tv After Words Mark Bauerlein The Dumbest Generation Grows Up - From... CSPAN June 4, 2022 1:00pm-2:01pm EDT
non-fiction authors about their latest work. mark the dumbest generation grows up is a follow-up to a book you wrote in 2008 also about the dumbest generation. so if you could start just by telling us how you define this cohort of young americans and now not so young americans less young americans that you've written about. i think that would be a helpful place to begin. yes the term first of all the dumbest generation i steal from philip roth. it's in one of his novels and he's referring to young young people. and so i i took that in 2008 to
apply to the millennials the millennials are roughly early 80s born in the early eighties up until late 90s to 2000 they were back in those heady years of web 2.0 the first decade of the third millennium web 2.0 was giving people more activity online. they wouldn't just be passive consumers. they could kind of talk back social media grew youtube who's original motto was broadcast yourself. you could write customer reviews. so it was a more interactive medium and the millennials were said to lead the way these 15 year olds in their bedrooms in 2005. they were the early adopters. they were the digital natives. they growing up with the tools and they were ready to innovate and improvise with these new forms of this facebook thing that has come along my space was
a few years before the texting would come along soon the iphones a handheld devices as they were called twitter started. i think 2007 2008 twitter began and they were exploiting the tools so that in a boomers like me we get one of these handhelds we turn it over to our kids. will you please you know, range this thing for me teach me how to use it and there was so much hype in those years about the millennials here come the millennials as it was often broadcasts are going to change the workplace. they're going to change shopping how we communicate how we socialize with one another and the cheerleading was amplified throughout. the teaching profession many journalists many many intellectuals were talking about the millennials politicians were pushing. getting why unwired class or wired classrooms, i should say
and i stepped in and a few others and looked at this and said no. no, this is awful. it is terrible for a 15 year old to have all these tools of self-expression in hand. that one who can walk around with 250 photos. of himself right here in the pocket very bad to lie in bed at night with the cell phone on all night long so that it awakens you at 2:00 in the morning with a picture that has come through so you can gossip a little bit. very bad sending out 3,000 text messages a month, which is what happened by 2010 with teens with the cell phone. so what about what about all the other leisure activities like reading books like reading newspapers? watching tv that has intelligent conversation and radio
overhearing your parents. talking about current events politics grown up matters going to historic sites going to museums browsing through bookstores. not just reading books, but going to the library for that public library is free parents. take your kids to the library. so is facebook. there you go. there you go exactly exactly and a lot of libraries were really transforming themselves into information centers as they were called so that when in 2007 i go into my library my emory university where where i was teaching have had a great job a great school you go into library and every computer terminal is occupied. by a cheery sophomore and you go up into the stacks and i could lie down and it's like a morgue. it's silent. i could take a two-hour nap. no one would bother me. come on, you guys you got to read you got to find the books and i you know, i i mean all
classics, you know read read sports books read read biographies are your rock and roll stars or celebrities get a book in hand, but this phone thing it's it's a problem. so i wrote the book the dumbest generation the full title. is that how the digital age stupifies young americans in jeopardizes our future or don't trust anyone under 30, and i think the timing was right it kind of took off. i got lucky with people sort of thinking. uh, this digital age the the young all with these little screens in hand. maybe not such a good thing and one of the things i predicted in book was that with the 15 year old always at the screen online logged on tuned in is now enveloped in youth culture 24/7 in a way that had never happened in human history. before they are not getting.
the tools of great novels great stories great characters great music great events from the past. great role models the wisdom of tradition. they're not getting that and that is going to make their adulthood more difficult. for them, they're not getting the equipment for grown up. circumstances of life and when they get older we're going to see the the fallout and this that's particularly interesting given that those sort of heady days as you describe them of the mid-auts and into the obama era there was a glow that big tech especially had and we were told these tools and you can see these tools now actually do put us face to face with the wisdom of the past at a moment right? we can pull up winston churchill's speeches on our
youtube apps on our phones within seconds if you have spotify or apple music you can pull off you can pull up, you know wagner's great works. you can listen to beethoven. you can confront the sort of wisdom of the past very easily. it's very accessible more accessible than ever before and that was part of the pitch that people were making with these right technologies. why did they end up being used and and the book what's very interesting about this this new book the demos generation grows up is is your charting the of this technology and of the gener. that it's shaped the first generation that it's shaped. so why have the tools been used differently? you're exactly right emily. it's all out there. you have the knowledge of the universe at your fingertips. now you can go into the museums. i would bring material into my classes like if i'm teaching the beat generation writers. i've got jack kerouac on the steve allen show in 1959 while steve allen is there at the
piano doing a little jazz tinkling. kerouac is there reading from one of his books sitting at the piano. it's actually very powerful and poignant moment of what happens there and it's very important for beat literature actually because it's the performance of it that was very important in that time. so it's all there absolutely and we heard the hype. in the 1990s. there was something called the digital divide that people were quite worried about because here we've got this miraculous instrument of learning. online the connectivity would put you in in touch with the masters with the genius with knowledge with science. and poor kids are not going to have it. they're not going to be able to afford the phones and the hookups. their schools are not going to have the wiring and so the achievement gap is only going to go get worse. and so there were things put in
in some of the acts of congress that would put more money into wiring these these schools. for in low-income areas and now we have another digital divide and i talk about this in the current book. it is the low-income kids who are having more screen time. it's flipped. it's flipped. they are spending more. it's exploded in the last 10 years the amount of online time, but low-income kids have and the upper income families are spending more and more time. curbing their kids being online getting them away from the screen and that this because they see. the problem mean the silicon valley titans who designed a lot of these tools? you know the new york times reported a very some very good stories a couple of years ago by nelly bowles and i quote them extensively in the book interviewing a lot of the
silicon valley leaders like chris andersen the former editor wired magazine saying these screens for our kids or as bad as a drug, they are addictive and the silicon valley designers of them hired consultants who were experts in addiction and attention what they call persuasive design to get people onto these sites and hold them there, especially the kids now you you asked but wait a minute. it's all great the stuff out there, but you know 15 year olds. 15 year olds don't want to go to the you know the national gallery of art and look at paintings by old masters. they want to connect with other 15 year olds. that's the social nature of adolescence. they're more interested in what happened at the party last saturday then what happened at waterloo 2005 six years ago. so the social impulses and all the insecurities. of the adolescent ego know the
confusion. i'm not quite sure who i am. my identity is just really beginning to form. i'm just now coming into contact with the big wide world out there and it can be, you know, an uncertain anxiety-ridden existence. you can surround yourself. with the world of pleasing affirmations if you can go into the bedroom shut the door. and you've got you've got the phone. you've got the laptop. you got the video game console which you can play with others your age. the social aspect of video games is very important for boys in particular. you've got the tv on playing adolescent tv shows you have music that you could be listening to you're creating what in 2010 was called the daily me. the daily me. which is a world that is highly reflective of who you are or you
aspire to be what you desire yourself to be is the daily me and you've got the power now. to manufacture this reality in your room if you don't like something coming something coming through. these these media the inputs you just block it and you unfriend that person. you're able to screen out the disagreeable. the contrary the disruptive the thing that heightens your anxiety. gone the things that provide comfort and warmth and fun they can come in. that's what they were able to create at at age 15 in their room. it was a utopian space. how nice and if only i could have done that. i was 15 dog on it, you know in 2008. i was exactly 15 years old.
