Over the Fourth of July weekend, a widely publicized poll revealed that only 36 percent of the youngest demographic cohort polled—ages 18 to 24—were either very or extremely proud to be American. In all other groups, including blacks and Hispanics, the number who were proud to be American was more than 50 percent.
Far be it from me to gainsay those who see these figures as portending ruin for our country only a few years down the road, but I would just mention that we can hardly be surprised by them.
For one thing, polls have shown for years that the young are less patriotic than their seniors. It’s been part of what it means to be young, at least since the emergence of the youth culture of the 1960s. For another thing, the wave of emotional publicity ensuing upon the death of George Floyd last year at the hands of (or under the knee of) the police and the reaction to it of the Black Lives Matter movement must have had more than a little influence in depressing the number of those of all ages who are inclined to feel pride in their country, but disproportionately so in the case of the young.
They are almost by definition more susceptible than others to emotional appeals and less likely to seek out the facts behind the partisan media’s hyperbole about the supposed wave of police killings of black people.
It’s also true that, for some years now, polls have also been showing a growing tendency, especially among the young, to view socialism favorably and capitalism unfavorably.
That this is an international phenomenon is suggested by another recent survey, this one by the British Institute for Economic Affairs, showing that 67 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds in Britain “would like to live in a socialist economic system.”
And yet, as the UnHerd website pointed out, another UK poll released at the same time showed that “support for lower taxation is twice as high among 18- to 24-year-olds than it is among Conservative voters.”
So maybe young people don’t really know what they think? Or, more likely, they think contradictory things at the same time and see no need for consistency or coherence in their replies to opportunistic pollsters seeking to market their answers to the media.
Either way, such results must tend to confirm what we already know from the most perfunctory observation of the popular culture: namely that, compared with previous generations of young adults, those of today are shockingly immature.
This is a generation, after all, that was largely taught by the previous one—the one that apparently found something profound in the preposterous idea that “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Certainly, they don’t seem to have learned very much since kindergarten if they’re so naïve as to fall for the empty promises of socialism, the most comprehensively discredited economic theory there has ever been.
And what is it but immaturity and ignorance of the world that would allow anyone, of any age, to fall for the sob stories of those who, from a position of “privilege” matched by few, black or white, in the history of the world, nevertheless claim to be “oppressed” by the dominant culture that has so enriched them?
To some extent, of course, this is not the fault of the young. They are prepared to believe that requiring a photo ID to vote is tantamount to the return of Jim Crow laws because they have no knowledge of what those laws really were and no memory of the more than half-century of progress in racial relations there has been since they were abolished.
And yet it’s not as if this is recondite knowledge, known only to a few scholars in their dusty ivory towers. If the young had ever been taught that there was any value in the study of history, they might have acquired such knowledge without undue labor.
Instead, they seem to have learned in kindergarten that history is nothing but a chapter of atrocities practiced by white, male, heterosexual culture upon women, homosexuals, transsexuals, and people of color and have shown no curiosity about it since then, nor any wish to examine the plausibility of such an absurd point of view.
We have long known that adolescence—a concept invented only two or three generations ago—is now prolonged into the 30s and even 40s, but here is the proof of it.
Everybody has heard some variation on the quotation, once attributed to Winston Churchill, to the effect that anyone who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart while anyone who is still a socialist at 30 has no brain. It’s simply a clever and memorable way to express what used to be meant by maturity.
But now we may have to amend age 20 to 30 and age 30 to 40—or, perhaps, to abolish the concept of maturity altogether, along with that of the color-blind society. And of the rule of law. And of biological sex.
Only thus can we keep abreast of the cultural tendency of our time to protect the young from knowledge of the world and to substitute for it an ideology based on fantasy—an ideology that, carefully nurtured and tended by the educational establishment, may preserve their immaturity into extreme old age.
One sign of hope for us old-timers, left behind by the youth revolution, is a T-shirt I saw the other day on an admittedly middle-aged person.
“If you can’t look back at your younger self and realize that you were an idiot,” it read, “you are probably still an idiot.”
That’s always been true, but it has never been more true than today, when educational philosophy seems to be based on the assumption that everything important to know has been already figured out by “experts” and can be delivered to you, prepackaged, from kindergarten on.
It’s a perfect recipe for the creation and preservation of idiocy. But at least some of the young, upon their release from educational confinement, are unlikely to be content to remain idiots.
James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” Bowman is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for the New Criterion.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.