Rather crude cover design wouldn’t you say?
A little while ago I wrote an article I am not all that proud of. Essentially it was my grumbling about intergenerational stresses viewed through a stressed prism. It didn’t come out as coherent and logical as I like my articles to be. With that said it seems that I am not the only person who is struggling with these issues.
Full disclosure, my father is both a baby boomer and very likely a sociopath, at least he fits the clinical description to a T. Ironically enough he was the one who told me about this book after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. I put in a request for this book at my local library and they provided me a copy very quickly. If you have absolutely no patience or attention span, I have intention to purchase a copy of this book. Why? Well that is going to take a little while to explain.
First of all, this is the most statist book I have read in a very long time. A point that the author makes (constantly), is that old saw that we do not live in a deeply flawed or nonfunctional society. Our government worked and always worked. It just doesn’t work so well right now because a pack of sociopaths are in the drivers seat. If you are reading this then I imagine you know what a fallacy that idea is.
One other thing you should know about this book, the author is probably the wordiest motherfucker I have read in my entire life and I am the kind of weirdo who reads the essays of Michel De Montaigne for fun. The typical Harvard professor doesn’t use as many obscure words as this guy. I ask you, when have you ever heard words like nugatory? wunderkammer? references made to The Gnomes of Zurich? Or whatever the hell Berkely-in-the-Borgo (pg92) is supposed to mean. It’s a rare thing for me to find a word in a book I don’t recognize or understand, much less to find them every nine or ten pages. That’s the sort of thing I enjoy, but I can see it being a serious red flag for a lot of more casual readers. Never mind that there are plenty of people out there who don’t like feeling that they are being talked down to. This book has an overwhelming tone of talking down to its readers.
As for the book itself, going into it knowing that it is written by a statist ivory tower egghead what else can be done with it? Well, the author does have a point, this book is footnoted to the nth degree. There are several valid points brought up in this text. However every valid point or piece of interesting research is counterbalanced by statist psychotic nonsense, intellectual arrogance and in many cases, comically missing the point. Points that should be really, really, obvious.
The first being, if the baby boomers have a higher than average rate of sociopathic tendencies then where does the blame lie? Gibney seems to place almost all of the blame on television, the prevalence of bottle feeding of babies and American post World War Two prosperity. The prosperity argument has always struck me as ridiculous, I have heard it made more than a few times. Heard it all the time when I was a kid in Eugene Oregon. Yes we know plenty of stories about how children of the rich have an annoying habit of growing up to be monsters. But how many people make the counter argument that poverty is some guarantor of strong moral fiber? It’s a vast oversimplification I admit, but both rich children and poor children can and do grow up to be upstanding people. Or monsters, or more likely somewhere in the middle.
Blaming television and prosperity seems like such an extreme and curious example of missing the point that it leads me to suspect collusion. Collusion with who? Well, some time ago I wrote a review of a book called Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon [rest in peace Dave McGowan] which pointed out detailed, multilayered and obvious to anyone who actually did some digging involvement of the intelligence community in the establishment of the bulk of popular music of the baby boomer generation. I could spend awhile detailing what this was and what it entails for us nowadays. But the Gnostic Media Podcast has spent way more time talking about this than I ever could so I reference you to their work. In a nutshell though a relatively small group of mostly east coast intelligentsia, working with the US and several other nations intelligence organizations to create most of modern culture. With a bunch of psychopaths in the drivers seat of modern culture should we really be surprised that there are more human predators running around than there should be?
There are more annoyances in this book than I could list in a review. Heck, if I had the time I could probably write my own book refuting at least half of what is said in A Generation of Sociopaths. Gibney spends gallons of ink talking about arcana of the tax system and how we need specific reforms. There are a few things I can throw in the face of accounting fetishists who call for a more “fair” and “rational” taxation system. But for those of you who don’t have the time.
My ultimate problem with this book though, as persnickety as it may sound. Is that Gibney is a textbook example of the corporatist-Statist mindset and this book reflects that in spades. Corporatist-Statists are some of the most vile people in the world. Unimaginative, boring, arrogant and really short sighted. Everything to them is a cost/benefit analysis. Art is only useful as a tax deduction. Creativity is only useful if it leads to further profit. Corporatist-Statists ultimate enemy is chaos. Their elaborate mathematically based worldview is regularly disrupted by chaos. They fight it, try to measure it, try to take it into account. But that’s the thing about chaos, as simplistic as it may sound, it’s unpredictable. I don’t just mean chaos in a grand sense like warfare. Which can be viewed by them as either an unpalatable way to make scads of money. Or a pointless expenditure of resources. It’s the little things that add up life that can’t be predicted no matter how many spreadsheets you fill out. That company you invested in tanked because it turned out the CEO was a degenerate sex fiend who was cooking the books. A new invention suddenly makes that widget factory obsolete. Someone forgot to pay a bribe to the mayor of some crappy city and the expansion of another widget factory can’t go ahead. A warlord decided to singlehandledy sabotage that pipeline project. And so on and so on.
Trying to examine the damage done by the baby boomer generation. And for that matter the damage done by later generations and previous generations without taking into account the complete picture and the effects of chaos is fallacy worthy of Don Quixote himself. However that this book exists in and of itself is commendable. Perhaps someone in the future might be able to write a book on this subject that takes in the complete picture. As for this over complicated tome, I rate it a 3 out of 5. The only thing saving it from a lower rating is the fascinating subject matter and the occasional manifestation of a genuine nugget of wisdom.