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Childishness as a social principle

When people at the New York Times, even those very who are very senior, open up and tell us how they feel about something I’m mostly impressed by how thoughtless, uncritical, and confused they are.

One recent example was Linda Greenhouse’s blather, in a speech on the occasion of some award she got at Drew Gilpin Faust’s old institution, about weeping at a Simon and Garfunkel concert for the lost dreams of the ’60s generation. How is it possible, one asks, for an influential and extremely well-placed public commentator in her 50s still to be so fixated on self-glorifying adolescent fantasies regarding the objects of her public concern? Another was an incoherent ramble just this past Sunday, too confused for comment, by a member of the Times editorial board about attending a Tridentine Mass in Chicago.

I keep wondering where the grown-ups are. There don’t seem to be any, and I don’t think that’s an illusion of growing older but a real condition. Americans, it seems, have stopped functioning like responsible adults. A responsible adult may have private confusions and fantasies, but he doesn’t treat them as suitable for presentation in a distinguished national public forum.

When and why did that come about? Maybe the clue is that people at the Times sound, when they talk freely and in their own voice, like a cross between a teenager and a mid-level functionary who’s never had to understand the position of an opponent or deal on his own with anything very difficult. That makes sense. You become your ideal. The social ideal of the Times, and all respectable institutions today, is a sort of idealized universal impersonal bureaucracy that takes care of everything administratively without need of adult qualities on anyone’s part. The result is that we become cogs in a machine, childishness and irresponsibility become integral to the social ideal, and everyone becomes a perpetual baby.

The change seems firmly rooted, and it’s been a long time coming: Calvin Coolidge, the last pre-technocratic president, was the last president who wrote his own speeches and so spoke his own words on his own responsibility. It was in the Cold War/corporate state ’50s that popular culture became adolescent culture. And it was in the commercially prosperous, radically liberal, Great Society ’60s that failure to grow up—the youth movement—became sort of a metaphysical principle that determines what counts as good, beautiful and true. Since then there’s been no real development in popular or public culture, just more of the same and increasing uniformity. So don’t throw your T shirts and baseball caps away. You’ll continue to need them. [Note to the impatient: the guy in the T shirt and baseball cap in the story last linked was the German foreign minister.]



Thanks for nothing, 68-ers. We who are younger cannot pass on what we did not first receive, and you gave us nothing. It’s over. Cultural reproduction has failed. It has failed, and we are angry over being trapped inside your anarchy of desire, inside your hellhole where virtues can hardly develop. It has failed, and we are angry over being left alone among the emancipated and atomized, where love is next to impossible. You ruined everything you touched, and your legacy is our perdition.

Now we hear that your kind is seen breaking down at Simon and Garfunkel shows. Speaking for myself, I will tell you that this picture makes me throw up in my mouth a little. But I’m fascinated. I cannot turn away. I am fastened to the image of your red crumpled face. It is such a fitting sign for you.

It condenses and reflects all that you are. The rage of your justice tantrums: red crumpled face. The brokenness you feel over seeing they haven’t gone far enough: red crumpled face. The horror taking hold of you as you grasp that time will bury you, and that plant food is unable to fight “the Man”: red crumpled face. That means you.

Well, we hope you feel “cool” when you wear your little baseball caps. Before you kick off, take some time and dip into some Michel Houellebecq. Have a good last look at the world you left us. Way to go!

Frank M. Schüssler

I guess I never got it before but red crumpled face didn’t do a good job raising us because they were children too. We just have to do it the right way with our children.

Don’t give ‘em to the public (or Novus Ordo Catholic from what I’m told) schools. Red crumpled face is especially influential there.

I am looking forward to reading the wisdoms of Diana West in her upcoming book:

The Death of the Grown-up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization