Note: For reference, I am 40 years old as of 2 weeks ago.
Today my brother-in-law (Rochelle’s side) became a father. Today we buried my uncle. The stark contrast the day presented gives a moment to reflect on life, and the sad state of affairs we, as a society, have become.
In every generation the folkways of the generation past are changed, oftentimes much to the dismay of the elder generation. In the time of WWII, patriotism ran high, and there was a respect for elders and the government. This didn’t mean the elders and government were always right, for oftentimes they were not. This did mean that dissent was civil, and directed towards the good of the country and society. Men were gentlemen, and women were ladies. And although there were societal ills the country flourished.
Then the baby boomer generation came along. As with all generations the folkways of the generation departed from the generation past. The baby boomers brought us hippies. The baby boomers brought us “Hey hey LBJ, how many boys did you kill today?” The patriotism and respect for others ebbed, and the country went through a time of tumult. This isn’t to say the baby boomers were solely to blame. The era also saw Kent State, and a subsequent President who resigned for blatant criminal activity in office. The changing folkways served to check abuse of power and fundamentally reshape the scope and authority of government to where there was a greater degree of accountability to the people. While reasonable people can disagree with the means, the sunlight exposed on the government and the check on government power did leave the country better off. The intent wasn’t to do harm or to better a segment of society, but rather to better society. By and large, the intent was for good of all, not for ill.
Then there’s my generation. In the test of time, we will not stand out. Thankfully we were spared any serious conflict – it was the first time in three generations there wasn’t a draft. (WWI, WWII, Vietnam.) While this had an impact of, in general, creating a less physically fit an less disciplined generation than those before us, it also afforded the opportunity to engage in uninterrupted educational pursuits and to become a more philosophical generation as we weighed the examples of the two generations prior.
The folkways of my generation changed from the generation before. In many ways it drifted back towards our grandparents values. The gentleman reemerged, albeit in a less formal form, but also it drifted into new territory. In the absence of war and social revolution we became more philosophical. Working with your hands in a skilled trade was still seen as an honorable and valuable profession. Working with your mind became more socially prevalent and the equal of working with your hands. The lack of urgency on a national level also made us lazy towards society. We weren’t required to sacrifice for the greater good. So while we rejected the extreme of the baby boomers, we also did not lay the groundwork to be a bulwark against the folkways the next generation would adapt. And in that sense we are the worst of generations for it was our lack of foresight and preparation that has lead to the sad state of affairs society has devolved to.
Which brings us to this generation. This generation has moved the folkways to a great degree. This generation is the entitlement generation. It’s the BLM, Trump 2016 is hate speech, safe zone on a college campus(!!!!! that’s where discussion/debate is supposed to occur) generation. However, the situation is more dire. The folkways have changed where there’s a difference in focus. Unlike the generations before where the focus was on societal greater good, this generations folkway change has focused on individual and small segment good, not society as a whole. As the backlash to the Mississippi and North Carolina laws have shown the protection of individual feelings has trumped the societal good. The intense, vitriolic, and punitive response to the two laws shows that the folkways changes have spilled over beyond folkways and have changed the mores of the generation. I don’t agree with John Kasich on many things. However on one statement he’s right, there is a Supreme Court decision. It’s called Hobby Lobby, not Obgerefell. Thankfully RFRA is in place to protect us, for the current generation isn’t happy to simply have equality. They want to impose their will on others.
The current generation is likely a lost cause until reality comes and forces a more temperate course of action. The failure of my generation to have the foresight to pass on our values to blunt the changing of folkways will have dire consequences for the short to medium term. However, not all is lost. We can engage in conversation to work and turn the folkways back to a focus on the betterment of society rather than the individual. We can’t undo the harm that has been done, but we can stand as a stark contrast to this generation so that the new generation that is coming up is able to make the same choice that we did… to retreat from the current ways and go back to a more simple time where the good of all achieved the good of one. If we learn from our mistakes and begin to prepare for the future we can contain the damage that is being done.