WR Mead joins David Brooks in lamenting the terrible nature of everything
What is changing? Is the Twilight of the Boomers setting upon us, requiring cultural prognosticators to make social diagnoses about the failure of America? I know things are bad around here these days, but, come on.
Yesterday, it was David Brooks casting the country in the cloud of moral vacuity, unable to recognize evil, embracing the selfish returns of the individual, and hiding behind our interests to the demise of the nation. Pretty heavy charges.
Today it is Walter Russell Mead, decrying the moral failures of the Baby Boomers, casting his moral judgment upon the whole of an American generation. Says Mead:
Too many of us clung for to that shiny image of youth and potential too long, and blighted our promise because we were hypnotized by it. This is of course narcissism, our greatest and most characteristic failing as a generation, and like Narcissus our generation missed greatness because of our fascination with our glittering selves. What begins in arrogance often ends in shame; there are some ominous signs that the Boomers are headed down that path. Sooner or later, the kids were going to note what a mess we have made of so many things, and now, it seems, the backlash has begun.
Mead goes on to list the failings of the boomers, and suffice it to say, the list is long, and the charges leveled at our parents are pretty dire.
Apparently, the nostalgia of recent American history is waning, and there is not too much hope for the American future these days, as we forthrightly criticize the whole population as a bunch of narcissistic, self-serving, evil-embracing failures. What is going on?
Maybe I’m wrong to find these kinds of laments frustrating. Perhaps we are a nation that has fallen away from goodness and into the territory of amorality and self-interest. Perhaps my failure to recognize that aspect of American Culture results from my participation in that amorality. But, for the love of Christ, I sure hope not. I sure hope Brooks and Mead are wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course there are moral failings, and of course the baby boomers have screwed things up. But the boomers did good things for this country, too, and sorry David Brooks, but I tend to think that every day in the United States, most people choose to do the things that are upright, positive and good. We are not a country that has turned our back on caring for each other, recognizing each other, and longing for peace. Not as a whole, not even as a majority. Maybe TRC is just optimistic. Maybe the people who are attracted to power, attracted to making the rules, are the ones who have such grave moral failings, or maybe not. But it does not compute, at TRC, to find such deficiencies in our whole nation.
Or maybe a generation is reaching its twilight, and looking back on their own failures. If that’s the case, I hope all this sorrow works itself out soon, so the rest of us don’t have to spend the next 5 years reading about how a cloud of failure and despair has ruined everything. That certainly won’t help anything get better.