Andrew Klavan is one of the most perceptive cultural analysts of our day, and his Klavan on Culture at Pajamas Media is a frequent stop of mine. In a recent post on a new book called Willpower, Klavan takes the Baby Boomer generation to task for ruining American culture. I suppose Boomers can be an easy target for such a charge, but Klavan does it in a way that shows how our liberties are lost at the door of license. Without personal responsibility, as the Founders of our country knew, true liberty is unattainable.
Klavan understands and argues well that when we throw away moral values for a self-centered freedom to do whatever we want, we in fact get statist coercion running our lives. A great writer, he knows how to make his case:
[B]ehaving well, behaving responsibly, learning the norms of politeness and refusing to abandon them without good reason tend to make you a more self-controlled, successful, and finally better person.
This is precisely the wisdom my generation threw away. Their promiscuity, adolescent foul-mouthedness, bad manners, and disregard for tradition — all of which they claimed were a new kind of freedom — were in fact the precursors to the very oldest kind of slavery: slavery to one’s own impulses and desires. This slavery, packaged in the Sixties as “identity” or “culture” or “the right to be yourself,” ultimately leads to enslavement by others as it makes you indolent and irresponsible and in need of protection and restraint by the powers that be. A poor black man’s journey from hip hop culture to prison is a perfect example. So is a middle class white man’s journey from moral license and unwarranted praise to his sniveling need for an all-providing — oh, and by the way, all-powerful — state.
A government that wants more power knows well it can acquire that power by stripping the citizenry of every need and opportunity to provide for and take control of themselves — every reason to exercise their will. Welfare, unending unemployment benefits, “free” health care, business bailouts, the “right” to live off your parents’ insurance until you’re 47 or whatever: these, not religion, are the true opiate of the people.
My generation, using the loftiest possible language, destroyed the loftiest possible image of man — his image as God-made creature endowed with the right to be left alone. Instead, they declared him a weak collection of needs with some mysterious right to have those needs paid for by other people’s earnings. They told us government had to provide the citizen’s material needs even if it hampered his ability to live free.