Humorist and best-selling writer P. J. O’Rourke, 66, has a great explanation of the baby boom generation’s imprint on the world. “Sure we are basically a generation of self-entitled brats, but we nevertheless improved everything when we took over,” he said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
O’Rourke, author of “The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again)” just published a cover piece in AARP The Magazine where he describes the boomer generation’s accomplishments and allows how many of them were just unintentional consequences of the pursuit of their own happiness.
“Take drugs,” he said when we spoke to him. Boomers “got no credit for doing psycho-active drugs.” While drug experimentation was perhaps not such a good thing on the face of it and resulted in the deaths of more than a few iconic figures, society should thank boomers because in the process of taking drugs society’s thinking evolved regarding mental illness and brain chemistry. Mental illness was historically treated as a character flaw, he said. “People were told to ‘buck up,’ ‘cheer up already’ things like that,” O’Rourke said. Then along came drug-experimenting boomers who could attest that hearing voices, seeing things that weren’t there, were all very real. Boomers are the first generation to understand that something was really wrong and it changed how mental illness was treated.
Boomers’ sexual self-indulgence was another example of something the generation took some blame over but led to a greater good. “We gave the world our tremendous openness to other people. Once you abandon racial and ethnic prejudice,” he said, “you have so many more people to sleep with!”
O’Rourke was the editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, and spent 20 years reporting for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic as the world’s only trouble-spot humorist, covering wars, riots, rebellions, and other “Holidays in Hell” in more than 40 countries. He’s written 16 books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. His book about Washington, “Parliament of Whores,” and another on international conflict, “Give War a Chance,” were both No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list.
His full piece on the baby boomers appears on the AARP website.