Potentially A Great Generation
For December 7, 2006, the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, LGF had the thread Anniversary of Another War, as well as a thread pointing to a Cox & Forkum cartoon, Then and Now. In both threads, the commenters are agreed in their depression over the contrast between the American fortitude and tenacity of 65 years ago and the current state just five years after an attack on a greater number of American civilians. I too agree on the contrast and the shadow it casts upon our times; however, I do not agree in writing this generation off as lost. There is today a lost generation, but it is a generation which we have long known to be so, while the coming generation, the generation that will probably tasked with the trials of World War III, has yet to be known, to fulfill its potential.
The “Signs of the Times” are of interest to both amateur and professional historian alike. Both search for them in the artefacts of the day, particularly written ones, but not only those. The mainstream media of each day can record societal changes even unconsciously: for example, taboos like profanity can be seen to be broken, while new taboos like racist descriptions can be seen to be established. The art of the day can reflect change: the witches’ “Fair is foul and foul is fair” in Shakespeare’s Macbeth reflects the growing doubt and confusion caused by the Scientific Revolution, especially the demise of the geocentric cosmology. Language itself can tell us of the times: the decline and fall of the Roman Empire is marked by the increase in the number of spelling mistakes in written Latin, until, when we reach the Middle Ages, the mistakes suddenly cease, for the spoken tongue is now too different from Classical Latin to influence the writer. But whatever the signs of the times, one fact must be taken into account: they reflect the generation in current standing, the adults, and not the generation that is going to take the stage a few years from now.
In times past this fact was not very important, for generational changes were slow and few, so that signs from a certain generation would usually hold true for the generation after that. In recent times, however, meaning from the 18th century and up to now, gathering speed with the passage of time, societies undergo copious and rapid changes that can make a generation very different from the preceding one. Even a single event can be enough to show that the young generation, hitherto thought to be the same as that of the adults, is something else.
What could be more appropriate than TIME Magazine for demonstrating that point? In 1938 it featured Hitler as its Man of the Year. Appeasement was in full tempo then, with Britain and France shamefully betraying Czechoslovakia. From that cover of TIME Magazine and from the disgraceful moves of the public in Britain, France and the United States, one could be forgiven for regarding that generation as lost, as lacking any discrimination between good and evil, not to mention the will to fight. Yet just one year later, in 1939, the generation was jolted by the reality of a power whose hunger the mere Sudetenland would not sate, and the “warmonger” Winston Churchill was raised to be the leader of Britain in the West’s fight for survival. And the USA too, having been isolationist since the departure of Woodrow Wilson, helped Britain in the first years of the war, and in 1941, following the Japanese attack, joined it actively with resolve, until the total unconditional surrender of all Axis powers.
TIME Magazine wanted to make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Man of the Year for 2006, but the editors probably felt it could be going too far, so instead they settled for an idea which is no less a sign of the times than the choice of Ahmadinejad would have been: to declare everyone Man of the Year. It was under the pretext that “everyone now participates in the flow of information that changes the world”, yet Robert Spencer had words cutting behind that mask:
This monumental bit of silliness on Time’s part is just another illustration of the West’s failure of will. We have no longer any standards, any distinctions, any excellence, because we are pathologically afraid of branding anyone a failure.
Along with this wholesale leveling comes an unwillingness or inability to declare any model of society or any belief-system superior to another, which saps all our will to fight against the encroachments of the Islamic jihad ideology. […]
Thus has Robert Spencer analyzed TIME Magazine’s peculiar choice as a sign of the times. I agree with his analysis; however, again, this does not teach us about the coming generation any more than did TIME’s choice in 1938.
The signs of the 1960’s have become legendary. We can now recall them one by one: the flower children, the emergence of the birth control pill, the Cuban Missiles Crisis, Vietnam, the first man to set on the moon, and so on. But the mainstream media of the 1960’s was not markedly different from that of World War II and the 1950’s. This is because the generation of that day (now called The Greatest Generation, and hailed by all LGF lizards, including me, as one whose example we need to follow if the West is to survive the coming war) was still in power. Conversely, the 1960’s were the decade in which “radical” ideas like Political Correctness, Occidentalism (denigration of the West), Indigenism, Multiculturalism, Radical Feminism, Anti-War Activism, Radical Environmentalism (an ideology, going beyond mere care for the environment and into the view of humans as a blight on Mother Earth) and other examples of “questioning all authority” and “breaking every taboo”, yet they have come to take control of our societies, or more dangerously, of the policies of our states, only in last few decades, from the 1980’s to this day; this because the college kids who hatched those ideas in the 1960’s are now adults in positions of power. Those facts are always to be remembered when evaluating a generation in our times.
One can point to the Mainstream Media of our day and lament, “Our generation is unfit for the coming World War!” But he would be wise to remember that his “Our generation” is not the youngsters coming to adulthood today, but the 1960’s kids who have grown up to be the policymakers and leaders of our day. Thus it is clear how we have an increasing number of people who are becoming aware of the threat of Islam while the leaders are stuck in Cold War thinking and appeasement of the ideologically-driven aggressor with material incentives. The aging hippies of today, reeling from their “success” in forcing the pulling out of US troops from Vietnam, see Vietnam in any US military intervention abroad. So with whoever laments that the wrong people are in positions of influence and power I agree, but I hold that the sorry state of our leadership and academe is only the generational fulfillment of the mindset that was incubated in the 1960’s—not that the coming generation is lost. The coming generation is, at worst, an unknown variable, for it has not yet had its opportunity to show how it is.
But it is not a completely unknown variable.
