Why Happiness Is Going To Be Hard For The Next Generation And Mine
I am beginning to sense a troubling predicament facing young adults’ moral development in the United States. While it is true that humans across cultures have a certain fixed physiological development (for example, puberty and menopause) and psychological developments (for example, language development and teenage insecurity), it is not true that humans across cultures have a certain fixed moral development.
As Myron Magnet’s The Dream and the Nightmare shows, one’s culture plays a dominating role in shaping a person’s way of life. Children are born into families and initially (if not permanently) adapt many of the beliefs of their parents. They watch T.V. and are influence in language, mannerism, and what they consider funny. Their music influences their worldview and teaches them how to express themselves. This just seems obvious as to be trivial.
However, some seeing the role culture plays in shaping our young conclude that all our moral beliefs must be subjective. But such a reduction flies in the face of common sense, for, as J Budziszewski argues in What We Can’t Not Know, we know that lying, stealing, murder, and rape, for example, are wrong on at least some level. Now it is true that whole cultures have tired to rationalize themselves out of such beliefs, just as some cultures (like our own) have tried to rationalize the idea that there is not truth (is that true). Yet, despite these contrived excuses, actions speak louder than words. No matter how adamantly a people advocates for moral relativism, they should at least find it ironic, if not humorous, that their reactions to someone lying to them, stealing their stuff, murdering their young, or raping their friends matches how ever level-headed person has reacted since the dawn of civilization!
Thus, assuming Magnet is correct and moral relativism false, it is more likely for a twenty-year-old to have a properly functioning conscience, if this young lad’s culture is such that it fosters the cultivation of the virtues and refines the moral beliefs we all know to be true, instead of focusing, as our current culture does, solely on “self-esteem’ and ‘expressing yourself.’ It is the current culture that is so troubling to me.
Our culture, as Magent wrote, ‘rejects traditional bourgeois culture as sick, repressive, and destructive.’ The old sexual views of chastity and marriage are pathological, and the idea of delaying gratification, so as to achieve future blessings, is all but archaic. Quoting Magnet: ‘its sobriety and decorum are mere slavish, hypocritical conformism; its industriousness betokened an upside-down, materialistic value system; its family life is yet another area of coercion and guilt.’ In its place, our culture reinforces a ‘let it all hang out, expressing yourself, and acting upon what you really feel’ as what ‘constitutes authentic, liberated selfhood,’ for this is what is truly ‘healthy and life-affirming.’
Jean Twenge, in her book Generation Me, captures this ethos when she reports Melissa, 20, saying, “I couldn’t care less how I am viewed by society. I live my life according to the morals, views, and standards that I create.” This relativistic worldview is expressed in all popular mediums, and is felt in the new social pressure to ‘keep your opinions to yourself,’ if you so happen to agree with the antiquated ethos of our grandfathers. As the once thought prophet Bob Dylan sang,
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
Well, the times have changed, and what have they brought us? Dylan may have been right when he tells the writers and critics to prophesize with their pens,
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
Unfortunately, while Dylan and all those crying for social revolution were earnestly wishing to see the losers to be the ‘old fashion mores,’ it turns out the losers have been the kids born since the Sixties. The reasoning being they inherited a relativistic worldview that provided them with a foundation built on sand. This culture became the dominant culture today and now cultivates a practical reason of anarchy directed towards misery instead of happiness. The philosophy of the Sixties seeks to keep all in a pubescence, rebellious state by resisting all pressure to grow-up.
Is it any wonder, then, why my generation and the next are addicted to Comedy Central, the Cartoon Network, and Spike T.V. channels, which all celebrate and glorify the adolescent-adult-male? As Kay S. Hymowitz writes, in her article, Where Have The Good Men Gone?, these generations ‘watch movies with overgrown boy actors like Steve Carell, Luke and Owen Wilson, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Will Farrell and Seth Rogen, cheering their awesome car crashes, fart jokes, breast and crotch shots, beer pong competitions and other frat-boy pranks.’ Hymowitz continues by writing, ‘most men in their 20s [and 30s I might add] hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.’
