Throughout my lifetime, one historical question I’ve heard raised over and over again involved the Nazi Holocaust: How was it possible that ordinary Germans participated in the genocide of millions of perfect nice, loyal German citizens, simply because they were Jewish? One might attribute the attitude of Adolf Hitler himself to some kind of psychosis, but how is it conceivable that ordinary Germans apparently had no “moral compass,” and willingly proceeded in this genocide? More broadly, why is it that Jews in particular have been persecuted in many countries throughout history? Generational Dynamics theory provides a proposed explanation for all of these questions.
Auschwitz gas chamber
From the point of view of generational theory, there is a catastrophe in progress in the current time that is equivalent to the Holocaust: The financial crisis, caused by “financial engineers” in banks and other institutions around the world that purposely created highly complex but fraudulent synthetic securities, and then paid off peers at ratings agencies to give them AAA ratings. How could so many ordinary professionals, including lawyers, accountants and regulators, consistently abandon their professional ethics to create such a massive fraud that’s destroyed so many lives, with the worst yet to come?
The Holocaust is a uniquely violent event in human history, and no Gen-Xers have killed Boomers in the financial crisis. But the two events share the same kind of underlying generational behavior, differing only in degree.
Generation-X view of Boomers
Since the 1990s, many researchers have reported the hatred that Generation-Xers have for Boomers. Gen-Xer Barack Obama expressed this hatred in his book:
“In the back and forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage.”
His Gen-X adviser, Paul Begala, was more direct: “I hate the Baby Boomers. They’re the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history.”
This hatred came about because of the environment in which Gen-Xers were raised. Because of feminist and government policies that paid mothers to dump fathers, most Generation-X children were raised without the essential influence and protection of their biological fathers. These children don’t read feminist press releases, so they could see for themselves that their mothers lied to courts and welfare officials to drive the fathers away. Instead, they were raised by depressed single mothers, and had no male influences except a steady stream of men in their mothers’ beds, some of whom physically or sexually abused them. These children, not surprisingly, grew up hating their parents’ generation.
Racist policies created a generation of monsters
Feminist policies particularly targeted black children, destroying black families so thoroughly that 72% of Gen-X black children were born out of wedlock. Young black children, looking for a role model, might have selected a black public figure born into the worst of circumstances, who worked hard in job after job, and fought his way to the top, to become a nominee as a Supreme Court Justice, only to have the same feminist groups who destroyed their families now use incredibly trivial and nonsensical charges to destroy the career of Clarence Thomas, only because he was powerful black man married to a white woman. And it was not lost on these children that far more serious charges of violent serial rape that were brought against another public figure, Bill Clinton, were ignored by feminists because he was a white man. This went well beyond politics. No Republican or Democrat has ever been subjected to vengeful feminist hate-filled racist fury like Clarence Thomas was, whose unique attribute is that he’s a well-known public figure who is black, married to a white woman. And since these black Gen-X children didn’t read the fatuous nonsense in feminist press releases, they knew very well that the hatred directed at Clarence Thomas was based entirely on racist feminist policies. And these racist, bigoted attacks by feminists and Democrats on Clarence Thomas are continuing to this day.
The Gen-X hatred of Boomers ameliorated during the late 1990s, when many Gen-Xers made fortunes during the high tech boom. But it turned to a generational vengeful fury when they lost their fortunes in the Nasdaq crash that occurred in 2000.
This vengeful fury is the attitude that prevailed as Gen-Xers reached middle management positions in financial institutions in the early 2000s. They had poured out of Masters programs in financial engineering in the 1990s, and they saw how they could use these new tools to get revenge on the hated Boomers — by creating these fraudulent synthetic securities and selling them to the Boomer investors. Their own Boomer bosses did not stand in the way. Boomers often make poor bosses because they grew up in the 1960s developing no management skills except to protest and complain. As a result, Boomers aren’t good managers, and they’re very gullible, so that dishonest Gen-Xers can easily take advantage of them.
Financial crisis: Just blame the Boomers for everything
If you have doubts that the attitudes of Gen-Xers are different from the attitudes of Boomers, there is one clear, measurable difference. This is a huge, major, enormous, gigantic, overwhelming difference between the Gen-X culture and the Boomer culture, and this is the difference that makes the Gen-X culture so toxic.
When the Savings and Loan crisis occurred in the 1980s, the Boomer prosecutors investigated every detail, made thousands of criminal referrals and had numerous convictions. The 2000s financial crisis is much worse, and yet there has not been even one criminal referral or conviction. The Justice Department refuses to investigate and prosecute the crimes that were committed.
This is the huge difference with the Gen-X culture: Boomers had no problem prosecuting other Boomers, but Gen-Xers adamantly refuse to investigate and blame each other, even for serious crimes. Thus, even if there are only a few dishonest Gen-Xers, they can do an enormous amount of damage because they can commit crimes at will and count on not being punished by Gen-X prosecutors. This has huge consequences, as Gen-X financial engineers could and can commit serious crimes freely.
