought to a draw or lost. Then, it’s decided to go to war, occupy, and nation-build in one of the most unstable areas on the planet. “CAN DO!” becomes ‘Nope, can’t do…’ after the Reagan De-evolution.

    Maybe we boomers are the greediest generation. But maybe it’s also because, former Senator Simpson, we watched our parent’s, and hence our, lives improved and lengthened due to government actions through programs possible due to higher taxes. And we were foolish enough to expect the same competence.
    And now we see all that was there for them, headed for the chopping block, for the sake of whom? For the sake of our children? The children’s children?
    We didn’t think that the people born in that 30 year period from 1915 to 1945, should be the only ones who got the full benefit of active and capable governance. But you’re telling us we were wrong. And that the full brunt of the future should be carried on our backs.
    The formula is simple. Start to restore some sanity to the tax situation, where people making between $50,000-75,000 pay almost 15% in real federal taxes, while those earning millions pay less.
    But I sometimes wonder, if maybe that the people of the ‘greatest generation,’ who went through the Depression, and WWII, arn’t pissed at their younger siblings for warring to a draw in Korea, and their kids for losing in Vietnam. Jesus, we defeated the Germans and Japanese! And you fight to a draw on some peninsula! And the rest of you lose a jungle war that the French bungled. Hell, my Daddy and me, we saved them Frogs twice! From the Germans and their war machines. And you lose to the natives with a little help from the Chinese?
    I didn’t realize that “The Greatest Generation” would cut the legs out from their own children to save their Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren.
    But then again, who’s fooling whom. Your generation made a deal with the Corporate Devils, and recently the rich, with an able assist from our own recently. Why? Tax cuts! And now, the Corporations and rich don’t give a shit about who pays for what, as long as it’s not them – country be damned.
    And if every generation has to be proles and serfs just to maintain their lifestyles, well then, so be it. Or, they’ll take their money and move elsewhere.
    Please, just take it AND FUCKIN’ GO!.
    The rest of us will be better off without your greedy asses, than with. We can redo this country without you. Now, that’s some sacrifice I can live with.

  5. Pingback: The Mahablog » Who's “Self-Absorbed”? | enchantedmountaintraveler.com | enchantedmountaintraveler.com

  6. The greatest threat to social security were St. Ronnie, and little boots. Everybody knows that. The greatest threat to medicare has been fraud on the part of the health care industry. everybody knows that.

  7. Gosh I’m sorry I was born in 1952. I should have picked a more convenient date-oh wait…I had no control over that. I am sorry that I want social security in the next few years-oh wait…I paid into that program, (and maybe it is my public education failing me again), but I didn’t think I had an option about paying so…I had no control over that too. Hmmm…no control over paying taxes that supported medicare/medicade (actually thought those two programs might be good for our country, help people out-my mistake), no control over bailing out big business so corporate leaders’ retirements are protected (a big side benefit of “saving” the economy so we could all do a little better). So little control, such a potential long time to live with the consequences if the social safety nets are reduced or go away. Hope other people don’t figure this out, because people like to feel they have control in their lives.

  8. The GOP noise machine is trying to provide cover for the GOP political wing, both groups following the orders of the GOP generals, the elite wealthy. The task has the promise of The Charge of the Light Brigade. The base of the GOP doesn’t know that SS and Medicare are the two top targets for the ultra rich. Never mind that baby boomers as producers and consumers made the rich richer. The financial burden of keeping a social contract with the elderly must not fall on the overlords of the GOP. See the problem? The conservatives in office know that they will face the wrath of the group MOST likely to vote when they curtail the medical benefits in Medicare and don’t find funding for SS. The swindle has to finally close on the target. Despite all the noise, the target is not welfare queens or illegal aliens. There’s only chump change there. The GOP has to cheat their voting base, and it won’t be pretty when grandma realizes how she was conned.

