As Diana West noted in her 2007 book, a generation that has shunned adulthood for permanent adolescence might seem like fun and games on the surface (see also: the plot of every episode of The Big Bang Theory), but it has serious policy implications. After identifying the causes and comparing today’s generation with the grownups who helped win World War II and pioneered Hollywood, West explored how our stunted emotional growth has impacted American foreign policy, particularly fighting Islamofascism in the War on Terror. But the demise of the grownup has plenty of domestic implications as well.
It seemed particularly evident in America’s leftwing overculture this past weekend if the following examples are any indication. It began on Friday; anybody who’s watched Downfall knows how quickly magical thinking can set in for those hiding in the bunker while a city is about to fall:
Prior to her ruling on Friday, [liberal Michigan Judge Rosemary Aquilina] criticized the Snyder administration and Attorney General’s Office for what appeared to be hasty action to outflank pension board attorneys.
“It’s cheating, sir, and it’s cheating good people who work,” the judge told assistant Attorney General Brian Devlin. “It’s also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy.”
Aquilina said she would make sure President Obama got a copy of her order.
“I know he’s watching this,” she said, predicting the president ultimately will have to take action to make sure existing pension commitments are honored.
The death of the grown-up was next documented by AP, which reported that “Hours after President Barack Obama delivered remarks about Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman trial, Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson addressed the racially charged case at Comic-Con in San Diego.”
Because yeah, nothing says “Serious, you guyz!!!!” like talking about an self-defense incident that’s been morphed into an extended racially-polarizing Two-Minute Hate by the president and allies in the MSM and Hollywood, at an event stuffed with permanent teenagers wearing Batman and Spider-Man costumes and Star Trek uniforms.
Also this weekend, a leftist MSNBC anchor wore tampons as earrings while on the air. No, really:
Are there absolutely no standards of decency at MSNBC?
On Sunday, in a bizarre protest of the Texas state legislature, Melissa Harris-Perry actually put on a pair of tampon earrings in the middle of her program (video follows with transcript and commentary):
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: I just have to show these. My producer Lorena made for me last week some tampon earrings because of course you’re remember that the Texas state legislature said that you couldn’t bring tampons in when they were going these women to in fact stand up for their own reproductive rights. You weren’t allowed initially to bring tampons. So, just in case that ever happens again ladies, you can just bring them on your earrings.
As Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters noted in his post, even the Washington Post could figure out the story, if no one at archliberal MSNBC could. The Post reported earlier this month:
I can understand if they took away knives and guns. But tampons?
That’s what happened to women who wanted to watch the ongoing debate over proposed abortion restrictions in the Texas senate Friday when state troopers tried to confiscate their tampons and other feminine hygiene products.
Why? Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the senate president, reportedly didn’t want the women to have any items that could be thrown from the gallery at the lawmakers during their discussion. To be fair, that’s about anything a woman could carry in her purse, and one Twitter photo showed a box of energy bars in the box of confiscated items.
But there’s an ugly side to what sounds like a ridiculous story: According to KETK news,Texas Department of Public Safety officers inspecting bags found one jar suspected to contain urine, 18 jars suspected of holding feces and three jars suspected to contain paint.
Former NBC employee Dennis Miller, who had a field day on Twitter skewering Harris-Perry’s bizarre fashion choice, noted that if he saw the current state of NBC and its subsidiary networks, “David Brinkley [would be] turning over so rapidly in his grave you could make chicken shawarma in it.” Though at least now we might begin to understand the proximate cause of the moral inversions that dominate Harris-Perry’s thinking.
Say what you will about their mid-century liberal worldviews, at least Brinkley and Walter Cronkite were rarely — if ever — seen out of their suits and ties as they advanced into their later years. In sharp contrast, Geraldo Rivera also took to Twitter this weekend to celebrate his 70th birthday — with a shirtless photograph of himself, which he later deleted, but not before it appeared in countless retweets, blog posts, and nightmares. As Greg Gutfeld, Rivera’s colleague at Fox, tweeted in response to Geraldo’s Weiner-esque tweet, “It’s official @GeraldoRivera is running for mayor!”
One of the byproducts of the death of the grownup, is that for the past twenty years, America’s overculture has been injecting massive, near fatal doses of irony into its veins on a daily basis. In November of last year, the New York Times, after using their platform during that period to promote the notion that a society can be built around the idea of irony overload, ran an article by Princeton’s Christy Wampole giving the Gray Lady’s readers their first clues in how to live without that dangerous narcotic:
Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.
How did this happen? It stems in part from the belief that this generation has little to offer in terms of culture, that everything has already been done, or that serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst. This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action.
Life in the Internet age has undoubtedly helped a certain ironic sensibility to flourish. An ethos can be disseminated quickly and widely through this medium. Our incapacity to deal with the things at hand is evident in our use of, and increasing reliance on, digital technology. Prioritizing what is remote over what is immediate, the virtual over the actual, we are absorbed in the public and private sphere by the little devices that take us elsewhere.
Furthermore, the nostalgia cycles have become so short that we even try to inject the present moment with sentimentality, for example, by using certain digital filters to “pre-wash” photos with an aura of historicity. Nostalgia needs time. One cannot accelerate meaningful remembrance.
While we have gained some skill sets (multitasking, technological savvy), other skills have suffered: the art of conversation, the art of looking at people, the art of being seen, the art of being present. Our conduct is no longer governed by subtlety, finesse, grace and attention, all qualities more esteemed in earlier decades. Inwardness and narcissism now hold sway.
Like taking heroin away from an addict, I suspect it will take an enormous amount of time in rehab for America’s leftwing overculture to recover from its decades-long addiction to irony and be able to function in polite society, if the response to Wampole’s essay is any indication. Expect plenty more child-like flights into fantasy from the left in the meantime.