The lost generation(s)
There is a plaque in Auschwitz with a quote from Adolf Hitler. It reads in part:
I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience, morality…. We will train young people before whom the whole world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence, imperious, relentless, cruel.
He lived to see that generation. Are we seeing a similar generation in today's America?
While there does seem to be a moderate increase in decent, mannerly, generous, and helpful young people, there seems to also be an increase of the other kind – the TikTok, Instagram and other social media outlet denizens who are indeed violent, imperious, relentless, and cruel. One has only to read some of their posts or look at footage of rallies, demonstrations, marches, and protests to see that these young people will loot, steal, attack, defame, kill, and burn the whole thing down if they believe their cause is being thwarted. They shriek as if they are demons damned, are as profane as humanly possible, and in every contretemps they believe their cause alone to be valid. Is this not the definition of violent, imperious, relentless, and cruel? How did it get this way?
In the first 4 years of life, if a child is raised properly, he or she will learn acceptable social behavior. They learn what "no" means and what happens when they disobey. It is during this formative time, says Dr. Jordan Peterson, that behavior forms for life. During this period children learn how to make friends and they find out what works within those friendships. They learn to negotiate for what they want. They learn that it is better to compromise than to insist on their own way using tantrums and violence. They learn that they are not the center of the universe because other people with needs also matter. They learn that life is better when people get along. If they do not properly socialize before four, odds are high they never will. But apparently many of today's young people missed that crucial developmental phase.
Something sinister occurred within an entire generation – the last one. Or maybe the last two. Their childhoods were peculiarly bereft of these growth experiences, either because parents abrogated their responsibilities or because children's faces are glued to screens. Or both. There are few real friendships, few face-to-face interactions, few compromises, and little to no negotiating with others. There is only the self-imposed seduction by the screen and the primacy of Self. There is no "other", and if there is, they don't matter. A sacrificial mindset is foreign to them.
They are not learning how to get along with others but rather how to put themselves first, preferably on a digital platform where millions of others see them. They crave precisely what they missed growing up – companionship and meaningful relationships. They want to be loved but instead are merely being viewed.
The relationships of Generations Z and Alpha, are superficial at best. There is the blue coldness of the screen and the silent conversation of the text. Where pathos, generosity, tolerance, and love should exist, there are likes, tweets, twerks, and fulminating anger. There is imperiousness. There is violence, relentlessness, and cruelty in how they speak to each other and in how they behave when they gather. Many have not had their emotions and reactions tamed by the presence of civilizing influences – they are feral. They do as they please and they please to go where their emotions lead, everyone else be damned.
These generations are not learning the joy and the necessity of civility with others who may disagree, and from whom they might actually learn something. They already know everything; there is an arrogance displayed by their lack of verbal restraint.
While there are some hopeful signs of a reversal of this pathetic trend, generally speaking, Gen-As are becoming a lost generation who have bypassed the normal processes of interacting peacefully with other human beings. Instead, they fulminate, they march, they swear, they protest, they bully, behaving generally like imperious four-year-olds who have learned nothing of real value.This is an entire generation that is allowing emotions alone to rule, sans reason, never to be normal and have functional relationships. There is nothing sacred, nothing beautiful, nothing sublime. There is only noise and chaos. And they wonder why meaningful relationships elude them.
Peterson's revelation is something to think about: The formative years of early childhood are being stolen by echo dots and smart screens, leaving children incapable of substantial relationships. Instead, we get tyrannical teens.
It's a sad, sad thing to lose an entire generation this way. My prayers are with them, that they will see the light, seek God in all the right places, and get a real life, one worthy of imitation, not one of hostile alienation from others with whom they disagree. That God-shaped hole always wants filling – until one finds rest in Him.