so this is all this is all very vivid and i do think that's really an interesting point particularly about the sort of addictive nature of the technology and you know humans are not going to choose to and especially children are not going to choose to root themselves and it's it's less addicting of course to watch. let's say churchill speeches or or something of that point, but you write in this book that there's an absence of transcendence in the sort of millennial universe the millennial moral universe, and of course, there's always a human longing for transcendence. that's not being filled and it's not being provided by the moral universe. so this is the cuts a little bit deeper even technologies it gets into a worldview that was sort of and you write about this a bit. the foundation was laid by baby boomers and these technologies in some ways capitalized on that. yes. what is what is fundamentally
responsible for the lack of transcendence? is it the technology that millennials like mark zuckerberg and jack dorsey created or you know, what are the roots that go beyond it? well, let me think just about about that. first point that you made. i'm no better at age 15 than the millennials and then you work if i had these tools i'd be doing the same thing. i already knew it all when i was 16. i don't need to learn anything. i i got it and i don't want to listen to my parents or some some guy with a round face and a mustache named walter talking about watergate. oh come on, but that wasn't the only screen in the house. there wasn't another screen for me to check into there was only one phone in the house. we didn't have the term landline and it had a cord it had a cord you had to put your finger and you know turned seven times and it wasn't private. it was in the kitchen if i want to call a girl and try to mumble my way through stumble my way into into a date. and i didn't you know as
uncomfortable being being around with my older sister my parents around yuck. but i so i couldn't go to my room. so this is not about the the moral superiority of older generations to current once it's we didn't have the tools to go with adolescence. to to maintain our youthfulness peer pressure. youth culture adult stuff filtered into my life whether i wanted it. or not now your big question about the transcendent orientation since the mid 20th century. we know the phenomenon of the rising. a non-religious observance right more and more people in recent year refer to themselves as nuns and ones people who do not belong to any specific church. they may have some spiritual ideas of some kind but it's not organized in any way. it's not ritualized.
they don't work at any practical way into their lives. they don't pray on a regular basis and this is carried over to the young progressive secularization of american society has been going on for 60 some years. reinforced by supreme court decisions that you know, no prayer in schools things like that. and what the what the media what the digital media did was? and force that non-transcendent vision horizon in a very powerful ways at a very impressionable age. because as i said the self.
realization orientation of the social media again broadcast yourself, right myspace facebook. is your your fabricating you're manufacturing the details of your life. right you you can now. express yourself in ways again, never never before offered to people and one of the things that the transcendent orientation does is carry you out of yourself. there's something bigger out there than me. then my life. i'm pondering eternity right the vastness of time. and space the metaphysical side the spiritual. side of things and when you're so darn distracted. when you're so connected to other people. it's easy for that.
transcendent horizon to be eclipsed and just think about how often spiritual leaders. jesus included must be alone. i must go off and be by myself. because that's the place of contemplation. that's that's where the prayer. can happen in powerful ways. you know, there's a great scene in huck finn. when when huck says you can't pray a lie, it's easy. he's by himself. he's got to figure out what to do with jim and this this the slave society that he's in and it's like a powerful moment of contemplating alone. no one else and thinking about praying. if you're never alone. that search doesn't have to happen. and what social media did mark zuck, i can't remember with mark
zuckerberg or reid hoffman the founder of linkedin. who said this but we're trying to make it so you never have to be alone. okay, you never have to be lonely and yet loneliness is increased lonely. that's a very good that you're exactly right people realize, you know, all this facebook stuff. it actually doesn't make people feel that much better at least not in a long term, but the being alone is one of the things that helps you. to ponder the bigger things right to get out of current current social events to get away from the distraction and the diversions. and think about you know, put away childish things. and and think about what is serious? what is what is eternal what is universal? what are the profundities? of life and sometimes you got to get off by yourself in order to
do that. now the problem is loneliness can be absolutely debilitating. for a 16 year old now i was terribly lonely when i was young. it's awful. to be lonely and being alone can put you in a desperate. condition and wouldn't want to escape into contact. right. i mean that's particularly difficult. for an adolescent who's fragility is, you know psychic fragility is there. who doesn't have foundation many of the foundations that grown-ups? would have that they can rely upon. i mean things like having a child of your own having to take care of an infant. the foundation for your life you can't worry about yourself. quite as much you start thinking about time in a different way when you got to take care of a one year old because you're thinking about that one year
old's future in a way. you're not even thinking about your own future quite different that form of self-sacrifice that can lead to again pondering the bigger things in in life. so the the web all the social media really just accentuated. i think that the secularization process in america pulling people away from the transcendent orientation toward things and the the problem is i i think that prayer is a healthy thing to do. i think that prayer and i'm not saying which religion okay, just whatever again the the metaphysical. the divine happens to be but working prayer the ordinary exercise on a daily level where you've got to be alone.
for some period of the day you've got to get out of the stream. got to be by yourself to contemplate. remember that the the root of the word contemplate is the same as temple. so that requires a little separation from from your social network, which is what everything in an adolescent's life. opposes you got to get back in. one of the things that prompted this first book was seeing these kids leaving class. they've been disconnected. for 45 50 minutes out of the loop and when you're a professor notice this with yes. so at the break out on the quad, they're all checking in. oh what's going on? a message is coming through are people meeting somewhere and any photos out there, and i did not see joy on their faces. i saw a little consternation. okay, what's going on? and that's part of that youth
insecurity that the social media plays upon. very very closely and speaking about your point you reference spiritual leaders and your reference prayer and someone you actually organized a chapter around some what is malcolm x and you use a fascinating description for malcolmat for malcolm x. you describe his intellectual confidence, and i thought that descriptor was really really interesting in this context. can you expound upon what you mean when you write about the intellectual confidence of somebody like malcolm x malcolm x goes into prison malcolm little he is. he's a horrible human being. he is a thug. he is a thief. he exploits people he's violent. and he goes into prison and the nickname they have for him is satan. he likes that nickname. he enjoys it.
and there's a whole chapter of him going into prison. it's called satan. and what then follows over the next 30 or 40 pages is i believe one of the most remarkable conversion stories in all of american history. he changes so profoundly that he talks about himself as another person like converts say i was changed. i was transformed. i look back upon. the guy before my change another person. entirely as a stranger. to me now what happened to do this? well, he goes into prison. and all of his street smarts really don't fly for one thing. he says i had a working vocabulary of about 200 words. i couldn't say a sentence without some profanity in it. and that worked very well on the street. he was very good. he was a good hustler. he was very smart.
you can tell very kenny. about how to handle people in prison this is i mean, i'm just satan. but there's another man in prison an older man black man. who speaks thoughtfully deliberately he has knowledge. and malcolm little looks around and says boy these other prisoners they listen to him. they respect him. the white guards listen to him and learn from him and respect him and he kind of takes malcolm x under his wing a little bit and advises him. he got to learn some things. i've got to grow a little bit. so malcolm x. okay, maybe i'll read a few books. he tries to read the books. he can't understand them because he doesn't have the vocabulary so he gets the dictionary. and he starts copying it word for word aardvark, you know riding the words out copied the whole thing months and months of simply transcribing the dictionary we would see this.
oh my goodness what drudgery for him? it was eye-opening. he says, you know the dictionaries is kind of like an encyclopedia. all these words contain so much knowledge. and he was hooked. he would stay up at night and buy the light coming through his his window. he would copy. it out. he ruined his eyes, right? he didn't work. we know the picture of him wearing glasses. he didn't wear glasses before going into prison. he has to have glasses now because what he's done to his eyes, but he wouldn't trade that for the world. and then he starts reading. literature philosophy history politics he comes under the nation of islam, you know, elijah muhammad and that gives him a myth of the past that gives a meaning to his life. he says i understand myself and my life now. because i have put my existence.
into a big historical model that includes transcendence okay, you have stories of what happened when white people and people of color that he then finds explanatory and that is what gives him confidence. i know something now, and i've done my homework a lot of homework. i read shakespeare. i read the bible very carefully. he becomes muslim so he's not christian, but this is the lesson of malcolm x that i provide in the book as a model for millennials. now what you must do. christians are wrong white. people are evil. that doesn't make him say i'm canceling you. i'm i'm shunning you i'm getting you out of my life. no, it makes him want to learn about them. he sits across the table from white men. in these new shows, you know in the last couple years of his life and you can see the way he
converses with them. he wants to know what's going on in their heads. he doesn't say racists. bigots, i'm out of here. no, he wants the exchange because he has what you mentioned the confidence. okay, he speaks clearly. slowly deliberately he wears a coat and tie. he said in prison, i will never use bad words again. no more profanity. okay. i'm going to do that anymore. and you can see he's he's he's got a foundation. within and it has happened. through this conversion experience and i mean deep psychological emotional spiritual change. within him he did the work. it was a reading plan. right it gave him a faith.
