Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Deliver Us from Strange Children

More and more I find myself taking a decidedly biblical view of the world.  A view informed by Old Testament wisdom, law and the Covenant.  That is especially true when I think of the Adolescent Rebellion of the 60's and 70's and the evils that followed (and continue to follow) in its wake.
I dwell also on the societal consequences of the interruption of generational continuity.  For America the break was, in the main, brought about WWII; for Europe (and broadly, Western social, literary, economic, academic and religious foundations) dissolutions were brought by the combination of World Wars.  Disillusion and cynicism, following great breakdowns of confidence in institutions, secular and divine.

The Greatest Generation and the Aftermath of WWII
How did the greatest generation spawn the worst generation (actually now two and counting)?  That question, I suspect, has troubled a lot of us.  The answer, or explanation, I encounter most often is simple, straightforward and mostly wrong: neglectful parents.  According to the emerging narrative, men returning from military service -- especially those exposed to combat -- wanted to put behind them as quickly as possible the privations, hardships and discipline they had endured.  Proudly wearing the ruptured duck they wanted nothing more than to return to the luxuries of civilian life.  Veterans and their civilian counterparts alike wanted to begin new lives -- lives kept on hold for the duration.  Above all, everyone wanted to forget the war.
The second part of the narrative holds that new parents, traumatized by the war years, were overprotective of their children and withheld discipline.  A variant with the same outcome is that the parents were so busy building new lives for themselves that they neglected their kids leaving them to their own devices.  Either way children were allowed to grow up with minimal parental supervision and guidance and without being given responsibilities.  

Now blaming boomer parents is to follow a seductive argument because there are elements of truth in it.  But I argue that the better explanation is that parental neglect is less significant than the fact of children abandoning  their parents.  En masse.  They did so riding the crest of an enormous demographic wave that swept them to a place beyond their parents' reach -- the peer group, millions strong.  The estrangement was fueled by the quick rise of child-centered television and marketing specifically directed at the young as a separate and cohesive group.  Indeed, the Boomer generation came to define themselves, not by parental or traditional norms, but by conforming to those embraced and practiced by their peers.  

The Loss of Continuity
Of all the changes and disruptions during, and in the wake of WWII I believe the break [1] in cultural transmission across generations may turn out to be the greatest casualty for America and the West.  What has been lost, it seems to me, are many traits, attitudes and dispositions that had once been essential in American life.  Common sense informed by experience; respect for tradition accompanied by a cautious, thoughtful and prudential approach to effecting change; loss of religious heritage; loss of trust in constitutional government and respect for the work of the Founders.  The cost to a formerly robust civil society has been enormous.  Its foundation now full of cracks, easily worried and split open by its enemies.

Developmental Problems
A number of pathologies seem to emerge when young persons are oriented toward their peers rather than to adult authority.  Most fall within the category of arrested development.  In short, peer-group kids do not grow up; they never understand what it means (or once meant) to become an independent, responsible, reflective adult.  Without that understanding, the normal developmental maturing beyond narcissism does not happen.  In the end, these children end up as petulant, elitist, [2] perennial adolescents enamored of skills and intellect they don't posses and incapable of self-assessment. 
I'm reminded of the song, Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.  Perhaps the caveat and admonition should have been, don't let your babies grow up to be children.  Default parenting of the Left.

The Boomer generation, though I've painted it with a broad brush, is not monolithic. Some of the best lights of conservatism have grown from it and its heritors. In government Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and a few others come to mind.  In media, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin.  In academe, Anthony Codevilla.  And yet, it is a generation that has imperfectly tried to bridge the gap in continuity with the pre-war generations.  The Tea Party movement, though in many ways amorphous, consciously reaches back to restore the heritage of earlier times.  In matters of core principles they will, I believe, be successful, but in regard to critical thinking I'm extremely doubtful.  The memes of their generation are too deeply rooted. [3]

I often observe the operation of presumptive memes in the arguments of prominent conservative boomers. Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Glenn Beck and others who, at once knowingly and unknowingly pay homage to the new orthodoxies that emerged from the 60's and 70's; they are seemingly unshakable. Under the new social, political and economic orthodoxies (largely driven by media, academe and other centers of the Institutional Left), certain subjects are immune from questioning or critical analysis. [4] Those subjects include, among countless others: the sanitized history of the Civil Rights movement, uncritical tolerance of multiculturalism, apotheosis of Lincoln, conservative-liberal double standard, normalization of violence from the left writ large (principally unions in the past), human destruction of the earth and cosmos.The orthodoxy of the Left is the modern equivalent of the early Church in the West at its most overbearing and authoritarian. To question it, to oppose it, to speak ill of it (even mis-speak by accident) or to be found wanting in public fealty is to commit heresy and face severe penalties. The Judeo-Christian cornerstone of the Western Tradition has been all but replaced by the Holy Catholic Left, as animated by utopian religiosity and unconditional faith that exceeds anything seen in traditional religion for centuries. The enforcement arm of the Catholic Left is phenomenon of now-institutionalized and ubiquitous political correctness. The conformity so eagerly adopted by the strange children of the sixties and beyond made possible their submission to the will and opinion of others.

Guess Who's in Charge
A small, but superbly organized minority of antagonists whom the majority fears to oppose.

Good and Evil (just for fun; a grace note)
From a purely secular perspective these binary concepts lead directly to human survival, prosperity and security, on the one hand, and misery, suffering and death on the other.

1.  That break led me to the biblical parallel -- strange children.  

2.  The general feeling of being "special" (beyond peer-group stroking) was largely fostered by the attention focused on boomers by savvy businesses who saw the huge market potential in the demographic.  Marketers pandered to and flattered this group without letup.  A strategy handsomely rewarded.
3.  Enthymeme is probably the better word.  Unconscious assumptions that are never questioned precisely because they are unconscious.  The generalized sensitivity to the opinions and beliefs of others is an example.  It is at the heart of political correctness, multiculturalism and relativism, each of which can be ferreted out, but not, I think, the predisposition to sensitivity itself.  It introduces a vague but pervasive sense of uncertainty into the strongest of arguments, undermining them.
4.  Penalties for heresy can be severe -- ostracism, loss of reputation, law-fare that destroys assets, families and friendships, endangered livelihood, destruction of political careers, unwanted harrassment from law enforcement.  Lives undone.

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