  9. Hey you kids, get offa my lawn!!
    We’re self absorbed? Yeah I’m all like, I just got my nipples pierced, and I almost have every available inch of skin tatooed, and I got the new I-phone and play all day on the fucker while I’m at work, and my girlfriend and parents and “such” just call me anytime at work, and if I don’t like the assignment, I’ll just, like ignore it and the dumb stupid old guy will take care of it because I’m sooo special that everyone in my karate class got a trophy just because mom and dad (or mom and her boyfriend du jour) say they were paying good money for my after school care because the think I’d burn the house down or hurt myself making double mocha cappuchinos in my mouth.
    What a friggin’ hoot!
    Liik out gang, I see death panels on the horizon………..

  10. I find that people think I am self-absorbed because I am not paying enough attention to them.

  11. If the will to survive is considered self absorption…Then I guess I’m self absorbed. Maybe I’ll just change my name to Sponge Bob.

  12. If our generation is so selfish, how is it that we marched in protests for civil rights risking our lives and well being for African Americans to gain equal footing in the good things of America. How can such a selfish generation have also marched, burned bras, etc., to break the glass ceiling fighting for equal rights for women. We protested an illegal and immoral war where many of our generation died. My high school graduating class was decimated by a third from deaths in Viet Nam. Regarding our youth, is it our fault that science has made so much progress in the ability to maintain a youthful look? However, it doesn’t matter that I don’t look my age (not sure why that would make me selfish), what Mr. Barry doesn’t know maybe is how my 65 year old body does do its part in reminding me that I am not 25 any more. He seems to assume a lot ideas about us BB’s that he has no criteria from which to make such assumptions. Why would any one–let alone the New York Times–even print this remarkable bit of garbage. No wonder newspapers are dying.

  13. @Doug Hughes “it won’t be pretty when grandma realizes how she was conned.” She probably WON’T, as a faithful Fox-loving Christian Soldier. But, if she ever did, she’d be heavily armed, as Republicans tend to be.

    @Bonnie “My high school graduating class was decimated by a third from deaths in Viet Nam. “. I’m a little younger than you. My generation was not drafted. But I understand YOU (the protestors) stopped the war– NOT Nixon; NOT Kissinger; NOT the rest of the Government. And I’d like to say– “Thank You”.

    Oh– and, sadly, that kind of mass action will probably never work again. The mass media, by NEVER covering mass action, has neutered it.

  14. Being defensive about the intergenerational warfare (boomers pissed at the greatest generation, the greatest generation disgusted by those selfish boomers, millennials pissed at the boomers for fucking everything up and leaving them with nothing) — this is EXACTLY what articles like this are designed to do: get all of us sniping and railing on each other so we don’t notice WHO’S REALLY STEALING EVERYTHING.

    STOP IT, all of you! Direct your anger at those who have destroyed all this, not at your parents and your children. We’re ALL in this mess.

  15. Writers like Barry work hard to avoid paying attention to the reality behind the curtain, that the middle-class standard of living that most of the boomer generation grew up with has been slipping away since St. Ronnie’s “Morning in America”, (if not Nixon) and income disparity has been shooting to amazing levels, which is why any generation born since has grown up feeling constrained, afraid and selfish, and in some inchoate way jealous of the Boomers, even if they really don’t understand why.

    The problem placing a strain on the system isn’t really that there are so many Boomers who are living longer, it’s that the promises made to them imply a society that’s willing to have a top marginal tax rate equivalent to what was in place in the 60s, and the GOP has been working for years to make this a society with half that.

    The problem isn’t too many damn Boomers, it’s too many insanely rich folks and the Republicans who enable them.

  16. I was born in 1947 and I — like many other Boomers — was forced to retire early because no one wants elders in the workplace anymore. The bottom line is that Social Security is solvent and will remain so unless we let the greedy thugs in DC get their hands on it!!!! We need to hit the streets again Boomers!!!! Self-absorbed? We’re the ones who protested against discrimination and demonstrated against (and fought in and died in) LBJ’s unholy war.

  17. To apply the term “Greatest Generation” as a book title is a wonderful tribute to a specific generation, but to apply that nomenclature to a true generation and expect it to even resemble truth is pure insanity.

  18. The article by Dan Barry is yet another example of how the airhead corporate media wants to divert our attention with bullsh*t and get us fighting against one another over non-existent issues, so that we are distracted from uniting against our common enemy – the wealthy corporatists who have robbed the nation blind.

