OK, Reboomers

When I was a young parent, I was repelled by the content of children’s media. What I saw on Nickelodeon and Disney was strange moral dramas starring spirited, plucky, sassy, perceptive children living in a world of ignorant, dull-witted, convention-bound adults.

The adults were in charge, but they were easily outwitted and manipulated by the children, who were not yet encumbered with adult formatting.

The children were rendered realistically, with real weaknesses and strengths, but the strengths always more than redeemed the weaknesses.

And the strengths were the virtues of romanticism — defiance, irreverence, curiosity, wit, compassion, enthusiasm, authenticity, etc.

The weaknesses were always the virtues valued by tradition — integrity, honesty, loyalty, respect, bravery, obedience, gratitude, etc.

In these moral dramas, the children would face some conflict or dilemma. They would be torn between behaving in a traditionally virtuous way or being a free spirit. They would behave contemptibly, telling a lie or betraying a friend. The clueless adults would bumble about, ineffectually trying to manage a situation they barely perceived. Then the contemptible child would get busted or collapse under their own conscience and come clean. Their abject contrition would be met with immediate forgiveness, because these weaknesses were no big deal, really. It was all easily forgiven as, you know, just human. The dumb adults would act like retarded Jesuses dispensing hugs and nonjudgments, and generally benevolating all over everyone. And next week everyone would repeat the same shitty behavior, the same sheepish qualms, the same washing away of responsibility.

It all made me want to throw up. Even in my youth, I realized that these dramas all had some pretty questionable morals.

  • It trained children to feel superior to adults, and to see maturity as a degradation of, not an improvement to personhood.
  • It encouraged children to feel contempt for traditional, pro-social virtues, and to to overvalue romantic, anti-social personality characteristics.
  • It taught children to see rules and institutions as impediments to spirited living.
  • It taught kids that traditional decency was too much to ask and that being a modern child full of sass and spirit more than made up for bad character.

In other words, 90s children’s media was how Boomers transmitted their youth-worshipping, maturity-avoiding ethos to the younger generations who passively consumed it.

That is why today’s young adults are all casually revolutionary and automatically (uncritically) critical of pretty much anything that permits a society to function. They spent their childhoods imbibing and internalizing vulgar and insipid pop-Romantic propaganda and now they are vulgar, insipid Romantics, just as previous generations were vulgar insipid traditionalists. They are little trained monkeys, raised to gratify Boomers.

And this is as true for hard-right children as hard-left. They are all pale shadows of Boomers — less full-bloodedly vicious and almost entirely unoriginal. They, however, believe they bring a fresh new perspective to the world, because they were trained to believe that is how young people automatically are. The young are always the ones who know better. Aren’t youth rebellions always justified in hindsight? Shouldn’t we automatically assume youth are right ad hominem, by virtue of their youth? Yeah, but this is not how youth who turned out to be right ever thought. This is more like brainless Jesus Camp youth, but with all values reversed.

It is not their fault that they are the way they are. But this is real life, not a Nickelodeon show. They don’t get to say “oh, my bad” and get their shittiness washed away with a baptism in understanding for free at the end of the episode.

They will have to actually question what they were trained to believe. No — not question what they were trained to question (authority, convention, capitalism, race, gender, history, science, morality). They will have to question that training itself, and then take responsibility for re-training themselves to be more than what they are.

Until then, all I have to say is this: OK, Reboomers.

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