There, We’ve Said It: Young People Are Overrated

March 24, 2018

(For the use of the membership only, not for publication, distribution, quotation or reproduction.)

“Our parents don’t know how to use a ******* democracy, so we have to.” — David Hogg, 18, an organizer of the “March for Our Lives” protests.

YOUNG PEOPLE ARE ASSUMED to have magical qualities. They are the future, it is said incessantly. The question, though, is whether it is a future they will want once they get there.

Some of us here know a lot about Young People. We were them, of course, born at the leading edge of the Baby Boom, the most celebrated generation of Young People. “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” was our motto.

Maybe we should have given that more thought.

In any case, a friend, a newspaper executive, remembers spending years trying to learn how to capture Young People for his profit margin. His interest tailed off when research showed that Young People: 1) don’t have much money; 2) rarely stay in one place for marketing purposes; and 3) historically take little interest in the news until they start paying property taxes.

But it was too late. Editors had changed direction and style. Traditional readers opened their morning newspapers to see full-page, color layouts comparing condom designs and field testing hookahs. The writers made fun of the nuclear family, insulted the politics of the base readership, and demeaned housewives who stuck Bible verses on their refrigerators.

All of that carried over into Internet publishing. The media have never recovered the trust they once enjoyed.

Now certain Young People, tens of thousands of them apparently, want us to strike a constitutional amendment or two. They must be obeyed, the political consultants tell us. Millennials will soon be the largest voting bloc. They are the future, you see.

“We are witnessing a new generation of moral leadership in America,” writes a columnist for the Indianapolis Star. “These teens are mobilizing and making plans to change the world,” she says of this weekend’s anti-gun protests. “And they are inspiring their peers to do the same. I couldn’t be prouder.”

To that we replay a scene from Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons.” The dialogue is between Sir Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor of England, and his son-in-law William Roper:

Roper — So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law?

More — Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper — I’d cut down every law in England to do that.

More — Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

There’s your future.

— tcl


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