As Nisbet writes in the same essay, golden ages give way to ages of iron very easily. “If there is no community,” then “there is nothing to challenge, nothing to fuel the dynamism” required for a golden age, and if there is nothing but transgression and dissent, there is nothing to give acts of transgression the “purpose, substance and meaning” that make them something more than just puerile self-indulgence. Both problems define our age; everyone fancies themselves a rebel, even Sean Hannity and Donald Trump, but the traditional forms and structures that would give rebellion purpose and clarity exist only through as effigies to be torn down in ritual re-enactments of the original revolution, now decades in the past.
And so we just keep returning to boomer culture — revisiting its glorious victories or simply replaying its greatest hits. The same week that “Roseanne” hit it big, the number one movie in America was Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” — an aging boomer director telling a story saturated in nostalgia for the pop culture that defined his peak artistic years. And the big Easter television event was the live performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a musical that the baby boomer Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote at the tender age of 22, in a world where a rock-opera retelling of the passion still had a Christian culture to draw from, react against, enlighten and offend.