Epoch of Puerility: The Top 12 Tips for Surviving 21st Century Cultural Lunacy

Judging by these first decades of the 21st century, the state of human maturity in western civilization leaves much to be desired. The scope and scale of psychological and emotional regression (if not atavism) is discouraging, a comedown from the lofty heights of the Enlightenment. Ours is hardly an Age of Reason. From academics and college students to journalists and news anchors to professional athletes and celebrities, people seem to have lost their sense.

In a popular culture fostering infantilism and indoctrinating victimhood at every turn and wherein reason, common sense, and moderation wander as ostracized exiles, it has become mighty difficult to derive inspiration from current events, trends, and tendencies evidenced in the public sphere.

Especially in the humanities and social sciences (where academentia ferments), higher education has altered its very reason for being, namely imparting a fact-based education, in favor of manufacturing a generation of homogeneous minds, midwifing ideology’s minions, infesting publicly-funded campuses with miseducated, solipsistic whiners. The fatuous have been given free rein, the self-pitying carte blanche. Throughout academe, presidents, chancellors, and deans have proven collectively M.I.A., to their discredit.

Meanwhile, media networks and outlets are disproportionately populated by newspaper reporters, television hosts, and ostensible specialists who mistake their biases for facts and their strident political views for news or entertainment, the real reasons readers peruse and viewers tune in. Inexplicably, journalists and celebrities seem unaware that the public is uninterested in their personal and political allegiances. The media eagerly amplify every grievance, real or perceived, guaranteeing that the conscientious become guilt-steeped, rendering them reticent. Politicization has even seeped into stadia, where affluent sports stars confuse pandering histrionics with significant engagement regarding social issues.

Amid the madness linger the still sane grown-ups who feel increasingly scarce. Here, then, are suggested guidelines for well-adjusted adults to not only stand their ground in the culture wars but to bushwhack their way through the prevalent jungle of drivel, transcending the routine inanity that passes for modern western culture and emerging unscathed to relate the tale:

