Cats, Cradles, Sopranos, And Boomer-Era Narcissism

If you’re a professional storyteller, as I am, you have to stand in awe of Harry Chapin. He raised the song-as-story to high art — or perhaps he returned it to high art, since the medieval bard would often sing the story he was telling. Any Chapin song is a study in compressed and refined emotion. I’m most partial to “Taxi”, but most younger listeners know Chapin, if they know him at all, from “Cat’s In The Cradle”.

My father traveled for much of my childhood and my mother would often make a sarcastic reference to the song while he was away. In retrospect, however, his traveling was the only thing that preserved their marriage. Once he bought into a Columbus-area business and stayed home, they divorced almost immediately. I didn’t think much about “Cat’s In The Cradle” until my own son was born and I found myself away from him more often than I was home with him. That situation did not persist and nowadays I think John sees about as much of his father as he can stand. Maybe more than he can stand, judging by how he complained when I beat his ass at “RBI Baseball” this weekend.

I heard “Cradle” on Sirius Channel 7 during my morning commute today. The song hasn’t changed, and I haven’t changed, but something started nagging at me while I listened. It wasn’t until I was settled in at my desk that I realized what that little something was.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

This verse, and the one that follows, details the life of a father who has no time for the son who idolizes him. He can’t even teach him how to throw a baseball, which in postwar America was a basic a rite of passage as one could imagine.

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I’m proud of you
Can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later
Can I have them please?

This third verse is where we get the traditional interpretation of the song, which is made explicit later on. The father had no time for the son; now the son has no time for the father.

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, son?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My boy was just like me! The tragedy of it all!


You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu


Wait a minute.

The cycle is broken. The absentee father has a son who stays at home with his own boy. So why isn’t this a happy song? Because it’s told from the perspective of the father. Who is a narcissist.

Which leads to another question: Was this deliberate on Chapin’s part, or was it accidental? Speaking personally, I want to believe that it was deliberate, that Chapin put that little twist in at the end after watching his fellow Baby Boomers virtually self-immolate in the narcissistic supernova known as the “Summer Of Love” and its lingering Studio 54 aftershocks.

Of course, the Boomers didn’t invent narcissism. It was taught to them by parents who had survived the Depression, then World War II, and were determined to make the lives of their children as pleasant as their own childhoods had been fragile. Nor did narcissism end with the Boomers — today’s “selfie culture” is that mirror-loving impulse distilled into its purest form. But the Boomers were the first generation that refused to let go.

We live in a world where virtually every product besides the iPhone is designed and marketed for Boomers. They still have all the money. They are still buying all the products. They were promoted into management early because their parents were dead or maimed and they held on long past the time when they should have retired. There are examples of that in my own family; my grandfather quit work in his fifties to make room for the next generation of executives, while my father stuck around until he was sixty-five then “un-retired” almost immediately to work for a competitor of his former company. The difference between my grandfather’s impact on the workplace and my father’s was almost two decades — and this is very far from being an unusual situation.

Some of that was financial; like many men of his generation, my grandfather rode the wave of the stock market for more than four decades of Cadillacs and retirement tennis, while my father did the math and realized that he would be far more secure if he worked another five or six years past the traditional limit. I will most likely be working two or three jobs until I die, whether that happens in forty years or during my next motorcycle commute. Yet there was also a cultural aspect to it, this idea that the Boomers could literally not imagine a world where their concerns and decisions were not at the white-hot center of things.

The narrator of “Cradle” never got over the idea that he was at the center of things. He was the main character of his story when he was working and his son was left holding an un-thrown baseball. And he was still the main character of the story when he was “long since retired”. He revels in his parental neglect — can’t you hear the boasting in “planes to catch”, particularly at the dawn of the Jet Age? — and he wallows in his son’s entirely reasonable decision to focus on his own child. You know what would be great? If the narrator “caught a plane” to his son’s house so he could help out with the sick kid. But you know that he won’t. He will sit and wait for the mountain to come to Mohammed. He is the main character in his story.

