ARE THEY TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD?
We are now told by the AP that “American adults from young to old disagree increasingly today on social values, ranging from religion to relationships, creating the largest generation gap since divisions 40 years ago over Vietnam, civil rights, and women’s liberation”.
Let’s leave the last clause alone for the moment; to have a serious conversation much would depend on how one defines “Vietnam” and “civil rights” (affirmative action was something not originally encompassed by public support for civil rights) and “women’s liberation” (abortion, abortion on demand promised much uproar from the get-go, but gender wars and the deconstructionist assault on morality itself were not originally part of the package).
The Pew Research Center was inspired to conduct the survey after noticing that 18-29 year-olds voted for Obama by a ratio of 2-1. I hope We aren’t going to make the same mistakes the adults facing the Boomer kids made: oh well, if the kids are for it, then it must be good. That bit of feckless surrender by the adults of that day constituted an opening act to a lethal melodrama that is still playing today.
Of course, ‘youth’ and ‘revolution’ were in the air, as it were. All those postwar babies suddenly coming to (chronological) maturity all at once, the Established adults having gotten the country into a baad war that they were in danger of losing, and it didn’t seem - as it never does to kids – like anything their adults had decided to do was actually doing any good.
And it didn’t help that the now-desperate Dems decided that ‘the kids’ (meaning not the same thing as this era’s ‘the children’) were a nice plump demographic looking to be plucked for the Party. So the Party went with ‘the kids’, and all the incoherent idealism that could survive being baked into a pie full of change – change immediate and without any bad consequences.
That was before the ideological feminist cadres – disciplined and, unlike the barefoot hippies, most sensibly shod – co-opted all the great revolutionary playbooks of the century and mounted a sustained, comprehensive, and in-depth assault on everything that stood in the way of their utter and constitutional right to be as free as ‘guys’. And since what they wanted – as best anyone could make out – was so contrary to much of what Western civilization and civilization generally had taken as ‘reality’ for centuries if not millennia, then it was just about everything vital and fundamental in matters civilizational that the feminist cadres declared to be the enemy.
The curious thing is that at this point, forty Biblical years later, their dogged and clever revolutions are still highly contested. Let’s face it, 40 years after 1787, 1789, 1917, and 1949 those revolutions were not daily affronted with wide and deed popular doubt and dissatisfaction. (That 1933 ‘thousand year’ revolution didn’t last long enough to be measured on this scale.)
They were embraced by the Beltway pols and the media ‘elites’ on the heady assumption that the Boomer generation would sweep all before it. That dizzy Bubble was reinforced by the expectation that the power of the government, the media, and all the other of the national ‘elites’ – thrown into the scales on the side of Boomer visions of perfection – would create an unstoppable synergy that would overwhelm the older folk and thoroughly indoctrinate the future younger folk as they grew up.
But here We are, forty years later, and not only have the revolutions not-become the nation’s standard accepted ‘reality’, but the bad but hardly unforseeable consequences of their frothy incoherence are now becoming clear and impossible to ‘spin away’.
The revolutions chose to make their Long March through the institutions – the universities (where the deconstructionist binge got its start), the federal bureaucracy, but most importantly the Beltway itself, where the pols were eager to trade in their Vietnam wave for one that actually promised to carry them on its crest to the true Island of Perfection and Delight. That Long March was cleverly and shrewdly handled. Many useful synergies were catalyzed and things began to feed off one another, all to the greater glory of the revolution.
But they failed to actually convince – not to put too fine a point on it – folks. As in people, as in other citizens, as inThe People.
Well, maybe this was not so much a failure as it was an oversight. They really weren’t trying to convince people. The masses – as any good revolutionary cadre could have said – were leaderless lumps that needed to be led; those myriads who didn’t get it would be led by those few who did get it. The strategic expectation was that once the institutions were forced to submit, then the lumps would follow for lack of any other direction.
The thought that individual human beings, and that human beings with some genuine if incomplete claim upon human maturity, would resist the revolutions … that thought never crossed the minds of the revolutionary cadres, male or female … or female-identified male, or formerly male-identified females. Or what-have-you.
Forty years later and here We are, still in one piece, though apparently losing altitude and unsure of the course and heading. And rather brutally short of fuel.
History is not only not-dead, but it is full or irony. And for many must now seem to be not only not-dead, but frankly undead. But anybody who ever watched B-movies about witless kids cavorting in cemeteries at midnight or summer-camps in the middle of the day could have warned that History and Life have ways of waiting in the tall grass, and coming back to exact their revenge for the insults heaped upon them. But even when his own donkey stopped in the road and started talking in complete sentences, Balaam still didn’t get it. Though none of the cadres bothered with the story of Balaam, since they had declared that they did indeed get it, and anyway Biblical stories were just stories. Only their own ‘stories’ were actually valid, were actually worthy of being called Narrative. So they assumed.
But resistance, though not hugely organized, has remained steady and strong. And can you say ‘Iraq War’?
And here We all are.
There is not so much reason for consolation as you might think.
Generations of the young have now grown up in the cadres’ Flattened world. There is no Beyond – because no revolution will accept its being liable to any definitive and decisive judgment from a power or authority beyond itself. In this, the revolutions and the government-controlled State were sisters (as it were) under the skin. Leftist and Rightist, sisters under the skin.
I think the Framers must have imagined that one of the major supports of their Constitutional machinery was a Citizenry that was not only acknowledged as the source of all governmental authority, but was indeed a Citizenry each of whose members dwelt in the Presence of some Beyond. A Beyond that not only judged them, but also nurtured them, as they would then judge and nurture their Constitutional government.
