Intergenerational culture war
Turns out there's a dark side to being old.
Welcome to the latest edition of SSWOS, the Sick, Sad World of Sports, where sports is the mechanism by which we learn about the depths of shithousery and assholery and dipshittery of the human soul.
I hope you find it fun or informative but not both. If you want more of this particular species of brain worms, follow @scksadwos.
I also write exclusively about rugby league on pythagonrl.com and @pythagonrl.
Subscribe now. It’s free!
Alright, we’re doing it.
Intergenerational culture war
“Intergenerational culture war” is the conflict between Boomers, maintaining their pre-eminent economic and cultural position in society, versus everyone else. The definition of a baby boomer is someone who was born in the fifteen to twenty years following the end of World War 2 in 1945, when the soldiers who managed to survive the bloodbath in Europe and the Pacific, returned home and were super-horny.
The boom in babies led to the largest (although probably just within the context of the whites) demographic in history. Thanks to decimated manufacturing in Europe that allowed the United States to take a prime economic position in the West supplying consumer goods, the incumbent capitalist system responded by reshaping popular culture in order to profit from these relatively wealthy, relatively leisurely, relatively comfortable generation of people.
Much of what we associate with pop culture, starting in the 1960s, was partially shaped by the simple fact that there were more young people than before, they had more money (and if they didn’t, a better social safety net than today or previously) and benefitted from improved working conditions created pre-war, to have sufficient time and resources to become engrossed in the creation of their self-absorbed-to-the-point-of-masturbatory-narcissicism cultural traditions.
The next phase came when these people aged into positions of influence. A lot of what follows is informed by Mark Davis’ book Gangland, which was somehow written in 1997 but through some narrow Australian examples demonstrates a mechanism that can be broadly extrapolated to explain much of the zeitgeist of then and today.
Previous generations had a certain amount of turnover dictated by the vagaries of health and warfare and random chance but the Boomers were largely insulated from these and ascended to and then held on to power. The men (and some women, but usually men) written about in Gangland were, in some cases, still in those same positions in newspapers and politics and business when I read the book twenty years later.
The demographic power of the Boomers was unleashed on democracy and policies were put in place that only shored up the power structure at the expense of the future. Herein lies the conflict. The “Youth” (anyone born after 1980 or so) cannot advance because there are no places into which they can advance. That same shored up political power structure prevents the Youth from finding an alternative solution to displace the Boomers from their perch.
Then we throw the rapid technological change of the 21st century at our gerontocracy and it turns out it cannot cope. The world is too much for them. They’ve just gotten their head wrapped around Facebook, while actual kids are three or four platforms down the road, and it turns out Facebook (and large swathes of the wider economy) is pretty much a scam.
The Youth’s frustration doubles. Not only will the people in charge move aside, their age is now a primary factor in their inability to lead and the Boomers’ ego and its fear of irrelevance, reinforced by decades of cultural preening (see Forrest Gump), will not allow them to step aside.
The Boomer also feels an acute case of nostalgia. The power of the human memory is that it is very difficult to remember pain in a visceral way (pain that can be remembered viscerally might well be called trauma) but, once removed several decades, the brain is very good at giving the highlights and endlessly repolishing the same to suit the ego’s current view of the person it inhabits. It would be as if you had some loose source material to work with but decided to endlessly reboot your own backstory and then because you’ve managed to ride a demographic tidal wave to power, basing the entire structure of the world around the reboots without ever realising that’s what you were doing.
First, the Boomers hold the high ground due to fortuiotous timing following a horrific war. Secondly, the Boomers have politically reinforced their defences to such an extent that no one can even approach the ramparts. Finally, the Boomers have lobbed an endless stream of nostalgic armaments onto the masses below, cowing them into submission. It turns out people didn’t like that.
Amazingly, all of this has been achieved without any conscious effort by the Boomers. It would be like having a gun, firing it on impulse and never once wondering where the gun was pointed. This is an astonishing instinctual preservation of power by a vast and largely uncoordinated group of people.
While we wait for the boomers to toddle off this mortal coil, the crumbs thrown to Generation X, then Y and then Z will ensure those lucky enough to receive those crumbs will become irredeemable cunts. In the same way that Reagan-Thatcherism is pointlessly echoed in today’s economic policy by politicians who no longer understand why it was touted in the first place, can’t be bothered finding out but at least understand its performative and powerful symbolism, so the touchstones and rituals of Boomerism will be pointlessly echoed in our mainstream culture forevermore. We literally won’t know any other way and so the Boomers will always rule. It’s evolved from an age bracket to a mindset.
Sports have responded in different ways. Major league baseball thrives as a cultural museum with its main attraction being the protection the Boomers’ nostalgia for not something that happened to them, but protecting the Boomers’ nostalgia for their progenitor’s nostalgia of an even earlier time in baseball. The idea that one shouldn’t flip bats sounds like a hundred year old idea because it probably is one and that, the idea’s inherent age, is the appeal. Baseball would rather die than dispense with that, because without the shroud of tradition, it’s an insanely boring sport, suitable only for an era in which radio was the dominant medium.
Modern pentathlon is, grudgingly, dispensing with its traditions because its traditions have cost it a place at the Olympics and threaten to kill the whole enterprise but pentathlon can do this because it is so small, it has no bearing on the wider cultural milieuand so Boomers have no need to orient the debate to be about themselves.
