Looking out the window this morning I see something unusual in the small house-pasture. I have learned that if I don’t recognize something I need […]
Today’s Youth Culture
Written by: Mark Eaton< Back to Articles
As David was gathering his “Mighty Men” there was a group of warriors who showed up. These 200 chiefs came with their relatives and are described as: “…from Issachar, (these were) men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32)
Swords, horses and bows are important. More important, as any strategist will tell us, is a wise plan. Having such allows us to understand and gain wisdom. The Ancient’s confirm this. In Tsung Tsu’s famous “The Art of War” he states: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
In Lukianoff and Haidt’s, “The Coddling of the American Mind”, they address the “untruths” that a corner of our culture is inculcating into our youth. Birth to college, the not-so-subtle messages are making inroads. I agree with their thesis and want to springboard with my own thoughts. As always, I hope they are helpful.
Students are being told, untruly, that they are emotionally fragile. They are not. The point, in part, of childhood is to be able to explore unsafe things in a reasonably safe way. The job of parents is to help develop the child to be unafraid of real-life challenges because they have incrementally been exposed to controllable danger and have learned how to adapt, toughen and grow. Safety is a fantasy. Nothing is safe. Even love is dangerous. Maybe the most dangerous actually. But I digress.
This safety notion started, like them all, with good intentions. Expand and over apply an exaggerated concept of safety, over several decades, it morphs into our current situation where even an opposing “idea” is considered dangerous. We “cancel” people and shout them down with mega-phones if someone has challenging ideas. We create “safe spaces” and help them flee to wallow in their own pseudo-brilliance instead of having legitimate debates in the marketplace with older experienced voices.
The word “dangerous” has been reduced to include hurt feelings now. Our children are not being carefully coached toward resiliency and the ability to move wisely, with strength and thoughtful compassion in the face of opposition. If someone is pretending to be a duck, anyone who questions that will be attacked in some form. The pretender catastrophizes the issue and claims they are in a dangerous space. The pretender, today, has more voice than the one asking questions it seems.
Now, of course you know, like me, that words can hurt. They can do tremendous damage. Especially to young children. There is a big difference however, from a fathers overly harsh words in a family of origin setting (which hurt) and a college campus where opposing ideas are supposed to be presented. When our ideas cannot be discussed and debated without being seen as “dangerous” we have lost our idea of democracy. We have further lost the idea of college (higher education) which is traditionally and intentionally the place for ideas to be studied. Instead of squelched.
They are being taught, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, to be fragile and easily offended. Someone who disagrees is dangerous and to be silenced. Words like “triggered” and “micro-aggressions” are common. Casual conversations among friends are often framed in negative terms and discounted, instead of offering the benefit of the doubt.
Further, increasingly, friendships get broken, and lines get drawn. Us against them is more prevalent. Good guys and bad guys are more distinct. This polarization creates division, and they blame outside forces for their life situation. Personal responsibility for thoughts and actions disappears. Some other group or ideal is to blame for life’s normal hardships.
When I guided the big white-water rivers of the Northwest, there was a clear pattern even rookie guides noticed early. If during a flat-water section another boat initiates a water fight, the boat will band together. But shortly after the outside threat is gone, someone in the boat will throw a bucket of water on or push their own boat-mate overboard. Someone will get mad or lose a contact or a hat. And the boat tears itself apart. Sound familiar.
Our youth are resilient and strong. We should not teach them to be fragile and weak. We need to help them to grow stronger and face challenges instead of reinforcing an emotional fragility.
I need to stay tuned with the culture to be able to have a wise voice. However, if I shout, I might be cancelled. If I stay silent, I will have failed them.
David needed cultural wisdom. So do I.