I was one once.
David Brooks has spent the past year interviewing hundreds of people for a new book, and what strikes him about young people these days is their moral passion:
The big thing I encountered was the seismic generation gap. People my age rag on the younger generation for being entitled, and emotionally fragile, etc. But this generation is also seething with moral passion, and rebelling against the privatization of morality so prevalent in the Boomer and Gen-X generations.Right now the worldview of many young Americans is dominated by morality. Interest in Socialism is mainly driven by a sense that Capitalism is immoral. The "sure it's unfair but it works and nothing else does" position disgusts many young Americans. Historical figures are appreciated only for their morality: I have had two conversations with young people about George Washington recently that went like,
They can be totally insufferable about it. In the upscale colleges on the coasts, Wokeness is a religious revival with its own conception of sin (privilege) and its own version of the Salem Witch Trials (online shaming). But the people in this movement have a sense of vocation, moral call, and a rage at injustice that is legitimate rejection of what came before. . . .
It’s often uncomfortable and over the top, but we’re lucky to have a rebellion against boomer quietism and moral miniaturization. The young zealots may burn us all in the flames of their auto-da-fe, but it’s better than living in a society marked by loneliness and quiet despair.
"He owned slaves."Colin Kaepernick's protest against the American flag of 1776 fits perfectly into this pattern: for him and millions of other people, America in the 18th century was just a place where white people owned slaves and killed Indians and they don't want to hear anything else about it.
"But he was a great first President."
"He owned slaves."
"He did free them in his will."
"He doesn't get points for that."
From my jaded middle-aged perspective the problem with this passion is that in politics passion is of only limited use. Real political change is usually engineered by pragmatists willing to do deals with their enemies: Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson. If you're so full of rage against racists that you can't imagine working with them, you're not likely to pass many bills. And when it comes to economics, it just seems to be true that greed motivates people to work harder than love of your community, so only systems that tap into greed work in the long run.
Politics, in my view, should be how we solve our common problems, not how we vent our indignation.