Australian rugby league - which triggered this whole essay thanks to a dumb throwaway line in an otherwise fine column - is currently in the throes of a reactionary conservative movement. The wishy-washy progressiveness of the previous administration - which basically boils down to using resources to look for new fans in ways that legacy fans see as stupid or effeminate - has been cast aside in favour of a cabal of old-timey cultural warriors that wants to drag the sport back to the 1980s, along with building new stadiums that are glorified park footy fields, a distrust of any geography not sharply delimited by century old suburban boundaries, a reference to a style of play that almost certainly never existedand resurrecting an appeal to families that definitely never existed.
Those of us who follow the game closely can see this and, while there aren’t very many of us, it’s just another front for the ongoing intergenerational culture war. We can’t see a clear or tangible goal, we’re just fed an unceasing barrage of feelings and memories of things that never happened and how it was all better then, Not Like Now and you’re just an idiot if you can’t see that, person who was not alive at the time these events allegedly took place.
The “Youth” (some are actually middle aged) just want a say in the way the world works and they don’t want to be condescended to in the meantime by people who don’t understand what’s going on around them, irrespective of their age. It is not that difficult to understand or to respect, but if you are the kind of chud with a newspaper column in the year 2022, then you naturally do not have these faculties, otherwise you would not have survived prior rounds of redundancies.
The internet’s apitude for splintering people into tiny cloisters offers an off-ramp to disaffected young people that wasn’t available previously. Young people can and will and do just go off and find their own place online, away from everyone else. I have no idea what they’re doing and when it leaks through, it yields utter bafflement But who really cares, let them do their thing. If you want their attention, give them something worth paying attention to, instead of writing off their attention span. A cold night in a half empty stadium watching grown men chase a ball may not be enough any more.
The downside, if you want to call it that, of niche culture is that there’s rarely a widespread, shared experience that has any sort of lasting resonance. The release of Avatar in 2009 was a bellwether for what was to come. It was economically huge but it came and went quickly and left no discernible legacy. This might speak to a lack of community and atomisation of the society bequeathed to us by the Boomers but I think it will actually reflect the future preference to bond with someone over a shared interest online, rather than to bond with someone over a shared geographical proximity. Whether this meets a human’s needs in a very basic brain chemical sense, and the impacts that might have on mental health, remain to be seen.
The grace, the beauty of sports
Very normal things
About time. Having said that, this seems like a ham-fisted regulation that will undoubtedly make it feel like something is being done but will do nothing to address the systemic abuse seemingly required to mint elite athletes. It may actually push it further away from the spotlight but today’s kids are more likely to speak up and find some foothold of support than they were in days past. It’s unfortunate that we expect kids to save themselves but it’s better than waiting for the existing power structures around sport to collapse in on themselves. That might not ever happen.
What the title says and it’s another front in soccer’s cold civil war. With the major markets cornered by UEFA and CONMEBOL (it wouldn’t take much to add the US, Mexico, Japan, etc to that), participation in the World Cup is really the only carrot FIFA can use to keep the confederations in line. On one uncynical level, it’s amazing to see this kind of open defiance but FIFA has done an unending string of dumb things since the end of the Blatter era and it’s perhaps no surprise that the confeds think they can do a better job.
What Do Cities Lose When They Lose Pro Sports? (I’m all ears to any suggestions as to how to crowbar rich people out of the game)
Go fucking listen to this. Please, do yourself the biggest favour.
Thanks for reading. If you liked what you read, use the Share button above. If you really like what you read, you can get every update delivered to your inbox using the Subscribe now button below.
We can speculate whether this was a coping mechanism for dealing with the horrors of what they had seen on the battlefield but that would very much detract from what is sure to be an entirely dispassionate and academic essay and not just me stringing together a grab bag of vocabulary and half-understood history.
We might also observe the winding back of several advances in gender politics made during the wars, as reflected in the marketing for those same consumer goods, but we’d be getting off track into an area I’m even less familiar with, risking Cancellation. I will add one final thought: that tension, pushing women back into certain boxes to give more important space to men returned form war, formed part of the background noise of the childhood home of the Boomer.
“Younger people, the cliches go, don’t know how to party, don’t know how to protest, don’t know how to think. They have no sense of humour no self-discipline and take no pleasure in anything.” Again, 1997. All that’s missing is a lazy reference to iPhones and social media.
The entire concept of Boomerism certainly centres on a predominantly white, predominantly Anglophone view of the world and, while that presents analytical limitations, those are the same people who pretty much run the show.
You might also reference Peter Turchin’s overproduction of elites theory but he seems like a crank. Having said that, I am easily swayed by any argument that makes me feel smarter than everyone else so when I get to his book, I may end up revising this whole thesis.
Millennial nostalgia cultural projects started at least five years ago, if not more, and it all fucking sucks. I’m begging people with their hands on the levers to have a new idea and take a risk on something that might not pay off reliably and immediately. In the meantime, if millennials could wrap their heads around their actual age and acknowledge that subsequent generations will think they’re desperately uncool, if they think about us at all, we’ll all be a lot happier.
I say this as a fan. If you invented baseball today, there’s no way it would have any cut through. People would look at you weird for even suggesting attending a game if it didn’t have the historical weight of 20 hours of a Ken Burns documentary behind it.
In that same documentary, baseball writer Daniel Okrent b.1948 roughly described baseball as waiting for something to happen (this was supposedly a good thing) and then he later wrote a book about Prohibition. I think this at least demonstrates interest, if not outright nostalgia, not for his own time but for his parents’.
Not unlike a rat after the Chicxulub asteroid hit.
I watched the games during the pandemic. They’re wrong. It was never like what they believe it was.
The more traditional route was to invoke the work of one Doctor Guillotin.
Subscribe to Garbage Day.
Ironically, big sporting events is one of the few spheres that can command widespread attention, a fact with obvious economic implications.