Saturday, December 12, 2015

"The Greatest Generation"

In the wake of some college students demanding safe zones and trigger warnings while screaming about microagressions and "check your privilege!"–this image has been floating around the internet. But to be honest, it's hardy fair to the younger generation. 

In WWII we had a draft. It's not as if most young men were beating down the doors of recruiting offices for the privilege of defeating Hitler and Mussolini. Before the Pearl Harbor attack, I don't think you have tons of young men volunteering for the job. And after Pearl Harbor, they were conscripted for military service. They went where they were told to go and did what they were told to do. That's not to deny that many of them did brave things once they got there, but most of them didn't take the initiative to go into that theater.

Conversely, we've had a volunteer military since 1973. That includes men who enlist in elite fighting units (e.g. Rangers, SEALs, Marines, Delta Force, Green Berets)  that are likely to see action. Many American servicemen distinguished themselves in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 

In addition, doing dangerous, extraordinary jobs that someone has to is not the only index of responsible male behavior. Another index is doing thankless, tedious ordinary jobs that someone had to do. Whenever I go to the supermarket, I see some young male cashiers. That's a hectic, boring, low-wage job with rotten hours. It's a mark of maturity and responsibility to work that kind of job. These guys aren't loafers hanging out in their mother's basement, playing video games. 

Finally, yes, we see obnoxious spoiled student protestors at Ivy League colleges. But what percentage of the student body do they represent (much less at state universities)? The "news" media loves to cover most flamboyant, outrageous behavior. By definition, it's the shrieking publicity hounds who stand in front of cameras, and not their quiet, studious, unassuming classmates.

We need to avoid sweeping, invidious comparisons between the younger generation and the older generation, especially based on sample selection bias.  


  1. It's not as though all of the problems with the current generation developed just recently. A lot of the problems have developed over a long period of time, going back to the World War II generation and earlier. The World War II generation was better in some ways, but it was worse in some ways as well. Where it was better, it wasn't perfect. All of the talk in recent years about the greatness of the World War II generation has been overdone. Who parented and taught the generation that followed them? They did. And they made a lot of mistakes. A lot of the secularism, religious pluralism, triviality, and vulgarity that we have today can be found in earlier generations in other forms, even if they're less advanced forms. We need to aim for a standard far higher than the World War II generation.

  2. I'd add there are a lot more Americans in the generations after WW2 who were refugees or descendants of refugees from traditional cultures. I presume mostly from Latin America and Asia.

    Many Hispanics and Asians are more socially conservative. More family oriented.

    Also, among Asians there's a huge focus on education, working hard to earn one's place in life, etc. Many Asians, especially from wartorn places like Vietnam, seem to express a lot of gratitude for the US.

    However, I think the media under reports these groups.