Which brings me to the infamous series ending of The Sopranos and The Last Psychiatrist’s caustic take on it. I recommend that you follow the link and read it, but here’s the money shot:

I knew Tony Soprano was dead because it was too abrupt, too final, for my friend, and for everyone in that bar. There was no denouement, there was no winding down, no debriefing, no resolution. Not even a struggle for survival– at least let him draw his gun! No death on your terms. And, most importantly, the death didn’t seem to flow logically from the show. The death made no sense, it was arbitrary. It was unsatisfying.
In other words, it was too real.
We all have an element of essential narcissism in us, that’s part of having an identity. But it alters our relationship to death. We want it to flow logically from our lives, and most of the time it does. But sometimes it doesn’t. Except for heroes and suicides, no one gets to choose the time and place of their death, nor the manner. Nor can we control people’s reactions to our death.
All we can do is choose the life we leave behind. Choose.

Fair enough, but here’s the rub. Narcissism is a hell of a drug and it leaves you resentful at your son’s decision to neglect you in favor of his own child. But it’s also the engine that fuels pretty much every artistic and innovative triumph on the planet. You cannot be a writer, or a musician, or a bard, unless you believe that you have the absolute right to produce what others will consume. It’s true for Instagram stars and it was also true for Hemingway and it was even true for Bach. Every fat cuck on the Internet who puts on his Hunsiker Design shoes to eat cheetos in bed with his equally rotund wife while he watches Le Mans for the twenty-third time is living by the fruits of Steve McQueen’s essential, miserable narcissism. Everybody loves Steve for it, even in death. The only person who had a problem with it was his son. The cat’s in the cradle, and Chad McQueen had to be satisfied with being raised by a silver spoon.

57 Replies to “Cats, Cradles, Sopranos, And Boomer-Era Narcissism”

  1. Rick T.

    Great stuff. Thanks.

    One of my few brushes with fame was swapping out my seat on a flight so he could sit next to one of his young sons.Thanked me and told me he’d get me backstage passes to a concert if I ever wanted them.Sadly, he was gone just a little while later.

    Thematically, I am a fan of “Cat’s in the Cradle” but I prefer “Taxi” both thematically and musically. Great performance here:

  2. Eric H

    There’s an alternative interpretation to “You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu”
    The son really is just like his dad and will make any excuse to get off the phone and get back to his own things, which I think fits more with the rest of the song.

      • awagliar

        Sadly, present isn’t always better than absent, nor is present synonymous with engaged.

        An interesting take nonetheless, and not something I’d considered after a lifetime of hearing the song. It never fails to make me reminisce about my own father, in a positive light. And now I can’t help but wonder if my own kids are familiar with the song..

    • dejal

      I always bought into Erics’ interpretation.

      A lot of “parents” want kids because kids are on the lifetime check off list. They figure “been there / done that”. What’s next on the list? To actually “Be there”, well no one told them about that. If they knew that well then they wouldn’t have had kids. I would nominate by ex-BIL as the poster boy for that.

      His late brother may have been worse. Dies a day after his 2nd divorce. If he didn’t die he was this close to being charged with embezzlement. Ex-wife and daughter from 1st marriage are told. Daughter says “Who gives a f**k. He was never there then, I’m sure not going to be there now.” You know the “What kind of beer do you like?” in Blue Velvet. That could have been him. His son is a slacker which I attribute to the old man.

      Almost all the siblings were involved in sales. No one was ever home. Only 2 have/had stable marriages. Funny how the stable marriages consisted of ending up in Greenwich CT and Washington DC. The DC one’s husband was the chief lobbyist for a multiple billion dollar industry group, their Christmas cards in the 90s consisted of yearly photos with Bill + Hillary at WH Christmas parties..

      I guess you can buy happiness, though I will say they do seem happy.

  3. bbakkerr

    Love your ability to connect ideas from far flung places …. when you say the phrase “which brings me to …” it could really go anywhere, you’d make it believable, and I’d nod in assent.

    This song has always brought on the guilt, and your interpretation makes it less personal somehow (or the father in the song is worse than me). This assuages my own narcissism I suppose, makes this song less about me, which is good in this case, and I can apply the savings to other areas. Cool.

  4. Mike M

    What a great piece. “Cats in the Cradle” took on a much deeper meaning after I had my kids. I have made a conscious effort to put them first and try to spend as much time with them as I can.
    Its a shame Harry died how he did on the LIE, an awful way to go. I am partial to “A Better Place To Be” just cause it seems so bleak but both folks find a little glimmer of hope in that tune.

    I have felt this way about the Boomers for quite a while, it seems that all the regulations are slanted to give the boomers the edge and the next generations are left picking up the pieces. Its a shame but it feels that way, a great example is the housing market, my house has not risen in value in the past 10 years and i feel lucky due to the fact that it is still worth what i paid for it and did not loose value in the 2009 meltdown. A quick glace at housing values from the 70s to now shows that the boomers experienced an explosion in housing equity that is unheard of today.

