Writing in today’s Oz, Greg Melleuish starts out with the observation
It is not common for the political leadership of the country to be discussed in generational terms
Having read the piece that follows, I’m not surprised. Silly as the usual generation game stuff is, the attempt to classify individual political leaders by their birth year is even sillier (which isn’t to say it hasn’t been done, particularly in the US). The burden of the piece is to attack Kevin Rudd for the heinous sin of having been born in 19571
It’s hard to know what’s silliest in this piece: there is, for example, the claim that boomers like Kevin Rudd were products of the “education revolution of the 1960s” – in reality, the schools of the 1960s and early 1970s were dominated by rote learning of tables and dates. As for the university radicalism of the era, it was confined to a minority of a minority, since few kids got past year 12 in the 1960s. And by the time Kevin Rudd went to ANU in the mid-1970s 2, the days of radical activism were well and truly over.
Or perhaps there is the idea that, as a baby boomer, Rudd is tarred with the brush of postmodernism. As anyone who has followed these intellectual games knows, postmodernism came to the fore in the late 1980s, and was much more associated with Gen X academics, who used it to undermine the “grand narratives” (Marxism, functionalism and so on) which had appealed to the boomers who were now blocking their career progress.
But I think, the clearest silliness is the pairings it produces. It is a commonplace of Australian political discussion that the great adversaries Whitlam and Fraser share more similarities than differences, but Melleuish absurdly pairs Whitlam with Holt and Fraser with Hawke. More recently, and fatally to Melleuish’s silly attack on Rudd, lots of people have observed that Rudd is, in many respects, a younger version of John Howard. But, in Melleuish’s theatre of the absurd, Howard is paired with Paul Keating (in many ways the ultimate embodiment of cliches about baby boomers) on the basis that both were born during World War II. He might want to check the bios of, say, John Lennon and Mick Jagger.
1For aficianados, this makes him a member of Generation Jones, but Melleuish appears to have got his knowledge of the subject at the pub, or by watching game shows on TV
2 I just found this out on Wikipedia. We were contemporaries, it seems, but I never met him