Why are World War II comparisons so abundant? I am of the opinion that those comparisons have been overdone; although the similarities are there, the settings of today are different from those of World War II in some important ways, not least of which is the fact that World War II, like World War I, was built upon and sustained by the aggression of nation-states fueled by totalitarian ideologies, while in the current conflict the totalitarian ideology (Islam) is perfectly capable of operating without a nation-state, as heads without bodies. As Victor David Hanson puts it:
But there are significant differences between the “global war on terror” and World War II that do explain why victory is taking so much longer this time.
The most obvious is that, against Japan and Germany, we faced easily identifiable nation states with conventional militaries. Today’s terrorists blend in with civilians, and it’s hard to tie them to their patron governments or enablers in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan, who all deny any culpability. […]
Indeed. To point at Iran, though deserved, is so convenient, because it’s a tangible threat; to point at an ideology, all the more so an ideology masked under the mantle of religion, is much harder. With the authorities in the West—kids of the 1960’s now in positions of influence and power, that cannot be stated enough—so careful not to break the taboos of multiculturalism, it is no wonder that a criminal can get away with his crime by being veiled and no-one would dare to do a thing about it. The adult generation, if not treasonously sympathetic to Islam, is accommodating of it, quick to defend it in the name of that Sixties idea, echoed by TIME’s choice for this year, that no value can be judged better than another.
What about the coming generation, then?
It was raised by the 1960’s kids, who in turn had been raised by the World War II generation. The Greatest Generation, because of the circumstances of the age (the Depression and then the War), raised their kids on frugality and on conservative (meaning non-permissive) values. As even the flimsiest survey of the 1960’s shows, their kids rebelled at all their values, and when the time came for them to shape the world, they had to give their kids all their parents had never given them: lavishness and permission.
A whole cadre of educators adhering to the humanist school of psychology saw to the application of the dictum that a child’s feelings must not be hurt under any circumstances, else they would stunt his or her psychological growth. There grew a generation of children without borders, knowing to ask but not to give. Their parents were all so very “open” and “frank” with them on the subject of sex, such that the kids reached their teens with an extensive knowledge of the relevant anatomy and… almost zero experience of even the concept of commitment to a long-term relationship. They were educated on the absolute sanctity of respecting the “other”, to such an extent that oneself was marginalized and left without an identity of one’s own.
Not all children of the Sixties Radicals were educated so explicitly, yet the influence was always behind the scenes. From Zombie’s photo report Anarchist Bookfair, San Francisco, March 18, 2006.
We’re talking about the kids of the 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s and even today. I’m one of them. Although the 1970’s kids deride the “computer game kids” of the following decade, and those in turn ridicule the “Internet generation” of the decade after that, all those kids were raised by that famous generation of radicals and taboo-breakers who “questioned all authority”. What happened to those kids—to us?
Understandably, there were different ways to go. And yet, not many were those who followed in the footsteps of their Sixties parents, just as not a lot of the Sixties kids copied the way of the Greatest Generation.
You have probably heard of the “modern, middle-class metrosexual who goes searching for himself”. It’s an apt depiction of us who inherited an identity void to be filled. Most of us have undergone at least one instance of that stage in life in which we have searched for “our true home to which we will return”. In that search, many are blown like straws along any wind that feels a little fair. I am not saying this in disparagement, I am saying this in understanding and in pity.
Some have aimed for the utmost in exoticism, and can be found today in the streets spreading the message of ISKCON or Raël, or in the woods, beating the tom-tom drums as part of the authentic practices of the ancient Smelihipi tribe, stretching all the way back to 30 years ago.
Some have gone the route which at first may have shocked their parents, but then actually made them sigh with pleasure, for it still kept to the hallowed goal of “Sticking it to The Man”. The likes of Adam Gadahn may have an adopted an ideology diametrically opposed to that of their parents, but then the parents realized it was just as effective, if not more so, in the way of smashing “Western Imperialism” and “American Hegemony” and “Patriarchy” and the rest, and accepted it as a wise choice. What a magnet Islam is for today’s children of the Sixties Radicals, letting them both rebel against their parents’ void of authority and identity and still be in their good books by fighting against their Devil!
And some have said to themselves, “Who are you to tell me to question all authority?” They have realized the error of both absolute doubt (nihilism) and absolute certainty (fascism); of both absolute permission and absolute prohibition; of both absolute temporality (the overabundance of earthly pleasures that leads one to vomit) and absolute spirituality (the escapism that leaves evil unopposed and the world unpopulated).
They have understood that the commercial globalization with a McDonalds in every spot is not the spirit’s highest aspiration, yet they have also been discerning enough to realize that Luddism is not the antidote.
They have discovered that the treasures of “free, happy living”, which their parents had coveted in the “Noble Savage”, dressing themselves up as Native American or Arab Bedouin tribesmen, were already available, and in abundance, in their own heritage. That they no longer need to stand the identity crisis of being students of every other culture but not able to be studied.
How many of those are there? Naturally, I don’t have numbers. But, even from my own setting, I know many who were raised on some kind of “child’s guide to nihilism”, even implicitly, but have found that way. They, in contrast to the elder generation behind TIME Magazine, have a clear idea of what they stand for and why they need to fight for it.
The unknown variable is their exact number. But whatever that is, they are the ones who will be on the fighting lines of World War III. The current state of leadership and academe in the Western world does not reflect them, just as TIME’s cover from 1938 did not reflect the heroes that would emerge just one year afterward. World War III’s “Greatest Generation” is presently hidden, a potential force, but I have no doubt of its existence. My prayer for it is that it should unleash its potential before the crisis is too great.
P.S. This post is part of my effort in doing sanegoria for this generation. May HaShem judge us mercifully, amen.