    Another example is the saga that is playing out on WFAN radio in NYC. Mike Francesca did a whole wind-down retirement in December and now WFAN is bringing him back. the younger folks that took his spot are being moved around to accommodate him. It just seems on the surface that this is another case of the last generation not wanting to give the next generation a shot.

    Jack a great piece none-the-less.

    • everybodyhatesscott

      95% of boomers are white knights who sell out younger men to women to virtue signal.” We need to fix the wage gap by hiring more young women instead of men” when they never give up theirs job is particularly infuriating.

      • Will

        Same goes for those that say “white privilege”; I know a ton of people that say all that, and when you challenge on that idea, they immediately balk and say you should be the one doing it. Garbage.

        • dejal

          I frequent a web site that dumps on stupid dumb junkies, scam artists, hookers, thieves, public officials that have social media presences. A very rough comment section as the web site doesn’t block anyone for any reason. You want to be a Nazi. Fine, take your best shot. Comments are never censored. Other than IP addresses they have no info on the posters.

          Back to “white privilege”. Some one posts that publicly. You find out what town they live in. 95% of the time it is a white SJW who lives in a town that is over 95% white. Pretty easy to be “woke” when you don’t have to deal with “those” people on a daily basis.

  5. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Wretched, greedy, Boomer checking in. As we are the root of all that’s wrong with this country currently, I figured I would throw my two cents in. Were we encouraged to do better than our parents? Of course. I assume that every parent wants their offspring to be successful and do at least as well as they themselves did (I can only assume that, as I never had children). However given the makeup of humans, its impossible for every single person to be “better off” than their parents. Another aspect would be the sheer volume of people who make up the Boomer generation (it was called a “Boom” for a reason). While there are many of my generation who have done well, there are far more who haven’t. Whether it’s lack of ambition, education or genetics(lazy parents tend to have lazy kids) for Boomer’s, I can’t say. Just by looking at the folks I know of my generation, I would say equal parts of each. But isn’t the same true of succeeding generations? You rarely hear anything about Gen X these days, but everything about millennials.What is the difference between the two generations? Was Gen X handed everything on a platter as we Boomers supposedly were? And then the plate was empty for the next generation?.

    A little background about myself; I was raised in, at that time, a “traditional” family (stay at home mother, blue collar father), in a middle class rural area. My dad was a true blue collar guy, aircraft tool maker/jig builder, which was, and still is, a high paying trade. As such, there was no need for my mother to work and he was able to afford things that other folks couldn’t. Vacations, motorized toys, a nice house on several acres of land in the country, etc.Upon graduation from high school, as soon as I was of age, I joined the military(didn’t work out so well, a heart murmur was detected 1/2 way thru basic). After goofing off for several months, I went to work serving an apprenticeship at a shipyard. As they offered a tuition reimbursement program, I started taking courses at night at a local college. Fast forward 6 years, with degree in hand, I entered the corporate world at a fortune 50 company. Fast forward 20 years, I grew tired of corporate politics and started a business. 3 years later myself and a friend merged our business’s and formed a partnership. As of today, we employ 31 people, not counting he and I. My income is quite adequate for what I need, and we rarely lose employees to higher paying competitors as there are only a couple who offer more compensation than we do.If this qualifies me as a “greedy Boomer”( and there are many thousands like me), I will happily wear that crown. I will continue doing this for a few more years, not because I need the money, but because I enjoy what I do and there are 31 familys depending on me to be able to continue eating. If someone thinks that at age 60 I should get “out of the game”, please come meet and offer to buy my 1/2 of the business. Be forewarned tho, you will need a deep pocket, or an extensive line of credit.

    (climbs off soapbox and kicks it into the corner)

    And Jack; FWIW, Harry Chapin was born in 1942 so he wouldn’t technically be a Boomer. Boomers are considered born between 1946 and 1964 (pedantry)

  6. DirtRoads

    I dunno Jack, I’m a Boomer, can’t help when I was born. To say Boomers are somehow to blame for something is kinda like saying Jefferson owned slaves. That’s how it was in his day, and for me in my day, we couldn’t see the future and didn’t have the internet as a tool to look at any part of the past (we trusted the reporting of history though, which I doubt today).

