Over the last two decades or so, a strange phenomenon has reversed a cultural trend some 60 years in the making.
Beginning in the 1950s with the ascendance of teenage rebellion, and on to the 1960s counterculture, American youth took a naturally antagonistic view of their elders.
When it came to politics, culture, literature, film, and so on, those of the under-30 set sought new avenues of expression and activism. Much of that effort was silly and counterproductive, as were many of the anti-Vietnam War protests. Some of it led to solid rebellion and a new consensus both politically and culturally, as in the punk scene of the 1970s. What they all had in common was an effort, at least, at original thought.
Not any more.
Talk to your average college sophomore. Listen to popular music. Read the major media and academic journals. You will see slavish conformity and fear of upsetting the status quo that would make Ward Cleaver look like Eldridge Cleaver.
This is the generation of the sycophant.
We have come to this as a result of a left-wing pincer movement, where the popular culture sets the agenda and the academic culture pounds it in during college.
Now, we are talking about an average young person. There remain some who think for themselves and question the efficacy of ideas presented to them on silver platters as utopian perfection and kindness and compassion exemplified. These are bright, better-than-average kids and today they usually skew to the right, as today’s Right is the only counterforce to the reigning orthodoxies.
But young people, like most other people, on the whole, are cowards.
It’s not just that they are physical cowards, though there is that. It is that they would rather get along to go along in their lives than put up a fuss of any kind, no matter what the provocation. Why put yourself out on a limb when the safe course is to regurgitate the current wisdom? Well, there is that little matter of intellectual integrity and self-respect. The road most traveled is much easier, however, as it only demands blind fealty. The other path has a price.
We have come to this point as a result of a left-wing pincer movement, where the popular culture sets the agenda and the academic culture pounds it in during college.
The kid who wears a MAGA hat to school pays that price. A mom who won’t have her school-aged children subjected to sexual indoctrination pays that price. The Christian cleric who holds on to the words and eternal message of his faith pays it as well.
Arrayed against those people is the main vehicle for communicating with youth, pop culture. The geek acts and circus clowns who make up the audience at the Grammys and other such events have little to no conception of the effect their words, music, and film have on young people. They are there for the paychecks and the louche company.
But in that way we all once knew, most young people want to fit in somehow and the easiest way to do so is to embrace what is popular. To rebel against that can be social suicide and few want or can handle that. So the first arm of the pincer is primed.
When these culturally radicalized but informationally deprived kids get to college, the purveyors of agitprop stand ready to complete the encirclement by giving them a very selective choice of authors and sources from which to glean knowledge. Simultaneously the pop culture continues to hammer away.
The wisdom of the ages is ignored. Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Smith, Friedman—all dead white men and safely ignored. The petulant crybaby theology of the modern academy takes their place and reminds the student that to put themselves at odds with the powers that be will lead to consequences now and in the future.
Thus is graduated the hordes of feminists, leftists, socialists, and other conformists who reliably vote Democrat and believed that the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the high court heralded the end of the Weimar Republic.
There is no use conversing with these robots because, bereft of the habit of independent thought and research, they can only recite, not think. When not spewing forth their programming and left to their own devices, they emote.
For bitter hypocritical masochism is at the heart of the modern chattering class worldview. They tearfully damn capitalist corporations while texting on their iPhones. They wail of the injustice of a private health care system while riding the same system, their bills paid for by their parents. They bemoan a heartless Trump presidency without the life experience to understand that his administration has set the stage for a future of more jobs for them and that this is more of a boon to their fellow citizens than any pride march.
Will age mellow and educate them?
Surely, some of them. Just as it did the 1960s leftists who gave Ronald Reagan a landside less than a decade after Kent State. Isn’t this just the usual jeremiad of age pitted against youth?
Hardly, as the very nature of youth has changed.
The 1970s in their own cheesy then groundbreaking way, and the 1980s in their vibrant heroic indifference to the cultural and political imputations of the Left, still seemed to retain a semblance of nonconformity to the collectivist hive among teenagers and college students.
The early 1990s, perhaps with the Clarence Thomas fight as the Fort Sumter in our ongoing cultural civil war, seemed to change that.
Since then, with the advent of groups such as Move On, Code Pink, Occupy Wall Street, and Antifa, the ploy of ideological vertical integration has worked. Watch online what you’ll hear in class, a seamless fabric of coordinated message and social pressure, most vividly presented today as “cancel culture.”
Rebel against that and your obvious racism, sexism, and other troglodyte ideas will be laid bare for censure at work and at play.
Why would anyone consciously subject himself to this?
To retain self-identity as an individual and avoid becoming a prepackaged member of a victim class pawing at the low door of pity and special accommodation. To read and think outside the regulated canon of middle-aged harridans and soyboy socialists. Maybe most of all, to keep faith with American generations who sacrificed before and generations who may still know freedom hence.
It takes a special kind of courage to do that and perhaps we’re asking too much of our youth to possess it. The young of the past, like teenagers at Gettysburg or Omaha Beach, had it. The crucibles of their time demanded it.
Today the challenges are either fantasies, like climate change, or the assorted products of left-wing fever swamps. They require no backbone, no valor, and no rebellion. Just an acquiescence and perhaps changing the filter on your social media accounts. This promises the eventual sad shallow success of the intellectually denuded and automatically conformist.
Such are the wages of a life of comfortable fear. Such is where the sheep-like majority of our progeny stand ready to graze. God help us and more so in days to come, God help the republic.