Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Pedagogical Role of Peers.

In the comment section of a recent post about an impending "Intra-Generational Conflict" one reader (IM) observes:

I call these trustfund babies the "rage against your allowance" generation.

VDH sees something similar, but afflicting the entire culture in "The Plague of Success:"

What explains this paradox of public disappointment over things that turn out better than anticipated? Why are we like children who damn their parents for not providing yet another new toy when the present one is neither paid for nor yet out of the wrapper?

To be fair though, the "younger generation" seems able to resist the flawed perspective presented by Google and Al Gore's Current TV or Jon Stewart's The Daily Show a lot better than one might expect. In fact, better than several preceding generations. Those earlier cohorts often seem to think The Daily Show is the zenith of western rational culture, and believe anything it ridicules is, by definition, ridiculous. For instance, in a recent episode Stewart thought it hilariously ironic to point out that the government of South Africa had become "more progressive than the US" because it had legalized same-sex marriage. I'm not sure that qualifies as ironic though, since South Africa has had an avowed Marxist as President in the recent past. (Mandela may have disavowed some of his earlier statements for the sake of convenience, but his deviation from doctrine was superficial.) So there's actually nothing very funny or ironic about the state of affairs Stewart spotlighted, which would be obvious to anyone with even a residue of critical faculties surviving the indoctrination.

Similarly, VDH thinks the problem is that we don't learn history with any degree of accuracy, so we don't have much perspective:

The past is either not taught enough, or presented wrongly as a therapeutic exercise to excise our purported sins.

Either way the result is the same: a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle.

But this generation ultimately must pay attention to their peers to a far greater extent than did those of us who failed to welcome home the Vietnam vets (or who exploited their homecoming for its political value). This generation has a political and cultural voice that can respond to Mother Sheehan's questions before she even asks, so the indoctrination cycle is broken by a persistent, critical, and usually fairly subdued interruption. The door may be opening rather than closing, on a more historically conscious future.

(Cross-posted to Demosophia and The Jawa Report)