    So the Gen Xers and Millennials can whine and cry about the Boomer generation, but after the Greatest Generation we had some really, really big shoes to fill and no WWII with which to prove it. Now take that thought process a little farther and apply our perspective of Jefferson. In his day, it was what people did. In my day, it’s how life was.

    I’m not saying I get to judge later generations, either, from my perspective. Except the whole living-in-Dad’s-basement part of the Millennial generation. Stop making excuses and get out in the big, bad world.

    And get off my lawn!

    • Disinterested-Observer

      This isn’t ancient history. Every change in tax law, trade policy, and change or lack thereof in entitlements has been made to benefit people of a certain age to the detriment of everyone else.

  7. JustPassinThru

    It really is a postwar, Baby-Boomer thing. My old man, from when I was a year old until I was ten, was a traveling industrial salesman – he rode a three-state circuit, about 400 miles, end-to-end. He was home most weekends, but seldom any other time.

    That was the new normal of the times. The pre-WWII time was the age of the Factory Man – in the company town, with the cookie-cutter board-and-batten company houses, and the whistle blowing its 15-minute warning to the morning shift.

    The postwar period was the age of the Junior Executive – give a man a title and a company car, and he’ll swallow all the crap you can force on him.

    I was, IIRC, 12 when that song came out. And my old man had just given up the traveling life for a new venture – which failed, not his fault, but it did. I was not an adult, with an adult’s wistful narcissism…but I could identify with it, to some extent.

    FWIW, according to one account I read, Chapin’s wife wrote that, or the first draft of the song…bemoaning the time Harry was away, a struggling young musician, leaving her and the kids at home. Harry played with it, put music to it, and made it successful.

    And Chapin, good balladeer that he was, was – no question – a narcissist. His other big hit, Taxi, puts it more in focus.

    • JustPassinThru

      I just looked it up. “Cats” was released in 1975. My memory’s playing tricks on me…I would have been 16 at the time, and my old man’s company long shut down. He went back to traveling, this time in Europe, for an American chemical company.

  8. Ronnie Schreiber

    I was born in 1954 and I have a psychiastrist’s diagnosis of being “narcissistically impaired” so as an official boomer narcissist maybe I’m an outlier. My dad was deeply involved in my life and never tried to protect me from life’s realities. If I got in trouble in school, which was frequent, if I was in the wrong he’d let me know it, but if I was falsely accused (as big mouthed troublemaking kids often are) he’d have my back to the point of going to the school and arguing with the teacher or administrators. If I brought home less than a 100% on any math or science test (he was a veterinarian), he made sure that I knew the correct answers, that a test is part of the learning process.

    Also, I’ve never met anyone who knew my father that didn’t love him. Almost thirty years after his death people will tell me how much they admired him.

    I’m probably not as good of a father as he was, but my kids know that I love them and I’ve never been an absentee father, even after my divorce. My younger daughter and I have been exchanging texts all afternoon (about Elton John, she likes, I don’t), and my son just called me to see if I had a tool to work on a serpentine belt tensioner (I don’t, but looked for my breaker bar).

  9. John C.

    This was interesting and I am a fan of Harry Chapin. I wonder if the difference with the baby boomers really thought the world for them was turning into utopia. So the narcissism and unrealized dreams. And the blaming of institutions of government, church and even family when things come up short.

    I am a little too young to be a baby boomer born in 1969, but had parents born in 1919 and 1929, so I had their intrinsic upbringing in an intact family. Remember them constantly calling me stupid. I know, the lesson hasn’t come too far. My mother once said if we actually thought you were stupid we wouldn’t have called you it as that would be cruel. We were telling you to think more.

    With my own child, I also provided a traditional upbringing right down to my wife staying at home. She is grown up now and I wonder if we curated her experiences too much. She just hasn’t had to struggle enough to give her the strength the older folks had. I suspect many of the greatest generation had the same worry.

  10. Jeff Zekas

    Lots of Baby Boomers died in the jungles of Vietnam, an extremely selfless, patriotic action. Others, like my buddy Jim, served in the Peace Corps overseas. Many are still volunteering in their own communities, cleaning the river, visiting the elderly, planting trees (Friends Of Trees, most notably) and working long hours at boring jobs. Most Boomers help their adult kids, financially and emotionally, watching (and sometimes raising) grandkids, co-signing on loans, giving them gifts, spending time with their adult children, and constantly looking out for their progeny. So, the stereotype of the “selfish Boomer” does not ring true with many of us. Yes, I lived in a commune. It sucked. So, I went to work, raised five kids, slaved at two jobs and worked sixteen hours of overtime at another job (so I could pay off my house), and I am still working, still hoping for a better world. Is this narcissism? Do I only think of myself? Am I screwing the next generation? Gee, I wouldn’t know, since I have never thought of myself, of my own needs, rather, always putting my family first. Because of this, my four boys and two girls have all become hard-working, responsible adults. Not bad, for a life.

