Children of the Revolution
Are America's "narcissistic" youth a by-product of the counterculture revolution and the New Left movement?
Social scientists describe our younger generations as narcissistic. Infused with self-esteem since birth and awarded with participation trophies for failing, they are self-centered, self-immersed, and focused on self-improvement. They score significantly higher on narcissistic traits than do older generations on psychological testing. They are the "Me" generations.
But is their overt behavior really an expression of narcissism, or are other dynamics at play? Following World War II, Americans of all ages identified with nation and with the civil institutions of family, community, and church. The American Dream was a reality as the nation experienced unprecedented economic growth. The Cold War solidified patriotism. In the wake of the 60s, though, the landscape began to change with the rise of the New Left movement. Traditional attitudes and institutions came under attack. Authority at all levels was questioned and rejected.
Left-wing activists seeking to change the world populated and gained control of the education system and the media. Anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism crept into the school curriculum. Students became indoctrinated on the evils of America, not its greatness. America was cast as an imperialistic global predator, not as a world leader. America was built on slavery. The Founding Fathers are to be admonished as slave owners, not honored as founders of a uniquely conceived nation having the capacity to condemn slavery and combat segregation. Many students believe America is the only nation to have practiced slavery. The capitalistic "system" traps the common man in subservience. Capitalistic greed has caused global warming which will soon destroy the planet. Many millennials espouse socialism, although they cannot define it. They view businessmen and bankers as evil forces.
The traditional family structure has felt the assault of the feminist movement which, facilitated by household technical advances, lured women out of the home into the marketplace. The "pill" broke the marriage, sex, childbearing cycle. Out-of-wedlock births and single moms are commonplace. Left-wing secular/atheism has launched an attack on Christianity and the authority of the church, which the left holds to be oppressively dogmatic and "unscientific," having no place in an enlightened society.
The younger generations have thus grown up without the level of stability once provided by traditional civil and social institutions, and with a deep distrust for remaining centers of authority. They display a loss of trust in government’s ability to equitably resolve complex social problems. (I'm with them on that.) Our current left/right ideologic civil war, generated primarily by left-wing overreach, has the young growing up in a political household in which their ideologically driven policymaker "parents" are throwing dishes at one another instead of finding common cause and moving forward. They submerge themselves in Facebook and Twitter and turn away from political and social issues. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Food are out to get them. Drink gallons of water to flush out those industrial toxins! Get in your 10K steps a day to stay healthy! Eat gluten-free organic! It is quite possible that the self-centered behavioral traits they display are more a manifestation of withdrawal from society and a retreat into "selfism" rather than an egotistical expression of true narcissism and an exalted sense of self-importance. Lacking trust in the external world, they have taken to a form of self-reliance as a default position and a safe harbor. Campus safe spaces may in part represent an extreme expression of the insecurity of those perceiving themselves to be additionally racially or ethnically marginalized.
Then, too, the alarming increases in drug addiction, drug overdose, and suicide in the young and middle-aged are not readily explained in the general context of narcissism. Much of this self-destructive behavior is related to economic stagnation and hopelessness, especially in middle-age white males, but the trend in others cannot be looked upon as symptomatic of narcissism. People in love with themselves do not seek to escape reality in drugs or by taking their own lives. Such behavior is more consistent with the notion that the young are resigned to withdrawing and escaping from a society in chaos, a society whose very foundations they have been led to believe are immoral, a society destablized to a significant extent by the New Left movement. The left has fostered the erosion of America's infrastructure, but has failed to replace it with something of value. Those growing up in such a milieu can only turn to self for direction and purpose. They are driven not by self-love, but by a primal sense of self determination.
All wars can have unintended consequences. The behavior of our youth might to a great extent be a consequence of the nation's most pervasive conflict, the cultural revolution.