Attention: Boomer on Board

Whenever my youngest son finds my ideas lacking or old fashioned, he, not in a flattering way, calls me a “Boomer,” which, technically and according to most sociologists’ classification of the Baby Boomer Generation as including anyone born between the years 1946 – 1964, I am. This accident of my birth day also places me squarely in the midst of what is often referred to by literary scholars and historians as the Postmodern Era, which has run concurrent to the birth, coming-of-age, and waning of the Baby Boom generation.

We Boomers were thrust into a world still recovering from a decade of economic depression, disillusioned by a Second World War, horrified by the Holocaust, and petrified by the unleashing of atomic weaponry. As we aged, we watched as the Cold War commenced and threatened nuclear annihilation; as America found itself embroiled in several more wars with highly questionable motives; as equal rights continued to be unequally granted to many, if not a majority, of Americans; a president resigned in disgrace, and the Catholic Church was forced to confess to its many cases of sexual abuse.

It’s understandable that writers of this Boomer/Postmodern Era reflected much of the angst the aforementioned historical events caused with texts that are steeped in irony, satire, snark, self-reflection, cynicism, black humor, moral relativism, existential dread, agnosticism, and even the nihilistic belief in nothing. Nothing was sacred and no one could be trusted. Think of writers such as Kerouac (On the Road), Ginsberg (Howl), Heller (Catch-22), Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five), and DeLillo (White Noise). Or movies like Dr. Strangelove, Apocalypse Now, Fight Club, and Monty Python movies. Or in television shows such as M*A*S*H, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Seinfeld, and South Park. It has been a golden age for the anti-hero, the smart ass, the iconoclast, and the brick thrower with many complaints but few answers.

To possessing every postmodern trait and luxuriating in every artistic representation of it mentioned in the previous paragraph, I plead guilty. Like everyone else, who I am is primarily a product of when and where I have been. So, my son is correct: I am a Boomer. As in most things, however, there is a caveat, a “but” if you will. For, of late and for better or worse, I have found myself growing increasingly weary of my postmodern self and posture and looking to molt out of its limiting chrysalis into a better version of myself.

My favorite postmodern author is David Foster Wallace, who near the end of his life and career found himself in a similar state of weariness with Postmodernism and forseeing a new era on the horizon. Before he lost his battle with depression and hanged himself, he had begun to call for a “new sincerity,” a sort of Post-Postmodernism, especially in art/literature, but I think also in daily life.

David Foster Wallace

This new sincerity would promote and require the choice of honesty over deception, respect over irreverence, kindness over indifference, optimism rather than pessimism, love over hate, sentimentality over “cool indifference,” trust over skepticism, cooperation and compromise over obstinance, and engagement over indifference. Sadly, the world we Boomers/Postmodernists have created and left for the generations following us is typified by the former in each of the preceding pairs.

Examples of the New Sincerity can be found in Wallace’s last novel, The Pale King, and in the bestselling novels of Jonathan Franzen and in George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. Ted Lasso, the popular show and its title character with his genuineness, compassion, and hopefulness are a perfect example of the contemporary appeal of the turn away from postmodernist attitudes, techniques, and formulas. And in pop music, one of my favorite bands The 1975 recently had a hit with a song simply titled, “I’m in Love With You,” for which they feared public blowback for its shameless honesty and barefaced expression of emotion. For comparison, consider the 1970 Burt Bacharach and Hal Davids classic, sung by Dionne Warwick: “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” The 1975 also have a song titled “Sincerity is Scary” in which Maty Healy sings, “And irony’s okay, I suppose // Culture’s to blame // You try and mask your pain in the most postmodern way.”

Postmodernism has served its purpose in calling attention to a number of unjust and unprincipled policies and in warning of the dangers inherent in placing one’s blind trust in authority of any kind, both as individuals and as a citizenry. However, it has also resulted in a stagnancy in which nothing is sacred, no one can be trusted, and progress is impossible.

Postmodernism has had a good, long run, but it’s time to move past its contempt for nearly everything; to aid in the establishment of this New Sincerity; to risk being called a Pollyanna, a dreamer, and/or simply a fool. To do anything else is to choose to be part of the continuing decline of decency, and hope; and to resign oneself to what William Faulkner called the “last ding dong of doom.” In the words of singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, I can only “hope the high road brings [us] home again // To a world [we] want to live in.”

If you enjoy my blog posts, you may like to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted. If so, click on the Menu link above and select “Home,” scroll down to the bottom, and click the “Follow” button. – Always with gratitude and love, Ty

Published by tyfroth

My primary passion and vocation is teaching literature and composition on both the high school and university level. My avocation is writing novels that explore contemporary themes/issues relevant to both young adult and adult readers.

3 thoughts on “Attention: Boomer on Board

  1. First time commenter, long-time Boomer.

    I’m on board with most of this. I never did get a call from the church, though. For me, the big shift has been technology. Our generation created the tech, and we live in a golden age where nobody owns postage stamps, nobody bats an eye about calling someone up on the opposite end of the country and chatting for an hour, but if you do, you pre-negotiate before you ring the phone. I adapted as best I could.



    1. The technology angle is the “elephant in the article” of which I am totally aware. I, however, have yet to wrap my brain around the impact that various forms of AI are about to have on our individual lives and as social beings. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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