    • Jeff Zekas

      Oh, and it should be mentioned: I would get home from my job, immediately grab the kids, go outside and play with them, and give mom a break, even though I was exhausted from running a chainsaw all day… and every weekend, at the river or the lake with my kids, and in the winter, snowboarding, or sledding with them… every spare moment, it was with my kids, something my World War Two veteran dad NEVER did with my brothers and I, back in the day.

      • Will

        Yes and more protested, did drugs, fucked, greediness of the 80’s and 90’s, our current financial crisis and gave us Hillary Clinton. Fuck your generation.

  11. David Florida

    Are the Boomers different? Is my life an exception to the generalizations? I don’t know and cannot care less- but I haven’t enjoyed reading essays of this quality since WFB passed and National Review was taken over by lesser lights. Wishing you many successes, Jack.

    • JustPassinThru

      The Baby Boomers ARE different.

      And I speak as one. It was THE most spoiled, most coddled, least-disciplined generation up to that time.

      It was the era of High Expectations. The so-called Greatest Generation had just fought The War To End All Wars. The GI Bill was going to make university education universal among men. No more punching a time clock, except for those (insert pejorative of whatever nationality DP is annoying you at the moment).

      Doctor Spock had INSPIRATION, how to raise a kinder, gentler, Self-Actualized generation. No, our kids (speaking sotto voce for my parents) weren’t going to have to sell newspapers on the streets. NO…WAY. Prosperity is our BIRTHRIGHT.

      We know how that ended, right? The 1970s, the era of rioting and rebellion and economic stagnation and social anomie. Discipline had disappeared…stern, parental discipline, which is never pretty except in the resultant upright young people. Gone.

      Probably gone as long as modern Western Civilization remains.

      Yup…the Boomers were different. The Boomers came to a fork in the road, and took the wrong one.

        • JustPassinThru


          But they came later. The trend began with the Boomers.

          The others are spoiled fruit of poison trees.

        • Doug

          I agree. The Boomers ruined most things with their narcissism, selfishness and need to change everything…for the worse. They brought in many more women working which produced huge numbers of latchkey kids and rampant divorce which we in the Gen X demographic had to endure…then they refuse to get out of the workplace forever so that we then have to as Jack says, work until we die (I am in that boat too), then they will probably live so long that if there is any wealth transfer it will go to these monsters Gen X created because we will be dead around the same time as the Boomers because we have to have single payer death panels due to the Boomers bankrupting the country. The Boomers should be called “The Worst Generation” as they laid the foundation to the demise of our country.

          • Daniel J

            I don’t know. Boomer generation taught me the value of hard work. Value of education. Value of personal responsibility. Both of my Boomer parents worked, yet I wasn’t a latchkey kid. Lots of overgeneralizations.

      • David Florida

        I’m from Flint. The trends that made the city what it is today started long before Dr. Spock or the Boomers. Not that I’m disagreeing with your conclusion!

  12. Frank Galvin

    This is all about Dad leaving Mom. The narrator is the kid putting himself in his father’s shoes – narrating how he hoped his father felt for leaving mom and his brothers. Jim Chapin was a touring musician through the 40’s and 60’s, divorced when Harry was 8, leaving mom with custody of Harry and four boys in 1950. Not a good look for the time though she remarried a few years later.

    Right about the time when he would want to play ball and spend time with Dad – Jim Chapin is on the jet with the band. There’s some resentment there. Someone else stayed home when he and his brothers had the flu, someone else taught then to throw the ball – its a slap to the old man.

  13. Daniel J

    I never thought of myself, an engineer, a narcissist. But given in the context you present, you are probably right.

  14. silentsod

    A lot of posters of the appropriate age seem to be taking this personally and then using their anecdotal lives as a counter argument. Consider the following viewpoint: Boomers are responsible for enacting the H1B program and the executives who abuse it, Boomers are responsible for shipping jobs overseas and devastating the American manufacturing base, Boomers are still driving housing cost outside of what couples earning an better than average living can afford in a number of locales, and this short changing of future generations has quite a few members of Gen X, Millenials, and Gen Z pissed off.

    I think what’s being said is that it’s great that you’re not that way, but your cohort’s actions didn’t set a smooth path for those of us following.

    • Dirty Dingus McGee

      If I may, a couple of counterpoints.

      “Boomers are responsible for enacting the H1B program ”
      During the first wave of unchecked immigration in the early 1900’s, many immigrants were used as cheap labor to replace higher wage native born people. Only difference these days is that it now has an official government designation.

      “Boomers are responsible for shipping jobs overseas and devastating the American manufacturing base”

      At one time, the Northeast was THE hub of textile, and most other, manufacturing for the entire country. Starting in the mid 1900’s virtually ALL textile manufacturing moved into the Southern states, due to lower wages and quite likely lower education opportunities(less likely to leave a mediocre paying job to go back to pinching tit’s and pitching chips). Starting in the seventies, is when those same manufacturing jobs started going overseas.I doubt there were many 30 year old CEO’s that made those decisions.

      “Boomers are still driving housing cost outside of what couples earning an better than average living can afford in a number of locales”

      I recall, faintly, my folks lamenting the housing cost back in the early sixties. By the time I was looking for my first house in the late seventies, the price was easily double or triple what it had been 15 or so years earlier( with double digit mortgage rates, 11% in my case).

      As far as ruining things for succeeding generations, might I point out an era known as “The Roaring Twenties”? Greed, or wanting more than your neighbor has, has been around forever. Shortsightedness also.

      I guess my main point is this; If you’re going to sit around moaning about your lot in life, it’s not going to change. I seriously doubt I’m smarter, more ambitious or altruistic than any other poster here. The difference from some would maybe be that I decided to do something about it. NOBODY else is going to make you successful(whatever your definition of successful is), it will only be you that can do that.

      And besides, us Boomers are getting old and beginning to die off, no doubt due to our rampant promiscuity, drug use, and self centeredness. In a few more years we will be all gone, and then you will have to find someone else to blame for all the worlds problems, although I suspect that Boomer’s will be blamed for at least 40 years after the last one shuffles off this mortal coil.

      • silentsod

        I brought up the three generations and the viewpoints I did because I think they are commonly enough held views of those three generations.

        In the interest of furthering the argument – relocating textile mills to the South is a false equivalence to removing a country’s manufacturing base overseas. The North was building up heavy industrial bases that largely replaced those jobs that departed. In the recent move workers were promised higher paying service industry jobs which did not and could not materialize. Globalization makes perfect sense provided the true costs (with regard to working conditions, pollution, regulatory standards) are normalized so that the market mechanisms can be effectual but they are not that way in reality. Instead, the country loses jobs, knowledge, security, and we get Poorly Made in China as a result with a side effect of China becoming an economic juggernaut off our backs.

        Housing prices at median are far higher, adjusted for inflation, than they were when you are recollecting. This is not imagination, housing prices are near their 2000s peak which far outstripped the prior inflation adjusted rate of increase (which was relatively flat) and which outstrip inflation adjust wage increases over the same time period.

        I would generally say historical comparisons are more analogy than anything else because while human nature does not change the circumstances of history (context) do change over time. These are not repeats of the past and the consequences will not be 1:1. The Roaring 20’s? Not really applicable because there are too many differences to appropriately predict an outcome. Immigration in the 1900s compared to now? Not really the same given the massive amounts of immigration from an open borders policy implemented by… well, you know.

        The way I read Jack’s blog is that he’s stitching together disparate and seemingly disconnected ideas into a world view tapestry and that’s the way that I replied. Boomers are taking insult and that’s fine, they can do that.

      • dejal

        Agree with everything you wrote.

        I’m not sure what the post boomer generations want us to do. Die? If so, fuck you.

        I take no responsibility for the actions of others who happen to approximate my age. They do what they do, I do what I do. I have enough trouble taking care of me and owning up to my own sins. I’ll be damned if I takes the sins of others on.

    • Doug

      All true…so sadly true. The Boomers are mis-named. Should be called “The Worst Generation” in contrast to their parents. Although the snowflake generation seems to be making their play to get that name.

      • dejal

        Ok. So the “Greatest Generation” has to be responsible for the Korean + Vietnam wars then. Early boomers were fighting in Vietnam and members of the “Greatest Generation” according to many who attribute all the sins on the world on boomers would have been in many positions of power to get the US involved in Korea and most definitely in Vietnam.

