Let me ask you this question: When was the last time you wanted an 18 or 19-year-old’s advice on anything? Perhaps you are a parent of someone in that age range. Perhaps you encounter them occasionally at work – a messenger boy, a secretary – or they brush past you on the street wearing a costume you frankly believe to be beneath a clown’s dignity. Or, perhaps you are in that age range and you are thinking about the stunningly acute decisions your friend Kevin made last weekend involving a banana, a bottle of vodka, and a tire-swing. Or, perhaps you are Kevin.
Okay, so get this: Kevin-Ä¶Kevin! Would you please turn down the 50-Cent album, pull yourself away from the new Grand Theft Auto, and put on some pants for chrissakes? Michael Moore wants to ask you a question. He wants to know who you voted for in this past election. Oh, you voted for Kerry. Excellent. The youth of America has spoken. Here we have a young man who represents the future of America. A man who isn’t willing to listen to what “they” tell him, to do what “they” tell him to do. He has stood up with a raised fist and said “this country is going to hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” And his voice was heard. On Election Day, all across the country, the youth of America spoke. And they, like Kevin, are the future. The Kevins of America aren’t going away! They are here to stay! The Kevins are..what? Kevin, what do you want? Yes, you can go back to your videogames. What?!? No, I’m not going to “hook you up” some beer tonight.
Michael Moore, in a move representative of astute sagaciousness which we have come to expect from him, seems to think that we, as a nation, should collectively take advice from, and follow the lead of, the 18-29 aged voters who resoundingly chose Kerry in the recent election. Usually, such an asinine observation would be allowed to stand on its own merit – being that it has none at all – but seeing as how this type of commentary occasionally shows up in Democrat rhetoric it demands a lengthier discussion.
Even if my beliefs aligned with the majority of the youth in this country I would not champion the fact. This would be like using the voting habits of the KKK as the paradigm of a group of Republicans who’ve “got their heads on straight.” If the Democrats want to convince us that they have a coherent, progressive, intellectually attractive and wise platform the last thing they should do is market the youth vote as the exemplar of informed voting. But, alas, they are in the unenviable position in which a devastating loss in the previous election leaves them grasping for a silver lining.
The fact remains, as Moore points out, that the 18-29 group is the only demographic that the Democrats won in the last election. But, the wining of the youth vote is to be
expected. What should be pointed out is that any year that the Democrats don’t win the youth vote something is seriously remiss with the party.
Moore strikes a personal chord by mentioning the actions of the students at Boulder High School after the election. In his words: “Witness the students at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado on Thursday, two days after the election. These kids can’t even vote yet but that was not going to get in their way of expressing their outrage over what we adults had just done. The high school students took over the school by staging a sit-in and would not leave the building. They stayed there all Thursday night. They told the media that they were protesting the election results and putting Bush on notice that there was no way they were going to allow the draft to come back. It was the most uplifting moment of the week.” Having gone to college at CU Boulder I can confidently attest that this type of conspicuous moralist performance art (CMPA) is the status quo for that severely backwards city. The actions of the students at Boulder High were, even in the most generous of qualifications, self-serving and immature. Protesting the peaceful election of a popularly chosen president is little more than protesting the system and the votes of millions of Americans – which they may very well be consciously doing. If Bush had staged a coup to blaze his way into the presidency, the protest would make more sense. But, agreeing to live in a representative democracy means agreeing to abide by the choices of the majority for their representative. Having someone chosen whom you don’t like is a possible consequence of asking for a democratic choice in the first place. The “my way or the highway” mindset these students were in is a breeding ground for elitist totalitarianism. Yet, Moore finds such youthful immaturity to be the “most uplifting moment of the week.” There is a simple reason why such CMPA is always dramatized by the young (or the youthful minded, ala Michael Moore) – because it doesn’t do anything except feed your own ego. If you think it does more than this you have a lot to learn.
Like the “12:00” blinking incessantly on your VCR, liberal ideology is the default setting for the young. And, not to make this analogy too 1984-like, programming isn’t easy. Unless a certain amount of extra effort is exerted either by the individual or on the individual, they will most likely spend most of their pre-30s mired in the idealistic, change-the-world attitude that has yet to be tempered by real-world experience. Which is okay: as Churchill so famously opined, “If you aren’t liberal when you are twenty you have no heart and if you aren’t conservative when you are fifty you have no mind.”
