Why have so many young men stopped even looking for work? What has happened to aspiration in our culture?After floundering around for a bit, David Brooks starts on this:
After I missed the Trump thing so badly, I traveled around the country for 18 months, and I’m still doing it and always talking to Trump voters and other voters. The amount of wounding and amount of sense of betrayal, high levels of distrust, high levels of feeling “Everyone else is getting ahead and I’m falling behind,” I found especially for young people in their 20s, even people with sterling educations.
The 20s have become for many a brutal time, that they don’t quite know what their purpose is in life. They don’t quite have the skills to get out of the wide-open options. They’re afraid of closing off options because they’re not really quite sure who they are. We’ve produced a society that’s made being 25 phenomenally difficult, in part because you’re in the most supervised childhood at human history until 21, and after that, you’re released into the complete void.
You’re not going to get married for another 12 years. You’re not going to settle into your career. I’ve come to notice it in my students. I’ve come to call it the Telos Crisis, the loss of sense of purpose. When you get the setback in your mid-20s, you don’t quite know where your life is, you haven’t discovered it, you haven’t found some calling that just seizes you, and it can be pretty rough.
Nietzsche has a phrase: “He who has a why to live for can endure any how.” That if you know what your long term is, then you can endure the setbacks, but if that hasn’t become clear to you, then the setbacks are super hard. And I noticed it in the rising depression rates, the rising mental health problems, the rising suicide problems. We’ve sort of left people in a very unstructured experience after age 21.
I just gave this commencement talk at Butler University, couple days ago. And commencements are happy, and I was like, “Your life is going to suck in three years.” . . .
I’m not sure that was the right spirit for that occasion.