        I didn’t realize my WWII Pacific veteran dad who volunteered had any hand in Vietnam. I missed that mess by a couple of years but who knows how long it could have kept going. My war monger dad who was responsible for Vietnam always told me, there’s no way you are going to be drafted. I’ll send you off to Canada before that happens.

        Please don’t say “That’s different”. I’m not the one using a very large paint brush.

        • Doug

          I would point Korea at the generation before the greatest generation since by 1950 most were at the most early 30’s. The people in actual power are the ones in the 40-60 year old range who occupy the halls of government. Vietnam too can be put on the same generation plus some in the “greatest” as the early 60’s spans the transition of power between the two. The mid to late 80’s is where the boomers start the downward spiral…then we get to “their” time with Slick Wille as a president. I guess those in glass houses should not throw stones though…Barry O was pretty close to the first Gen X president with help from the Millenials…and we see what a disaster that was.

    • Kevin Jaeger

      Nothing says “I’m not a narcissist” like responding to a comment on a generational cohort by telling your personal life story.

    • phlipski

      Isn’t it the very definition of narcissism for every “boomer” here posting about how *THEY’RE* not the problem? Jack couldn’t have laid a better trap for them to walk into…

      But since we’re all boomer bashing I’ll get my lick in. For a generation who protested the Vietnam war I don’t understand their continuing affinity for politicians who continue to support more war!!! I’ll give you a pass on Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. But how can a significant chunk of that group continue to defend this countries involvement in conflicts around the globe?

      Heard this interview being replayed on NPR the other day. Pretty damning.

      And if anyone wants to really geek out about the final Sopranos episode. Here you go:

  15. Thomas Kreutzer

    There is a lot of Boomer hating going on in the conversation and as a charter member of Generation X I love to pile on too. The truth is the boomers did have it easier than we do today, but that’s pretty much where it ends. As a generation, they aren’t conspiring to get all the good stuff – it was there for the taking and they picked it up. They didn’t question it, it was the world they lived in and to do anything else would have been against human nature.

    The sour grapes starts now the things the boomers got while the getting was good – jobs, investments, property, etc. – is harder to get The days of easy pickings are over and young people, who are up in arms that someone got there ahead and picked up all the free stuff, suddenly expect these people to throw down what they’ve picked up. Yeah, that aint happening.

    The thing is, I think the time and circumstances that gave birth to the boomer generation are an aberration. American have always had to work hard to succeed but, for a brief shining moment, when suddenly they didn’t. The people who were young then had a great time and got all the benefit but that time ended. So now those of us who come after have two choices – cry and bitch about it, or get back to getting busy,

    I totally hate that anyone has ever had an easier time at anything than I, but that’s life. Break’s over. Get the fuck back to work.

    • hank chinaski

      Agree. There was a brief moment in time when America was the last man standing after the literal and demographic rubble of two world wars and before the ascendant Third World, such that it is. The Boomers can’t even be blamed for the misguided Great Society programs that will ultimately economically crush the US; that falls on the Greatest and Silents.
      Hand in hand with their narcissism was a willingness and even glee to tear down the institutions and principles that typified the Greatest’s: discipline, thrift, unity, protective xenophobia, and religion for instance, but most critically, and paradoxically given their penchant for navel gazing, *shame*.

      • Ken

        For the most part, I do agree w/both Hank & Thomas. But respectfully – the generations prior to the Boomers, those that exemplified the values listed by Hank (discipline, thrift, protectionism, etc), understood the greater communal good from the experiences of those times, and setup those Great Safety net programs. Had the following generation been appropriate stewards, building and improving upon what was established, those programs would not be a drag on the US economy. Instead the Boomers “got theirs”. And in truth I don’t blame them. As Thomas points out, there was no real strife for this generation, no real perspective, nothing like what was experienced prior. And as such they took what was ripe for the picking.

        I really don’t blame them, its human nature. I think any generation, given those circumstances would have operated the same way. Perhaps with some strife and some perspective from the economy, to climate change (and hopefully not a war), the generations following the boomers can reestablish some lost ground.

      • Ronnie Schreiber

        The people in Congress and the White House in the mid 1960s, the ones who enacted and signed all the Great Society legislation, were from “the greatest generation”, the parents of the Baby Boomers, who for the most part, weren’t even old enough to vote then.

    • John C.

