A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity in the title, and Gibney doesn’t retreat from his premise over its four hundred or so pages. As a generational cohort, the Boomers fit the profile of a sociopath as laid out in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V): They’re egocentric, concerned almost entirely with their own needs and immediate personal gratification, unconcerned with the feelings of needs of others except where they can exploit them to their own ends, and given to irresponsible and impulsive behaviour acted upon with deceit and callousness.
Gibney uses the terms Boomer and sociopath interchangeably, and lays out how the unique circumstances of their upbringing – born into the most prosperous and comfortable period in American history, and raised by parents who indulged them with the memories of their own anxious, privation-filled childhoods in mind – meant that they were on a collision course with history and political opportunity the moment they began coming of age en masse in the ‘70s.
We think of Baby Boomers as spoiled by their Greatest Generation parents, born into a post-war culture of abundance.
However, in Britain, austerity was in place for a long time. It was Poland with better TV.
England’s Boomers often grew up surrounded by bombed out ruins; food staples (even tea) were scarce. Factor in the class system and you have a completely different eco-system.
So how to explain, say, John Lennon, whose behavior and preoccupations are identical to any of his well-born American peers? Was he just imitating them?