The Left and the Young

Salon has an excerpt from Dispatches From the Culture Wars by Danny Goldberg. He complains about the usual lack of will among the Democrats and their astonishing capitulation to the political manipulations of the Republicans. But then he links this all to a very interesting thesis: the Democrats have lost touch with young people, or as the subtitle says “How the Left Lost Teen Spirit”

One problem seems to be that many members of my generation, the generation now in power, have a basic resentment toward young people. This is a particularly foolish position for people to the left of center, since no progressive change has ever occurred anywhere in the world without the energy and inspiration of young people, who traditionally have provided the shock troops for the left. Liberal snobs and cultural conservatives alike often are what free speech activist Marjorie Heins calls “metaphorically challenged.” Usually educated in law, journalism, political science, or sociology, politicians and pundits spend decades viewing human behavior in a linear, literalistic way. They frequently interpret art and entertainment as if they were devoid of metaphor, humor, irony, or Aristotelian catharsis. Looked at through this lens, neither fairy tales nor Greek tragedies nor classic opera would pass moral muster.

The same snobbery and insensitivity to young people that drives culture bashing has created a Democratic party and a public-interest left whose leaders appear unwilling or unable to communicate with the “unwashed” masses who do not read newspaper op-ed pages or watch public television. This isn’t exactly a culture war so much as a disconnect between progressive political leaders and the culture of the people they want to lead.

This meshes with an attitude I’ve often seen in communitarian liturature by Amitai Etzioni and others. Although not strictly a progressive, Etzioni responds at length about the cultural corruption that has taken over America since the 1960s. It also has an interesting correlation with the 13th generation propaganda that was being pumped out during the early 1990s. As someone from that generation who read the commentary I had to wonder what was all the complaining about. Baby boomers demanded freedom for themselves when they were young but don’t seem to care about giving that same benefit of the doubt to the young people of today.