      I agree, this is such a great point. The assumption from the time that if you did the right thing, over time the rewards would accrue. This obviously flies in the face of history and even religion only promised heaven in the afterlife.

    • silentsod

      Why would you hate someone that had an easier time at anything than you? I expect that there are always people who have an easier path, are smart/better/faster at something, and rely on my grit and will to get shit done. *shrug*

      • Lucas

        Well to be fair, it’s not just someone, it’s the entire generation of American society. But I agree that it is just sour grapes.

  16. -Nate

    Wow .

    I’m a Boomer and this hits home .

    Cats In The Cradle was a nail through my heart because my own Father couldn’t manage the job and so was absent more often than not .

    I’m a Blue Collar schlub and not ashamed of it, I had to work my ass off to support my Son who’s about to turn 40 and keenly understands my values of thrift, hard work and so on, he’s far better than I in every way and I don’t regret having no had fancy things so that he never skipped a meal and had a good education on many different levels .

    I worry constantly even now that I wasn’t a good enough Father for him although he’s done very well for himself .

    I wish I’da had the luxury of not heading out on a job any time the ‘phone rang for most of his young life but that’s the lot of the Blue Collar Man ~ when there’s work to be done, you go do it to get paid .

    Several here have correctly commented : if you want more, GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WORK FOR IT .

    Not all Boomers are rich and spoiled .

    I’ll not bore you with my pathetic life story of want and need, it’s not important ~ I left, went to work and made my own way .

    Kudos to those who make it, no shame in others having more than you do nor to lend a helping hand to others below you .


    • Thomas Kreutzer

      I understand it. My father was a telephone man who raised five kids. He worked so much overtime that his telephone number is, 25 years after his death, still written on the wall above the supervisor’s desk in the office that my brother, who is now a telephone man himself, now works in. As a kid, I can vividly recall midnight phone calls followed by the Olds leaving the driveway and, at the other end of the day, my dad’s supper on a plate under tin foil in the oven so he would be there when he got home.

      At no point did I or any of my brothers or sisters cry or gripe about dad not being home. Work was what he did – so much so that a day or two before he died from colon cancer he deliriously got up off his bed and told me he couldn’t lay around any more – he needed to “get back to work.”

      My dad showed his love and commitment to us through the work and the things her was able to provide. While, as the youngest, I have some minor gripes about hand-me-downs and used bicycles, the truth is that he made sure that I had much much more than he ever did. As far as I have come in life, and I gotta say when I look at my life I feel pretty goddam giant sometimes, I know I stand on the shoulders of a true giant.

      Nate, if your son is the man I think he is, he knows. You don’t have to worry about what you might have done differently.

  17. S

    It’s sort of time honored that each generation blames those before it. I imagine many boomers would contest the “they had it easy” argument, because no one ever thinks they do. They did also have the Vietnam war, no small life event. But I think it’s unwise to universally blame a generation – they’re working within the constructs of their time. Human nature is the only fairly constant, whereby if Gen X had been the population in the same time frame it’s quite possible many choices would have been the same. Likewise millennials now. I do think narcissism (and more importantly the inverse, a lack of humility) is probably the greatest lasting effect of the time period, but that probably correlates as much with the decline of religion in society. I’m not a big proponent of “shame” as mentioned, but I think a little more humility would go a long way today. One could probably argue that there is less humility in today’s society (US) than at any previous point? So I guess what I’m saying is that it is all inter-related and of a given point in time, and simply pointing a finger at a generation, while simple and perhaps satisfying in is expediency, ignores the larger context of society and social evolution.
    I’m gen x, for what it’s worth.

  18. -Nate

    Thanx Thomas ;

    I didn’t coddle my Son, I used the ‘toe the line feel the freedom’ method, only two 9th graders rode their own Motocycles to High School, my Son and one of his rich buddies who saw him and bought his own .

    I made sure he didn’t have an easy time of things because I knew I might not always be there for him and I wanted him strong and independent .

    This cuts both ways, he’s a fiercely independent Man now, I wish he was a bit closer to home but he’s strong and self reliant .

    I still worry and double think what I mighta done differently/better but it’s all done now .


  19. tyates

    Does a narcissist know that they are one? As a Gen-Xer sandwiched between the Boomers and Millennials, to me its as clear as day that they both have the same type of self-absorption, and are both completely unaware of it. And yes, I’m generalizing about 150m people. I love my mom & my uncle but the gap between what their parents and children achieved in life and what they were able to is like the Mariana trench.


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