Ryan Heath swaggers into the cultural debate with his new book Please just f*** off it’s our turn now: Holding baby boomers to account.
“Boomers are particularly skilled at whining and slutting their way into society’s spotlight,” writes 25-year-old Heath, “but the unalienable truth is that history doesn’t end with them.” Australia is an “old person’s paradise,” he says, an “Adelaide writ large.” No-one is safe from insult.
It’s an unenviable task to try and represent a whole generation but at times, Heath’s assertions are unnecessarily glib – “we’ve been to IKEA more often than we’ve been to church” or “60-year-old newsreaders. Just shoot them. Then bring in some Jessica Rowe types (of either sex that is).”
But away from the soundbites there are plenty of discussion stirrers: how technology has influenced and is widening the generation gap, why young people are moving overseas, property apartheid, disengagement from big government politics and the trend towards grassroots action, the death of traditional activism, subverting the hierarchy of business and the workplace, “generation HECS and the slow death of public education.”
Heath wants Baby Boomers to move over and his generation to stop whining and get on with it: “My peers are not given enough credit for the good they have to contribute to society. We hear far too little about the people of this century, and far too much about the Baby Boomers, the people of last century.”
But the last thing we need is a “kick out the old guys philosophy,” says Mark Davis whose 1997 book Gangland: Cultural Elites and the New Generationalism tackled the Baby Boomer monopoly. “Let’s make room for everyone.” After all, “you can’t argue against racism and sexism” and then have ageism even if it is “fun to make shots at the Baby Boomers’ expense.”
According to Davis the problem’s not so much Baby Boomers as the “moribund nature of the culture in general, and a collective failure to, put it in a nutshell, move on from endless feature articles about the Beatles. It’s like being stuck in the middle of one big seventies supergroup reunion tour.”
He says a lot of Baby Boomers are “trying to move forward themselves. But there’s a kind of stasis. For both young people and more savvy boomers the cultural conversation has parted company with the forms of official media – The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the ABC – which have less and less to do with what’s going on and more and more to do with press releases.”
We really need to “go back to first principles and reinvent the culture.”
There’s a debate happening over at Catallaxy.