Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Colby Cosh

How frightfully clever! An ageing
enfant terrible who wrote for a couple of screechy rightwing rags that tanked, and writes now for one that's about to, has dissed baby boomers. Why, that's never been done before.

Here's what might laughingly be called the money quote:

These are people who started their working lives at a time when labour unions were strong, taxpayers outnumbered retirees nearly 10 to one, housing was as cheap as borscht and the basic personal exemption covered most of a living wage. They congratulated themselves on building an elaborate "social safety net" at the expense of their children. Their great numbers have allowed their preferences and superstitions to dominate culture and media. They're the ones who burned through tonnes of pot and then launched a War on Drugs when they grew bored with it; they drove mighty-bowelled Mustangs and Thunderbirds in their youth, and only started worrying about the environment when they no longer needed a capacious backseat to fornicate in; they espoused and took full advantage of sexual liberation, but were safely hors de combat by the time AIDS reared its head. The first time I see one shopping for dog food, I doubt I'll be able to suppress a laugh.

Like all of those who think in categories because it's less taxing, Cosh sees my generation (for I must declare interest here) as All One Thing--like Muslims, for example, or immigrants, or whatever haine du jour fills the nooks and crannies of the conservative mind these days.

But it wasn't, of course. The preppy right-wing types who always prowled among us, running our student councils and organizing homecoming dances and taking commerce and engineering degrees and inventing disco because it was music they could understand, are conflated in his article with the dopesmokers, anti-war activists, creative writers, civil rights workers, blues guitarists and scientists who put their stamp on my generation. It was the former who launched wars, not merely on drugs, but on long hair, compassion, dreams, Third World countries and non-white immigration. It was the latter who were never in the ascendancy, but we made them think we were for a while, which was great fun while it lasted.

I drove my parents' VW bus, then didn't drive at all for a while, and finally ended up with a Toyota Corolla in my declining years.
Mustangs and Thunderbirds? Those were for the fratboys and engineers. They needed those cars to pick up girls. Meanwhile, we male bohemians, radicals and deviants were being picked up by girls. Setting aside the sexual liberation that wasn't--which rightfully gave rise to a market correction called second-wave feminism--we simply had more of everything that mattered.

No use fulminating now, Colby. Most of us are actually doing pretty well, living on decent pensions while the economy you whiz kids built upon the solid rock of unfettered capitalism is falling apart. Some of us, certainly, are collateral damage in your war against regulation (when aren't you guys at war with something or someone?), and for that you have much to answer for. But luckily the remnants of that social safety net we built are preventing total catastrophe for your victims.

We greet the world with a smile every morning. We buy dogfood, but for our dogs. We tell our kids the truth: the economy will right itself in a year or two, because even conservatives will resort to socialism when they're in a jam. We'll tell ourselves that Schadenfreude is never nice, because we were brought up that way, but we'll feel it keenly nonetheless, when the smart-ass right wingers who helped get us into this mess, or at least promoted the values and ideology that caused it, are unemployed, many probably unemployable, and they're hauling out the begging bowls.

While you're pounding the pavement with fellow chômeur Rick McGinnis, give a thought to the money and services you'll be receiving, from EI to medicare. That's the social safety net you've been sneering at, oh-so-wittily placing the phrase in shudder-quotes. That's where my taxes have been going for decades. It will be too much to expect thanks, of course: but frankly, knowing that you're benefiting will be satisfaction enough. Have a nice life, Colby. God knows we've paid dearly for it.

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