Kids These Days
The young generation is learning things that will have to be unlearned or undone.
As we mark the passing of one of the icons of the Greatest Generation, it’s fitting that we consider the generational transition currently underway in our great republic. Since LT(jg) George Bush and his peers came home from World War II, there have been two competing viewpoints on prospects for younger generations. The first take is that history’s march would always be in the direction of progress and improvement. Steady, almost continuous increases in post-war standards of living and life expectancy reinforced the idea that subsequent generations would be better off than the current one — that children would have better, happier lives than their parents. The second viewpoint can be summed up in the oft-heard lament, “Kids these days…” A recent David Brooks column highlights why we should all be wary of the potential for the second view to nullify the first.
The gist of Brooks’s article is that even admittedly liberal “parents” are often taken aback by the absolutism of today’s progressive “children.” The older and younger generations share the same general beliefs and values but differ considerably on the best means to achieve their ends. The cohort Brooks terms “militant progressives” aren’t interested in a better version of their parents’ world; they believe the whole system is so flawed that it needs to be torn down and replaced.
So what makes this iteration different from the long line of the-end-is-near predictions that have come before? For one, we’ve moved from a culture that values dialogue to one where even refraining from endorsing the progressives’ diktats earns not just a rebuke, but attempts to banish the “offender” from the public square. Brooks describes the progressives’ approach this way:
Virtue is not defined by how compassionately you act. Virtue is defined by how vehemently you react to that which you find offensive. Virtue involves the self-display of a certain indignant sensibility, and anybody who doesn’t display that sensibility is morally suspect.
To today’s intolerant and militant youth, if you don’t wholeheartedly embrace their take on what’s right and good, you’re not just wrong, you’re in the same category as those WWII-era democratic socialists (a.k.a., Nazis), Ebenezer Scrooge, and pedophiles (or is that okay now, too?). That trend is particularly ominous given that it is most pronounced on the campuses preparing todays “kids” to be tomorrow’s leaders and policy makers.
The other major consideration is the level of indoctrination we are all subjected to. While Boomers were too busy riding bikes (without helmets) and playing board games to pay much attention to what Walter Cronkite and company had to say, today’s youth are inundated with influencers trying to convince them they’re the only “cool kid” who hasn’t done, said, or bought X … who ain’t woke. When projected into this social media echo chamber — which serves as the primary “news” source for many — the (im)moral certitude outlined above quickly crowds out opposing viewpoints. From appropriate responses to immigration, to definitions of marriage and gender, to who should pay for your health care, ideas that were mainstream only a few years ago are now mocked by hashtag-wielding thought police who are steadily steering conventional wisdom to the Left.
When combined with the adults who “know so much that isn’t so” and politicians who care more about being liked than right, it’s not hard to envision the progressives garnering enough political power to bring their policy fantasies to fruition in the not-too-distant future. Those policies are unsustainable and will require being corrected by future generations of Patriots, but the “gaps” will make for a very bumpy ride along the way.