it gave me historical interpretation. of the present and you know, i quote earlier in the book matthew arnold the 19th century critic social thinker. who said in this age where we feel religion is already fraying in the victorian age. people find a lot of chaos going on. it was a time of great change. in victorian england railroads coming along industrialization happening a lot of you know populations becoming on the fringes of existence. and he said converse with the ancients okay. the great writers of greece and rome and all through shakespeare has a steadying influence. upon you in the present. okay, it gives you a framework to take in the rush.
of news current events big changes going on from day to day you need you need that steadying influence. that's what civilization just call it civilization. can give you fall in love and to be rejected going to happen. okay. you know if you've got the story of dido and aeneas. if you've got odysseus leaving calypso and her her mournfulness. the great stories of love and disappointment probably up to the great gatsby. it just gives you. a reservoir of understanding doesn't it's not that it makes you feel better less rejected, but it gives you a place to interpret what what's happened to you and again a steadier way,
so it's not all just me me me my my life. oh how i'm some it's more than just you know your story your your present. if you've got the sermon on the mount to come back to if you got the story of job, right if you see the story of cain and abel just a story of envy. it just gives you again that steadying influence right at framework. so that you don't need to run. to the text the this happened these are these are better resources for adult disappointment. then your friends right was i want to talk about that because the dictionary is a technology in and of itself and we don't think of the dictionary as a technology. we certainly don't think of the mass production of written bibles as printed bibles as a technology but a very much are
and actually in the scope of human history. there are relatively new technology printed books are a relatively new technology. you couldn't always just listen to wagner. you would have to go see wagner performed or you would have to just catch it on on vinyl and even that again feels ancient and it's in urban outfitters as a vintage technology, but it's pretty new and so i guess there's this question about why these technologies that have cropped up over the course of the last couple of decades. in what ways are they fundamentally different than the ideas of you know novels which there was moral panic about at certain points and in history what separates the technology of western civilization? actually the earliest printed book is came out of china about 1100 years what separates these things? from the last 20 years in social media and smartphones your first point a cheap paperback is a
remarkable technology absolutely it weighs a few ounces. slip it in your pocket. you toss it on the ground. it's not gonna break. it costs, you know use one will cost you 25 cents and it contains hours of entertainment. hours of diversion is an amazing. technology, it's great now. why? these the screen technology well, let's just take the one the overstimulation factor okay when you read the book. you have to imagine right you have to think about what's going on. that isn't provided by all the visualization taking place so that right there. is an exercise of imagination and we need to understand imagination. memory all the mental work that
the mind the brain does. these are exercises their muscles. that you have to operate. in order to improve them. this point i mean in class i would have students memorize poems and then they would recite them before. you know before the class. terribly painful for them to do it which made me double the assignments. i'll tell you this when they would do it and they would sit down after having finished a great look of accomplishment. and relief i did it on there on their faces. they were highly gratified that they that they got through it now. i did it because look the web it's spoon feeding everything to you. it's taking everything so when you read a text online one of the great innovations was the hypertext with the link so that if you're reading a book and and
there's an unusual word in there. you can click on the word and it'll tell you what the word means. that's too easy. all right, you're not gonna remember it. why do you have to memorize? i mean people wrote this i quote them in the book in 2017 2008. why do they need to know this stuff? they can always look it up on google, you know in the old days you had to memorize the gettysburg address. i memorize it you can just and there and there it is. that is failure of learning just to retreat information retrieval. is that all the gettysburg address is don't you want to internalize it? those sentences four score and seven years ago. those should be in your head not out there. you got to bring them in. memorize them they become part of your sensibility, right? lincoln did this with the old testament and the new testament?
