...and then you go home and stay up all night blogging with people who look like the Unabomber. It’s not healthy
Boomsday, Christopher Buckley: So we've gone from 'Don't trust anyone over thirty' to 'Don't drink any scotch under thirty'? Is this what's become of your revolution?
The country is at a breaking point. So overextended in six wars that other countries are taunting us to invade them. Inflation is skyrocketing, Japan has stopped buying our debt, and with baby boomers hitting retirement age, the social security system is beyond repair:
“Mountainous debt, a deflating economy, and seventy-seven million people retiring. The perfect economic storm.” Not bad, Cass thought, making a mental note to file it away for the blog. “And what is the Congress doing? Raising taxes—on my generation—to pay for, among other things, a monorail system in Alaska.”
And there's the presidential candidate running soley on the under thirty vote:
"How do we even know they'll vote?" Randy asked. "They never do. They're too busy shrugging and putting out, what do you call it, attitude."
"Because we're going to scare the shit out of them. We're going to convince them that if they don't vote this time--for you, the 'No Worse Than The Others' candidate--they're not going to be able to afford iPods and Mocha Frappuccinos. They'll be too busy paying for bedpans for Boomers."
Amidst all this, the CASSANDRA blog proposes a way out: give tax breaks to boomers who promise to commit suicide--Voluntary Transitioning--at 65 or 70. If only 25% take up the offer, not only will social security be saved, but the country will actually make money. As the idea starts to be taken seriously, a presidential committee is formed:
Important personages are appointed to the commission, with instructions to--by all means--study the problem in all its complexity, get to the root of it, and report back to the very highest levels of government. Six, nine months go by, with occasional fifteen-second sound bites on the evening news of commissioners sternly telling witnesses that they were not coming clean with the commission; the witnesses replying that, really, they're doing their best (give us a break). In due course, the commission delivers its report. There is a day or two of news coverage. The media reports the findings, that the United States is about to run out of molybdenum, or be overcome by bacteria emanating from geese; or that filthy, disgusting Arabs have no right to own American seaports, no matter how moderate they are; or that the government has no disaster plan ready in the event an asteroid the size of Rhode Island lands in the Pacific Ocean; or that the CIA failed to detect the cold war, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Tehran embassy takeover, Grenada, Iran-contra, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Bosnia, the attack on the USS Cole, 9/11, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Oh Shit, Now What?; or that really there was no excuse at all for launching those cruise missiles against Papua New Guinea.
These revelations are duly followed by grave tsk-tsking and chin rubbing and hand-wringing about how these vitally important issues are still being mishandled and even ignored by the government. The commissioners are officially thanked for their diligent efforts and given commemorative paperweights with the wrong middle initial. The president and the relevant cabinet secretaries and government officials pledge to give the commission's recommendations "the most serious consideration" (which is to say, none whatsoever), and everyone goes back to ignoring and mismanaging the vital issues.
Six months later, one of the ex-commissioners writes a pained and well-argued op-ed in The New YorK Times, complaining that nothing--not one single recommendation--has been acted upon. Whereupon a junior White House press secretary issues a pained, not-very-well-argued statement saying this is simply "not the case." Moreover, that as a result of the commission's "fine work," a number of things have been done, though he is not at liberty to go into details. Moreover, further study is needed, as this is --"indeed"--an issue of vital importance not only to the nation, but to all nations. And that's the end of it.
Review: entertaining fluff. The crossroads of politics and religion, the PR spin of the election season, and generational differences are all ripe for satirical exploitation. Boomsday falls short of being a "modest proposal." Instead, it substitutes pratfalls and gags for what could have been humor by way of the blood-covered stiletto. Whereas Thank You For Smoking made me want to buy a pack of cigarettes in support of personal rights while still point a j'accuse finger at the tobacco companies, this effort left me with a Yeah, we're fucked shrug of the shoulders. I enjoyed it, just expected it to be less cartoonish.
sidenote: This is the third Buckley book I've read, after The Whitehouse Mess and Thank You For Smoking. I enjoyed both and Thank You For Smoking is one of my favorites. The odd thing is I can't figure out why I've never read more of his books. Especially since many of his topics sounded interesting. Should I read them? I'm now thinking that his style is more Boomsday than Smoking--that of the wispy wit of pop culture political references--and while I'd enjoy them I'd also be disappointed.
Now that that is out of the way, here's what I need to read next:
- Institutionalization of USABLITY, Eric Schaffer
- About Face 3, The Essential of Interaction Design, Alan Cooper, Robert Reimann, and David Cronin