PJ O’Rourke – The Baby Boom


PJ O’Rourke was in Hay to give the Annual Hamlin lecture on the subject of, his own generation, the Baby Boomers. The American satirist rips into the generation that took down both the Berlin Wall and their own knickers. It’s the generation that tuned in, turned on and dropped out of the capitalist system and only to drop in again in time to cause a global financial crisis.

Fellow boomer David Aaronovitch was there to pose the post interview questions and moderate the audience interventions.  The final questioner wanted to know what PJ thought of the rise of UKIP in the UK.  Suffice to say he’s not a fan.

Here’s an extract from PJ O’Rourke’s book and the inspiration for his lecture; ”The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)’

Board games and card games were for rainy days, and if it looked like the rain was never going to stop, we’d get out Monopoly. Despairing of its page upon page of rules, we’d make our own. This is how both Wall Street investment strategy and Washington economic policy were invented by our generation. We also invented selling ”Get Out of Jail Free” cards to the highest bidder.

The 1960s was an era of big thoughts. And yet, amazingly, each of those thoughts could fit on a T-shirt.

Chloe lived in exotic Massapequa, Long Island. I came east by motorcycle with the idea of Chloe riding pillion to a ”Woodstock Music and Arts Fair,” which, according to a poster in a record shop back in Yellow Springs, Ohio, was ”An Aquarian Exposition” featuring ”Three Days of Peace and Music.” I pictured something on the order of a wind-chime sale with evening hootnannies and maybe a surprise guest appearance by Mimi Farina.

There are some things the Baby Boom has done that we’re not proud of. We used up all the weird. It has always been the special prerogative of youth to look and act strange, to alarm and surprise their elders with peculiar dress and manners. Cicero mentioned it. ”O tempora! O mores!” So did my mom, although in English. But the Baby Boom exhausted the available supply of peculiar. Weird clothes, we wore them. Weird beards, we grew them. Weird words and phrases, we said them. Weird attitudes, we had them. Thus when it came time for the next generation to alarm and surprise us with their peculiarities they were compelled to pierce their extremities and permanently ink their exposed flesh. That must have hurt. We apologize.

We got jobs. We made money. We spent it on cocaine. Then we made money with junk bonds for leveraged buyouts. Until the LBO market collapsed and the Savings and Loan crisis happened and some of us such aichael Milken had to go to jail. Then we made money in the dot.com bubble. Hope you’re not still waiting for the Webvan grocery delivery or the chew toy you ordered from Pets.com. Then we made money with sub-prime mortgage lending securitization and collateralized debt obligations. Sorry about the foreclosure. One thing about moving the family back to Mom’s house, she may be getting a little dotty but she still makes a great meatloaf. Now we’ll make money with category-killer smartphone apps.

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