how much of lincoln's language is taken out of king james? i mean, it's like it's like the the water that he that he swam in all the time. it made his way into his. that's that doesn't happen now if it's just a matter of information. retrieval i mean memorization. it's sort of a pet thing for me memorization is you getting into another character? because you can't recite an emily dickinson poem if you're not imagining her character. and her experience her feelings. you you can't do it from the outside you got to get into into it and then the words come you're using someone else's words. it boosts your vocabulary. and this is all very healthy for the narcissistic 16 year old. that's a redundancy to do. okay. the this technology saves young
people from doing that work they don't have to memorize the us presidents. in order, they don't have to memorize friends romans countrymen lend me your ears. this was these were common activities. in the past because that was it it gets in me and it stays inside me. that the web makes it all external and it stays external when i need it. i'll just call it up. that's all that that's all that. is masterful lines of verse mean to you. okay, what happened at shiloh and gettysburg? those are just going to be facts that you'll you'll come don't you want know the stories? then you want to know about the carnage. that took place there. this this is going to make you a more serious and interesting person. if you've got these things. inside you so the and of course
a better voter and citizen that that and parent absolutely. look at how the millennials took november 2016. trauma they went two to one. for for hillary and they couldn't believe that this. orange haired monster was actually going into the white house. and you want to say to them? this is politics. you know politics go like this. do you think that you never never lose? do you think obama was going to be your your revered obama? they went two to one for obama in 08 very important. george w bush and al gore pretty much split the youth vote ronald reagan famously crushed the youth vote. so it was only after these
digital tools came along the the youth vote. skewed democrat and it's pretty much stayed that way obama's rate went a little down in 2012. they were disappointed with him because they turn he turned out to be a politician not a savior. guys, i mean of course and he was an early promoter of the technologies that are making my generation quite miserable. he they were they were very skillful in the '08 campaign on using the web to get young people out to vote and to to contribute as well howard dean actually. was was innovative on this and the republicans as they always are way behind on campaign strategy. but look at how they responded. it was trauma. that's a sign that you are not good citizens because look surprises have happened before when when mckinley was shot and teddy roosevelt down to the white house in 1901 people what
this nutty cowboy character is gonna be in the white house. they said the same thing. they said about donald trump this happens. in in american politics. it happens in an open society. you're going to get you know this up and down and you're gonna be appalled sometimes so what do you do? well, you organize. you you do what stacy abrams did in 2020 very good you get out there you go door to door. you mobilize a vote. that's the democratic process. what did they do? we're gonna march in the streets. we're gonna light fires light fires we're going to resist. will resist what? hi there, just resist, you know, someone put a huge banner in my neighborhood off townhouse a big black banner hanging off. the town is huge with those six letters in white resist. that's not policy. okay, that that's actually anti-democratic. and we saw how much
anti-democratic activity there was. in 1718 and 19. so there there there's the bad citizenship. taking place. sometimes you lose. well they face. well, why do i ever have to lose? okay. we're the good people. we're the ones who care we are the ones who should be in charge of everything. that's not how a pluralistic society works and this gets to the condition of the millennials now that they're in their 30s they were confident optimistic ambitious they were going to college in in record numbers. they were going to lead america into the 21st century. well now they were the most tolerant generation in history. this was often said back in no seven. oh eight and now on the surveys one rates of depression narcissism anxiety or up suicide is up job dissatisfaction, very high. they're not tied to institutions
that they don't they don't feel members of any any particular institution only one third of them consider themselves patriots, so they don't have a lot of country devotion. that's part of that transcendent horizon patriotism country the nation, right? citizens of the world global citizens, of course, which is a meaningless term meaningless term except as a negation of patriotism that that's really what it means it is it is against the wall put it put it that way. but so they don't have patriotism. they hide job dissatisfaction rates. they're not getting married in forming families that nearly the rate of the boomers did one-third of millennial men by age 40. i quote the urban institute study. one-third of millennial men by age 40 will never have married. they'll never married and probably didn't they probably never will that's actually a population problem population.
maintenance issue you want to tell the millennials, you know? proteinx can happen to your social security. mine's okay because of you. thank i want to thank you. so for my social social security payments when they start coming in a few years, but also they are the most intolerant. group on and this is self-reported. they have a more vindictive sense of life so that if they see some injustice going on a human of microaggression. they want that culprit to pay they want to see justice done. got to be punished. and this is why they lead the way on the cancel culture issue. they will sign a petition with 2,000 others to get a stranger fired for for telling some dumb sexist joke on. facebook or whatever, so things are not going well.
