Hell No, That’s Our Dough!
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But given the breadth of human individuality, why should we define ourselves on generational terms? Indeed, one could make a fairly good parlor game out of trying to name the most awkward, incongruent pair from a given cohort.
Generation X: Marilyn Manson (1969), maniac singer; and Chris Farley (1964), motivational speaker.
The Silent Generation: George Carlin (1937), known for occasionally joking about dirty words; and Ron Paul (1935), known for occasionally joking about becoming president.
The Baby Boom: Bill Clinton (1946), who never inhaled; and Cheech Marin (1946), who always inhaled. Famed windbag Bill Maher (1956), and famed windbags Dolly Parton (1946).
For my part, I feel a much stronger connection to an 85-year-old, morbidly obese, married, retired magazine correspondent—someone who has trod the path before me—than I do to a 25-year-old doctoral student in gender studies named Harmony.
Perhaps even more troubling for our effort, conservatives tend to be those who recognize the limitations of youth.
One of the guiding tenets of conservatism is that there is wisdom in the traditions of society—that, in essence, the old dead white guys knew more than they were letting on. Under such a philosophy, even the wisest among us possess only a startlingly small subset of human knowledge. And how much smaller is the further subset mastered by the young!
Jonah Goldberg recently raised ire for pointing this out in an interview, when he told the Daily Caller that nothing correlates quite so well with ignorance as youth.
“There is a certain power worship that finds its expression in this adulation of youth,” said Goldberg, steeling himself for a noticeable uptick in his regular hate mail. “My view is, ‘They’re going to run the country one day, so we should really explain why they’re so frickin’ stupid about so many things.’”
Goldberg wasn’t being malicious. He was simply pointing out that experience matters. The whole trope about events repeating themselves seems pretty spot on, and—having never been here before—young people don’t know to duck when the Arc of History comes swinging back through. It’s easy to think, as President Barack Obama has told us, that “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” if your exile in the political wilderness lasted from 2000 to 2008. And the simple fact is that there are only two groups of people who learned nothing from the Cold War: those born after 1991, and communists. The former, at least, have a good excuse.
SO WHAT, THEN, are we doing here? Having already barred the way forward, how shall we now proceed? Well…very carefully.
The Spectator’s youth manifesto claims to speak for no one but its authors. It does not aim to spark radical protest, nor does it condone unauthorized camping in public squares. It does not urge that Millennials become the next “Greatest Generation,” but that they invent a product, build a business, start a family, and let history take care of itself.
That said, we also recognize that the problems facing this generation are of a different sort than those that inspired manifestos past. Many of the protestations of the ’60s and ’70s were frivolous attempts to reshape society. Free love. Drugs. New Age spiritualism. The difficulties that lie in wait for modern youth are more pedestrian, yet more real. We are long past arguments to remake our society, and to the point of simply trying to save it. We fear—or at least I fear—that my parents’ generation may turn out to be the high-water mark of average American life.
In education, collegiate cost-benefit ratio continues to plummet. Americans now owe more in student loans than they do on credit cards. Some predict we will look back on this as a bubble, provided we make it through the bursting unscathed.
When young Americans do graduate, they’re greeted by the most dismal job market in decades. Millions are unemployed or underemployed, and missing the first foothold into a good career and a middle-class life.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?