  19. Kay Dennison, biggerbox and gypsy howell: Thank you for your comments. You all state very good points about intergenerational relations.

  20. I suppose I’d be self absorbed if I were wearing a depends undergarment?
    Actually, that’s not funny; a good friend just lost his prostate, and now wears them.
    I’m not shaken or stirred over Dan Barry’s words.
    Run along, now Dan, off you go!

  21. “@Doug Hughes “it won’t be pretty when grandma realizes how she was conned.” She probably WON’T, as a faithful Fox-loving Christian Soldier. But, if she ever did, she’d be heavily armed, as Republicans tend to be.”

    Tom B – When (not if) grandma tries to replace her worn-out Hoverround through Medicare only to find that Medicare only pays for an unpowered wheeelchair with an unpaded canvas seat, she’s gonna notice. You’re right, Fox will blame democrats. But she’s going to take an active interest and check what happened and who voted how, to discover that the tea party candidate she loved was talking about HER Social Security when he railed against socialism in DC.

    AARP has twigged to it (generally). When SS revenues can’t cover commitments, there will be a proportionate reduction in benefits. Seniors will be unhappy when the reduction is 5% – when it hits 15% they will be ready to do battle, except for the rich ones who don’t need the money, but that’s a minority.

    The kicker is that democrats will be portrayed as the defenders of lazy minorities and illegal immigrants. If liberals were just smart enough to capitalize on the FACT that democrats gave birth to Medicare and Social Security and they continue to be the strongest defenders of those programs, they would put the GOP and the tea party on defense. Every plan the GOP has to ‘reform’ those programs will gut benefits.

    Liberals running for office do a LOUSY job of setting the debate agenda. So in 2012 it will be about death panels, mexicans, abortion and birth certificates despite the fact that the GOP and the teabaggers will have supplied quotes on SS and Medicare and proposed legislation to cripple those programs.

    When James Carville, who is a nitwit, designed a strategy to get Clinton elected, he built it around one issue which resonated with swing voters, not his base. Medicare and SS are that issue – and the ambigous position that the GOP will take coould put democrats in control of Congress.

  22. I suppose I’d be self absorbed if I were wearing a depends undergarment?

    Not necessarily, it all depends..But you probably would be considered self absorbed if you were worried about paying for your Depends.

  23. On DKos this morning, a diarist pointed out that SS has not created a deficit, but has piled up surpluses which were raided in spending above tax receipts. That is a point that must be drummed in over and over and over.

  24. Since you bring up Ed Sullivan, I recently watched the four complete shows that were released on DVD because they included the Beatles’ four appearances. It reminded me of why I rarely bothered to watch the show back then. With the exception of the Fab Four, almost all the other acts were ultra-lame.

  25. We BB’s can all remember the birth of the term “generation gap”. Maybe it seems particularly apt because of my lack of personal experience with the daily lives of young people of my parents’ generation. But, it seems obvious that it is a product of the rate of change in society and technology. My parents lives as children were probably not that different from the childhood experiences of their parents. But, we grew up in a very different world than our parents knew. Radio, television, telephones, etc. gave us a world capable of rapid change and subsequent advances in technology have accelerated change. Continuity of the culture and way of life, between generations is lost.

    Many of us in the Baby Boom were the first of a long line of workers, some virtual serfs, to have the opportunity to go to college. For some of us, our parents were the first, due to the GI Bill. It was a brief period of time when people with truly working class experience and ideas had the opportunity to pursue higher education. I, for one was clueless about what that meant. I wanted to go to college because, I wanted to learn how to think and I wanted knowledge for its own sake. (You can judge by my harebrained comments how well THAT turned out.) I didn’t give much thought to choosing a career, because somewhere in the back of my mind, I never expected anything more than to swing hammer for a living or work in a factory, as my father had done. I didn’t have the model or experience to expect anything else. Most of my friends were in the same boat.

    I think the unrelenting hatred of the “counter culture” is largely due to the threat posed by working people with a bit of education. As Lewis Lapham said, “That was just a little too much democracy for some people.” For all our supposed excess and silliness, for all the mistakes we might have made, some of the criticism that we leveled was spot on, and that, or something about us, scared the hell out of them. So many years later and we’re all preserved as youths in a time bottle, “fixed and wriggling” on the pins of their fear.