Being out shown by women their own age, many sit around playing PlayStation or Xbox, while masturbating to online porn. What can I say: our parents raised a bunch of perverted Peter Pans.
This Perverted Peter Pan Syndrome I witnessed a few years back while attending an outdoor Shakespeare play. While waiting for one of western civilization’s pinnacle expressions of culture, I happened to look to my right to see a young man and his girlfriend sitting on a blanket. The man reached into his backpack and pulled out some food, drink, and the latest issue of Maxim. In utter bewilderment, I watched as the young Peter Pan skipped over the ‘informative articles’ to the almost nude women pictures (to which I quickly turned away). I could not believe what I was watching. Here, a young man, with his attractive girlfriend, about to watch Macbeth, was passing his time looking at porn (it is not semi-porn) in a public park. What a romantic night out!
But it is not just the ‘boys’ who are stuck in Perverted Peter Pan Land, for who are the boys sleeping with? Who’s picture are they looking at in Maxim? The hit HBO series, Sex and the City is not directed towards males per se. One quick glimpse at the magazine rack in Walmart will tell you what a lot of women are interested in. In the latest Cosmopolitan, our young ladies can learn 1) ‘How to Outsmart a Bitch,’ 2) ‘50 Sex Moves,’ 3) ‘The Sex Confidence Men Can’t Resist,’ 4) and something about a Kim Kardashian (reality Star Right?).
But if that is not enough, you can buy the last issue to learn about ‘78 ways to Turn Him On.’ Really? I doubt it will take 78 ways in Perverted Peter Pan Land, for in a culture that glamorizes sleeping with another man’s wife (in the new movie Limitless), I am sure all a woman has to do is say, ‘I’ll sleep with you.’
Yet, we know things have gone sour with our ladies when insidemovies.ew.com reports, ‘girls ruled the weekend, as the new romantic comedy No Strings Attached [a movie about friends with benefits] attracted an audience that was 70 percent female while topping the box office with $20.3 million, according to studio estimates.’ While I did not see the movie, I am sure in the end, the characters fell in love and at least started dating. Wow! So the message our ladies are hearing is maybe if a woman sleeps with a guy for many months, he might take her on a date. Congratulations modern culture in liberating the young women from the oppressive male.
But here is where it even gets more troubling, for if Magnet is right when he says, ‘what you believe at twenty . . . has a way of leaving its stamp on your worldview for life,’ then many of us are really going to struggle to cultivate a happy life, which requires the virtues opposite of what our culture is pontificating and what we consciously or subconsciously believe and act upon.
A happy life means a total rejection of the Perverted Peter Pan Land. It’s time to grow up. Reality has checked in, and it turns out the Sixties culture sucks. It does not liberate, it does not bring about equality, and it does not bring happiness. Bob Dylan was wrong. I know because I lived and breathed it for many years. And because I lived and breathed it, I can tell you right now it takes a lot of work (even with grace) to untangle yourself from the tight grip of our culture.
Why happiness is going to be hard for the next generation and mine can be stated fairly simply: Our culture has deeply influenced how we see the world and the influence is not towards virtue and strengthening the moral conscience. Many have bought into the culture in subtle ways and developed deep-rooted habits preventing them from seeing and desiring the truly good and beautiful. Returning to a time of self-sacrifice and social honor seems impossible.
As Jean Twenge writes in her book, Generation Me, “asking young people today to adopt the personality and attitudes of a previous time is like asking an adult American to instantly become Chinese.” Lets face it; we resist change, hate rebukes, and rationalize like crazy. We will struggle because we have become spiritually slothful.
Perhaps the only hope is ‘today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as they did in the days of rebellion.’
Brandon Wall is a Counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: http://www.cedarrapidscounselingcenter.com/
Books you may want to read:
The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties’ Legacy to the Underclass
What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide
Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever Before
Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.
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