for the millennials in middle age for some they are i mean in generalizing here we're talking about about statistical rates of things, but we've got a downturn certainly one that wouldn't have predicted by the cheerleaders in 2005 by the people who and in some cases came out in opposition to the thesis you raised and the initial book luddite grandpa get off my lawn, you know, the curmudgeon my response to that was you're done, right? you know, i mean, that's that's the job of the elders you're supposed to rebuke and chide the young. the adolescence for being adolescents and that actually helps them grow up. it's i think it's a healthy thing for there to be tension some tension. between the generations and it's a healthy thing for the young to talk back, you know to say, you know. things have changed a little bit. you're a little too grooved you
old fogie and you need to you need to open up a little bit and i i got a lot of i still get some emails from people a lot of young people if you write a book insulting 93 million americans you got to stand up take a little heat who have tools of self-expression as you write at their decimal and that right there, you know, it takes a few minutes and i i actually responded to every single one and often when we got past, you know, the four letter words. the exchange was pretty good and one of the favorite things for me to happen was when i had to say to some some clever sophomore you're right on that. yeah, i overplayed that point. in that in that chapter, you got me on that one. that's what should that's what should happen. so i was happy to be proven wrong because to prove me wrong you got to engage. you got to make arguments. you got to be like malcolm x. sitting there and listening and
then responding with evidence. and an argument and this is what too many of them lack the equipment to do now at age 33, and i think that it's making the money well and you're right the data are depressing even if millennials overstate their plight, and i think that's actually very poignant because what you predicted has sort of tragically come to fruition just a little bit over a decade before i would be remiss if i didn't ask your writing the first book in this climate of economic despair or the book comes out and that climate of economic despair to what extent did the recession either exacerbate or have come into play in this formula of millennial despair that seems in unavoidable and an undeniable at this point in 2022? there is a lot of debt. there are lower levels of home ownership. they're a low lower levels of
marriage and in ways arguably that are because of that right? so how much does the the sort of economic climate that smacked millennials right as they were coming of age and entering their adult lives what to what extent is that a factor in this? emily you guys got a raw deal you got a raw deal. i mean there's for some of you you were told go to college go to college. you've got to go to college to be a success the second bush administration and the obama administration pushed universal college heavily well you guys listened. universities jacked up tuition you got the loans. you got out of college. and the glorious success didn't happen. those fantastic jobs weren't there for for many of you. so you're saddled with the debt for for quite a while. so that's one one way another way is just the broad globalization agenda that has hollowed out the middle class
and the working class the manufacturing classes going back to the 80s where we have an elite. who has profited miraculously extraordinarily they'd done. well, you get out of that elite that top 15% and you got people a lot of the middle class treading water and as you write, they're also more likely to have children spending more time on these technologies and social media's where as people of greater wealth and privilege are taking their phones away from their kids. that's right. that's right knowing that you're going to do better in college. if you if you build better reading habits and study habits if you get off out of the circuit, but the so that the raw deal. absolutely at the same time that we flooded you with a pop culture of garbage. right the stupid music the
stupid movies the dumb tv shows all the all the reality stuff that we see. which crowded out? better stories right characters better role models we have peddled to you so much mass consumption. that doesn't prove inspiring that doesn't offer you any wisdom. that gives you bad moral instruction. it lowers your tastes. and that's why i begin this book with the line. what have we done to them? what have we done to them giving you an awful world? in so many ways materially awful with economic hardship a tough job market a lot of debt expensive health care expensive education and then a culture and an education. that didn't give you again good
equipment to manage these difficulties. i mean, this is one thing everything you're saying about the the dire circumstances of everyday life is is true a lot of millennials. i mean where you guys want to live look at housing costs. they're in williamsburg or in brooklyn, you in in austin. housing isn't cheap in madison where where you said you're from and where i live for a few years as a kid or or or bolder or know the bay area all the more reason then that one needs the the moral instruction the wisdom the the transcendent consciousness to make these vicissitudes more
bearable we had a depression. think about 1930 depression. polio jim crow life was life was very hard. today what? would make the what would make an unsatisfying job? easier purpose purpose actually purpose meaning and purpose all the stories about people with unsatisfying jobs death of a salesman. sure. stories of people struggling against absolutely abominable circumstances you know. don't look for meaning and
purpose. in utopian ventures such as racial justice social justice these cloudy kinds of devotions that will produce a world with all happiness. that will let everyone be whatever he wants to be. this is the way the world ought to be. and that leads them in the absence of this other wisdom civilization. into joining the marches and smashing windows. let's just an extreme case, but it happens. cancel culture i'm gonna hammer hammer these people take away their jobs. they're livelihoods make them disappear. read george orwell, okay. read some of the anti-totalitarian read the totalitarian histories. read social needsen read about robespierre.