    They will try to “kick the props” out from under us. Hell, they’ve already raided what I might have inherited, my 401K was dead in the water for most of my career, they want to change the rules for social security and now their talking about forcing some states into bankruptcy so they can renegotiate state pensions and break the publc sector unions. What other props are left? I’ve got some things to sell, but who doesn’t? It’s a buyer’s market. I guess their idea of an appropriate retirement package is a couple packs of pencils and a tin cup, sunglasses optional.

    Regarding Ed Sullivan, he did open up opportunites for minorities and other talented people who otherwise would never have made it to television. He was evidently something of a progressive. I think that he deserves to be remembered fondly, even though because of him, many of us can never hear Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” without seeing a bunch of people spinning dinner plates balanced on sticks. Nothing is ALL good or All bad, but a mixture of the two.

  26. I’ve never accused other Boomers of being self absorbed. However, having been born in 1960, I was too young for the first Woodstock, and too old for the second. I read somewhere that people my age, who are lumped into the Boomer generation, are also known as Generation Jones. Never eligible for the draft (until Jimmy Carter thought it would be a good idea to revive selective service in 1980) our cohort was accused of not caring as much about political issues as our older brothers and sisters (probably by the same people who accuse Boomers of self-absorption). Well, yeah, our lives were not as emphatically on the line.

  27. Ed Sullivan was nothing compared to Bugs Bunny when it came to ruining great pieces of classical music.

  28. Is there a rule in newspaper stylebooks that says reporters cannot write about Baby Boomers without calling us “self-absorbed”?

    It’s a generational thing. Barry is probably a Reagan baby, and of course, liberals and the 1960s are to blame for everything. Never mind conservative myopia and self-absorption, of which this guy is apparently too self-absorbed to even see.

    I’ve gotten used to the (unpleasant) idea of these mean-spirited GenXers (not all GenXers are mean-spirited, but they’re the primary age cohort that drank heavily of the Reagan kool-aid) ascending into positions of influence and power, after the baby boomers have left. They simply don’t care if you decide to strand yourself on an ice-floe.

    In the 1970s, these people were called “the Me generation”, and heaven help those who are dependent on them for anything.

  29. Haven’t the boomers given us this world, of doomed climate change and Republican dominance?

    • Haven’t the boomers given us this world, of doomed climate change and Republican dominance?

      We boomers were marching around advocating for environmental and other progressive issues since the 1960s. The Greatest Generation voted for Nixon and ignored us. The Gen Xers who came after us fell in love with Ronald Reagan and ignored us. So don’t you come around here blaming Boomers or I will hit you with more attitude than you even want to know about.

  30. Born 1961, too bad I wish I could wallow with you’all. Too young?


    “We boomers were marching around”

    Is your generation really any different than any other? Had the “bommers” been as effective as some imagine, why do we live in corporate fantasy land today?

    Your Comment is awaiting Moderation

    • Your Comment is awaiting Moderation

      Lots of peoples’ comments are awaiting moderation. Don’t give me any attitude about it or you’ll be put in the sudden death filter. I am so not in the mood.

  31. More than I want to know about? Impossible.

    Activists only a small subset of any group obviously. How many of the politicians of the last 25 years were boomers? Rove and Bush are boomers for example. Boomers weren’t any more pure than any other generation though they weren’t any less pure either. Also in no way do I want to cut Boomer retirement programs. They won’t be there for my generation but that has nothing to do with people retiring.

    • Rove and Bush are boomers for example.

      Rove and Bush were just a continuation of a trend begun by Goldwater and Reagan, both of whom were Greatest. And they built on ground prepared by the likes of Dick Nixon and Joe McCarthy, also Greatest.

      Boomers weren’t any more pure than any other generation though they weren’t any less pure either.

      Of course, but that’s not what you said earlier. What you said earlier was “Haven’t the boomers given us this world, of doomed climate change and Republican dominance?” which is crap. Most of the folks who hang out around here are Boomers, I believe, so watch your mouth, young’un. Or, fingers, as it were.

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