P. J. O’Rourke: At War With Babyboomers–and The Greatest Generation

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Conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke has been compared to journalist H.L. Mencken. But on closer examination, the comparison is not so apt; for Mencken’s attacks on white trash Southerners, Democrat and Republican Presidents, puritan-types, and “red scares,” was powered by a pro-German, even borderline fascist agenda.

O’Rourke, although obviously conservative, has no grand vision, save that of human beings being retarded, especially when personified by liberals who believe they know what’s best for everyone else.

Every humorist develops a persona. Groucho’s was the lecherous fraud in search of a meal ticket. John Cleese’s is that of an ill-equipped authority figure hypnotized by the upper class.

P.J O’Rourke’s has been that of a former sixties’ radical turned born-again conservative, retaining and then wielding a Yippie mindset against the New Left that spawned it.

O’Rourke has always functioned best against a large target–the Old Left, the New Left, the “New” New Left, the Clintons.

A true maverick, O’Rourke has also included that most sacred cow of conservatives, “The Greatest Generation.”

Scarred by the Great Depression, this group was obsessive-compulsive about making sure their children never experienced want or unhappiness. The result was their children rebelled, not just against their politics but against the boredom they cocooned O’Rourke and company with.

O’Rourke attacks the Greatest Generation at its most cherished points–its New Deal era let’s all pull-together mindset. He reminds readers that such a mindset lost China with “their Chiang Kai-Shek team,” “stalemated in Korea with their UN team,” and was in a Cold War with Russia for “having been former teammates.”

By way of contrast, O’Rourke at times seems at times almost proud of his own generation. He reminds us that it was his generation who rightly opposed the Vietnam War while championing Civil Rights. Although he at times leavens such comparisons by crediting Baby Boomers as the greatest purveyors of bullshit the world has ever known—O’Rourke hillariously shows how his gift for bullshit garnered him a National Endowment for The Arts Grant–he cannot dismiss this gift as completely harmful. Meaning bullshit “as no insult,” he reminds readers that “the Greatest Generation created the atomic bomb. The Baby Boom created the story that Saadam Hussein had one,” with the former having a much larger kill-count (Hiroshima) than the latter.

The Greatest Generation cannot even catch a break in the anticommunist sweepstakes. By consenting to pay high taxes (those earning $300,000 in 1963 had a federal income tax rate of 91%), they played the game of “pinko radicals” much better, in this respect than O’Rourke’s group.

He even credits Baby Boomers with helping to topple Communism: “For totalitarianism to work everybody has to keep a straight face”–hence, it doesn’t stand a chance against a generation who made fun of everything save themselves.

But O’Rourke is too much the satirist to completely let his group off the hook. He reminds readers that for a generation demanding everything and everyone to do it with they still not have made the leap to libertarian principles. True brats, they want to make rules for everyone else. And whether O’Rourke realizes it or not, this kind of bossy behavior, which, when checked, results in a temper tantrum is what we are now dealing that we recently experienced (Obama: born 1961).

  • it called the greatest generation because we have been going down hill even since.