  1. Adhere to Timeless Values, Principles, Morals, and Ethics – Time-honored values – peace, tolerance, civility, respect, fairness, justice, equality, democracy, free inquiry, freedom of speech – are fundamentals worth defending no matter the time, place, or opponent. If we don’t stay true to ourselves and our cherished tenets, we effectively surrender the keys to civilization to barbarians or succumb to youths who throw the loudest temper tantrums to get their way. Civilization lives or dies by its credenda, and its will to preserve them against all threats, foreign or domestic. Defense requires courage, so those who know better better assume responsibility and rise to the occasion. Ours is no era for complacent benchwarmers content to wait things out.
  2. Define What Really Matters – All life matters, obviously, and any suggestion to the contrary is reprehensible. The life and well-being of all humans, animals, plants, and of the planet itself are to be prized and preserved to the utmost extent possible. We are all in existence together, and we do a collective disservice to our species when for cheap political reasons we fixate on and afford special treatment to any discrete subgroup. No single child within the human family should be exalted over the myriad others. Sign enthusiasts and sloganeers the world over, take notice: Ideological Diversity Matters; Unity without Uniformity or Unanimity Matters; Open-Mindedness Matters; Civility Matters; Being Virtuous without Flaunting It Matters; Empowering Yourself To Not Be an Eternal Victim Matters; Taking Responsibility Matters; Getting Over Yourself Matters; Moving On Matters.
  3. Resurrect Merit as the Preeminent Determiner – The merits of merit are irrefragable. Who would ever have believed that in the 21st century the value of merit would require championing? Such is the stark extent of the absurdity on the loose amid modern western culture. Identity politics has lionized self-absorption and tribalism at the expense of humanism and common ground shared by people regardless of background. Race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, gender, and sexual orientation may well matter to the individual, but these should not matter to society at large, particularly when it pertains to access to opportunities. Merit must trump all; all other criteria ultimately amount to (reverse) prejudice and (reverse) discrimination. Sadly, diversity has been made into an idol: in the workplace, for example, diversity is lovely, but not when it comes at the cost of overlooking more meritorious postulants. When merit wins, everyone wins. Litmus test: would you prefer the most skillful and experienced brain surgeon to operate on your ailing child, or a less skillful and experienced brain surgeon who just happens to be a disabled, black, Hispanic, Muslim, vegan transsexual?
  4. Distinguish between Liberty and License – Freedoms are sacrosanct, and yet they come with limits. There is a paramount difference between free will and free rein, and freedom without limitation soon eventuates in anarchy. For instance, free speech must be protected while hateful incitement proscribed. Activists and anarchists are nonidentical. Police officers, academic administrators, and influential media personalities are obliged to make clear that interpersonal violence and wanton destruction of property have no relation to free speech, and are attended by serious repercussions.
  5. Enforce Laws and Rules throughout Society – Consequences are amazing teachers. The reasonable adult public must apply pressure upon law enforcement and politicians to maintain law and order in society. Anyone breaking laws should be arrested, and if these include hotheaded students running rampant then they should be suspended or expelled from their schools. Irresponsible professors participating and encouraging such lawlessness should have their tenure (if they have it) revoked and be dismissed forthwith.
  6. Never Discuss Rights without Responsibilities – Crucial as they certainly are, human rights are only one side of the coin. Human responsibilities form the other half, but are almost always elided. Every right is attached to a responsibility to respect the same right for others, and to participate in advancing the common good generally within the society granting rights to its members. Everyone has something to contribute to his or her neighborhood, community, society, and country, even if it is only the example of respect and human decency towards encountered others. The basic social compact that allows people to live, work, and function in large groups demands adherence to established values and a duty to maintain accepted norms and mores. Rights and responsibilities operate in tandem, and those who refuse to assume their responsibilities forfeit, at least morally and ethically, their eligibility to insist on their rights.
  7. Undermine the Will to Radicalize – Somewhere along the way, the urge to be radical in thought, speech, and action took hold in well-meaning persons, doubtless stimulated by boredom, the impulse to differentiate, and/or sincere dissatisfaction with the established order of things. Left unchecked, however, people got carried away. In the suffocating bubble of academia, professors keen to distinguish themselves in their disciplines seek to promote ideas transgressive and subversive, flouting traditions and conventions. Though (because) they are holed up in ivory towers remote from worldly concerns, they yearn to politicize studies to which politics are irrelevant in an attempt to lend credence and pertinence to their marginal endeavors. They seek relevance in the broader court of public opinion, yet refrain from the arena; they readily criticize and cajole, yet eschew participation lest they begrime their cashmere. Likewise, revisionist historians and novelists, “thought leaders”, and “public intellectuals” often make controversial assertions for the sake of scandal and the increased publicity that ensues. Boldly making a statement is privileged over saying anything meaningful. The results are bloated reputations for pseudo-scholars and assorted attention-craving authors, and a dismayed public too intimidated to speak out. Instead, the sensible should underscore that being radical is no accomplishment; rather, it is transparently a disingenuous and cynical attempt at attaining renown with little regard for truth and without actually offering anything salutary or useful that generates and advances knowledge. Radicalism is the first resort of the intellectually fraudulent.
  8. Eschew “Resistance” and Similar Conformities – Politicized university departments in the humanities and social sciences (esp. Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, English, Sociology, and History) love nothing more than to foment “resistance” against anything that smacks of the status quo. (Tellingly, department heads and professors just can’t resist standard professional promotions or regular government operating funding and project grants.) When it comes to resisting, conformity is strongly encouraged, and remarkably uncritical acolytes haplessly fall for this Marxist agenda hook, line, and sinker. It also remains lost on most graduate and undergraduate students alike in the humanities and social sciences that if they continually resist everything established, all that will ultimately remain to resist will be resistance itself. Whatever will they do then, pray tell? Crisis counselors, stand by.
  9. Zero Indulgence for Infantilism – Campuses are awash in jejune demands for “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” and complaints of “microaggressions”, as if attending post-secondary institutions is somehow akin to venturing into a perilous war zone in which students are ever at risk of dying or being traumatized for life. Validated by enablers in the media and the professoriate, students believe they can go through life listening only to like-minded others, and that if they take offense at anything they are entitled to onsite dandling to assuage their sensitive selves. Words can certainly be painful but do not constitute violence, and responding as if they do is an overreaction based on misclassification. Speech and deeds are not party to the same category; they are distinct phenomena, and blurring these is a solecism solved by rudimentary logical instruction. Classroom discussion or public discourse wherein offense for offense’s sake exists should be debarred, as should be the self-righteous paroxysms of self-indulgent narcissists (no offense). As it stands, it is a wonder that adult-age university and college students have not demanded (and been granted by pusillanimous authorities) that campuses include deep trenches and reinforced shelters for their psychological safety. Any in need of a safe space should retreat posthaste to the Diefenbunker or Fort Knox; any who confuse speech and violence should be offered an all-expenses-paid ticket to Syria to test their assumptions against reality.
  10. Expose Faux Rites of Passage – Nowadays, many young persons have been brainwashed by influential but irresponsible Marxist die-hards (“postmodernists”) into believing that they are not officially adults until they have accused someone else of being a racist, bigot, misogynist, homophobe, Islamophobe, etc. These vituperative epithets are usually launched in lieu of civil debate between rivals, needlessly turning opponents into enemies. Yet the exact opposite is true: maturity comes to those who can thoughtfully and respectfully debate contentious issues without defaulting to slander and animosity, without feeling personally attacked or threatened by contrary or contradictory viewpoints. Attending the threshold of adulthood are considered thoughts, words, and deeds. Goodwill, decency, the benefit of the doubt, and seeing the good in others are true marks of maturity. Villainous labels and emotional outbursts, by contrast, evince weakness and demonstrate adolescence, not adulthood.
  11. Avoid Condescending to Youth Culture to Seem Current – This begins with language, specifically idioms. If you are a functional adult over 30 (if not 25), please cease and desist, immediately if not sooner, from aping the silly argot and preposterous hyperbole that characterizes a generation mired in mental unitards, including the following clichés oozing infantilism: “[So-and-so] slams/destroys/puts on blast [so-and-so]”; “throws shade”; “funsies”; “samesies”; “like a boss”; “badass”; “gives the feels”; “legit”; “because [random noun abruptly terminating a phrase]”; “the struggle is real”; “Right???”; “cray-cray”; “epic fail”; “[whatever], and I can’t even”; “[whatever] and it is everything/all of us”; “[Whatever] just won/broke the internet”; “Best. [Whatever]. Ever.” Adults degrading themselves to seem younger or more in-the-know suffer from a self-respect deficit and deprive youth of mature role models to guide their own maturation. It is for the younger generation to aspire to join the more mature generation, not the other way around. Genuine maturity impresses far more than false immaturity.
  12. Recognize Culture as a Product like Any Other – Culture is something human beings produce, and is therefore a product much as a smartphone is a product. Fortunately, this means that a defective, malfunctioning culture can similarly be recalled or redesigned. Minds can be enlightened; characters can be edified. New values can replace old, or old values can be restored to prominence after a lapse during which things went woefully awry. Society can get back on track when self-respecting, mature adults reemerge from the margins and retake the cultural lead from reckless hooligans, melodramatic radicals, and lackadaisical overseers asleep at the switch.

So here’s to the grown-ups doing their duty, namely ensuring the next generation acclimates to adulting, albeit hesitantly and reluctantly, kicking and screaming all the while. Western civilization relies on it.

About the Author
Brandon Marlon is a Canadian-Israeli author whose writing has appeared in 300+ publications in 30 countries. His script The Bleeding Season won the 2007 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and he is the author of two poetry volumes, Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People, and Judean Dreams. www.brandonmarlon.com
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