By taking the most simplistic view of the political parties this trend can be readily understood. Conservatives are the old, liberals are the new. For us intellectual-types who spend so much time sifting through political theory these facile categorizations are stomach-churning and idiotic. But, they are certainly influential – particularly to inchoate minds that are still trying to form a cohesive view of the world.
A liberal friend once told me, in a breath of optimism that underlies youth as well as liberalism, “liberals are not content to say that it couldn’t be better.” Our visions of the world, our ideologies, are largely products of our experiences. As Walter Lippman once said, “At the core of every moral code there is a picture of human nature, a map of the universe, and a version of history. To human nature (of the sort conceived), in a universe (of the kind imagined), after a history (so understood), the rules of the code apply.” Lippman makes it clear that facts are incredibly important to the “code” you choose to apply to the world. These facts, in general, are of a less replete status when held in youthful minds. Their understandings of human nature are less buttressed by actual interactions with humans, their understandings of the universe are less backed by experience, their versions of history, “so understood,” are likewise curtailed.
Now, some of you who know about me may be waiting for me to reveal an important fact. I am 24. I sit squarely in the voting demographic that Moore champions. But, I am not talking about everyone except me; I am talking about everyone including me. Socratic tradition (as well as others) has taught us that part of being wise is to understand what you don’t know, respect your limitations, and value those who know from experience. The “don’t trust anyone over thirty” attitude that often comes with youthful liberalism, while it may be hip, is simply arrogant and irrational. Accurate knowledge is primarily acquired through experience. Not respecting this simple fact is plain hubris.
Before I am lambasted with indignant cries of “fallacy!” let me embrace my errors. What I have said reeks of distasteful ad hominism. My comments can easily be construed to imply that age automatically gives one a larger lease on the Truth. I may be accused of turning the search for truth into a competition of experience, which it certainly isn’t. It is certainly possible for any given 30-year-old to be more accurate than any given 58-year-old. (Or, in this case, a 24-year-old to be more accurate than a 50-year-old [Moore’s age]). Therefore, any specific argument over the truth should never be reduced to simple age calculus. Like all discussions of the truth arguments and evidence should be rationally weighed against each other. However, seeing as how Moore’s comments pertain to a statistical generalization, my comments do likewise. Younger aged statistical sets are more likely to have invalid opinions than older demographics.
Another proviso: I am not saying that because the young are generally liberal then liberalism is wrong. Again, whether something is true has nothing to do with who believes it. But, the Left should question lines of thought that hold the opinions of the young as something to be followed and championed.
Anyway, I may sound like I am saying something outrageous – and if you are young you may particularly think so. Well, that’s okay you’ll grow up and understand. I believe I am really only quantifying common sense. The guiding truism I am working off of is quite simple: experience matters. If you don’t agree with this just look back over your own life, however old you are, reliving the mistakes you didn’t make twice. Think of yourself ten years ago and think of yourself now. If you don’t honestly think you understand the world better now than you did ten years ago then, unfortunately, you are going backwards. (I expect to run into you when you’re 65, popping in the new Korn CD, turning it up to structurally compromising levels, and trying to see if you can drive fast enough in reverse to get enough air off of the skateboard ramp to jump over your friends.). Yes, maybe you had more fun, maybe you were less concerned with stress-inducing minutiae, but you also suffered through many problems that didn’t need to happen. Think about past relationships. Did you fall in love in your teens? Was it the most dominating and overriding emotion you have ever felt, usurping your entire being and causing almost as many problems as it solved? What I’ve learned since then will probably never allow me to fall in love the way I once did – and I will be better off for it.
We may champion the status of youth. We may find comfort in the passion and excitement that only comes from youthful ignorance. We may revel in youthful idealism. We may wish that we could go back and do it all over again. Of course, we all wish the latter, but always with an essential caveat; that we get to know then what we know now. Otherwise, the same mistakes will simply be repeated.
Moore states, “These kids aren’t going away. They have a resilience that cannot be snuffed out by older people’s whining and moaning about the state of America. THEIR America has yet to be formed as they see it, and this one setback is not going to stop them.” Well, he’s at least right about one thing: I am certainly sick of people like him in the older generation whining and moaning about the state of America. They use vacuous emphasis on words like “their” to express a deep-seated dissatisfaction with America and expect us all to jump on board. And, all the setbacks of Moore and his ilk will not stop me from popping his carefully inflated balloons. Yes, I too have a dream for a better and brighter future. Let’s see if he champions my youthful idealism.