Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We invented "self"

No one will soon forget Al Gore's claim to have invented the internet.  Whether entirely accurate to the language of what he said or not, the comment was seen as a parody of his own sense in enlarged self-importance.  What Al Gore did for himself, his generation has done as well.  The Boomers seem to have taken credit for inventing self -- the lens through which everything and anything is judged.

While away at a meeting, I had occasion to read the WSJ piece by "The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way…And It Wasn't My Fault…And I'll Never Do It Again," to be published in December by Grove Atlantic.  It is a book bound to make us Boomers laugh -- hopefully at our selves.  I look forward to it.

P.J. O'Rourke:

We are the generation that changed everything. Of all the eras and epochs of Americans, ours is the one that made the biggest impression—on ourselves. That's an important accomplishment, because we're the generation that created the self, made the firmament of the self, divided the light of the self from the darkness of the self, and said, "Let there be self." If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you may have noticed this yourself.
That's not to say we're a selfish generation. Selfish means "too concerned with the self," and we're not. Self isn't something we're just, you know, concerned with. We are self.

Before us, self was without form and void, like our parents in their dumpy clothes and vague ideas. Then we came along. Now the personal is the political. The personal is the socioeconomic. The personal is the religious and the secular, science and the arts. The personal is everything that creepeth upon the earth after his (and, let us hasten to add, her) kind. If the baby boom has done one thing, it's to beget a personal universe. (Our apologies for anyone who personally happens to be a jerk.)

Self is like fish, proverbially speaking. Give a man a fish and you've fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and, if he turns into a dry-fly catch-and-release angling fanatic up to his liver in icy water wearing ridiculous waders and an absurd hat, pestering trout with 3-pound test line on a $1,000 graphite rod, and going on endlessly about Royal Coachman lures that he tied himself using muskrat fur and partridge feathers…well, at least his life partner is glad to have him out of the house.

My comments:

As I have said so often before, our generation has worked a disservice to the generation that gave us birth and bequeathed a worse world to the ones to which we gave birth.  That is true in nearly all areas of life --except, perhaps, technology, and there was did not make good use of the inventions of our age.  Worst among our many sins is our inability to laugh at our selves and our insistence upon always and in everything taking ourselves seriously.

We not only invented self, but we were the first to turn self into our deity to whom we owed unquestioned and unrestrained loyalty.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have wondered if the motto for we boomers isn't: in curvatus se.