This shrewd blather about politics being public and religion being private – so useful in trying to shoehorn space for abortion and all the assorted ‘lifestyles’ of the revolutions – was just that: blather. The Constitutional vision presumed some sort of support for The People stemming from their own personal experience of the Beyond. That, more than any political maneuvering, would ground them in an independence of spirit and thought that would let them, the Citizens, ‘judge’ their government.
Now what happens to the Constitutional vision when generations have been raised with no working experience of the Beyond at all? For all the vitality and energy and even idealism that youth commands, what will Ground them? What will Shape them?
America is truly, once again, a wilderness – and far more so than it ever was before. Youthful vitality and idealism, un-Shaped, un-Boundaried, un-Grounded, will create a jungle, not a Garden. And while jungles have a certain charm all their own, and are – for the intrepid – nice places to visit, very few would want to live there. Or could.
Unballasted so that it cannot ride deep in the water, dismasted so that it cannot reach up into the wind with sails for motive power, with therefore a rudder that is of no use, and with all charts and even the compass thrown overboard as ‘quaint’ … Our societal ship scuds along, moved by wind and wave in whatever direction they will push and not under any control of Ours, queasily sliding along the surface of a bottomless and now-trackless sea of Time.
Until such time as the ship runs aground, or founders and rolls over, or is overtaken by another vessel very much under human control and boarded. Say what you will about the Pilgrims, but at least they got themselves somewhere in one piece.
Myself, I worry about all these young. For the past forty years at least We have been in freefall, and the cadres witlessly or cynically assured Us that this was liberation, assuming that since nothing was really ‘real’, then if they could only convince Us to believe they wielded the Secret of Fulfillment all would yet be well; because in a world where nothing is on the level, it’s only a matter of how you hold your head.
It was far more a loaf of freakish and sleazy baloney than anyone has wanted to think about. But, like the Japanese citizenry who began to experience B-29s over their very heads after years of a war they had been told they were winning gloriously, now Our turn has come: nothing works anymore, not even the most essential elements of the Founding Vision upon which – up until recently – the American political Identity was based.
Cast loose from any fear of ‘judgment’, the Branches of the government and the assorted ‘elites’ and all the hangers-on that are parasitically attracted to unbridled wealth and power, have been carousing in the Beltway in a most comprehensive imitation of Imperial Rome during the last century of its existence.
Only the most sustained and well-Grounded and well-Shaped and well-Aimed seriousness can save Us now. And those are not something that youth is known for; because it is not something youth has had the time, or the will, to yet achieve. And without such seriousness on the part of those with more experience, how will enough of a world and a culture and a society and a civilization remain in place to nurture their growing-up?
It’s not enough that there be a ‘government’ or ‘elites’. Rome of the fourth century A.D. had a government – such as it was – and ‘elites’ by the bucketful, but it had lost the much deeper sources of its Identity. And became a heavily-rouged, dying thing, going through the motions of life until History sent others to put it out of its misery; its estate was broken up and taken by others.
Romans – alas – presumed they were ‘Romans’ just because there was a government there in Rome and they belonged to it; hence they were ‘Romans’. But that isn’t how the American vision saw it: Americans were Americans because of their shared vision, goals, beliefs, assumptions, lifeways – all of which constituted an Identity. They then erected a Constitutional government that was ‘American’ because The People that raised it up, its Citizens, were Americans.
Identity Politics, like the revolutions that created it, wanted to do too much too soon. It was, like the revolutions that created it, cocky, arrogant, self-assured, impatient, and far too willing to tolerate ‘collateral damage’.
But ‘collateral damage’ is a term that migrated from military affairs, and in this case the migration did not serve its masters well. When you are inflicting casualties on others, then you may well find it simple enough to ‘accept collateral damage’ on those others.
But when you are at sea, and ripping the structural supports out of your own vessel, then the ‘collateral damage’ consequent upon your remodeling is not going to be inflicted upon ‘others’, but rather upon yourself. If you pull the supports out of your hull, it’s you that will suffer the consequences – intended or unintended, foreseen or unforeseen – of your actions.
So Madeleine Albright’s breezy if jowly assertion that half a million dead Iraqi children would be “an acceptable price to pay” – delivered in the accents, though hardly the spirit, of Lincoln – set Us a reely reely baaaad example. We actually thought that willingness to let other people – and children at that – die by the hundreds of thousands was a sign of seriousness and maturity. That her statement was proof positive that the Clintons and the Dems and ‘women’ had ‘arrived’: they could be as macho as guys, like Rambo and Lincoln.
Bush the Second, that egregious frak, tried to run the same play. Welcome to Fright Night – for real (to quote that film’s famous line).
And the consequences came back upon Us.
Where it belongs. We, after all, are the masters of the government. That We choose not to control Our government is no more a defense than the owner of an attack dog who chooses not to keep it on a short leash in a crowded park.
But there are now cohort after cohort of Our young who cannot comprehend the strength required of a truly independent Citizenry: that they must first remain independent of their government, in order to judge and control it.
Interestingly, there is a great – and legitimate – brouhaha over pols and public officials who solicit or take – how to put it nicely? – ‘improper emoluments’. But We Ourselves have become quite used to taking bribes from the government – delicately described as ‘entitlements’ or what-have-you – to ensure Our cooperation in whatever schemes it comes up with.
So much so that for many now the only question is What’s in it for me? Or: What’s in it for us? (however that term is populated). Iraq would be invaded and We would get the rush of feeling that something good had been done for democracy – and maybe there would be a lot of cheaper oil … and that lulled a lot of folks into agreeing respectfully or eagerly.
The kids have a lot to learn. And We have to teach it to them. Even if We first have to re-learn it Ourselves.