It’s even worse than that, because Gen-X regulators and prosecutors have actually encouraged continued fraud. In 2008, I wrote frequently about Gen-X New York Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo who not only did not prosecute the banksters at Citibank and others, but actually arranged for them to continue defrauding the public and investors. And a recent 60 Minutes investigation shows that the Obama Justice Department adamantly refuses to investigate and prosecute this bankster fraud, even in the face of massive evidence of fraud.
The Lost Generation and the Holocaust
That’s exactly the kind of culture that prevailed in 1930s Nazi Germany. It was possible to rob, defraud, assault or even kill a Jew for revenge, and these actions were not only not investigated and prosecuted by German officials, they were actually encouraged and supported by officials, all the way up to Hitler himself. This is EXACTLY the same kind of generational behavior we’ve been seeing today, differing only in degree.
The relationship between Gen-Xers and Boomers is hardly unique in history. The generation that grew up after the Civil War was called the “Missionary Generation,” and you can just imagine from their name how similar they were to the Boomers that grew up after WW II. The Missionary Generation created societal chaos that the next generation, known as the “Lost Generation,” came to hate them for. It’s the Lost Generation that’s the archetypal ancestor of Generation-X. America’s Lost Generation hated the Missionary Generation even before World War I, but that hatred became palpable after the war, which they blamed entirely on the Missionaries.
World War I was a political disaster for Germany. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, World War I for Germany was not at all like World War II, but was generationally equivalent to the 1960s Vietnam War for America. Germany fought the war half-heartedly. There was a vigorous anti-war movement that turned the public against the war, and finally Germany was forced to capitulate — not because they were defeated on the battlefield, but because they were defeated politically at home by their anti-war movement. The Treaty of Versailles that followed the war was highly punitive to Germany, and Germany was completely humiliated.
Germany’s Lost Generation blamed the war, the subsequent hyperinflation, and even the 1929 stock market crash on the Missionary Generation, especially the Jews who were associated with that generation. Robbing, defrauding, assaulting or even killing a Jew was no problem, because it was revenge for the war and the financial collapses. To them it wasn’t genocide; it was justice. Gen-Xers also feel it’s just justice today, when they defraud Boomers.
Repeated Jewish persecution throughout history
This resolves the puzzle of why ordinary Germans participated in the 1930s Holocaust, but there’s a larger question as well: Why has there been repeated persecution of Jews at many times and places for many centuries. Is there something unique about Jews that attracts this kind of persecution?
Generational hatred is the worst kind of hatred because it spreads rapidly with no natural barriers. It’s so powerful that it overwhelms reason and common sense. If your generation hates some group, then all your friends will feel the same way and will reinforce your hatred. Anyone who objects can be ignored as being either too young and naive or too old and senile.
A generational fault line can easily morph into a political fault line, as people in all generations pick sides in the generational dispute, and then the generational hatred becomes politicized. In America, for example, the Gen-Xer culture has been aligned with the Democrats, and we’ve seen xenophobic attitudes towards the Tea Party from the Democrats, and xenophobic attitudes towards Muslims from the Republicans.
The generational split between Boomers and Gen-Xers is not unique in history. We’ve described the same generational split between Germany’s Missionary Generation and the Lost Generation that led to the Holocaust.
In generational theory, the Missionary and Boomer generations are in the “Prophet Archetype,” while the Lost and Gen-X generations are in the “Nomad Archetype.” These archetypes repeat in every place and time in history.
All Prophet generations have the same characteristics as Boomers — highly moralistic, arrogant and narcissistic — not always right, but always certain. All Nomad generations have the same characteristics as Generation-X, disaffected and angry at society and the preceding Prophet generation.
Jewish communities have characteristics that are consistent with the Prophet generations, with a culture that’s often isolated and highly moralistic, based on ancient laws. This means that when a generational fault line morphs into a political fault line, the Jewish community is almost certainly going to be aligned with the Prophet generation, and hated by the younger Nomad generation. The situation is amplified by the fact that Jewish law provides for very careful handling of money and debt, meaning that the people in the Jewish community do well during financial crisis periods, while other communities struggle.
This is the generational explanation for the xenophobia towards and persecution of Jews throughout history. The same kind of analysis can provide explanations for other persecuted groups, and for other genocides in history.
Europe’s disintegrating economy
Right now, we see Europe’s economy disintegrating right before our eyes, with no hope in sight. How will the the generational split manifest itself when total meltdown occurs? Another Holocaust for Jews? Mass killing of Muslims and/or Roma Gypsies? Or simple ethnic violence (Greeks versus Germans), spiraling into total war? We won’t have to wait too much longer to find out.
This article is excerpted from the forthcoming book by John J. Xenakis, “For Boomers: How to Survive in a Generation-X World: Making your way in the workplace, in love and in life.”