you know millennials believe themselves to be pretty morally pure so did robe spear. he was the incorruptible. that was his his nickname. the instrument of tyranny was the committee on public safety in france. okay, they believed in what they were but they believed they were creating a better society and they would move toward a perfect society. well, look look what it look what it slipped into a bloodbath. all right. this would give them. warning signs the the kind of knowledge of limits that has to be retained. in this fallen world the we inhabit or you're going to end up doing awful things. and one of the tragic conditions
of life is very good people and well-intentioned people can end up doing awful things. well mark as we come to the end of our time on that sort of pessimistic note. let's hope this is slightly less pessimistic. although i i some extent think that's unable unavoidable. is this a hole that we can dig out of what are the indications with gen z the generation after millennials? is this a whole that it can be dug out of in time to sort of rescue the next generation the generation after that. well one pessimistic note and then an optimistic note the pessimistic note is that the tools for millennials were liberation. we're out in front we can do things that no one else has had been able ever been to do before. gen z doesn't have that belief. they are not. on the vanguard because the tools i mean facebook is so routine.
it's old hat. yes, that's tiktok. nothing so gen z doesn't see these tools as somehow ennobling them and powering them in any unique way. they actually see the tools as fun entertainment, but also surveillance. they feel they're being watched and they are being watched. in the ways older generations weren't and what that means. is that the natural habits of rebelliousness. the mischievousness the recalcitrus of every adolescent you got you got to rebel a little bit in order to come into your own. well, some of that rebelliousness is just going to end up being expressed in politically incorrect ways. it's against the established, you know, the the conventional ways of thinking now which are very much politically, correct. that can get them into trouble. so that if you're going to college you don't want to do anything that's going to make the college admissions office. retract your your offer if you
want to get a job at a top firm, they're going to check you out. they're gonna look through your social media. they're gonna type you into google you got any pictures out there. have you said anything on twitter that we we need to worry about? are you gonna do anything that is going to be prove to and be embarrassing to our law school before we admit you so i worry that the the ambitious gen ziers i kind of keep their head down, you know a little too conformist. know i mean they're gonna want to stay out of trouble and i think we got to let young people get in a little trouble now and then you know, they don't kill the spirit of of youth here. we you know, we argue with it, but we don't you know, we don't hammer it so. but here's the the optimistic thing is all the signs of unhappiness among the millennials show that this formation didn't work. well, we've got to do is present to them a different model of
life. of growth building your your social media network. isn't a great ambition. this isn't the way to go in order to become excess success in life. watching great films of great stories watching lawrence olivier's richard the third that's good stuff. it's mesmerizing. about a villain a horrible horrible guy. who talks to you in very intimate way? you're my friend interesting, but malcolm x is your role model not for what he ended up believing? i don't share his nation of islam beliefs at all, but the model of how to make yourself into a more astute morally and intellectually grounded.
person malcolm x had a certain contentment. after prison, even though he's in the midst of all the you know, the struggle and everything a personal solidity that he didn't have. 4 this is why i end the book with him. he's an example. four utah, this is where you where you really find purpose and meaning in your life. you need a real religion. he was a he was devout. he would pray you need a real religion where you ritualize your belief in actual practice. you need to read great books. you need to watch great movies not you know marvel junk and it's time it's time to grow up. this is what all the people watching here. find that young person in your life. find someone. and push the better things sure, right? you know follow saint paul's,
you know advice, you know, whatever is lovely. whatever is true. whatever is good. think on those. things past that on and show them there is so much better stuff, right? you live. in the wake of greatness. of genius of brilliance of heroism sure, you're in the shadow of that civilization. that should be where you place your existence that that would be. and i think it can be done. let's hope so. mark powerline author of the dumbest generation grows up. thank you so much. thank you emily. you were great.
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