Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Age of Assholes

The trend of political correctness has existed for so long now, especially on college campuses, it has become standard operating procedure in the collegiate arena. Whilst even the most innocuous racist or sexist comment or behavior now results in the immediate suspension of the perpetrator, a disturbing new trend has emerged over the past few years in which a student can take ‘legitimate’ issue with anyone – including professors – whose ideas or words offend them. The institutions of higher learning seem to have become infected with what many liberals would consider ‘fake liberalism,’ which in reality is liberalism taken to its logical conclusion: protection of one’s beliefs from any criticism or critical analysis whatsoever. While liberals once criticized this kind of behavior from white Anglo-Saxon males, they failed to see the ultimately disastrous consequences of their own worldview. Political correctness has run so rampant that most notable comedians – the truly observant member of society – refuse to play colleges anymore.

The atmosphere has gotten so bad in academia that college professors in public universities now have to include in their syllabus fair warning, or a ‘trigger warning,’ that the course may include ideas that may be objectionable to a student. Even so, this doesn’t appear to protect the professor from repercussions should they upset a student. I’ve seen it myself, when a philosophy professor hypothesized that Jews and Muslims have a prohibition against pork because of the threat uncooked pork posed two millennia ago. A Muslim student (a red headed Irish lad, strangely enough) reported our professor after expressing his displeasure with such speculation, nevermind that the student had signed up for a philosophy class.

Colleges, being in the business of making money like any other business, understandably don’t want to upset students who are paying tuition, which itself has become exorbitant. What has changed about today’s students though is that they now enroll in college with the expectation that there will be no challenges to their beliefs because they are special, whereas students of yesteryear went to college precisely because they wanted to be challenged in their beliefs and wanted to ‘be relieved of their ignorance’ while the onus was on them to become special*. While Caitlyn Flanagan, author of Better Watch What You Say: How the New Political Correctness in Ruining College, says what is happening in colleges now is the result of 30-years of identity politics and is the fault of parents, she doesn’t seem to see exactly what the result of parental coddling has done to the latest generation; it has produced the most narcissistic generation of all time. (This honor formerly bestowed upon The Greatest Generation of WWII era fame, who at least worked to deserve their narcissism.) Couple this with the rise of social media, and there is no wonder we are now living in the Age of Assholes.

[* Bill Maher sees the previous college model as outdated and the model for Millennials is more akin to a country club. Notice how observant a comedian is.]

It has long been observed that an American in their 20’s is primed to take up some great cause as hormones still raging from their emotional adolescent years linger in their bloodstream. But unlike college students of old, Flanagan notes, today’s college student has nothing invested in the battles they choose. They are not going to become estranged from their parents or friends or risk being shot by police during a demonstration or be reprimanded for shouting down a guest speakers whose ideas they disagree with. When a college student has nothing to lose by taking up a cause, they are compelled to believe their cause is all that more just and are even less inclined to hear anything to the contrary, which reinforces how wonderful they think they are. This is why David McCollough Jr.’s speech “You Are Not Special” back in 2012 caused such an uproar among liberal parents; the kids he was addressing were getting ready to go off to college. Can you imagine today’s college student, who has no grip on reality, entering the real world and expecting everyone to reaffirm their beliefs? You don’t have to imagine. It’s happening. If there is a culture war currently raging, it’s a war on reality in which everyone’s views are sacred. Socrates turns once more in his grave.

Clearly, even the most half-witted bumpkin knows not everyone’s views are equally valid or deserving of respect. (Kindly refer to my entry, The Flaw of Multiculturalism.) But what consequences has this attitude wrought? On one hand, gays and lesbians have finally been granted the right to marry and this is at least one thing that is as it should be. A critical eye has also been focused upon police brutality in America, which seems to be as it should as well. But this is where the slope starts getting slippery for social issues, as white American males become ever more vilified since they are traditionally regarded (by minorities and white college kids who have no interest in self-preservation and exhibit ‘white guilt’ though they themselves have done nothing wrong) as lacking the appropriate respect for other’s beliefs.

On the other hand, while these same college students and social activists bemoan the current state of The Union, they fail to do anything to prevent it from becoming worse. They don’t do anything to curb teen pregnancy rates which are the highest in the industrialized world. They don’t do anything about the root causes of gun violence which again are the highest in the industrialized world. They don’t do anything about incarceration rates, you guessed it, the highest in the industrialized world. They don’t do anything to address the problem of homelessness except enable the homeless by giving them handouts. They don’t do anything about math and science scores which rank in the lower half among first- and second-world countries. This may be why they don’t do anything about the national deficit, because they cannot add and see the problem for what it is. They don’t do anything to address the staggering lack of press freedom or journalistic integrity now that U.S media is less about facts and more about political posturing and grandstanding. And they surely don’t care that an ‘institute of higher learning’ would rather have their money than make them think. Are these things to feel special about?

Perhaps the surge of narcissism has a lot to do with the ever present specter of existential angst and having the tools to ignore it (that is, again, belief affirmation by parents and schools, and social media). But no matter how special anyone feels, they nonetheless remain a speck on a minor planet in orbit around an average star in an average galaxy in an unremarkable region of the universe who is going to die someday. And that means you. That means you are not special. Not even Steve Jobs was, so don’t feel bad.

The flood of narcissists ignore the basic premise of their own philosophy at their peril: If their own beliefs are beyond reproach because their specialness is a priori, everyone’s beliefs are beyond reproach and this leaves no room for criticism of even the most evil person or people, not even white people. Of course, the narcissist in all their assholishness, will reply that it doesn’t matter if anyone else is special; it is only their specialness that matters. Leave it to narcissists to ignore the flaw of their own argument regarding their specialness. But, I suppose it takes a special type of ‘intelligence’ not to see this.

Click here for a link to David McCollough’s speech, “You Are Not Special.” It is critical reading for today’s self-righteous college student. Assuming they can read.

No comments: