Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The ruins of the Meathead Generation

There was a hugely popular TV series in the 1970s called All in the Family, starring Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, a blue-collar northeasterner of very outspoken traditional values. Rob Reiner played his son-in-law, Michael, very liberal, unemployed (a permanent student), who lived in Archie's house along with his wife, Archie's daughter (of course).

Archie called his son in law "Meathead," and viewing only one episode convinced you why. Reiner's character was a snooty, self-impressed, never-wrong, empty-headed jerk.

Very recently, Reiner, whose intellect and personality show that he was perfectly cast as Michael, disparaged people with political views unlike his as uneducated, ignorant, racist know nothings, etc. What Reiner's smug tirade shows is what has happened with what some commentators have called the "Meathead Generation," which makes sense:
Meathead was a loudmouth know-it-all boomer, who enjoyed lecturing his father-in-law about the terribleness of America and the men that had made the country. The irony was that Meathead lived off the people he ridiculed. Archie, the patriarch, worked and paid the bills while his daughter and son-in-law lived in his house. It was a perfect metaphor for what was happening in the country. The parasites were determined to kill the host, but in the mean time they were perfectly willing to enjoy the fruits the host had accumulated.

Years ago, the great Paul Gottfried remarked that the country had long been taken over by the Meathead generation and their ethics. The Archie Bunkers were all gone. By that he meant traditional working and middle class America had been lost and the country was now run by fashionable liberals, who occupied the first ruling elite in history to be actively working to destroy the foundation on which it rests. Look around the culture and all the high ground is occupied by degenerate boomers, who carry on as if it is still 1968. [HT: American Digest]
Which is pretty interesting because I am a early mid-term Boomer. Having lived a year into my seventh decade now, I want to avoid sounding like one of those old geezers who says, "Back in my day . . ." But I will say, well, that back in my day my peers and I were actually taught Truth existed that was not mere opinion and was still true whether it made you happy, sad, angry or contented. We did believe, and I still do, that there was (and is) such a thing as absolute truth, like it or not.

Yes, the idea of absolute truth was closely linked to religious belief and that just what absolute truth was differed between religions and often between even denominations of a religion. My point here is not what declarations are or are not absolute truth, but that across the great majority of Americans there was conceptual agreement that there was such a thing as absolute truth, even if we did not all agree on the particulars.

That conceptual agreement is gone today.

  • In 1997, 50% of Christians and 25% of non-Christians said that there are moral truths which are unchanging, and that truth is absolute, not relative to the circumstances.
  • In 2000-JAN, they found that 38% of adult Americans believed that absolute true exists. 
  • Later in 2000, 40% of individuals involved in a Christian disciplining process believed that there is no such thing as absolute moral truth. 
  • In 2001-NOV, another Barna poll showed that adults believing in absolute truth had dropped almost in half -- to 22%. 
In short order, the idea of absolute truth was replaced by relative truth, that declarations could be true based on their circumstances, or that a statement might be true for Thelma but not for Louise. The problem is not that this idea of truth has no validity; the conceptual affirmation of absolute truth never meant that nothing was true unless it was absolutely true. The problem is that relative truth has come to be affirmed as the only kind of truth there is.

That means that truth is nothing more than opinion. And if there is no Truth, there is no falsehood, either. Yet something must serve as the basis for making decisions, especially moral decisions. Hence the rapid downhill slide to this: "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings."

Truth Is Relative, Say Americans 
In two national surveys conducted by Barna Research, one among adults and one among teenagers, people were asked if they believe that there are moral absolutes that are unchanging or that moral truth is relative to the circumstances. By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation. The perspective was even more lopsided among teenagers, 83% of whom said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of whom said moral truth is absolute.

The gap between teen and adult views was not surprising, however, when the adult views are considered by generation. While six out of ten people 36 and older embraced moral relativism, 75% of the adults 18 to 35 did so. Thus, it appears that relativism is gaining ground, largely because relativism appears to have taken root with the generation that preceded today’s teens. ...

The surveys also asked people to indicate the basis on which they make their moral and ethical decisions. Six different approaches were listed by at least 5% of the teenagers interviewed, and eight approaches were listed by at least 5% of adults. In spite of the variety communicated, there was a clear pattern within both groups. By far the most common basis for moral decision-making was doing whatever feels right or comfortable in a situation. Nearly four out of ten teens (38%) and three out of ten adults (31%) described that as their primary consideration.
That article was published in 2002. Since then, the trend has only intensified. Note that sentence, "... relativism is gaining ground, largely because relativism appears to have taken root with the generation that preceded today’s teens." In the intervening 14 years, we have begun our third generation of truthlessness. I am a Boomer so the move to relativism began in my generation, the Boomers born after me, I am guessing, which would be the majority of them. At the time this article was published, Boomers' kids were barely in their teens at the young end and 50-plus at the old.

From the idea that all truth is relative (which is a self-contradictory statement when you think about it) is a short slide to three highly dysfunctional beliefs and practices, about which more another time:

1. With no idea of transcendent authority, human relationships become merely contests of power.

2. Religion is suppressed but the inherent religious nature of humanity simply finds other outlets.

3. Human life is meaningless and serves no higher purpose because there is no higher purpose to serve. 

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